Why It’s Worth It

By John Cally
Adjunct Instructor, Mathematics

Teaching does it for me

 After over twenty years of teaching, I have had a number of memorable moments from my classroom experience.  One, in particular, occurred about five years ago.  A student, Sophie, was enrolled in my math class.

Sophie let me know up front that math was not her strong point and that she had struggled often.  I encouraged her to ask questions and take advantage of my office hours.  I remember her initially being challenged with the in-class practice quizzes and her first exam results were barely passing.

At this time, Sophie realized things had to change and started utilizing my office hours.  She conveyed to me that she was in the process of a divorce and had total responsibility of her young daughter.  I asked her if she thought she could spend enough time on her studies given what she was going through.  She was emphatic that she could do it and that she was going to complete the course.

During the remaining ten weeks of class, Sophie was attending my office hours and coming to class early to discuss problems with me, specifically wanting to know how to recognize what approach to use when solving a problem.  I could see she knew how to solve problems if she had correctly identified the formula(s) to use, so her work focused on how to identify the approach to the solution.

There were a few times when I became concerned when Sophie did not show up to class.  This occurred a couple of times, even after she had attended my office hours the day before class.  I found out afterwards that there were personal issues going on, but she was eager to catch up on the material she missed.

I could tell from her subsequent questions that she was going over the material she had missed and asked relevant questions on the material.

When the second exam took place, Sophie’s performance improved to a 3.0 level.  I could tell she was a bit disappointed, but reminded her how much better she had performed.  At this point she started asking for extra problems to work on.  She said she had done all the homework and quiz problems, so I gave her extra practice problems from the textbook.

By the third exam Sophie had received a 4.0.  She continued improving and ended up with the highest grade on the departmental final.  She was incredibly excited and proud of her performance.  During the next year she communicated with me to let me know how the class helped her with her approach to other classes.

When one of my students starts off struggling with the course material, and suddenly turns the term around and is able to understand the concepts in the course, it is so satisfying to me and that’s what really keeps me going and enjoying being a teacher.