Stay In Your Lane [A Math Teacher’s Lament]

Jose VilsonEducation, Resources, Writing

Why do people stigmatize math teachers?

It’s bad enough we teach people that they’re either math people or they’re not (patent lie, I promise you). Now, we’re even limiting math teachers to the fields in which they can excel. They stereotype (!) math teachers as having hobbies like playing piano (fractions!) and read xkcd (might be true), but God forbid they actually know how to do things like write (without patterns involved) or read books (not by Einstein, Hawking, or any other mad genius).

I’m not sure where the stigma comes from, but the way we want students to see common threads in our topics is akin to what I’d love our teachers to see about each other. Not in the bullshit Kumbaya, top-down-education-management sort of way that cites some research I never even heard of and tries to force-feed collaboration down our throats. More in the, it’s-OK-to-actually-have-an-affinity-for-seemingly-unrelated-topics-and-we-won’t-slap-you-on-the-wrist-for-it sort of way.

Can a student hate science but love math? Yes. Can a student hate English but love social studies. Absolutely. Can we be OK with that? Yes.

Also, can people stop pelting the math coach (me) with literacy-heavy talk when they hear about word problems? Is that the only way we’re going to get these subjects to be related? How about the relationship between the symmetry of people’s handwriting and the grades we assign to them regardless of subject? What about the idea that proving something is the answer is all a matter of finding the main idea in the numbers and presenting the argument line after line?

Why does the math teacher have to say that?

Why do I have to be the bad guy? Can I just put my head down when everyone’s talking about how to read and write when I’m discerning the relationship between speech patterns and syllables used per phrase? Can I run away when people tell me that they’re only “science” people or “social studies” people? How many people do I have to throw out a window along with their ideas about how unimportant math is when they’re using it every day both consciously and unconsciously?

Furthermore, should I even be ranting on a blog? Isn’t that considered writing? And if so, when I hit “publish,” does that in fact make me a published writer once again? Am I just a writer with an itch for math or a mathematician with this writing sickness?

Why not both?

Jose, who only knows ten digits of pi …