"She already has this stuff done; how could anything I do be an improvement? She already takes risks; how is this any better?
She is a great teacher; what can I offer that will be of value?"
And yet, there is March 14th, the day in the pacing guide where her students were supposed to be learning about parallel lines and transversals and the angle properties associated with them.
I started building something in Desmos, which is my go-to for all things, but found it contrived when all I really wanted students working on was finding missing angle measures. And moving. I really wanted kids to move around today. I truly enjoy the gift of technology and all it has to offer, but there is something to be said about a task done with a pencil on paper. With that, I opted to go "old school" in some ways and update the task. In the past, we would go through some problems as a class, then ask questions at the end of the period.
Here's how I thought about it instead:
To start the lesson, I had students look at a map of fake property values, asking them to find the values of the remaining properties. This was a conversation that was to take less than 5 minutes, just to get the wheels turning in the right direction. Students come through our doors from other classes and I find great value in getting them thinking about math without diving right into practice problems. This is more inviting, less stressful, and gets conversation centered on mathematics.
From there, we got into the activity for the day. Students worked in groups to determine the missing angle measures using patty paper, protractors, and/or properties of angles that they had previously learned. Each table group had one station, and groups talked in detail about how to find the missing angles. (Want the slide deck?)
Today also brought out a lot of the nuances of teaching that we fail to provide our new and struggling teachers. First period was considerably different than third, so it required a completely different style of instruction. This goes to show that we need to be mindful of how we are approaching each class of students, not just each lesson. First period may need the energetic and upbeat version of you, while 4th may just want the notes because they have enough of their own energy.
Another piece of nuance was the fact that it was the 17 minute walkout to protest gun violence in schools. The high school managed the walkout well, respecting students' rights to protest while maintaining orderly conduct and respect. Knowing that this was happening today, I wanted to make sure the lesson wasn't sit-and-get, so it made for a natural benefit to have students up and moving during class.
Yet another was the reality of a classroom. M was on her phone checking Instagram every 4.38 minutes, R wanted to belt out every answer, L couldn't wait to take the test because he thought it was easy, D gazes aimlessly at the ceiling tiles because she was lost, I was somehow getting all of his work done and distracting his entire group, and the group of A, R, and E had their math brains on and worked the entire period.
6th period was a challenge in their own right, with the group wanting to be more social and "help" each other out more than anything. There are a lot of kids in the class who have something else going on, so math isn't always the priority; you may have those kinds of classes as well. Mrs. Chacon regularly finds ways to keep them engaged and in tune with what's going on, so it was a fun opportunity for me to go back to the teaching strategies I knew about to engage the class and maintain control.
There was more, but it all goes back to how complicated the role of an educator can be on a daily basis. Sometimes, parallel lines and transversals are exactly what students need, and other times it too much of a disconnect to have value.
On our way out of the building, we were talking about the model of coming in and doing demo lessons, and how beneficial they can be. Getting into a class once is good, but having your peers come in to watch you teach, riff on ideas, and help each other getter better is where the real growth happens. My hope is that we start doing that a little more often.
Whatever we can do to shake up the norm, I say that we need to try it. We need to take risks in the classroom for a whole pile of reasons, one of them being that our students deserve our best; every day, every lesson.
Thank you, Mrs. Chacon, for allowing me the chance to get your students out of their seats, try something new, and have fun while doing so.
Happy "Get Out!" Fishing