Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Greasing the Skids of Group Work

I've pretty much had it up to *here* with, not all the kids, but the 10% that make my life annoying. I won't go into the gory details about why they are annoying. Nobody wants to hear that.

Out of frustration, though, sometimes good stuff pops out. Today in Algebra 2 the children were working in groups of four exploring transformations of functions (BL)*. This wasn't the kind of exercise with a group component grafted on to individual work - it was essential that they compare the four different graphs to draw meaningful conclusions. My classes had five or six groups each, and most of them were functioning brilliantly - helping each other troubleshoot, refining each other's wording - it was music. Really.

But in fourth period, I had a group that was sitting there, staring at their calculators in silence, waiting for, what, I don't know. My fed-up-ed-ness came over me and I towered over the group, intimidatingly, saying, "Do you know her name? No? Why don't you introduce yourself, like a normal person? Shake hands. Good. Now what's her name? What's his name?" I did this several times. Until the group was bonded in their feelings of persecution and shared opinion of my weirdness. After that, they started talking. The same thing happened again seventh period! I did it again. It worked.

The moral: sometimes it's my job to be an overbearing jerk. And sometimes I need to remind myself that the children are children.

*Credit for original lesson I shamelessly repurposed goes to my colleague, Dina.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Subversive Mathematics

There have been two students coming to eat lunch in my room. They're both in my homeroom. Juniors now. Lanky. Maddening combination of wise and clueless. Don't know what to do with themselves half the time.

R is in the just-enough-to-graduate math classes. He is convinced math is a stupid and pointless torture device of adults who are out to make his life miserable.

I had G when he was a freshman in Algebra 1. If he doesn't see the point, he's out. He's not going to disrupt class; he'll just quietly work on something else. But, he came into homeroom super excited a few weeks ago. He likes to mix, in GarageBand, for fun, and he realized he didn't have to count beats for a whole minute if he set up and solved a proportion.

Me and G and R are very slowly working our way through finding the Ramsey number for three. They don't know that's what we are doing. They are having a great time. I'm having a great time.

G's Trig teacher saw him in there and told me it's great he's getting help with math. Uhhh. Is that what we are doing? A student teacher in my room this week got really confused. She wanted to categorize what she was seeing, real bad. Is this extra credit? Test prep? What?

I'm kind of used to other teachers thinking I'm nuts, but I could use a little validation right now. Somebody tell me I'm not wasting my time and theirs. I just need one comment from a sentient being that says "You are not crazy."