Sunday, March 13, 2011

Teaching Math

When I was a new professor in the 1970s at Bloomsburg University (then Bloomsburg State College) my colleague PH and I discussed our teaching efforts and compared them with the ways we had been taught. We agreed that our university teachers seemed simply to dump mathematics on us in any manner whatever -- believing, it seemed, that those who were "smart enough" would pick it up.  (And other students should study sociology or communications  or the like.)  We and all around us worked to improve our teaching techniques and yet many years later it seems to continue that the privileged -- whether of wealth or education or gender or birthplace or whatever -- seldom see their advantages over those who are different.  And sometimes those of us who try the hardest fail our students because we do too much.  This latter idea led me to write this poem.

     Lament of a Professor 
       at the End of the Spring Semester    by JoAnne Growney

        I took an extra step to bridge the gap
        between us, blind to your matching backward step.
        We've moved in tandem until I'm angry
        at you, and at me — I thought you needed
        lenience, but high expectations instead
        might have changed the direction of our cadence
        and given you a chance to lead the dance.

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