The joy of substituting, every once in a while, you reach someone and help them to understand concepts in review when the teacher leaves work.
High school geometry. Multi-step word problems. My two nemeses. However, once I stopped pacing the teachers’ lounge grumbling about word problems and no answer key I looked at the pile of worksheets. Remodeling a home. Hm, my husband and I have done this several times. First problem, a fence around the home. Perimeter. I can visualize this. A floor plan of the home with the dimensions. A need for new floor tile. Area. I can do this.
Once I figure it out, I can help others. Diagrams. Figures. I didn’t want to just give the students the answers. I wanted to help them see how we get each answer and why we do the steps we do. Visuals. Understanding that the fence is not right up against the home but so many feet away from the home, either side, front and back. And, of course, the floor space in particular rooms, hallways, or entranceways was not rectangular or square. It had narrow spots, fireplaces, appliances.
I wanted the students to show all the work so that the teacher could see how we got our answers and thereby the students could see the thinking that goes behind the answers.
After class, while I was still knee deep in organizing and labeling worksheets, the lovely Bangladesh girl from class came up to my desk.
“Um,” she said softly, “I want to…thank you…for helping me in geometry class.” A smile of understanding lit her face. It glowed.