Yesterday I talked about control. I was (and still am) thinking about how to determine which things are in my control and how to divorce myself from the stress of things that are not.
Today, in math 8, I lost my control.
Instead of giving a typical quiz, I gave a group quiz. Students could use their notes, their books and work with friends to complete problems that were more complicated than the ones we have done in class.
It did not go well.
First, the majority of the students didn't get to work right away...or at all. It took multiple promptings before many of them even picked up a pencil. Once they did get started, it took less than 20 seconds for students to approach me to say they had no idea how to do the problems.
I referred them to their notes, in which should be examples of similar, though simpler, problems.
Students: "I didn't understand it when we went over it."
Me: "Alright, then you need to be asking me questions at the time. Bring me your notebook and we'll see what we can do."
S: "I didn't write down the problems."
Me: "So, if you didn't write anything down and didn't ask any questions, how did you think you were going to learn it?"
This is a VERY typical interaction with many of my students. No matter how many times I explain that learning is an active process, they are conditioned to think that just showing up to class will be enough.
It's very frustrating to me that certain students expect me to reteach a topic to them when they made the conscious choice to work on history homework when I covered it the first time.
It puts me in mind of my own children on long car trips. We purposely make bathroom stops along the way and ask them to try to go. There are always those times, however, when the following conversation happens:
Me: "Do you need to pee?"
Me: "Are you sure? I think you should try."
Kids: "No. I don't have to go."
Me: "I understand, but you should try because we won't be stopping for a while."
**30 seconds after getting back on the highway**
Kids: "DAD!! I HAVE TO PEE!!!"
At that point, if I don't, or can't, stop, I'm the villain.
Sometimes, it feels as though my classroom is this situation, except instead of a bathroom break, it's knowledge and critical thinking, and instead of 2 children, it's 75.
So, what to do?
I stopped the class. I pulled their attention back up to me and I put a VERY complicated problem up on the board. I told them to all take out their notebooks and copy what I'm about to write.
Then we went through the problem.
We went through it slowly and thoroughly. We did it using the scale and the equation, providing students with both mathematical and visual methods for solving. At each step, I asked for questions and I called on random students to explain what we had just done and why.
Then they got back to work. Honestly, I don't think it will turn out well. I think I'm going to have to spend a significant amount of time next week reviewing these topics. We may have to go back to specific guided notes because moving away from them is not a method that has worked.
And then I went to In-School Suspension duty. One of my students was there, had been all day, because she skipped an assigned detention yesterday.
She had skipped it because her mom had to work and there was no one to care for her little brother after school.
And suddenly, my concerns about trying to get students to solve multi-step equations seem very petty.
I'm glad the weekend is here. I have lots of things I need to think about.