Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Mother, the Math Teacher

The post a while back wherein I mentioned my dad's crazy doings was somewhat popular, so I figure I'll go with the flow and let y'all know about my non-stereotypical mother. Consider it a belated Mother's Day post. The actual impetus is Friday's xkcd comic:
a(b+c)=(ab)+(ac).  Politicize that, bitches.My mother is a chronic middle school math teacher. She half-heartedly tried retiring sometime when I was in high school, but continued to work full time. Then, about a year ago, we had a big retirement party for her because she was quitting for real. So then she worked part-time for most of the last year... and announced earlier this week that she will be teaching part-time next year. My brother and I keep reminding her of the definition of "retirement," but the message does not seem to stick. We think she is beginning to think of herself as a "free lance math teacher." This new job will not be at the school she's been at for the last 15ish years; instead, she will be teaching at a "gender magnet school," teaching 8th grade girls Algebra I and Geometry. This will be her 40th year of teaching.

The xkcd comic also rings true because my mother is not the kind of person who decided what she believes about the way the world should work decades ago, only to stop thinking about it now. She still talks about what she wants to be when she "grows up" ... perhaps she thinks retiring is the same as growing up? Regardless, it's going to be interesting hearing her perspectives on same-gender education over the next year. She says she hasn't given it much thought yet; she took the job because it's a good job, not because it involves teaching in a gender-separated environment. The more I think about it, the more morally opposed I am to gender separation in an academic environment; but then, it's something I've never had to actually experience myself. The teachers and the students are the ones who can attest to how bad or good of an idea it is, and how it does or does not "work." I'm yet to meet a student who has had both co-ed and gender-separated education and believed the gender-separated to be superior.

And, sadly, this is certainly one way to "politicize" math. Jerks.

UPDATE: Comments were disabled for unkown reasons. Everything should be working fine now, though.


Mira said...

I would be really interested in hearing more about your views on sex-segregated education. As someone who was in co-ed classrooms until halfway through college, I actually really surprised myself by liking the women-only aspect of Simmons so much. I'm not even sure I can put my finger on why it was such a good place/system for me. Most of the other women in my classes also really, really liked it and they had, for the most part, also come from co-ed backgrounds. I suspect that for me, part of it at least was that I hadn't had this high a percentage of female friends since elementary school and it was really interesting for me to suddenly have tons of female friends.

mollishka said...

If you had had co-ed education until you were 20 or so, then you were already socially adjusted to be able to deal with both genders (and, since I know you, I can get away with making such generalizations!). You were already at a point where school isn't your main social center, and so being exposed to only one gender at school wasn't harmful. It's younger people I'm worried about... especially those for whom it's not a choice (i.e., it's their parents' decision). Also, I would venture to say that spending all of college and half of college in a same-sex environment is quite different.

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