Day 18: Two Kinds of Messes

After my seventh grade class filmed their Venn diagram video yesterday, my classroom was a disaster. Desks pushed aside, paper and random objects strewn about, a host of cupcake crumbs and sprinkles littering the floor. It was a total mess when they scooted out of the room, late for their next classes. But they helped to clean up as much as they could after working continuously and joyfully for longer than a class period (they came early).

That mess made me happy. It resulted from awesome and engaged work—the residue of an overabundance. I cleaned up after them as best I could and couldn’t have been prouder.

The photo above depicts the scene after today’s Geometry class. This mess made me angry. My students had all period to work at their leisure on a new Investigation. Many of my students gravitated to the most viscerally-appealing task—designing and constructing shapes out of Geofix pieces—and some of them went about it in what could easily be interpreted as a half-hearted, aimless, “let’s see how little we can get away with doing” kind of way. And they left a mess for me to clean up, despite there being no rush. And some of the mess was more than a few copies of the Investigation that I had printed for them. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

I took this picture in the moment to show them what they’d done—not for this blog. I’m glad, though, that I’ve now had a chance to reflect on this mess and yesterday’s. I think that it’ll help me talk with them tomorrow about how to move forward in better ways—both about tidiness and about seriousness of purpose. It also makes me think that I need to give them some more structure so that they can more purposefully pursue their work and also to make more clear where the supplies go in our classroom.

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