This student did not get the question. The more I explained it, the more she shut down. She could explain the process to me and answer my guided questions, but could not connect the information. She knew the car drove 40MPH, which she knew meant the car drove 40 miles every hour, but she could not tell me how many miles the car drove from 8am to 9am, even though she knew that was an hour. Now I have a lot of patience but I had NO idea how else to explain this problem. I had provided guided questions, an example, and basically given the answer. She was at the point though where she could only focus on what she couldn't do. Other students around her contributed and that tore her confidence down further. Solving this problem was no longer just about arriving at the mathematical answer, but a pep talk on not giving up. We threw away the work we had done and started over. However I lead her though and the training wheels were very much still on. As look back, I am still wondering what learning really took place?
I can and do believe all students can learn. With enough guidance students can get the material. Where do we begin though when the misconceptions are so large? How do I get this student to be successful on her own? In theory, with enough guidance I would be able climb Mount Everest. Let me tell you, I will NEVER climb Mount Everest. So after I have worked with just this student, assisted them through the problem, and they still don't get it, I'm stuck. What more guidance do I give? Am I wrong to believe that all students can learn ALL topics, or am I falling short? Maybe it is like me and Mount Everest, they COULD get it, but never will. I feel wrong thinking that, nor do I really think I believe it, but I had no more tricks to help her. Honestly, I had no more patience. At this point I wanted to give her the answer. We could both get the temporary relief of making it through the problem, but I know that is not a long term solution. The student will not have learned, and I really will not have taught. So I gave a pep talk, calmed my voice, and tried it one last way.
As teachers, we have to wear a lot of hats and handle a lot of situations. You can plan and plan, but there will always be a situation you have to react to in the moment. I am still not sure she understands how to solve this problem. I am still not sure what the right balance of guiding students and letting students solve on their own is. Like many things with teaching though, we figure it out with time. I guess I just needed someone to say today hang in there. So I told myself. Starting the day with a storm of tears over a simple problem did not feel great. She didn't get it, I felt inadequate. Neither of us though will give up. Mount Everest is only 29,029 ft, no biggie right?