Algebra to the Rescue?

Not Smart Enough for College (50)

So, there I was, the new girl again, sitting alone in the cafeteria, trying to act like I didn’t care that no one wanted to eat lunch with me, or even let me sit at their table. At the time, “I don’t care” was the best solution I could come up with to protect myself from the humiliation I felt.


Embracing that solution for very long could have led me down an unfortunate path, but Mr. Anderewson, my 7th grade algebra teacher, helped me find a better way. In retrospect I see it was a brilliant win-win. Lots of kids needed help with their homework, a daunting task for any one person, and lots of other kids, me included, needed to be needed.


Ironically, I didn’t really understand algebra, but I was good at memorizing and following the rules. I could take those algebra problems, follow the rules step-by-step, get the right answer, and teach other kids to do the same. And Mr. Anderewson noticed. He recruited me to be an afterschool student tutor. There were three or four of us, and he would assign us to different sections of the chalkboard to help kids go through whatever they were having trouble with.


No more stress about walking home alone while everyone else seemed to have friends to walk with and talk to. I had a place to go. I was needed and appreciated, and I started finding better solutions than “I don’t care.”


Middle school is tough any time, but no matter how well you’ve tried to help your family navigate the disruptions and disconnections of this pandemic year, school has been even more difficult than usual for many kids and their families. 


If you have a child struggling in school (or know and care about someone who does) you may be extra worried that they’ve been falling through the cracks or getting left behind socially or academically.


You may even think it’s too late to do anything about it this year.




Even though the school year is almost over in many parts of the world, you can start now to help your child have a great summer and get prepared for a better year next fall as well. 


It’s often easier to notice where our kids are struggling, but an excellent place to start making a change is a serious look at their strengths. Mr. Anderewson helped me discover something I hadn’t realized about myself yet; I was a good teacher. 


So, step back and think about your child’s strengths and interests. What are they good at? What do they get excited about? Try thinking beyond standard responses like sports or math or music. Are they kind, creative, friendly, curious, funny, determined, good with words, able to get others to work together? Over the next week, can you come up with a list of at least 10 strengths or interests? Of those, what do you see as their top 3 right now?


It’s been a tough year, but it’s never too late to fail forward together,


Anne and Calvert


PS Do you know the #1 Mistake Keeping You from Having a Stronger Family? Click here to take our FREE 2-minute QUIZ.

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