My toughest class today was a bit of a high-wire act. As I’ve become accustomed to, I randomly had 3 observers. This could be very stressful, but today, this turned out to be a positive thing. A lady from North Ave. (our district headquarters) really laid down the law, which helped put down the rebellions that so often derail my class. Things were nearly out of control, but at least most of the kids were engaged, for a change, even if it was to unite against my instruction. It also helped that my observers really got their hands dirty and helped tutor students during practice time. And on top of it all, I got some uplifting feedback and a lot of ideas. Through it all, I learned a lot.
One thing that has really dawned on me is that a lot of the management and investment problems I’m faced with are as a result of motivation. I’ve been perplexed so much of the time as to why my students won’t do their work. For a while, I concluded that they simply didn’t care, or think it was important. But I’ve seen even my toughest kids do work this week. I used to think that my kids didn’t care about failing, but the truth is that they want to succeed, but they would rather not try at all than try and fail. And they’d rather appear to be a behavior problem than appear stupid.
So my new imperative is to design lessons that let each kid succeed every day. The problem is how I can design lessons that allow each of my kids, who are scattered across about 8 years of math ability, to succeed. One of the key takeaways is that this means most lecture is out. I’ll only be able to lecture on the most basic concepts, because extended explanations will either bore the advanced kids or frustrate the remedial kids. But one thing that can help is getting the kids to help one another.
I’m hoping that if I can carefully build confidence in my class, engagement and motivation will increase, which will allow me to really push, like I’ve been trying to. And maybe my disciplinary issues will start to diminish as well. Now, for the new quarter I just have to find a way that I can shorten the cycle of grading and plan 3 times as many activities with the same amount of time! And hopefully, I can find ways to stop annoying my administration so much, while I’m at it. Oh well, at least now I’ve got ideas to work with that I’m feeling confident about.