Oh, how I dreaded 7th period my freshman year. By the time 1:25 in the afternoon rolled around, it felt like I was being sentenced to my own death. It wasn’t that Algebra II was the bane of my existence, because I’m not even all that lousy at math. It was my cold-hearted, mean, grouchy, short-tempered, overall horrible man I had for a teacher. I don’t know what was worse: his indescribably bad breath, or his almost hilariously unclear teaching method. By the time 2:15 finally arrived, my brain was scrambled and inexpressibly baffled by whatever lesson he had poorly taught us for the day. He was almost as dreadful as Ms. Trunchbull from Roald Dahl’s Matilda. This went on for nine months, four times a week, for forty-five agonizing minutes every day.
The end of the period was just as much a flood of relief as it was a blow at my self-esteem, as I trudged out of that classroom tremendously confused as well as angry with myself. Why don’t I just get it? I would think to myself. Am I just stupid?
The worst part of it all was that in the year before, in middle school, I had gotten straight A’s throughout the year in math. It was all thanks to the incredible teacher I had that year for 8th grade Algebra 1. In the years past, I’d struggled with math. Partially that was due to my untreated ADD, but along with another batch of bad teachers who made me feel like I couldn’t succeed in their classes. However, in 8th grade, never before had I felt so confident in my ability as a math student. My teacher was hilarious and kind, and always patient with every pupil. His lessons were visual, crystal clear, and often involved his own silly cartoons that helped explain things a million times better than any past math courses. I often reminisce on 8th grade math, and all the inside jokes, memories, and friendships I made in fourth period that year. So naturally, when I was stuck with the Grinch for my first year of high school (which is terrifying enough), my confidence in mathematics plummeted. I was used to understanding and even enjoying my lessons. With my shot confidence came poorer grades, a tutor, and frequent student-teacher meetings. Literally due to the fact that I wasn’t nearly as self-assured with my capabilities in math, it affected my performance as well.
In the end, I pulled through, studied hard, and scraped up a decent grade on my final in Algebra II. However, I learned a lot about what a significant difference a good teacher can make. So here’s some food for thought: if you can, make sure to place yourself in a learning environment where you feel you can thrive, learn, and achieve. Utilize the resources around you, whether that be acquiring a tutor or asking peers! On top of that, the Seattle Public Library has loads of super helpful math textbooks on their shelves, covering tricky mathematical subjects anywhere from Algebra 2 to multivariable calculus! If you find yourself (like I was) with some crummy teacher, do what you can to switch out of their class and into a better teacher’s. That is something I really wish I had known when I received my schedule in August of 2013. I went in there blind, and ended up despising a subject I used to love. To wrap it all up, a healthy space to learn can make all the difference. Do it for yourself and your own success, and I guarantee it will make your life a whole lot easier.