On Tuesday afternoon, our Medical Assisting Director came speedwalking into my cube and said, “We need someone to teach Math and you’re the only person free.” He handed me a book, said cover sections 3.3 and 3.4, and briskly walked away.
Stunned doesn’t begin to cover it. I wasn’t shocked to be thrown something my way at the last minute. That is the norm of my job. However, MATH class, just the word, made my palms start to sweat. I fell into a buzzy, panicky feeling and made the long walk to the other building to “teach” Math. I usually teach English courses. I get very excited about the use of a good verb.
As I walked, I flipped to the right page in the book and saw something even worse: fractions. The numbers swirled, and I literally felt dizzy.
I knew one thing for sure. I was about to look like an idiot in front of several people.
I started the class full of adult women by telling them the truth. I was a last minute sub, who made a C in the one college math class I had to take. Bare with me, I asked them.
For the first half of class, I was a mess–fumbling and somewhat manic with nervousness. However, they kind of enjoyed correcting me and showing me the way, and I gained some momentum. By the time we got to adding mixed fractions, I was teaching them. Common denominators and all! It wasn’t very fancy, but I had learned the steps to take.
Three beautiful things happened due to this unexpected challenge:
1. I expanded, maybe exploded, my comfort zone when it comes to math. I relearned my feelings. Numbers were kind of fun! I can’t believe I just said that.
2. Little girls are often told or encouraged to follow subjects like English, while they aren’t encouraged or seen as good at Math. I feel like I’ve been fighting against this conditioning for my entire life. I finally overcame the idea that girls can’t do math because a small part of me believed it was true. This class was all women, all doing math.
3. And this is the best one: I had several students come up to me today and explain how much they learned. Since I was so basic and slow, they finally got it! I was on their level of thinking. The blind leading the blind can work.
It was quite an exciting day. I’m glad I had a jacket on to cover up the sweat!