Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 43: Games and Unforseen Consequences

Over the weekend, I put out a call on Twitter for journal prompt ideas and the amazing and brilliant @algebrainiac1 started rattling off a prolific list of great topics!  The list became so long that someone suggested we make it into a Google doc where people could add their own ideas.

So I did!  Please feel free to use the ideas that are there as well as adding others!

Today's question comes directly from the list!

I gave my geometry students a practice test to work on in their groups today.  I told them to consult their guided notes, their books and their group mates before asking me any questions.  They didn't seem to get the point and insisted on asking me things.

@Sarcasymptote has gotten recognition for diverting student questions by playing the ukulele in his class, which I think is brilliant.  I, however, can't play ukulele so I had to think of something else.

I started brushing my teeth.  It's REALLY hard to answer student questions with a mouth full of toothpaste foam.  The first kid who INSISTED that I answer ended up with flecks of toothpaste on his desk and quickly changed his mind.

Since I haven't put in grades since October 4th, I assigned the rest of the problems as homework to be collected tomorrow.  Then we played Mastermind!  Have I mentioned lately how much I'm loving my job this year?

If I can find 5 more copies of Clue, I think I'll make their chapter assessment be "Play two games of Clue.  Discuss the process that you used to determine the accusation made to end the game!" Or something like that.

The pre-algebra classes needed some guided practice so they were given a dry erase board, a marker and a group.  After I checked each problem, that group moved on.

A few mistakes, but we talked about them and the reason they were wrong.

Then we played Mastermind!  Many of these students, whom I would normally describe as educational nihilists, were so enthralled in the game that they were shouting at each other about the choices they were making in picking colors.

Clearly I need to play more games.

I have a student in my class who is working on her 2nd year in 8th grade.  Last year, I had her in my Reading Enrichment class (an entirely different story) and she started the year well, dropped off quickly and ended up with an F for lack of participation and effort.  She is a VERY bright girl and I liked her from the start, feeling disappointed when I couldn't convince her to change her ways.

She started this year with much the same attitude that she ended last year.  She was angry all the time and several times screamed in my face and stormed out.  You may also recall a few weeks ago when I asked for student feedback, I received a beautiful piece of paper:

This lovely display was from the young lady in question.  I know that she has had a ton of stuff going on at home, to the point where the Office of Children, Youth and Families has gotten involved.  I received an e-mail from her family advocate today.  It contained some information that I found, literally, stunning.  I stared at my computer for no less than 30 seconds, reading it several times.

I’ve had an opportunity to meet with {Mother} to discuss some of the goals she would like to accomplish, and some of the things in her life she feels she need to address in order to achieve these goals.  In this conversation, I also asked {Mother's} daughter {Student} to identify any individuals  in her life that she feels are a support to her.  {Student} has identified you as one such support.  She is hoping that you would be willing and available to attend a meeting, called a Conference, to help the family devise a plan that can help meet some of their needs.  Ultimately, the plan that emerges from this meeting can help them accomplish their short and long term goals.  I wanted to reach out to you to find out if you work be willing and able to participate in such a Conference for the family.

To say that I am flabbergasted would be an understatement.

The reality is that teachers don't have any idea what kind of impact we have on our students, good or bad.  We just have to keep doing the best we can do and hope that we are serving our students well.


  1. Love the toothpaste! Wow...this brought tears to my eyes! Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. The best part was that it happened by accident. I assigned them the task and the remembered that I hadn't gotten a chance to brush this morning and I was REALLY self-conscious about it.

      It will clearly happen again. :-)

  2. Hey -- is that a family group conference or a family group decision-making conference?!?! That's one of the things that IIRP promotes and teaches to folks involved with social services. That would be AWESOME!!!

    It is amazing how you've managed to reach this young person. She certainly has an ability to not let it show, but you've been a positive influence. You are creating a safe haven of authenticity in your class, and I'll be it's creating ripple effects you cannot imagine!

    You're awesome ("forreal")!!!

  3. Hey maybe it really was "opposite day" back when she wrote that note (lol). Great to hear that you've made such an impact on the young girl (whom I will forever know as the "forreal" girl). Good luck at the conference!

    1. On her next test, I'm going to write "Great job, forreal!"

  4. Thanks for the reminder. I know I have had times where I thought a student was completely indifferent towards me and then I would later learn they loved my class and thought I was a great teacher.

    1. It's such a shame that kids feel so much pressure to hate school, even if they don't. School is so "uncool" with my demographic that bright kids lose out because they have to pretend to hate it.


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