Inspiring kids.

December 12, 2014

I have been a teacher for 8 years, which to me feels like a lifetime but to seasoned veterans would make me an infant in education. I have also coached for 7 of those years, and for 5 I have been a head coach.

I teach math.

I coach cross country.

Let’s just say it:

I make kids do the two things that most people hate the worst.

How do you inspire kids to want to run? And how can you convince them that math is cool?

You can’t. And today I talked to them about that exact idea. There is nothing sexy about what I am teaching. Polynomials are only going to seem interesting to a couple of them, and for the rest they are useless. The only good reason to learn them is to someday know what they are on the SAT.

And even though kids don’t want to run or do math or annotate a poem, for that matter, they still do it. Maybe not to the exact standards of their teacher, but they do it. That’s pretty inspiring.

Kids do what they have to in order to get by, just like we do.

I have to keep something in mind- this job comes down to inspiring kids, and in return they inspire me. They’re fun and funny and really interesting.

High school isn’t always a happy place. Kids learn what it feels like to fail and be judged and to not fit in. But like I told my kids today, hard work today gives you the opportunity to do whatever the hell you want in the future. Education creates opportunity, and lack thereof does the opposite.

I can see it on their faces. This is not what a teenager wants to be doing right now. Sitting in a stuffy classroom with artificial light, thinking about what they want to do when they get home, and occasionally listening to their teacher trying to crack a joke between notes on binomials and graphing quartic functions.

There is nothing sexy about math. It isn’t entertaining to most kids. But it is necessary. So we carry on.

I hope that Lela finds something that inspires her and she chases it. I can see that my kids are starting to lose motivation, and perhaps even hope. My new goal is to never let the kids lose hope.

If any of my students ever read this, or if Lela stumbles upon my writing when she is older, I want to ask that you promise to do one thing:

Never lose hope.

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