Thursday, March 17, 2011

Genius Or Troubled?

Alex was one of those kids a teacher never forgets. Crazy stunts could have been his name. One day I watched hin chew up a tin can. Another day I watched him make long fingernails out the worksheet he was handed. He was also the boy who researched non Euclidean geometry when I told the class there existed a whole different field of math where the sum of the angles of a triangle could be greater than 180 degrees. (He came to class and described how this happened if the surface used was a sphere.). He was the boy who worried about the path a dog tethered to a tree could run on while everyone else was busy plugging numbers into the Pythagorean Theorem. In other words, Alex was the boy who acted out because he was bored to death by the repetition of a slow math class, the class he ended up in because he wanted to see how many nonsense words he could create with the multiple choice letters on his math placement test rather than take the boing test.

I met Alex in the fourth term of Math A and picked up immediately on his boredom in class. I encouraged him to read other math books and based his grade, not only on exams but what I knew he was capable of doing.  I had long discussions with his mom and we both agreed the math team would be great for him, he needed the mental stimulation. A certain AP did not agree and told the mom Alex would never make it, the class was only for honor students. Fortunately I found a back door and Alex got to take the class anyway. (He did very well there.  The teacher appreciated his love of math and his ability to solve the problems she confronted the class with.)

Tonight during parent teacher conferences, Alex's mom stopped by to see, something she has done every year since he graduated.  (Her daugher is in the school now.)  She told me Alex will be graduating from a very prestigious engineering school this year and she wanted to thank me for encouraging him and getting him on the path he has been successfully following.  She told me I was the first teacher who appreciated his intelligence and learned to deal with his idiosyncracies. 

I'm not writing this to brag about myself.  An incident in school today put another nail in the coffin that holds the joy I used to feel coming to school.  Working with the kids I love is not enough anymore.  The words Alex's mom spoke reminded me why I chose to stay one more year and those words are the words that will help me survive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I gather that you wrote this because you were angry. But I really enjoyed reading it and couldn't help but comment. Last night I attended my son's 7th grade open house and spoke with one of his Algebra teacher, the one who leads the math team. This is the first year that I have forced my son to participate on math team and, to my surprise, he is thrilled! His teacher said that they would be learning four years of math in one year. Wow! And what struck me most as I read your blog is that my son was reprimanded more than once over the years for making paper fingernails during math class. I have no doubt he will be one of th movers and shakers of our scientific future. Please don't give up -- we need teachers like you who want to lead the brightest and the best, not teach to the lowest common denominator.