Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Day 16: Nose to the Grindstone

After the conversation that I had with the geometry students yesterday, I had been thinking about the amount and type of practice that I've been having them do.  While I think it's fair to have my class be a different style than what they are used to, I think it would be beneficial for me to offer a transition to the unfamiliar territory.

After reading the letters that I asked them to write this weekend, It's obvious that they are much more comfortable with working through lots of practice problems.  Clearly, this is not true for everyone, but many expressed this concern.

So today, I gave them some options.  I printed out several worksheets with practice problems from the current chapter.  They could work on those if they wanted the practice.  They could continue working in the guided notes, if they chose.  They could work on revising their assessments from Friday.

I also told them that, if they chose to do so, they could waste their time.  As long as they weren't stopping others from learning, they could spend the time as they wished.  I explained that I am trying to move them in the direction of self-directed learning and being responsible for their own education.  Since they are still 13 and 14, I don't expect that they will always make good, mature decisions, (especially because in my 30's I rarely do that myself) but I believe that there are lessons to be learned from failure and making bad choices.
These jive turkeys made bad choices today...

And so I gave them those options and let them go.

The geometry kids, with a 10% error, all worked very hard on the assignment of their choice.  I made myself available for those who had questions, or simply wished to talk things out.  I was able to circulate and watch their efforts, talking to them as more of a peer than an authoritative figure.

THIS is how relationships get built.

And yet...

As I sat there, casually hanging out, waiting for students to engage me as they saw fit, I couldn't help but think that I wasn't teaching.

While I know that this is not true, the part of my mind that is a product of a direct instruction education was telling me that I needed to get up and address the group.  I needed to be conveying wisdom or standing over kids while they work, like teachers do on TV.

I wonder what an observer would think if they walked into my room and saw me hanging out at a student desk.  As much as I want to claim that I know (or at least think) that what I'm doing is in the best educational interests of my students, I wonder what a parent would think.  What would an administrator think?

Why should I care?  If I believe in what I'm doing, why do I care what other people think?

How long do I have to teach before I am truly confident in my work?

Overthinking is exhausting...


  1. I love your last question, Justin. I do not know if the great teachers ever think of themselves as every "really confident". They are always pushing themselves, their students and then reflecting on what is happening in their class. I have found myself trying to get more student centered in my middle school classroom, but find I spend more time teaching non-math skills during my math classes.
    So, again, I commend you for your transparency. Thanks for having the courage to write what I am often thinking.
    Great post.

    1. You're welcome! As always, thank you so much for your comments. Hopefully, I'll get a few answers to these questions as one of our principals came to observe my class for a period...


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