It’s been two weeks of not-real-teaching.
The first week of April was mostly dedicated to the agita of the ELA (English-Language Arts) test, from the content of the exams to the new procedures. Stripping the set times from the ELA test proved worrisome for the adults more so than the students. The latter were ecstatic that they could stuff in all the textual evidence they needed in their extended responses while the former had to actively keep students from daydreaming and napping in the middle of their tests. The solution to running out of time was giving the students as much time as they needed, but the new boredom proved to make proctors and students who were done early sore from their eye rolls.
Needless to say, pulling the students into math test prep felt amazing by contrast.
In between the exams, I asked them to do a quasi-gallery walk with remixed problems from the state-released math questions to break the monotony of “test prep” . Even though they may or may not have seen the questions before, they were still challenged by my challenge of finding the most common error. Out of the five classes I did this lesson with that day, I did it wrong four different times.
The last time was great, and that’s the way it should be.
Teaching on a normal day is balance. It’s the agility of my question-asking, the push and pull of student responses mixed with what I call indirect teaching, where I’m not satisfied until students themselves answer the questions. It’s the irreverent side comments from myself and the students, the chuckles and teacher look I give, and also the swift connections I make with students through some of their own language along with a strong, quiet demeanor. It’s the push, push, push I give to students who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in interpreting the meaning of the slope in a given formula.
After all the outside babble that we as adults engage in about edu-politics, wonkery, and punditry, there’s me, the students, and the things I do to ensure they’re ready for any math from my classroom and beyond.
That’s why I have a hard time listening to most folks, in and out of the classroom, who don’t speak to that experience. We can employ a million gimmicks, get a thousand third-party vendors, line up the top 100 education professors in the country to lecture us, write a hundred books, turn-key them, and make glossy promos and videos about them, but, if we’re not willing to call out the policies and dominant cultures that obstruct my students’ learning on a daily basis, then what are we talking about? As a classroom teacher, I can engage people in all sorts of educational conversations, but, if you never ask me about my students as people (and not as test scores) or don’t think much to even ask me, then what are we talking about?
Tomorrow, luckily for you, and unfortunately for our system that would rather I quit and the plethora of people who would prefer I not share this passion with all of you, I’m back to teaching students math for real. In the next few months, I fulfill my end of the bargain and make sure that I’m not just preparing them to graduate, but excel in freshman year of high school.
Love won’t get you high as this
Drugs won’t get you high as this
Fame won’t get you high as this
Chains won’t get you high as this
Juice won’t get you high as this
Crew won’t get you high as this
Hate won’t get you high as this