Solid confession: I have never enjoyed math. I have never been good at it, and those unfortunate to have seen me try to split a bill know that all too well. I barely slid out of high school and college with the most basic requirements for graduation, and I remember the semesters where I never had to take a math class again. It was fantastic! While there are certainly other subjects which involve math that I have an interest in, my overall feeling of the subject is still one of disgust.
Having said that, I was one of the “bad students” in the math classes. Not that I caused trouble per se, but rather that I never really studied, never really applied myself, but also never really made any progress even when I did have to buckle down. Now I often wonder how much of a bother I was to the teachers: having that kid who actively hated your class with the bonus of never seeming to “get it.” Granted, they probably don’t remember me at this point, but I’ve thought about it retroactively.
Now being on the other side I see plenty of my past self in my students.
While I am here to help, between the bureaucratic beasts that loom around, societal aspects that are far larger than me, and questioning the willingness of the students themselves, I find myself frequently asking the all too familiar questions: Am I really needed? Am I making a difference? What would or would not change if I wasn’t here? I could go all day as to the arguments on both sides of these questions, but talking in hypotheticals can get a little moot at points.
One time when I was talking to a veteran ALT friend, and he began with a metaphor that I think best solidifies this quandary. Something along the lines of a “is the cup half-full or half-empty?” kind of thing. And that is to ask “How much do you believe in the power of the droplet?”