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Friday, December 4, 2009

The value of mistakes:

“The value of action is that we make mistakes; 
mistakes show us what we need to learn.” 
~ Peter McWilliams

Today was a challenging teaching day. My last double period of the day, from 1:45 to 3:15, is with a group of noticeably distracted 7th graders. They are happy and sociable, but almost half of them have some serious issues with paying attention and understanding the underlying concepts.

There is a girl in this group who is particularly distracted and lethargic. Her attitude is fine, her dealings with me all sweet, but I find myself calling her attention many, many times during a given class. It is starting to wear on her.

Once, about a month ago, I was talking to her about lethargy because her general state of health was concerned. She assured me that of all her class, mine was her favorite. This struck me as odd as I often see her looking out the window.

It has always been difficult for me figure out what to do with exceedingly slow and unmotivated learners. I find that I spend a lot of time noticing their behaviors, trying to find a pattern to help them come "back into class." For some my technique works. For others, though, I have come to believe it is Chinese water torture, drop by drop. This year  I vowed to change that.

However, I found myself really noticing how little attention this girl was paying to my class. I saw that saw that she was visibly miffed.

After a little while passed, I called her out to the hall. At this point my own patience was thin due to the difficulties of moving this lesson forward with the other students. I told her that I saw she once again had not brought her notebook with math homework. Two days earlier, she had not done the homework, but did not have the parent signature  I want to see.

This girl did not want my attention, which seemed to cause me to insist more.

Finally, when I saw there was not where else to be going, I let her go. But I was disturbed. Had my insistence gone to far? Was I causing a negative impression of math take over? If so, how could I make it up to her without giving in on the homework and responsibility front.

I decided to a call home this Friday evening to talk with her mother. Her mother was very appreciative of my call and explained that her daughter has been fighting her influence as a mother. The mother also said  of all her daughter's teacher, I was her favorite (something she found surprising due to math in general and my reputation in particular).

I realized that a little communication goes a long, long way.

I hope that this student and I can have a good, productive week.

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