Friday, May 23, 2014

For the Love of Math and Science

I love it that my colleagues from all disciplines offer our students an environment that values reading. We talk about good books we’ve read, they take my recommendations, and they recommend books to me and to their students. Earlier this year I read David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell on the recommendation of a math colleague and The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany by Martin Goldsmith on the recommendation of a music teacher. This week I talked to a 10th grader who enjoyed The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios which had been recommended to him by his science teacher. 

It’s been many years since I’ve heard a non-English teacher become defensive about his or her own writing, or isolating those particularly gifted in clear written communication with comments like “grammar Nazi.” This is a blessing for our students: Our community values words; they are what all learners--adults as well as children--do. We honor people who do them well. If you don’t do them well yet, it’s okay, hang in there, keep working at it, it’ll be worth it. 

What if the rest of us provided as rich and supportive a learning environment for the types of thinking our math and science colleagues are trying to help students develop? Yes, math anxiety exists. No, not all of us had the stomach to revel in dissecting. Our self-deprecatory comments are intended as humor to break the ice and set ourselves and others at ease. 

But are we helping our students forward when we model our fear and discomfort rather than our curiosity and problem-solving skills? When our recognition for the accomplishments of those particularly gifted in that field doesn’t stop with the pure “wow” a musician or an athlete would elicit, but trickles off into a “takes-all-kinds” shrug and eye-roll? 

Dear math and science colleagues: I admire your patience. I admire your intelligence. I admire the tenacity with which you share your gifts and your joy in the ways in which you see God’s world. May our students grow into confident thinkers, learners, and communicators as we all provide, together, the models and encouragement for them to do so.

P.S. Many kinds of math and science humor are still allowed. 

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