It’s a long story why this is on my mind today, but I don’t like being an advanced math teacher. (This year, I taught one period of 10th grade math to gifted 8th graders.) That’s really a shame, because it’s a sweet job: you teach interesting math to smart, motivated, well-behaved students. I feel like I’m crazy for not wanting to do it.
It’s definitely NOT because of the material. This year, I taught a year’s worth of Algebra 1 in the first semester and a year’s worth of geometry in the second semester. It’s pretty much all my favorite math at the point where it’s still interesting but not yet really difficult to grasp. (Nerd alert, but I’m a huge fan of things like radicals, exponents, polynomials, and geometric proofs. And I’m not even kidding.)
The problem is my attitude toward the class itself. In my three classes of normal 8th grade math, I expect the kids to struggle with material. I try really hard to break it down into the most basic steps possible and slowly build it up. I’ll repeat it ten different times in ten different ways and I’m happy to do it. (Unless you don’t get it because you weren’t listening. Then I want to scream at you.) But for some reason, that changes with an advanced class. I’m told when those kids come in that they are very smart, learn fast, and know their basic skills. My expectations are so much higher that I just get annoyed when they can’t do it. (That is NOT how you solve cos(60) = 5/x. WHY ON EARTH would we MULTIPLY BOTH SIDES BY 5?!?! SERIOUSLY, this is still BASIC ALGEBRA! USE YOUR BRAIN!)
I think (hope) it just comes across to the kids as me being a really tough teacher, which is what kids that advanced need. But it makes me feel like a terrible teacher because I lose that patience that I have with my other kids. In my defense, the curriculum was so fast-paced that I didn’t feel like I had time to be patient, but I think a great teacher would be able to magically do both. And I really couldn’t.
And if we’re being honest, I also just like teaching the low kids more. I get more attached to them, my personality works better with them, and I prefer the types of challenges they present. Even if I had to choose between my infamous Period 3 and my advanced class, I can’t say I’d pick the advanced kids. There has to be something wrong with me.