Friday, November 30, 2012

Second Chances

When I started to teach, I felt like I was nearly the same age as my students.  I didn't understand them and I felt unpopular and uncomfortable.  I went home every night with backaches and sore feet.  People told me to write about my experiences, that I would be grateful later.  People told me the first three years would definitely be awful.  People told me not to smile for the first three months.

I didn't write, or not often.  I did smile, from day one on.  The first three years were hard, no doubt, and it never helped to have someone tell me that was regular.  It took me a long time to learn things - much longer than it had ever taken before.  The gap between my ideas about how things could go and the reality of how things did go was enormous.  I cried in the teachers lounge every week as my colleagues passed in and out.  I feel asleep sitting up on Friday nights around 8pm I was so tired from the week.

In this new job as a coach, there are more parallels to teaching than I can describe, but the many connections between this work and my work as a teacher don't change the fact that I'm in my first year of this job.  It's brutal just like teaching was.  I get yelled at and scolded; I feel insecure and even though I was a teacher just a few months ago, much of the time I don't understand the teachers I'm working with.  

But now, I am writing about it.  I'm getting cut down to size and then I'm learning things fast, practicing being compassionate with myself as I inexpertly move towards understanding.  I still cry, but its with impatience instead of despair, because I know I can do this.

I'm getting my sea legs, I can feel them.  It's happening as I remember to set limits.  It's happening as I remember to be curious about what my teachers are feeling.  It's happening as I feel generally, fundamentally acceptable even when everyone I work with complains about what we're doing.

My compassion for my teachers and my self-acceptance are going hand in hand this time around.  My writing is calling forth my vision and my resilience.  I don't know what I'm doing all the time but I know I will.  I have faith now, and a meditation practice to lean into.  Plus I'm 32 instead of 25 and I have just enough perspective to know that when it comes down to crying on the job, it's really not all that serious.

Thank goodness for learning, for learning faster, for learning harder.  For love and friendship and perspective.  For dancing.  For vegan, gluten free chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin pie.  For you and you and you.

If you haven't entered the enchanted forest and found your power animal, do it now.  It'll save your Friday.  Somehow I think this is an important note to end on.


  1. Hi,Jesse,

    I came across your blog via David Wees, and as a fellow mathematics educator I thought you might be able to help in spreading the word about an educational TV show for preteens about math that we're putting together. "The Number Hunter" is a cross between Bill Nye The Science Guy and The Crocodile Hunter -- bringing math to children in an innovative, adventurous way. I’d really appreciate your help in getting the word out about the project.

    I studied math education at Jacksonville University and the University of Florida. It became clear to me during my studies why we’re failing at teaching kids math. We're teaching it all wrong! Bill Nye taught kids that science is FUN. He showed them the EXPLOSIONS first and then the kids went to school to learn WHY things exploded. Kids learn about dinosaurs and amoeba and weird ocean life to make them go “wow”. But what about math? You probably remember the dreaded worksheets. Ugh.

    I’m sure you know math is much more exciting than people think. Fractal Geometry was used to create “Star Wars” backdrops, binary code was invented in Africa, The Great Pyramids and The Mona Lisa, wouldn’t exist without geometry.
    Our concept is to create an exciting, web-based TV show that’s both fun and educational.

    If you could consider posting about the project on your blog, I’d very much appreciate it. Also, if you'd be interested in link exchanging (either on The Number Hunter site, which is in development, or on which is a well-established site with 300,000 page views a month) please shoot me an email. We're also always looking for input and ideas from other math educators!

    Thanks in advance for your help,


  2. Your experience is really good and it gives lots of good things to new math tutors. Yes you said right thing do not smile first 3 month. As it was the time when you had to start and show seriousness there.

  3. I am a student research assistant at Montana Tech of the University of Montana. Technology has created exciting ways to connect with others and form professional learning networks. As a part of an active member of a social media community made up of teachers, I wanted to contact you to ask you to participate in a study our research group is conducting.

    Research shows that face-to-face professional networks provide much needed professional and personal support to teachers. You and the community you belong to are providing these types of support using social media. We are interested in learning more about your experiences using social media to connect with other teachers and your opinions about online professional networks.

    The purpose of our study is to learn how professional learning networks created through social media are similar or different than face-to-face networks and what you feel are advantages of using social media to connect with other teachers. Our hope is that the results of this study will inform how professional networks for teachers are designed in the future. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to me at I will send you a link to a short online survey and will set up time for a short skype interview.

    If you have any questions you would like to ask about the study, please do not hesitate to contact me.


    Kaitlyn Rudy
    Research Assistant
    Department of Mathematical Sciences
    Montana Tech of the University of Montana

  4. Admin, if not okay please remove!

    Our facebook group “selfless” is spending this month spreading awareness on prostate cancer & research with a custom t-shirt design. Purchase proceeds will go to, as listed on the shirt and shirt design.


  5. You are the greatest tutors to make the students about the mathematics.Many people like you took some initiative but they could not make them true.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.


  7. While working at selective school exam I teach grade 6 maths to students in Australia. I have learnt that the best way to teach students is by bringing yourself to their level, we spend too much time trying to be authortotatia, forgetifor that grasping maths can actually be really hard and why would you want to build a relationship with your students where they can't ask you questions or share their opinion.
    Can you recall the time you were a student, do you remember how much of a pain maths was? This is why it is important to be friends with your students rather than just a authoritarian

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