“Claire Lynch has a great song, “Jealousy, oh jealousy, what a devil you must be. With your chains around my heart…” I’m dying to sing it, I don’t actually want to experience it though but experience it is just what I what got to do.
Recess is a nice part of the day for students and teachers. Melinda and I take our third graders outside after lunch and we joke that the world needs to give itself recess. The sun is shining and everywhere you look children are laughing and playing during a pause in the day. Most of the time one of us is grading papers or talking to kids. A couple of weeks ago she was grading papers, a math test her students had taken just before lunch. Did I say grading, chortle with glee is more like it. Her students had nailed a very difficult test and she was literally jumping up and down with joy.
I was almost happy for her. I wanted to be happy for her. I tried to be happy for her. It didn’t come out happy. It came out, a little, well, jealous. I almost didn’t recognize that that’s what it was. It’s been a long time since I’ve been jealous. Melinda was celebrating her and her students’ success and I was jealous. That’s not the kind of person I want to be but there it was.
Like I said, it’s either fear or love baby and it wasn’t love. That meant it had to be fear. You gotta love logic sometimes. The question was fear of what. All I had to do was ask the question to get the answer. My fear was the lie that usually fuels jealousy. I secretly believed that I not enough and would never be enough, at least when it comes to teaching math. Some of my most memorable lessons have been my failures and they usually involve a math lesson. Lee Ann has seen me teach me math more than once and when I get a little too full of myself she whispers, “math, math, math.” I have a reputation….and I might deserve it.
I sat on the edge of the playground watching children swing the swings, slide on the slides and chase each other on the edge of the kickball field and considered my jealousy. Melinda stopped jumping up and down for a minute and explained what she did that made the difference so I could do it too. Then when she went back to chortling with glee and jumping up and down, and I can’t say I blame her. That test was hard. Truthfully, I didn’t begrudge Melinda her success as much as I wanted the same thing for myself. I wanted it for myself but didn’t really believe it was possible. That was a sobering thought that I didn’t much like. Think about that for a minute, ya’ll, ‘cause that was the key. Had I just given up on myself, accepted something that didn’t have to be true because it was easier than changing? I decided to act as if being a good math teacher, not just teacher, but a math teacher were possible. After all, I’m a teacher and it’s not like teaching math is genetically coded.
I spent the week doing a little research and started teaching math the way I teach reading and writing, which I’m pretty good at. I wrote lessons that were heavy on vocabulary, analogies, and writing. Then, lo and behold, we went to a math workshop that proposed teaching math using… yeah, you guessed it, vocabulary, analogies and writing. I discovered that I like teaching math and I’m actually pretty good at it. My students are talking about math and get excited when I announce a math talk. The word problems they write have a twisted bent but show they understand the concepts and can put their thoughts on paper.
Jealousy can, and often does, lead to resentment and destroys relationships. It can also be a springboard to something new, a new way of being. It’s either fear of love, baby and love is really much easier in the long run. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a math test to grade.