Frustrated Reflections

The following is a reflection written by a night time student and a day time teacher. She provides thoughtful insights on frustrations.

“…I was incredibly frustrated when I could see the problem, but I was making a mistake that I didn’t notice, causing me to get stuck. At this point, if this problem were being completed by my students, many of them would quit trying. For me, though, there is a satisfaction of knowing I struggled through a problem and triumphed, a sense of accomplishment. This class and this type of experience make me want to be more vulnerable around our students and other teachers. If we share our struggles with our students and show them how to push through that struggle, maybe some of them will have the courage to push through the difficulty they are having when working out something in our classes. One of the biggest complaints I hear from other teachers is the lack of motivation in our students… [T]eachers [are] still learning how to teach conceptually, we [should] show students that there are things we struggle through just like they do.

“The problem that we completed last week with the various routes was interesting in that all of the people at my table attempted the problem in a different manner at first. Once we all got to a place of frustration with the amount of combinations, the pieces that we each had helped us to be able to get organized to make sense of the problem. This type of problem could be taught in school just as it is, but I wouldn’t extend it to the point we did in class unless I was working with high school students. Most middle school students would get extremely frustrated. I even got a bit frustrated, as my peak performance is not in the evening; I am a much better thinker first thing in the morning. This brings me to another observation of my classes lately: we need to remember that students’ peak performance time does not always match with the school day calendar. While I’m not saying we should let students sit back and take a nap during class, I am saying we need to be mindful of students’ energy level and if they are having difficulty seeing a problem through. Maybe they need a hint or to work with the teacher in order to find some inspiration or motivation; maybe a student needs to get up and stretch; or maybe a student needs to think the problem through in a quiet place.”

Heather Isenhardt is a middle school mathematics coach in Henry County Georgia. She is also a graduate student in K-8 mathematics education at the University of Georgia.