Yesterday, I noticed how rusty my kids were with mathematical thinking. It’s the usual rut where the teacher could be talking to cellophane and get a better response from his kids. I tried to bring some understanding of finding a slope-intercept equation given any two pieces of information. The lesson plan was rather straight forward, or so I thought.
It felt OK for a bit. Nodding heads. One or two questions. Lots of scribbling in the notebook. Many teachers would be satiated by this. I didn’t.
As soon as I passed them some problems, they blanked out. Hands raised quicker during the activity than did for the lesson portion, this time for help. In my mind, as I’m going around the room, I’m thinking “This can’t be life!” Am I going to get to the point where I no longer actually teach a lesson and instead reteach the lesson to every table? And still have to get them started on the first question? Nope. Not here.
After reflecting on it with my son over my shoulder, I got the perfect idea: everyone’s going to stand up.
The next day, after seeing some of the restlessness in the first 10 minutes of class, I had them all get up, take the markers from me, and get to doing it themselves. Funny what a little bit of moving around does for the brain. It’s almost as if all the blood rushed right back into their fingers. Soon as they sat down, most of them saw the material lots clearer after that.
I admit I’m not a disciplinarian to the utmost degree. I do have a secret belief that giving kids autonomy of how they’re working and how they help each other with the work actually leaves them better prepared for high school than the rigid unitary system. I like quiet classrooms as much as the next guy, but not to the detriment of rich discussion and maybe a bit of argument.
Then again, I don’t even know whether they really learned it or not until … I have them sit in a rigid unitary system tomorrow for a test. Tomorrow, I’m hoping they do more than what Simon says. Not just get up for this, but show up.
Jose, who needs to reference Pharoahe Monch more often …