I am wildly excited about summer school right now.
Background info: Summer school at Lee has turned out to be only fifteen teaching days, and I will teach only eleven of them. Today was my seventh. I am teaching ninety minute blocks twice a day primarily to groups of students who scored below proficient on their eighth grade benchmark assessment. Like most students whom I have taught, they struggle with basics of mathematics like adding and subtracting integers, multiplication facts, long division, operations with fractions and decimals, and reading for comprehension.
On Monday, I nearly lost my stuffing. My lessons had gone poorly, though I’d been on top of behavior, and I was still remediating the objective (order of operations – not even in the ninth grade curriculum) that I had scheduled for the first day of class and my attempt to give them a hands on activity to introduce variables had totally backfired. I’d been gone for four days, my students hadn’t completed the practice that I had left, and they were acting out, tired of doing the same type of problems over and over again. I was feeling frustrated, ineffective, and angry with myself. I felt exactly like someone who was being paid very, very well to knock down a well-built brick wall by hurling herself against it. I felt like an oppressor befuddled by passive resistance (Lee County’s students are students of Gandhi, not of mathematics).
On Tuesday, I kicked my rear into gear and taught a lesson on solving equations, which I love to teach. I tied it so thoroughly to the foundation we’d laid in order of operations that my kids couldn’t help learning a pinch or two of new material.
I had a student follow a set of written directions to walk a path through the classroom, then had the class direct the student back to her starting position. The class intuitively did this by reversing the directions she had followed, starting with the most recent step. I recorded their instructions and had them make observations on the activity (we undid the last thing first – all the directions are backwards!). Next, I had the volunteer rewalk the original path, then scrambled the directions that her class had used to help her navigate back to start. She wound up in a totally new location. We solved some two-step equations for practice.
Yesterday, we practiced order of operations and solving equations for a while, then I had them writing expressions based on stories, which carried us through the day.
“Looks pretty good, but don’t forget to define your variables, D”
“Okay. R = Rufus”
“What about him? His height? His bank balance? How many hairs he has on his tail?”
Today was the bomb, though. I taught a mediocre lesson on function notation, but it had them solving three-step equations with a story. My first period wasn’t so into it, but the second group killed it. They killed it!
“Raise your hand if you can tell me the story of this problem and solution… Okay, A”
“Selena worked ten hours and after splitting the money with her mom, she had $51”
“Awesome, girl. Isn’t it amazing that I can tell you all of that just by writing i(10)=51?”
“What do we need to do first?”
“Figure out what happens to x”
“It gets divided by three, you subtract two, then multiply by negative six”
“Good work with order of operations. Now what?”
“Reverse the steps: divide by negative six, add two, multiply by three.”
“Go kill it. Remember to keep the see-saw balanced”
Crowning moments of the day:
- I had only one student in my second group who didn’t choose to stay after class to finish the challenge problems.
- I overheard two kids arguing about who had done better in my class today. One of them was a consistent underachiever who’d really caught on today.
Days like this make me love my job. Days like Monday make me want to flip burgers. Teaching is awesome, but by golly it’s no cakewalk.
Here’s a snap of Mr. P in action.