Even before I started teaching I heard horror stories about how rough it was to teach junior high. I experienced grade 8 myself, and classes were miserable even for me, a student who always tried to be astute and get all my work completed as I was supposed to. It was not however, until I started teaching grade 7 and 8 this year that I realized just how bad it was. Every day is a different experience. Every day is a different challenge. Keeping in mind that for the last six years I have only taught senior high, and my most challenging classes to deal with was grade 10, and that was only for the first couple of months of the school year. I have also been teaching primarily science and technology courses. This year it is a new experience; teaching four different levels of mathematics beginning with grade 7. It has been quite an adjustment for me; I am not used to the lower maturity levels at all. That said, this is not what concerns me the most with these classes. Lately I am to the point that I long for my three senior high classes each day because I don’t have to deal with the behaviour issues.
Behaviour aside, my biggest problem is trying to teach mathematics and expect all students to appreciate it and enjoy it. Of course, this does not even come close to happening. Even at the grade 7 level many of my students have negative impression of math before they even walk in my classroom. This has made it especially difficult to get students to focus and fully understand the math concepts which are not generally that hard to follow; particularly since they have done many of the concepts in earlier grades.
Where, I ask, has this negative view of math come from? It follows these students right up through high school and it almost seems like it gives them a mental block against even wanting to learn how to do it.
I have students failing or struggling because they do not understand the basic concepts that they should already know. I often take their failures to heart and it bothers me, but I know deep down I cannot be doing that. I have grade 7’s who simply do not want to listen because they hate math – so they spend all their time trying to be the class clown – and I have grade 12’s who simply don’t do any work because they don’t know the basic concepts from junior high.
I must figure out what I can do to spark some more interest in math… More on that later…