The verb to teach fills me with memories, maybe because I’ve taught for over 30 years. But the biggest lesson I’m still learning has to do with learning to be a humble student.
This post is part of the Five-Minute Friday quick write hosted by Kate Moutang. Join us each Thursday night on Twitter (#FMFParty) for fun and fellowship, then grab a pen and start writing when the prompt goes live!
The Verb to Teach Might Not Mean What You Think
“Don’t worry,” I assure the bright-eyed students sitting in front of me, “It will make more sense tomorrow or the next day.”
I could see students looking askance at their tablemates, I could almost hear them saying, “Why am I in the same class as a 12th grader?!”
“We don’t put you in ELA or math classes based on what grade you registered for,” I continued. “Instead, we put you in the class based on where you’ll find the most success.”
“Yeah,” a returning student blurted out, “it really works! I went from fourth-grade math to algebra in just three years!”
“How did it feel to work on fourth-grade math as a freshman?” I asked.
“Bad at first,” she replied. “But after a week or two, it felt ok. By the end of the first quarter, I got to start on 5th-grade math.”
“And now look at you,” I said, “You passed my math level a long time ago and I’d have to get help from you if I had to do an algebra problem.” I smiled like a proud parent. “I expect all of you to get smarter than me.”
Learning to be a Humble Student
The bell rang, signaling the end of class. But not my thoughts. No one could ever accuse me of being a math teacher. I made it through one and half years of math in high school and stumbled my way through the required math for liberal arts majors in college.
But for the last five years, I’ve helped with the math program. At first, I didn’t want to help. After all, I’d forgotten everything I learned about math. But I realized if I became a humble student of math, maybe I could learn to teach it.
It worked. Each time a student had a question I couldn’t answer (it happened a lot the first few years), I would say, “I don’t know, let’s figure it out!” After decades of teaching, I had forgotten the importance of being a humble student. It was hard for me to climb down from my ‘sage on the stage’ position.
But now I remembered something from my first years of teaching—back when I had no idea how to teach. Understanding the verb ‘to teach’ requires the mindset of a humble student. I don’t know it all. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize how little I know.
This mindset has worked for me in math class, I wonder what other areas of my life would improve if I became a humble student?Are you a sage on the stage or a humble student? #teacher #student Click To Tweet