I remember sitting in math class as if it were yesterday. Specifically in junior high school. I was a math genius until I met geometry. We never got along…geometry and I – let’s just say we saw things from different angles. I just didn’t get it. Apparently, I still don’t. Recently, my sixth grader asked me for help with math homework. I’m always excited when he asks because quite frankly, as he gets older, I get asked less. “Sure” I say quite happily. As I walk towards him, I see it’s one of those free from sheets made by the teacher. Ugh, no reference book to look up the answers. “OK, let’s take a look” I say. “What do you need help with (exactly how difficult is this going to be, I am thinking)? “I don’t get it” he says. (Me too pal, me too.)
The supermom in me feels I should know this. I mean, I should be able to help my kid with his homework. I can feel my body temperature rise and my anxiety start to build. We stare at the paper for a bit as if the answer will magically appear. “Wait”, he says. “I get it. It has to equal 180.” At this point, I have no idea what he is talking about and I nod in agreement. “Yes, all sides have to total 180.” I vaguely remember something about that now. We proceed through the rest of the problems to find the answers. In the back of my mind I am trying to think of people who would be better suited to help him with this. Tutor, teacher, anyone?
We ultimately got through it and, I had no confidence that the answers were correct. A few days later he got the homework back and, sure enough, we had a few wrong. “That’s OK Mom”, he said. Such a nice kid. The reality is that the way I learned math and even writing/reading (we called it Language Arts) is so different now than it was when I attended the New York City Public School system in Queens. My third grader has a whole process of adding and multiplying that sometimes looks very long to me. When I try to show her how I do it, she insists it is not correct. I remember back then thinking that I will never use this stuff again and mad that the teachers made us do it. Now I realize that we needed to go through it to be able to help our children. It’s a changing world and our kids are learning differently than we did. That doesn’t make it wrong, just difficult for me to help when they need it. While that may sometimes be frustrating, strangely it also makes me feel a sense of pride that our children, our future, are bright people and will be able to look at things from a different angle to come up with solutions. I also see it as an opportunity to take another stab at it myself to see if I can understand it better with my adult mind.
Perhaps that is how my parent’s generation viewed us and how theirs viewed them. To me, that means that children are our future thought leaders, inventors, entrepreneurs, politicians, teachers, civil workers, nurses, doctors……..our everything.
I often wonder how they will all turn out. What will they be and what will they do in this world? What kind of contribution will they make to society? When my children’s friends are over, I wonder about them too. My only hope is that whatever it is, they do it with kindness in their heart, a fire in their belly and a passion for their work.