Tuesday, February 16, 2010


It’s almost like the students’ brains have been computer programmed to respond “yes” every time the teacher asks a question here. It’s funny sometimes because it seems very Pavlovian, like they can’t control it. A student will give me an incorrect answer but I will still write it on the board and ask “is this correct, does everyone have this?” And I will see a bunch of them nod affirmatively, “yes,” but then looking at their papers they will catch themselves, “no!”
I taught the same lesson four times today and this happened in all four classes. Teaching about the commutative property of multiplication, I say “see? The order of the numbers in a multiplication operation doesn’t matter because we can write it like this or like this and the answer is always the same. So, (I pick one student specifically) does the order of the numbers in a multiplication operation matter?” “Yes teacher!” This first time I just smile. “No it doesn’t matter. Okay look here. See we can write -3x5 or 5x(-3) and the answer is -15 no matter what. So does the order of the numbers in a multiplication operation matter?” “Yes teacher!” This happens about three more times. For the rest of the class period I would refer back to this one person when we encountered an example of this property. Even if only one person is going to learn this property today, they were going to learn damn it well! One boy kept looking at me warily when I would ask him, trying to figure out if I was trying to trick him.
Watched the other 8th grade math teacher teach today. It was such a relief because I was worried about how my classes were about a week behind schedule, but his are even behind mine. And it was relieving to see that his students are having the same problems mine are. The best thing about watching my colleagues’ lessons is seeing the teacher-student interactions. There are some things I see a colleague do and I think, wow that is much more effective than the way I am doing it, I’ll have to try that. And other things I think, okay I’m not going to do that, but it’s nice to know why in the hell the kids were reacting like that.

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