When I signed on to take this new job I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting myself into in term's of curriculum. I knew I was being hired to teach the high level (HL) math classes because my resume fit the bill. I've have had many years of teaching both advanced placement (AP) calculus and statistics. That makes me a bit of a unicorn in the international teaching world. Most of the international teachers are on the younger side so schools have a hard time finding my experience.
I had looked over the scope and sequence of what topics had to be covered to teach an HL program. Not going to lie here, there were a few topics I hadn't considered since I was a junior in college. That's more than thirty years ago. I assumed it would be easy to navigate. It's led to a few scary moments as a teacher. Scary? Yeah. Standing in front of a group of highly intelligent and demanding kids relying on you to be the expert has some associated pressure. My next door neighbor Matt has commented to me several times that he's glad I'm here to teach the HL classes so he doesn't have to. The highest math program here is much more demanding than the AP Calculus classes back in the states.
The final unit I have to cover in my 12th grade HL class focuses on complex numbers. These involve the square roots of negative numbers and utilize the script letter i to represent the square root of -1. It's not super complicated, but when you start finding fifth roots of something like 6+4i it can get a little weird using this idea called DeMoivre's Theorem. It's so long ago I don't remember if I had ever covered it as a student. I found myself staring at some examples in a student version of a textbook (no teachers version is available) and just not getting it. Where did that number come from? How did the author arrive at that? Ummm. Crap. Being the guy that's supposed to know and not knowing can be an uncomfortable feeling.
I didn't want to have to ask my colleagues next door as I'm supposed to be the guy that knows. Again, an uncomfortable feeling. So off to YouTube we go and I'm so glad I did. There are some awesome videos out there for just about any topic. How lucky are we to live in an era with access to so much information and so many people willing to kindly share their knowledge? After piecing together some videos and book examples I feel confident I'm going to survive this final challenge of the school year.
Learning new stuff is just cool. It's a rush. Not just math, but history, science, and even language too. However, facing that dark feeling of admitting to ourselves that we don't know it all can be a barrier. I see this a lot in students. They fear asking for help when they don't understand. I faced it this last week in not wanting to approach a colleague for help. That said, I would have sought some extra help if necessary. This is where relationship building comes into play. If the kid has a bond with you and knows you won't judge them for not understanding the likelihood of them asking for help goes through the roof. It's part of the art of being a good teacher.