Day 31: Preferences

So today was so clearly neither perfect nor thoroughly thought through. Still, it felt good a whole bunch. There were lots of things we didn’t accomplish in, say, one of my seventh grade classes. We didn’t get to work any more on the Giant Logic Puzzle. We didn’t further delineate the classification of numbers. We spent most of the period with kids sharing what they made for homework—preference charts for scenarios they concocted that posed the problem, what should the group agree to do? In today’s photo, you’ll see a fictional group trying to decide whether to go to the beach, play sports, swim, or bike on their day off from work. The idea was to make it not obvious what the group should choose, based on the individuals’ preferences.

And as the presentations and discussions unfolded in this class, it wasn’t a model classroom. It wasn’t orderly or markedly kempt. It was actually pretty wacky and unkempt. Student laying on desks. Student making a hexaflexagon. Student futzing with some plastic pentominoes. Spatterings of side conversations.

But it worked. I sat there and chimed in and gave some guidance, but mostly it ran itself. They wanted to share. They gave the presenter enough attention and feedback even though their minds were not hyperfocused there. It felt like people in a room basically doing what they wanted to be doing, but also making the big thing happen.

Pretty nifty.

As this was all going on, I got to have a brief conversation with the student who made the chart in the photo. She seemed both proud of the work she’d put into it and a little anxious that she’d done it right. She asked me what I thought the group should choose. What she thought was different, so then we talked this out some. It was good. When she presented, it went well.

I don’t know. There are ways that it would be easy for me to bummed out by how class went. We didn’t “accomplish” so much. I didn’t present new facts, although I shared my thinking as it came to me. And it was kind of off the wall. But I’m totally not bummed out. It felt good. I’m pretty jazzed. We did this thing and they were excited about it and they were thinking and having good ideas and cementing some concepts.

Sometimes I feel like I do my best work when I set up a situation where kids can do things that they can get into and then let them run with it. Just kind of saying “yes” to them. It can be scary, because then it’s not so clear what I should be doing. But just stepping back and letting the good energy push things forward is pretty rad.

Then again, sometimes when I “Stand and Deliver” in my Algebra 1 class, that can be awesome, too.

All right. Let’s do this teaching thing again tomorrow.

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