Each semester, AmeriCorps’ Project MARS collects “Great Stories” from its members in which they reflect on their experiences mentoring in the classroom and the progress they see students making. This month’s story comes from Karl Schloegel.
Serving in 8th-grade math has been one of the most interesting learning experiences for me this year. After the teacher goes over the lesson I walk around the class and help students with their daily practice problems for about 45 minutes.
I see commonalities between the students and my middle-school self most outright in math class. I wish that I had had a classroom helper in my middle-school math class. Someone who was a little younger and someone who always tried to explained things a little bit differently because I obviously wasn’t getting it the way it was taught.
There’s lots of self-doubt amongst the smarter kids in the room. They know that math isn’t their strongest subject even though they shine in others. They’ll know how to carry out the correct processes but always second guess themselves when things are presented in a slightly different way. Instead of asking for help when it’s readily available, they’ll repeatedly fail until they get worked up and want to quit. Worst of all, on a daily basis it seems, they’ll question why they have to learn math if they’ll never use it in the real world. All of these troubles I can relate to.
I remember middle school math as being the first major stepping stone of growing up and realizing that I was really challenged by something I’m not interested in. You can see It’s still a real humbling experience to the kids who have not been challenged like that yet. I feel like I’m just in a really special place to be able to help kids out during what was a critical moment in not only grade school but growing up.