can't vs can

Every day I am amazed at how different my life has been compared to the ones so many of my students live now. I have parents with masters degrees who encouraged me to do my school work, who could help me with most of it, who knew my teachers and my grades and my classmates, who could give me so many opportunities. I attended great schools, where my teachers cared and didn’t ever tell me I couldn’t do something. These facts make me realize how blessed I am, and also help motivate me to be the best teacher I can be.

Now, there are some incredible teachers here, so this is not a stab at anyone. But somewhere along the line we, in the education system as a whole,  have failed these kids. We’ve told them (verbally or otherwise) they’re bad at math or they’re stupid or they can’t write. We haven’t given them time to process, so the memorization we force has faded over years so they don’t know 20 divided by 4. We’ve instilled this idea that math needs to be fast - with timed drills and multiplication tables. And what for? Whatever our intentions were, the result has been to convince them they can’t.

My biggest job is to convince them they can. More than solving for x or dividing decimals or rotating a triangle 180 degrees on the coordinate plane. I need to tell them, every day and more than once, that they can and they will if they just try.

As always, I love you for reading this, whoever you are.