It was 2 weeks before preplanning. Like most teachers, I can’t wait until preplanning to unstack desks, clean out manipulative containers, and get the room organized or it would not be ready by open house. So with my one year old in stoe, I headed to the school. I was rather productive, considering my son was trying to eat most of the math manipulatives. I went through about 30 containers of manipulatives and got them sorted, organized, and labeled. I, of course, had to take a picture to show my husband all my hard work.

Later that day I was looking at the picture and thought, “I have a Master’s degree in Mathematics Education and I spent hours organizing counters for no pay.” Pride started to set in. While looking for a birthday gift for my husband, I talked to the owner of a local store and he was talking about a woman friend of his and made the comment, “And she’s really smart. She’s an engineer.” How many times is that said of teachers? How many of your friends have said, “Well, she can handle that; she’s really smart, after all she teaches second grade”? Patience. I get, “Wow. You must have lots of patience. That’s such a fun age!” But never, “Wow. You must have worked really hard for your graduate degrees!”

So, I started researching other jobs. I read about different types of engineers, applied mathematics jobs, and actuaries. I researched what it would take to be an actuary and if changing careers to engineering and actuary science would be something achievable in your 30s. When my husband came home, I told him my plan of going back to school, after all I LOVE being a student and learning, and how I would make drastically more money. He asked if I hated teaching that much. I told him no, that I love my job and love my school, but I had been organizing counters all day with a graduate degree. Had he seen my last paycheck? He told me it sounded like I wanted to change jobs because of pride and I needed to pray about it.

Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Yes, it was pride. I know I was meant to teach. One of my goals is to help change the way the United States thinks about math. My heart breaks every time I hear, “I hate math” and I want to change that. It was then that I remembered an activity my students did the last week of school in May. I put chart paper around the room labeled, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Mrs. Sutton. They had to go around and write something they learned about each category. I got the basic stuff for Science and Social Studies…frog life cycle, water cycle, planting beans, MLK Jr, Creek and Cherokee, etc. I was expecting the same for math, but this is what I got:

You can tell we had just finished arrays as an introduction to multiplication, but there were also comments such as:

Math is cool. Math can be easy. It is fun to learn math. Math is cool and funny.

My goal is starting to be reached, one student at a time. I will not be changing jobs. I will continue what I’ve started, trying to enstill a sense of love for mathematics in children through non-traditional methods.

Christy,

What a beautiful post. I taught second (and then third) grade for many years and can really relate to what you’ve written. I also had to contend with gender stereotypes as a male teaching in the primary grades. All I can say is that after 30 years I still love what I do, in some ways even more than when I first started. Your students are very fortunate to have you as a teacher. Your goal, to help change the way people think about math education and instruction, is the goal of the larger MTBoS community. It happens one classroom at a time, and we need all hands on deck. So I’m glad you decided to stay in education and be a part of the excitement.

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Thank you! I’m glad I am staying as well. This is where God wants me and where I will make the most difference. I have a definite peace now.

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I could not agree more with this post. I have had the exact conversation with my husband, and even looked at the same second career options. In the end, I could not turn away from my passion of sharing my love for math with others. I hope you have a great start to the new school year! I’m going to be down your way the second weekend in September. I’d love to see you!

By the way, I’m glad you decided to stay in education! Your students and colleagues are very lucky to have you! 🙂

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Thank you, Lisa! I’m glad you stayed as well. As of now we don’t have anything planned and I would LOVE to see you! Have a great year!

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Christy,

Yes, sorting through things can be tiresome. I’m lucky because I work with a great teaching assistant, Laura, who does some of the sorting for me. Sometimes though she catches me getting the manipulatives out – or taking them home! – to experiment with, to think how they might be used to explore an idea (and sometimes even because I like exploring my own ideas – like: http://seekecho.blogspot.fr/2013/10/pyramids-and-tetrahedrons.html ). I’m not sure she completely gets what I find so fascinating about it all!

Whether we’re recognised or remunerated for how clever we’ve got to be, I think there’s a lot still to be discovered about how, for instance, we use those manipulatives best, how we give children first-hand knowledge of and confidence with mathematical ideas and practices. From our own individual exploration, and, probably more, from the ideas we get from each other. I don’t think any of our mathematical ability is not needed for this fine profession!

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Thank you! Yes, and now that I finished my second week of school I’m thankful for all the sorting as my kids have gotten to explore and use the manipulatives. We have a new “math curriculum” this year so I have definitely used my math abilities to not only figure out how to teach it best to my students but have also had to teach some of the other teachers how to teach using different methods!

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I’m glad your sticking around too my dear friend! Just sayin’!

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