A Letter to Your Favorite Teacher/Professor

I started a 30 day challenge of letter writing over on my Tumblr. Some letters are posted as public, and some as private. I like that about Tumblr.

Today’s prompt was to write a letter to my favorite teacher/professor. It seemed fitting to post it here as well. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Dan Meyer and Jo Boaler,

I’ve had a lot of really good teachers and professors (and a couple in particular that were not as good, but that’s another story). All of them influenced me as a student. You, however, influenced me as a teacher.

I’ve learned from both of you to take away the structure for my students from you. I’ve learned that word problems does not equate to ‘real world’ math. That real world math begins with questions, not answers. I’ve learned to be less helpful for my students in order for them to help themselves.

I wish more teachers and parent would buy in to your philosophy. Just this week, I have a student who, upon first meeting her, immediate told me, “I can’t do this. I have ADD.” And decided to whine and complain through the rest of the week. Her lethargy didn’t bother me as much as her complete unwillingness to pick up a pencil to do anything for herself.

However. I kept an eye on her. I placed her in groups with friends. I told her to ‘engineer that problem!’ I encouraged her to be ok with failure. Get comfortable with it. I told her – and the entire class – stories of engineers who failed again and again and again.

Today, she continued to complain. But she picked up scissors and tape. She chose the toughest piece of the paper roller coaster to build. She asked questions. And complained. She kept saying she couldn’t do it.

But she did.

Later, I asked her if she was proud of her accomplishment. She said that it wasn’t perfect. That it was hard, and she made tons of mistakes. That she wanted to do better than today, tomorrow.

I told her that she just engineered her life.

Thanks for the encouraging classes and blogs.

Ms. Ng


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