Today was a day which left me feeling frustrated on several fronts, not the least of which was the Geometry class I have been writing about all term. We are finishing up a unit on similarity, immersed at the moment in the final and difficult topic of right triangle/altitude similarity. The students have completed a hands-on exploration which went well albeit boisterously, and watched a video on iPads which explained the theorems clearly and visually. Today, it was my intention to make sure they had the theorems written down in their notes, and to go over some sample problems before launching independent practice. We have a unit exam coming up at the end of the week (right before spring break), and it is important to everyone that the students do well – important to me because I am hoping for some validation that my Herculean (at least they feel that way) efforts to differentiate and engage in this class are effective, and important to the kids because they want to improve their grades.
The Do Now was a midsegment problem. Because punctuality is an issue in this class, it took a while to get everyone (well, mostly everyone) settled and working. As we reviewed the problem, there was a lot of conversation across the room about the problem. I would prefer the discourse a little more organized, but many students were contributing to the conversation, offering responses and corrections, and asking questions. I saw that we needed to get quickly down to business or chaos might reign.
I quickly recapped what they had been working on the past few days, and then put the theorems up on the SmartBoard for them. I know that these theorems are confusing and hoped that practice solving problems would solidify their understanding; I distributed a worksheet, demonstrated the first problem, and set them to work. We were working as a whole class, rather than in groups.
I’m not sure I would say it was an unqualified disaster. Many of the students were working away and trying to make sense of the different types of problems. But not an unsignificant number of them were talking loudly – not about math – and only refocusing on their work when I was nearby. Phones are also an issue in this class, and there are two or three students who not only have them out regularly, but who deny that they are using them. (Really?? Really???) I am not even sure how to counter the lying and denial. But it is clear that I am losing these students – or may have already lost them – and they are committed to using subterfuge and dishonesty to maintain passing grades.
When the bell rang, I collected their work, which I will review before class tomorrow. But I felt for the first time today that the class was almost out of control. I realize that they have been doing a lot of work in groups, and that in working as a whole class, perhaps they were transferring their group work behaviors to the entire room. I also realize that this change in routine may have contributed to the chaotic environment. But what really upsets me is that I have tried, as I have written in this blog before, to bring my best game to this class, and I am not sure the investment in resources, creativity and energy is going to give me the results I had hoped for.
[You will also note that I did not mention my co-teacher in this post, because that is a subject which requires its own post, unfortunately.]
In the meantime, my plan for tomorrow is to put the students back into their groups – the groups that I selected – and have two levels of practice problems for them to work on. The students who work more independently need problems that are appropriately challenging but also ones that can be done independently; the weaker students need simpler problems to start and more one-on-one attention. I’m trying to envision the entire class before we meet tomorrow; this has always been my best strategy for executing a lesson. But I am nervous, and hope that the seeds I have planted have taken enough root to get things back on course.
Feedback is ALWAYS welcome.