Turning Inward

Another frustrating afternoon. Not to worry, I won't bore you with the details... Left the school wondering, "What is wrong with these kids?" Time to pause and think about that question. Then I think, "It's like no matter what I say they don't shut up!"

Perhaps in September I would've left it at that. Frustrated and exhausted I would dwell on the misbehavior, but wouldn't really get to the root of it. Sure, they served ice cream at lunch, so the sugar could be blamed in part. But, when I stop asking what's wrong with the kids and ask myself what's wrong with my teaching it's actually an easier question to answer.

My second thought is perhaps more tellng. "No matter what I say they don't shut up." In a book I was given when joining the Teaching Fellows program called The Reluctant Disciplinarian the author relays advice he got from another teacher who says you only get a certain number of words to use the whole year. Use them wisely, otherwise once you run out the kids will just tune out.

This idea, coupled with a lesson I saw modeled by a master math teacher who is part of a program called Aussie, crystallizes one of the central problems with my afternoon. When I talk (and talk, and talk) it won't get me anywhere. Sure the kids like to talk. They're kids. And the group seating is designed to facilitate discussion. So instead of talking I need to question? I need to probe. I need to harness the energy and discussion of the students and steer it towards math or science or whatever it is I'm working on.

I know I've come a long way since September. I also know I have a long ways to go, and one of my first steps is cutting myself out of the conversation and giving the students an opportunity to control it. If I do it right, then learning will take place.


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