A good night’s sleep makes all the difference in the world. G. tells a tale of his grandmother (who unfortunately passed on before I was on the scene) who apparently used to claim that all emotion was down to lack of sleep. I like it as a simple life philosophy, and it’s counter to how dogmatic I used to be about the need to “settle” an argument before going to bed. It’s an awful lot easier to apologise in the morning, to stand your rested soul inside of someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective for a moment or two.
Not that there were any arguments last night. But I was suffering from exhaustion to the degree that I was feeling physically nauseated. Sleep tracking wasn’t yet set up on my new Apple Watch, so I don’t have the the “proof” of how little sleep I got, but I’m pretty sure it was less than 5 hours.
This whole holiday has been pretty poor on the sleep front. As I was typing yesterday, the boys have been particularly sleep-disturby and last night was no particular exception – the only difference was that G. also woke during the biggest interruption and we put them both back in their beds and thus regained some measure of sleep. The quality of my sleep is vastly improved if I can get them resettled in their own beds, but sometimes that act is just beyond me at 3, 4 or 5 am. I’m tired and cranky and have absolutely no resources left for being calm with tired and cranky 4-year-olds. Twin2 did return at some unspecified time of the night but disturbed my sleep slightly less than usual. Maybe I was just that tired.
I’ve had a relaxed morning thus far today: played around with new sleep-tracking device on watch, uploaded some old photos to Instagram, did 10 minutes of yoga, and now I get to indulge in some typed up navel gazing here. I’m under a cozy bear-decorated blanket, quiet children eating breakfast, and quiet morning garden through the window beyond. All is idyllic, iconic, the very portrait of the aspirational life.
But I have fear in my belly.
Because in 5 short days I return to work and certain areas of uncertainty and the inability to control the work done by my students or even really the understanding gained by them.
This year I’ve pushed myself more and done more and provided more guidance for them. It’s put pressure on me, and I’m pretty sure it’s not gained anything more for them. They like it when I do all sorts of fancy different assessment styles. They like it when I provide them with a revision worksheet of what they’re expected to know before a test – an in a given topic, right at the moment I examine it, sure they’ll then know those exact expected things. But it’s not helping them to learn how to learn.
That stuff is all fine for skills practice – as in, you need to be able to work with these ten algebraic techniques – but it’s not furthering their ability to actually problem-solve.
It’s the same problem I’ve been fighting with for the past seven years and I feel just as far away from a solution as I ever have. Internally I’m developing emotional scar-tissue. I’m starting to get a bit unfeeling and dismissive about it. I’m starting to want to default to that lazy assumption that “some people just don’t get maths”.
But, y’know, I don’t believe that. I have no doubt that by the time I meet them some people have had a bad experience with maths. I have no doubt that some people don’t connect with my method of teaching maths. I also have no doubt that it is more of a struggle for some and less of one for others, in much the same way that some people get the “knack” of sports, or turning an English phrase that much more easily. Hey, life isn’t fair. But with work? If they want it? There’s no reason why it can’t be learned.
Aye, there’s the rub.
And connect in all the prior bad experiences and social messages about how “girls aren’t good at maths” and how “maths is hard” and how “you won’t ever use this stuff” and you’ve got the perfect storm for students not wanting it.
I can’t learn it for them. I can’t even spend classes upon classes showing what I find beautiful about it, but I’ve got to hope that my passion and love for all the beautiful intricacies of the subject and its history shines through even throughout the 200th factorisation of quadratic trinomial.
If I stay unbored, I’ll increase the chances they will too.