Go Make A Difference

As the 2013-2014 school year draws to a close, I find myself filled with mixed emotions about teaching.  While I still feel called to teach, I often wonder if teaching in a public high school is right for me when so many factors that impact my students’ abilities to learn are beyond my ability to influence effectively, much less control.

My rich pedagogical toolkit (see here, here and here for representative examples), deep content knowledge, growth mindset, vast career and life experience, and my strong desire to help students achieve at their highest levels are grossly insufficient when attempting to bridge the gap between students’ prerequisite knowledge and skills when they enter my classroom at the beginning of the year and the district’s expectations of what they need to learn within the course, especially when troubled youth represent a growing percentage of a classroom’s population.  The enormity of it all often leaves me frustrated and emotionally exhausted.

For too long, I’ve skipped weekly routines such as exercising, relaxing while pursuing a hobby or personal interest, or going to church, all so I could grade papers, design a new activity or assessment, or plan out a series of lessons.  While I make progress on these tasks, they, too, leave me feeling empty and low on energy, for they consume, not generate much-needed emotional and physical energy.

Luckily, as today was Mother’s Day, I accompanied my wife and boys to mass, where I served as lector, my wife as eucharistic minister, and my sons as altar servers.  More importantly, we sung “Go Make A Difference” at the end of mass.  It energizes me when I hear the song, as it did today.  A simple song can have such power to rejuvenate.

So, I returned home to finish grading AP Calculus final exams, map many Common Core math standards to Khan Academy videos for my students, and finish roughing out my plan to teach algebra 1 this summer.  While these are yet more tasks for a teacher like me to complete on their free time, as a Sunday used to be so many years ago, my passion is recharged for the week.  While it may not be fully recharged, it should get me through the week.

I hope listening to the following version of the song makes a difference for you today, so you may continue to serve and make a difference in the world.

Peace out.




About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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7 Responses to Go Make A Difference

  1. xiousgeonz says:

    Amen and thanks 🙂


  2. gflint says:

    Hang in there. It does get better because after a while you will determine what is possible and what is impossible. Remember, you will not and cannot reach every kid so be happy with the ones you can reach.


  3. Hello,
    Read your blog entry with a lot of interest. Your passion for excellence is commendable and should, in fact, become contagious! As a volunteer teacher of GED Maths to kids and adults who aspire to get their GED privately, I many times share your frustration of having to set the bar low. But, as I am sure you have yourself experienced, the satisfaction of making a small difference in ONE student makes the effort worth it. As you yourself have mentioned, the standards are not always set by or controlled by us but if you can get your students from step-0 to step-1 (though you want to reach step-100 quickly), it is worth the effort!


  4. lmck says:

    Your post touched me. Like you, I am a second-career math teacher. I was a software engineer then a stay-at-home mom. I have just completed a two-year teacher prep program which included full-time teaching at an alternative school. I have been teaching 7th through 12th grade math to at-risk students. Most days I love my job, but it does come with frustrations and feelings of inadequacy. The song you included is one of my favorites as well…thanks for the reminder!


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