Math holds students back: Valid complaints or just student excuses?


By Gustavo Buenrostro

Many students constantly struggle in math and the majority of them put blame on the teacher. However, teachers don’t necessarily seem to be the problem.

In fact, students are usually the ones to blame for their low and even failing tests, whether they’re in math or another subject they struggle with.

Students even admit to their own failures as a student. Some might say, “They’re not taking it seriously.”

The role of a teacher is to show up to class and to teach. The role of the student is to show up, pay attention and learn.

Some students say that their teacher has a really thick accent and they cannot understand what he or she are saying.

“How can we learn if we don’t know what the teachers are saying?” Sonia Perez, an ELAC student says.

These were the same problems she faced when she was taking Math 125.  According to Perez the teacher had a thick accent and was moving too fast in the class.

“She had trouble in the beginning but got help from the book and was able to pass,” Perez said.

However, other students cannot get past the accent and either end up failing or drop the class for that reason. But a teacher can’t change the way he or she sounds or talks.

It’s up to students to try and get the information they need to pass the class.

Many students admit to the fact that they could have done more. Those same students also say that the class they struggled with the most was their math classes.

Why is it that students struggle with their math class the most, if the instructor is not to blame?

Dr. Joseph Kazimir, head of the math department, thinks it might be because some students may be  poorly prepared. “Some may have had poor preparation in high school and some may not have learned the basics,” says Kazimir.

Most students that come here have only had two years of math in high school.

“Students should at least have four, but there are many factors as to why students struggle,” Kazimir said.

Professor Gabriel Castro, a vice chair of the math department, thinks there may be another factor as to why students struggle with math. “In education, when we have our struggles, somebody, whether it was a teacher or parent or an authority figure, made us doubt in our ability. A reason students may struggle in anything is perhaps someone told us we couldn’t do something and put doubt in our minds,” Castro said.

Castro says to never doubt yourself and tell yourself that you will do it.

Of course, not every student can be wrong and it is entirely possible that an instructor is not doing his or her job as a teacher.

Some complaints from students are that teachers can be disrespectful to students or the teacher does not teach the class and then leaves.

In one case, a teacher called a student “stupid” right to the student’s face.

If these are the cases, then the blame cannot fall entirely on the students.

With instructors like that, students must complain. The more the voices are heard about that instructor, the more of a chance something can be done.

Both Castro and Kazimir encourage students to complain if a teacher is acting badly, and not just for math.

If your teacher in any class is not doing his or her job, go to the chairs of the department, or even the dean and file a formal complaint with them.

Don’t be afraid of repercussions from the teacher. If you ask for confidentiality, they will give it to you. However, things like this do take time and there are many factors that go into the complaints.

The complaint has to be processed and a warning is sent to the instructor if they are not doing what they are supposed to do.

The more complaints the instructor gets, the more involved the dean will become and will review the instructor in question.

If the dean has to review the instructor three times, there is a chance that instructor will be removed, but this is not likely since the process of hiring a replacement takes time.

Not only does replacing the instructor take time but the teacher’s union also plays a part if the instructor is in danger of being fired.

As Dr. Kazimir put it, “The Union fights for the teachers but the dean fights for the students.” It may seem like a pointless removing but with enough voices, a terrible teacher, is a possibility.

Complaints are often, but it seems most of them are just labeled as complaints and not severe complaints.

Both Castro and Kazimir have said that the time they get the most complaints is toward the end of the semester, when students are failing and they want somebody to do something. They can’t do anything if you are the one not doing your assignments.

If an instructor is teaching too fast, ask him or her to slow down or visit the instructor during his or her office hours if you still need help.

“Not many students take advantage of the instructor’s office hours,” Kazimir said.

The failures of a student cannot be attributed toward a teacher doing his or her job or just a complaint.

There can be many reasons for  it. The student may be struggling at home, and cannot focus.

Perhaps they are struggling to find something they wish to do after college. It can be all of these things that hinder a students’ ability to do better in class and in school.

The unfortunate reality we live in is that life does not care and we must press forward.

We as students, must make sure we do our jobs as students and learn from the instructor.

An instructor will teach a certain way and that way may be confusing, so it is up to the student to ask questions and try to understand. As long as you are doing what you can to learn, the blame cannot fall on you.

But if you know that  you can do more and you can make time for your work and you don’t do it, you shouldn’t point fingers at anyone else but yourself.

Everyone has to deal with responsibilities but it is up to us to prioritize and get work done.

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