You could also file this under community, stupid.

Early on, the goal was learning how to teach. Over the course of the last school year I realized it's time to start paying attention to who I teach.

It starts slowly. A kid tells you their favorite video game. They tell you about the GameBoy they owned when they were younger. You talk about the one you owned at the same time when you weren't as young. A class who laughs at how quaint and ancient the 90s were. One tells you about a hobby they think is embarrassing. Another is going to be the first in the family to graduate high school. The first admitted to college. The first to graduate college. Next they want to know what college is like. Can I actually do it? It sounds so hard. My sister tried to go to college and had to drop out. Mister, by the way, how do you get a driver's license?

A kid tells you how many siblings they have. You find out what their parents do for a living. Another mentions their parents divorce. A parent is deceased. A parent went to jail. They've been in jail. Adopted. Abandoned. Undocumented. Almost pregnant. Pregnant. Gay. Self-harming. Abused. Hospitalized.

Hundreds of them. All of them sharing very personal things with you. All of them assigning some minor or major role in their life to you. Some are just students who had a good time. Others needing you to fill in as a father figure. Most well-adjusted, happy teenagers. Many with major life events that changed them markedly. Many more with common struggles but completely different outcomes. Seniors from years ago who not only graduated college but claim you as their inspiration. One delivers office passes in April. In June you're at the funeral.

This is supposed to be a job? It's just work?

This human aspect is just so hard to convey to the people I know in other work environments. The scale is just so different. My previous job involved juggling the needs of like, 5 people. Now it's 300.

Effectively transferring math content to these kids is an amazing part of my day. Kids constantly impress me with their cleverness and eagerness to figure out what's going on. My number goal is to make our time together their favorite part of the day. In the varied classes I've taught, it was incredibly rare to find a kid who lacked a desire to learn something from me, math or otherwise.

I will always love teaching them math. But what has improved that the most is learning more about my students as people. Summer Camp is only marginally about the content. It's about furthering the relationships.  It is very hard some days to deal with the hard truth they drop in these conversations. At the same time a kid tells you how much they appreciate your advice, or the letter of recommendation, or the extra time for a project and it makes your week. It puts pressure on me to do right by them. To be prepared. To have something worthwhile to share and respect their time. I will gladly invest the time planning and grading if it means continuing to have a positive experience together.

AuthorJonathan Claydon