It is the first day of school and I am rushing to school with my bag and laptop. I arrive at 7:30 am, ready for students to start arriving at 8:00 am. I will be teaching 7th & 8th-grade Algebra and have planned out my first day: getting to know kids, letting them get to know each other, and some fun Math activities to get an idea of their academic Math level.
My goal is to foster a love for Math.
I am interrupted by the pressure cooker whistling and am rudely reminded that this is all a dream. I am close to turning 40, just standing in my kitchen, imagining what could have been.
Some people have dreams to change the world, reduce carbon emissions, find a cure for cancer, but I just want to teach middle school Math. It is a culmination of many things over many years that has led me to my purpose.
I was an average Math student in elementary and middle school. In fact, my parents feared I would do very badly in high school and hired a tutor. I think having my two dear friends with me in Math tuitions was a transformative experience. All of a sudden, my attitude towards Math changed. I put in hard work and reaped the results of getting a good grade in 12th. It was around that time that I also figured I enjoyed studying Computer Science and eventually, I started working as a Programmer.
I got married and moved to the USA during the dot-com boom. I was in a new country, in a new marriage, and with a new job in tech. Math was on my mind.
After the birth of my son, I stayed home and did not get much of a chance to practice Math or Programming – I had to trade it for storytime and park dates.
My son’s elementary school was a parent-participative school which meant parents could be in the classroom helping teachers. In 2005, I signed up when my son started Kindergarten and although at first, it was my way of learning the American School system, I soon found that it brought me fulfillment. I looked forward to the day where I would attend school with my son and would prepare for it. I knew that if I ever went back to work, it would be in a school setting teaching Math.
Once the goal was set, it was about continuously doing things to reach my target. With my husband traveling for work, I could not afford the time to go to college to get a degree or a credential in teaching. So, I continued to volunteer every single year and honed my teaching, communication, and lesson planning skills by observing and helping the teachers.
As I was helping my two kids, I came to a very big realization – that as fortunate as my kids are to have me teach them at home, not all kids have this luxury.
I shifted my focus to teaching kids who are falling behind or those that just need that extra help. I offered my services to teachers to help such students. It made me become patient and be a non-judgmental parent to my own kids. I definitely learned a lot from the kids I taught and I suspect, sometimes, more than what I taught them.
With my son in his senior year of high school and my daughter just a few years behind, I could not put the burden of another college degree on my family. Life is strange in that when you have time, money might be an issue and when you have money, the time might not be right.
I decided to start at the very beginning and when an opportunity came up last year to be a middle school Math Intervention Aide, I jumped at it.
This is my second year working and I love every bit of it. My goal is to take the Single Subject Math exam which consists of three parts. Passing this exam and getting a Master’s degree in teaching will give me the certification needed to be a full-time classroom teacher. I am keeping this one in the pocket for the year 2021, a year of new possibilities.
Now, I am in my Zoom classrooms in the morning and the pressure cooker is exchanged for an Instant Pot. Cooking and teaching can happen at the same time.
I have a long way to go to have a Math classroom of my own and but for now, I am happy. Math makes me happy.
Vasudha Ramanrasiah is an Instructional Aide in a public school and a mother of two. She enjoys all things food, hiking, and volunteering and is passionate about helping students understand math.