The Horse to Water Story

I have been teaching math for 28 years. Even as I have recently been asked to perform the duties of a Dean I still have taught a math class in the Fall semesters. I have seen many successful and, unfortunately, unsuccessful student stores. I have seen my teaching techniques evolve over the years from my attendance in many teaching conferences and workshops. I’m confident that I’m better at my profession than I once was. But, you knew the “but” was coming didn’t you 🙂 , as you look at success rates of students over the many decades the change is not earth shattering. I believe it is because of the old quote  “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. I always preach to my students throughout the class that I know they all can succeed in this class if they put the proper time into it. I remember one particular student. She was your normal, fresh out of high school, student. She came to class most everyday but didn’t speak up much unless called upon. Her test scores were not very good through the first half of the class. One day when I was passing back one of the tests she asked me about what she could do to improve her grade. My first thought was, where were you the past 7 weeks when I’ve talked a lot about good practices. But, I simply asked her “Tell me what you have been doing with this class?” She told me, it wasn’t much as I suspected, thus I said “I think that if you would go to The Math Solution when possible to do your homework where you can get instant assistance, and come to my office for answers to your questions when needed, and not be afraid to ask about items you are uncertain about in class, and spend at least 1 hour each day doing your math homework, you will see a definite improvement in your grade. The next test was 72% and so I wrote a nice note on the top of it encouraging her. The next was even better, so as I was passing back the test I said “You are doing very well keep it up.” She smiled and said “You were right, I just needed to put in the time necessary to do well. I wish I had listened to you from the beginning of class.” I smiled back and said “Better late than never.” She was able to raise her grade up to a B by the end of the semester. It is a joy, as a teacher, to have those moments where you get to see a student’s light bulb come on! Just like with people who are struggling with addiction though, unless a person makes the choice to do right, all the leading in the world isn’t going to make a difference. I do everything within my power to create fertile soil in the classroom but unless a student applies him/her self, knowledge just isn’t going to grow.

I have been fortunate to have had many good student stories. I hope your life has been filled with them too!