Most of all, it’s been wonderful reading your stories. Far and away the most common response – and my favorite type to read – has been: “Ah yes, I remember the time that happened to me…” Your tales of academic struggle run from elementary school to research postdocs, from mathematics to English Lit.
Instead, failure is born from a messy combination of bad circumstances: high anxiety, low motivation, gaps in background knowledge. Most of all, we fail because, when the moment comes to confront our shortcomings and open ourselves up to teachers and peers, we panic and deploy our defenses instead. For the same reason that I pushed away Topology, struggling students push me away now.
For more, see the upcoming blockbuster post: "What It Feels Like to Be Bad at Math"!
With the Trigonometry class struggling, I attempt a pep talk. As usual, the students swiftly grasp my metaphor - and then hijack it. Me: You've seen hermit crabs, right? They move from shell to shell throughout their lives. And it's scary for them to leave their warm, safe shells behind. It makes them feel anxious … Continue reading The Anxieties of Hermit Crabs
Dear Students Who Think Graphing is Stupid, Right on! Graphs are stupid. Cosmically stupid. Deliberately stupid. In fact - and I hate to pull this rhetorical trick on you, but you leave me with no choice - that's kind of the point. A graph is not an end product. It’s more like a map – a simplified … Continue reading Stupid Graphs!
This is a story about one small compromise that I refused to make, a stubborn act that paid off, though I didn’t expect it to. The setting is a Calculus classroom, but I hope the story will resonate with anyone who spies something dubious in the rigid and widespread assumption that learning can be endlessly itemized, carefully quantized, and instantaneously measured.