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Math and Mentoring in the Middle of a Pandemic

This interview was conducted during the 2020-2021 winter break.

How was the end of the Spring 2020 semester for your 12th graders?

I think it was really difficult for a lot of reasons. I think the higher up you go, especially in high school, a lot of kids are also working.

The way that our class is structured is that students don't have to attend these sessions with me. So I have class sessions–as long as they do their work, they get the grade–but they don't have to come to the sessions. There were a lot of students who were working during that time, who weren't coming to sessions and then also unfortunately not turning in their work.

I think that definitely impacted the end of their senior year in terms of preparing them for college level classes. As a math teacher, in particular, I know that the stakes are so high. I think the national average is that almost 50% of college freshmen fail their first math class. That is huge and that's something that we on my math team and my school have talked about how can we make sure we're setting our kids up for success when they are going off to college and taking that first math class. And I am curious to see where they are this year.

But that was definitely an adjustment for them to go from not having to attend classes–and I don't know what their college expectations are– to having to attend classes. As a result your work schedule has to be based around your class schedule. That's also a great opportunity for them learn a real life skill in how you can schedule classes on top of your work schedule.

I would say it was definitely a struggle to get kids to come to class because I know that they were working and they were doing other things. I am definitely worried about how they're doing in college. I'm Interested to hear where they are, but I think it's both grade levels. I see [students] struggled a lot with that transition in March [2020] because it was the end of the school year.

I think this year we've established expectations. We've established so many different procedures and policies that I think are allowing students to orient themselves in a way to be more self-sustained when it comes to planning their schedules, whether they are working or not, how to make sure that they're staying on top of their grades, how to make sure they're staying on top of their workload. I think we're better preparing students now than I think we did last year.

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