Earlier this month Paul planned a presentation for a conference. He needed a Powerpoint, handouts, an activity and a speech. Over the course of a few weeks, he spent several hours making sure everything was perfect for that hour-long event.
A few weeks. What luxury! Speaking for my fellow teachers, we're giving hour long presentations all day long. We need lesson plans, materials, background knowledge and back-up plans...every hour of every day. We are expected to be at our peak in our carefully-orchestrated cooperative-learning bliss.
Except the days when we're not. Like Monday for example. When I scheduled a parent-teacher conference first thing. (Mental note: no parent-teacher conferences on Mondays. When will I learn?)
Did I mention it was Monday? Now, I was productive last weekend. I registered all my kids for their online math text book. I graded a stack of papers bigger than the stack of pancakes I ate Saturday morning. In addition I (blah, blah, blah...insert a lot more important stuff related to school here.) So, as you can see, I was not slacking off or doing anything crazy like, oh, enjoying my weekend.
I get to school on Monday and I know that in math we're reviewing for a test, only I haven't quite thought through HOW we're doing that. That's why the cooperative review activity is so appealing. It's straight from the book and it's already done. The answers are already there. I don't even have to read it before I quickly run off copies. (If this was a Halloween horror movie, there would be some scary foreboding music right here so the audience would know trouble is coming.)
Math begins and the activity starts off just fine. Until Cody says, "I think number 3 is wrong." I take a look. Hmmm. Number 3 is wrong. Another student isn't far behind. "Number 16 doesn't make sense to us," he says. Number 16 is wrong too! And so is number 12!!
What a train wreck. I'm flustered. Maybe I copied the stuff wrong. Maybe I should have read the directions more closely (OK, I didn't read them at all.)
"STOP!" I call to the class. "I'm sorry," I tell them. "This isn't going the way I planned." They are good kids. They laugh. Then we talk about it.
"I'm so proud of you." I tell them. "Lots of kids would look on the back for the right answer and not realize there is a mistake there. You are confident enough in your math ability to realize when an answer doesn't make sense. That's really what math is all about. You are using your heads to think about whether or not an answer is reasonable."
I don't know why that book had 3 errors in this particular exercise. I know I learned my lesson to proofread very carefully if I ever use any of those activities again. After reflecting though, I realize the day wasn't quite the train wreck I thought it was. My students were on task. They were solving problems. Even those I didn't initially realize existed.
Disclaimer: Sometimes my principal actually reads my blog. I think she'll click right on it when she sees the title of this one. So when we meet for my evaluation cycle I want you to know, Kelly, that this is off the record :).