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Focused fun: How Mr. Harden prevents boredom in Algebra class

Jackson Dukes

Guest Writer

May 28, 2024

Locked in - Mr. Harden works on his lesson for the day while talking with a student.

Joshua Harden stood at his desk chatting with a student across the classroom, sneaking in Batman references during their conversation. At first sight, he has a noticeably different behavior than many other teachers, displaying his talkative and vibrant attitude before the bell rings. His warm personality was hard to ignore, as his students were eager to share tidbits about their day before class began.

As a first-year Algebra teacher, Mr. Harden manages to make math less boring with his occasional jokes and easygoing conversation. His young age helps him stay up to date with trends and jokes, making him able to relate to students during class, much to their surprise. 

“I thought he was really nice and so chill,” freshman Ariana Sharma said. “He makes funny jokes at times, and he’s just always positive in class.”

She had Mr. Harden in trimesters one and three, and she got used to his style of teaching quickly.

“If I needed help, he would help push me in the right direction to get the correct answer without giving me the answer immediately,” Sharma said. “He was excited and energized every single day, even in first period.”

With his clear passion for teaching math, she found it easy to learn and focus, with both her and the teacher noticing her improvement over time.

“He wanted us to get better at math, and really cared about our learning,” she said. “On my tests this trimester, he would notice my improvements and tell me I’m doing great.”

Sharma commented that before having Mr. Harden’s class, she struggled with math in prior years, finding it less enjoyable than other subjects.

“I feel like I learned and improved a lot in his class,” Sharma said. “I engaged a lot in his class, and he always made sure we did our work and stayed focused.”

His involvement and engagement with the students were a recurring theme in the interviews. 

“He jokes with us and creates conversation in class,” freshman Sofia Sordo said. “He creates a casual atmosphere which helps us focus and learn a lot more.”

She had Mr. Harden in trimester three, and she noticed the atmosphere of his class encouraged a lot more student participation than usual.

“People would shout out the answers a lot,” Sordo said. “We felt more comfortable giving out  answers even if they were wrong.”

His ability to show his strong passion for teaching and helping students played a large part in engaging his class. 

“He’s not a slow teacher, you can tell he wants to be there,” Sordo said. “It made me more focused and willing to learn.”

The interviewees noted that his class strikes a balance between being enjoyable and being a focused learning environment, which can be difficult to do for an Algebra class. 

“We learn a lot, but we also have fun at the same time,” Sordo said. “You don’t really get that in high school classes that much.”

Mr. Harden appreciated what the interviewees thought of him, and shared his own side of the story.

“People tend to not like mathematics, so I try to provide a lot of energy to keep students attentive,” Mr. Harden said when asked about his style of teaching. “We’re gonna have conversations and get to know each other; if you have a good relationship with the student, they’re gonna have a good time in class.”

He knows that he can’t always get participation out of all his classes, but it seems like a rare problem.

“Sometimes I’ll start to cold call on students that I think know the answer, but fortunately I don’t have that problem a lot,” he said. “I try to express that it’s low stakes and that we’re not going to judge someone if they get the wrong answer.”

In an effort to help his students, he intentionally spends minimal time at the whiteboard.

“I try to catch mistakes early, which is why I’m always circulating the classroom,” he said. “It allows me to have fun conversation and provide feedback.”

He recognizes that Algebra can be boring, so he makes attempts to tell his students why they are doing certain topics to keep them engaged, which is also a skill he’d like to improve at in the future.

“Sometimes my students ask me when they will use math in real life,” he said. “I try to provide real-world examples during class, like using basketball with parabolas.” 

He’s most proud of the way he built relationships with his students, which was emphasized heavily in his class.

“I think knowing your student well is the most important thing,” he said. “It’s been awesome to see them grow from August to May.”

During the interview, he clearly stated how he wants his students to learn and develop, and also enjoy their time in class.

“I want there to be struggle so they learn the material and learn how to persevere during challenging times,” he said. “I always tell the students that it’s good for them to struggle; when we struggle, that’s where we learn the most.”

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