May 7, 2013

May Challenge

Thanks to a former student teacher, Shannon Johnson of Smile and Write I  will be posting every day in May and hopping on board with Jenni from Story of My Life for a Blog a Day in May Challenge.  I am six days behind so I am going to do my best to get caught up with days one through six while writing the current days challenge before the end of the month.  Phew!  I am exhausted already.

Today's prompt is to write about something you are afraid of.  So, here I go...

If I were to be diagnosed by a Psychologist they may say my condition is called Numerophobia or perhaps Arithmophobia.   Go ahead, google it.  If you don't want to google it I will just tell you.  Yes, I have a fear of numbers, but not all numbers.  I guess I should be more specific about this one...

This fear is linked more to a lack of confidence than anything else and I know exactly when it set in.  I can actually envision the classroom, the teacher, where my desk was and the weather.  This is going to sound a bit like it's coming from the game of Clue, but it was in  the third grade with Mrs. Cuttcliff, in the second row, on the second floor, and it was a beautiful spring day.  In general, I don't remember having any issues in the third grade; in fact, I think I was always a pretty good student.  That was until someone decided we were going to learn fractions.  I am not sure what it is but to this day I still cannot find the common denominator without a calculator or reduce fractions in any way, shape, or form.  Without a calculator I am frozen and have no idea how to even attack the problem. 

Surprisingly, I made it through high school math with no issues, did well on the SAT, (on the third try, we'll refer to the first two tries as practice attempts) and survived through the basic college math courses necessary for my major.  And amazingly, somehow during college orientation I placed in to a math which was above what I actually needed for my major.  To this day I am not really sure if they mixed up my test with someone else's.

As I was nearing the end of my undergraduate degree I was awaiting my placement for student teaching.  My worst fear was to be placed in a third grade classroom during the spring.  Knowing that this is a time in my educational career which still haunts me to this day, I could not think of a more difficult placement.  Well, as you all can imagine, I was placed in a third grade classroom during the months of March-June.

When I arrived for my first day of teaching, I was praying that perhaps curriculum had changed since I was in Mrs. Cuttcliff's third grade class.  I mean kids are expected to read chapter books by age 5 now so surely they teach fractions in the first grade, right?   I'm exaggerating but, seriously, maybe they learn them in the second grade?  Nope.  They still teach them in the third grade, in the spring.  At least back in 2004 they did...

As I got acquainted with my cooperating teacher she shared that most student teachers usually start teaching one subject at a time and by the end will be teaching the entire day.  She said that most start with math and then phase in the other subjects. Knowing this is the worst possible scenrio for my confidence, I asked if it's possible to start with language arts and eventually phase in math.  Slowly phase in math, very s-l-o-w-l-y phase in math.  She agreed and thought that sounded like a great idea.  This would give me some time to observe her; watch as she so easily instructed the children, knew when to illustrate the concepts in more detail, when to repeat and when to move on.  Oh, I had so much to learn.  And I am not just talking about fractions.

As my time in this classroom progressed it was my time to take over math.  I spent hours and hours reviewing the steps, learning the process and trying to figure out how to find the damn common denomintaor.   I could not fail these children!  My phobia of math, or more specifically my fear of fractions, is not their fault. 

When the day came to dive in to this huge feat, I took it one day at a time, one lesson at a time.  I am not going to suggest that I had much confidence in my ability to teach those children this concept but somehow I got through it and surprisingly they did fairly well on the unit test.

So, yay me for conquering this fear, right?  Well... not so much.  This math unit is what I would compare to other challenging life tasks in that you somehow do what you have to do to survive, but in the end you don't really know how you did it.  If you asked me today to teach you fractions I would stare blankly at you.  I have no idea where to begin.  What is a common denominator?

My goal is to someday really learn how to do fractions or how to do third grade math in general.  I figure I have roughly seven more years until I have to get my act together because around then Brody may need help with his homework.  And for those of you who have met my husband, you know that his math skills are even worse than mine.  He and I kid each other about who will be able to help with math homework the least, he or I.  I guess only time will tell.  Hey, maybe someday we (Aaron and I) can be Brody's students as he teaches us how to do this basic math.

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