Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Can I Be Real For Just A Second?

I spend a lot of hours trying to figure out how to simultaneously get more into my students and get more out of them. It's a strange paradox, actually, because to get more into them, I need to get more out of them first, and vice versa. Think about it. It's true. It's also enough to make your head spin if you think too hard about it, and believe me, I've thought too hard about it. Sometimes, it literally keeps me up at night trying to figure this stuff out. And then I realize I can't. Not overnight anyway. There's too much to think about all at once.

I haven't posted in a couple of weeks months for a variety of different reasons. It's partly because the school year has rocketed past the getting-to-know-you phase into the oh-so-that's-who-you-really-are phase and so now I'm knee-deep-approaching-waist-deep in solving and working through some challenges and struggles that my students are faced with. They're not really afraid of me anymore, which is simultaneously what I want and what I don't, but as a result I'm seeing a whole lot more personality, slightly less compliance, and many many more ways into their minds trying to get them to understand that math is worth learning. It's both gratifying and terrifying and part of the reason I have the best job in the world.

So here we are at the end of the quarter. 9 weeks have passed. The school year is roughly 1/4 complete and I'm caught between where we were when school started and where I want to go by the end of the year. There's a whole lot of year left. The despair starts to set in around now. So does the tiredness. And then today happens.

You guys. I think it's working. I don't know how or why, but I think it might be.

Remember my creativity problem and my goal of teaching students to talk about math? As I keep, almost desperately, trying to fix one while reaching towards the other I'm finding that the two are related. The more I try to fix the first, it seems the more the students do the second

Today we did an activity in Desmos, created and supported by the amazing educators on the Desmos team. And the students loved it. The engagement level seemed to go through the roof. But more exciting than that they're starting to talk and gesture and explain things to each other. They're listening to each other and learning from each other. On top of that, their level of discussion is growing. They're starting to be able to articulate what they are thinking and relate it to what they're doing. That's a small and simple sentence, but for me it's everything. And I almost missed it. I did miss it, actually. I was so wrapped up in the execution of the every day and the dozens of other teaching tasks that teachers do that I didn't notice. It took someone else to tell me for me to notice it. And that was important, too.