This week, I was able to head into an Integrated 1 class to demo a lesson about the triangle congruence theorems. Fun fact: I despised this portion of mathematics as a student, so doing these as a teacher coming in for a special day is a bit of karma, which works out perfectly: I don't want this group of students to have as much distaste for congruence as I had going through school.
The benefit of doing this lesson is that I got to do it last year as well. Thanks to Elissa Miller and Kate Nowak, the difficult part of creating a meaningful handout was done. If you are teaching triangle congruence, click on each of their names and DO THIS ACTIVITY!
Being a guest teacher has its advantages and drawbacks. One advantage is that I get to come in and be the novelty, so classroom management isn't usually an issue. Not only that, but the novelty of my style, which is going to be different than almost any teacher, is weird enough to throw kids off and keep their attention for the period. One major disadvantage is that I don't get to develop a relationship with students, and that is crucial to letting them experience success in the long run. Seriously. Especially when kids cry.
I made a kid cry. And I don't* regret a thing.
With about 10 minutes left in class, the teacher comes up to me and tells me that one of her students, the one she had just checked in on, is crying. She is so frustrated about not being able to create a triangle with a 30 degree angle and a 70 degree angle, and she has broken down into tears. This didn't happen last year with the same exact activity. This hasn't happened in a loooooooong time for me (like, since Mr. Sierpinski's Triangle). Sure, kids have cried in my class, but it's because something outside of class caused it; not the math or the struggle that went with it.
Yesterday, I listened to Doug Fisher share about scaffolding and that we have scaffolded the struggle out of our students' educational experience. THAT is what has happened here and it's a shame!
This student, a middle-of-the-road performer, hasn't struggled with math content in far too long. She hasn't been given a task that challenged her to think critically, employ the Standards for Mathematical Practice, and encouraged/forced her to persevere through it. She hasn't been asked to use appropriate tools strategically or to construct a viable argument. Rather, this student--and her classmates--has been given problems to solve and, for the most part, experienced success in doing so.
I circled back to the student at the end of the period and asked her what she was trying to do.
"I... I am working on E. An angle of... 30 degrees(wipes tears)... and an angle of 70 degrees."
"Great! Can I borrow your protractor? I just want to get caught up with your thinking. (checks angles, sees that the 30 degree angle is not 30 degrees). Alright. The 70 degree angle looks good; see?"
"Now let's look at the 30. (points to the 20) Where do you see this crossing?"
"Oh... at the 20... wait, 22 degrees? Yeah, 22 degrees"
"OK, so do we know how to fix it? Show me. Here's the protractor"
From here, the student marked the 30 degree angle correctly, finished her triangle, and wiped away a small tear running down her face, a gentle reminder that she once struggled with something she now saw clearly. I might have even seen a slight smirk of confidence.
She was given the chance to struggle, and she learned from it.
We need to let kids do more of that in math class.
Happy "Sometimes Tears Are OK" Fishing
*of course I never want a kid to cry, but I don't regret the activity the way that it happened.