Hard Fun

A few months ago a friend asked me if I liked teaching. I really had to pause, but eventually I gave an answer that compared teaching to a frustrating video game where you keep coming back to solve the problem and get to the next level. I think I may even have compared teaching to Seymour Papert’s notion of “hard fun.” So it was a long, hard, begrudged yes.

Then he asked me if my wife would say I enjoyed teaching. Now that was an insightful question. She would say it’s something I want to do.

That was early in the school year. As the year wears on – I think especially with high school seniors – the teaching becomes even less fun. The senioritis ramps up and a few students complain that you haven’t taught them to deal with changes in percentages if all of the examples you’ve given involve fractions. Cause, you know, I shouldn’t expect seniors and juniors to be able to convert percentages to decimals and then fractions.

Unless I spend class time teaching them something I taught to seventh graders in the first quarter.

Again, most my students are hard working. It’s a bit annoying that the small number who don’t fit that description stick in my mind.

The thing that makes me want to return (besides the paycheck in this environment) is that I love math and science and want to pass that knowledge along. If I have to put up with the whiners, well, that’s just the unpleasant part of the real world. Having a lazy 18 year old tell me I’m a bad teacher is not particularly different from having some snotty vice president of engineering tell me that “your little spreadsheets don’t predict anything.” In the end, there’s reality and I’m either right or wrong.

If I can figure out how many MHz a 10% linear shrink will move the center of the speed distribution, I’m pretty sure I can figure out how to explain Bernoulli’s Principle to someone who pays attention. I can’t make the 10% shrink yield a 30% speed improvement, and I can’t make a lazy student get anything more than bad grades.

About mutecypher

Old. Bold. Deal with it.
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3 Responses to Hard Fun

  1. Steve says:

    “… and I can’t make a lazy student get anything more than bad grades.”

    You say you want to pass knowledge along, but only to the easy students?

  2. Steve says:

    by the way, in looking at the categories, I thought “weather whining” was one category. And today would be a good day for that!

  3. mutecypher says:

    If I lead a horse to water and he doesn’t drink, am I automatically a bad cowboy?

    I can’t make a student choose to learn.

    I can admonish her to pay attention. I can make my explanations as clear as possible. I can answer questions. I can do my best to come up with interesting material. I can do my best to come up with good demonstrations and labs. I can call parents when she gets 50% on the midterm.

    If she chooses to not redo test problems when given the opportunity and additional teaching, if she chooses to doodle during time for classwork, if she belches loudly to draw attention to herself and get sent out of class – then I think she’s firm in her choice.

    And if she chooses to start trying, she’ll get my full attention and effort.

    So, no, I don’t choose to teach only the easy ones.

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