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Speechifying

September 13, 2009

I’m tempted to give a speech to my Geometry along the lines of the following:

Up until now, we’ve been getting acquainted — you’ve been learning about us, and we’ve been learning about you — as we’ve worked on getting up to speed. Review time is over, now, and there’re a few things I want to mention.

Almost all of you are less than 2 years away from being 18 years old. At that point, your parents are no longer legally responsible for you — you will be responsible for you. What you are learning now may not be directly useful to you in your future career, but how you approach that learning can determine whether you are a success or failure.

When you go out into the workforce, and an employer asks you to perform a certain task, telling that employer, “I can’t” or writing “IDK” on some paperwork will not make you a success. It’s easy to say “I give up,” when it’s just a matter of doing your homework, but, again, an employer is not going to be very sympathetic.

Now, you might respond that this class has nothing to do with your eventual career goals, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that you are forming attitudes and habits that may be tough to break later.

You might be convinced that because you’re not getting paid to come to school, that it doesn’t really matter what you do here. In a very real sense, what you are doing here is serving an apprenticeship. If you were to check with your history teachers, they would confirm that historically, apprentices were not paid for their work — the master, who was paid to train the apprentice, viewed them as something of a liability that might oneday be of use. That’s who you are right now. Your job is to be a student.

I’m not expecting any of you to turn into math geniuses (although I certainly wouldn’t mind it). What I do expect is that you try. If you don’t understand something, don’t just flap your hands and say “I give up.” Ask questions! Take some responsibility for your own learning.

Some of you, in all honesty, may have been poorly taught in the past — either the teacher thought you understood when you didn’t, or the teacher rushed you through too quickly, or he or she wasn’t willing to help you. Unfortunately, if this describes you, it’s going to be up to you to make the changes to fix the problem. I promise you, however, that if you are willing to work, Mrs. S and I are more than willing to work with you from wherever your starting point is.

From here on, the training wheels come off. If you find yourself slipping (or starting out) behind, it’s not going to just magically get better — you’re going to have to do something about it. We will help you as much as you let us, but you are going to have to step up and develop the determination to be a success.

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