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“Now I feel connected to math” [video interview with my student Jessica]

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

I don’t normally post testimonials here on my blog – they have their own beautiful area over on my testimonials page – but I am just so excited to share this new video interview with my student, Jessica!

In the video, Jessica talks with me about what math was like before we started working together on Algebra 2 and pre-calculus – how she was really upset, didn’t like learning math, and how it was really, really bad.

And she also spoke from the heart about how now she feels inspired, connected, and genuinely LIKES math!!

Jessica is one of my favorite students of all time, and I’m just so thrilled to share her experience with all of you!

Thank you so much, Jessica, for sharing your experience with the world!

For those who’d rather read than watch, click here for the transcript:

Here’s the transcript:
Rebecca: Hey, this is Rebecca Zook, here with my fabulous student Jessica, to do a student interview! All right, so Jessica, would you share with us a little bit about what math was like before you and I started working together?

Jessica: Yes. Okay, so, before we worked together, I was in pre-Calculus and Algebra 2, and it was definitely a very difficult time for me when I was doing math. I didn’t understand almost everything. And also, I think that had a lot to do with my teacher. She wasn’t a very good teacher, and so I had a very difficult time doing homework and understanding what we were supposed to do. So, yeah, it was hard.

Rebecca: And how did you feel about math when you were in that —?

Jessica: I really did not like it. – it was my least favorite subject. Yeah, I’d sit in the back of the classroom, and wouldn’t really want to do anything. I didn’t want to do my homework. I wasn’t inspired to learn, like I am now.

Rebecca: Ok, so tell us a little bit about what math has been like now that we have been working together.

Jessica: A lot has changed. Definitely my emotions towards math — I sit in the front of the class now, I raise my hand. I answer lots of questions, and I ask lots of questions.

There’s been times where I’ve gone up to the board and written out problems for the whole class, which makes me really happy, because it’s like I’m learning. And so it’s a lot different.

I feel more connected with math, and I want to understand it. And so I can go home and do my homework and learn the textbook and from what my teacher told me and notes. And It’s fun!

Rebecca: Yay, this is so fabulous! All right, so now math is fun, you feel connected, you feel inspired, you’re writing on the board, you’re teaching things to the class!

Jessica: Yeah!

Rebecca: Awesome! So, can you tell us a little bit more about what’s changed for the better in terms of your grades, and your confidence level, and your emotions around math?

Jessica: Yeah, OK, so, my grades – my test grades and my average overall grades – are a lot higher than they would be without your tutoring and learning from you. Also, my emotions towards math are a lot different. I like it, as I said before. And it’s a lot easier to do something when you like it. So it’s fun!

Rebecca: Yeah. It is so much easier to do something when you like it. That’s a really good observation. Words of wisdom from Jessica!


OK. So, is there a moment that stands out in your mind of like, “before,” when things were really bad?

Jessica: Yes. I had a teacher who was not the greatest teacher in the world, and I would ask her questions and she wouldn’t directly answer them, and she wouldn’t help me, and it was really difficult learning from her.

And so that was kind of a point where I was really upset, and I really didn’t like learning math. And it was just really, really bad. I think that’s the point where I asked my parents to start tutoring, to get tutoring, because it was so difficult, and I was really unhappy.

Rebecca: OK, I’m glad that you’re not in that place anymore for, sure.

Jessica: Definitely not. 


Rebecca: And is there like a moment that stands out since we started working together of like, kind of like the “after,” when you felt really strong?

Jessica: Yeah, there’s definitely been more than just one moment, when I’ve had kind of like “a-ha” moments, and you’ve taught me something, and I’ve been like, “Oh my gosh, why didn’t I know this before? It makes so much more sense!” And that’s really helped me learn math, and make my grades as high as they are now.

Rebecca: Awesome! So I know something that really comes to mind is at the end of your precalculus class last year, you had to do that —

Jessica: Oh, yes!

Rebecca: — could you talk about that a little bit?

Jessica: Yes. At the end of our class, our final exam was to do a problem in front of the whole class. So he’d give us the problem, and we’d figure it all out, and it was really difficult.

Rebecca: They were like harder than any problems you’d done all year long.

Jessica: Yes.

Rebecca: And you had to prepare them, and then present them publicly in front of the entire class.

Jessica: Exactly. And we rolled a dice, so we could choose, and I think there were like eight problems. Well, we couldn’t choose. Fate chose.

Rebecca: Fate chose. Probability!

Jessica: I remember doing it, and I got the number 3, and it was the hardest question in the entire packet. And I was so nervous. But I went up there and I did it, and I was able to do everything, and I got an A, I think – yeah, I got an A – and I was so proud of myself, and it was really wonderful and great.

Rebecca: Yay! And I remember you told me afterwards – do you remember how you felt walking out of the class?

Jessica: Like I can do anything!

Rebecca: Yeah, totally. Awesome. Ok. So you talked a little bit about asking your parents for tutoring support, and the teachers you had before.

How is working with me – how has that been different from working with other teachers or math tutors you’ve had in the past?

Jessica: Yeah. OK. So, I’ve only worked with one other tutor, I think, and they’d kind of come to my house and we’d sit at the kitchen table and go through math. But I definitely felt like I wasn’t doing it. I think the tutor did a lot more of the math and tried to explain it to me, which was kind of more difficult, because I think you learn better when you do it yourself, and you learn from what you’re writing down.

And then also, it’s a lot less of a personal connection. Even though this is over Skype, I feel way more connected to you —

Rebecca: Wait. You’re saying you feel more connected?

Jessica: Yeah, even though this is over Skype, I feel so much more connected to you than I ever did to the other tutor. I think because we go through – at the beginning of each session, we go through updates, and it’s really nice to have like someone to talk to, and kind of a mentor to have.

Rebecca: Well, I love mentoring you!

Jessica: Thank you!

Rebecca: So, I remember like a while back, we were having a session, and you said something like, “Sometimes, Rebecca, it’s like you’re saying my thoughts out loud —” Can you talk about that a little bit?

Jessica: Yes, OK, so when we’re doing tutoring on the groupboard [the interactive online whiteboard we use] and I’m writing things out and I don’t really know how to express what I don’t understand sometimes, and there will be times when I’m writing something out and I’ll try to explain it.

And you’ll say it again, like exactly what I want to say, and it’s just like perfect. And it’s just this great connection, because you know how I’m feeling, and you’re listening to what i’m saying and observing my actions, so you know exactly what I’m feeling and what I want to do.

And so I have those little moments where you say exactly what I needed you to and what I wanted you to, which is great.

Rebecca: Oh, I am so glad! I mean, I know something that I always struggled with, with asking for help with math, is when people didn’t seem to understand how I felt.

Jessica: Yeah.

Rebecca: So it means a lot to me to hear that you feel like I understand how you feel, because it’s a big piece of learning something hard.

Jessica: Yes. Definitely, yeah.

Rebecca: OK. So, what would you tell a family that was thinking about working with me, but they were like, “Mm, we don’t know, we’re not sure, this is sort of scary.” What would you say?

Jessica: Definitely, just go for it! You never know unless you try. I think that’s the saying.

And you’re amazing, and you’ve made math so much easier for me, and we’ve had such a deep connection with both math and personally, and I think you’d do the same thing for other students, and you do the same thing for other students. And I think that they should go for it and it would be amazing!

Rebecca: Thank you so much!

Jessica: You’re welcome!

Rebecca: So, I was really excited about this question. If you could travel through time and give a message to your younger self when math was really bad and you were totally struggling, what would you say?

Jessica: Call Rebecca.


Jessica: I’d say, don’t give up, keep going. It will get easier if you really try. And definitely practice. Because before I know I really didn’t like it, but I think if I had practiced more, I would have understood more, and that would have made it easier for me to learn. So don’t give up.

Rebecca: Yeah. And I know when you said, “Call Rebecca,” it was kind of a joke —

Jessica: No, but it’s true. Call Rebecca.

Rebecca: I think part of it is if you have the right support, then it’s easier to not give up.

Jessica: Definitely.

If you’d like your child to experience a similar math transformation, just click here to submit your special application for my one-on-one math tutoring programs. Once your application is received, we’ll set up a special phone call to get clear on whether it would be a match for us to work together! I’m excited to connect with you!

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