Too Young To Mentor Maybe

UCSC’s CalTeach program is knocking at the math department door, looking to install a few undergrads in math classes to help out, to see if teaching’s something they’re into. I got into teaching a while back through the same program so pushed along by nostalgia and something else I wrote ‘SC and said, tell me more.

That “something else” is the premonition that I won’t be a teacher much longer. I’ve got ideas, you know? Like forty of ’em. Stuff that blah blah I wish I knew when I first started teaching blah blah patronizing tone blah blah. They’re good, though. For a while I just wrote ’em down as they came to me. The most recent one is that you’ve really got to time how long you hold eye contact after telling a student to do something.

What do you mean you’ve never thought about it?!

“Put your cell away.”

If you turn away right away they don’t think you’re serious.

Holding eye contact too long is the really dangerous one, though. For two years, I’d fix eyes with them thinking that, yeah, they know I mean business now. Problem is, quietly holding eye contact with a student is begging her to ARGUE with you. It’s what kids do.

“But I’m not calling anybody.”

“But we’re not doing anything right now.”

“But it’s not even on.”

It doesn’t matter what kind of nonsense their retort makes. As long as your eye contact is giving them a forum, they’re going to make something of it. I almost … admire that consistency.

So I want to make a field manual for new teachers. Something with a slick design and a moleskine cover. I’ll design it. I’ll print it. I’ll bind it and shop it around, if I have to. I need to find time and I need to make it happen while all of this is still fresh.

At its worst, this job is a boring job. Workmanlike. A grind. At its best, you’ll think it’s impossible to do anything else.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Fred Jones’s “Tools for Teaching” has great advice for backchat: ignore it. At least appear to ignore it. You can’t argue with thin air.

    If something in their attitude annoys you, it’s best to discuss it with them after class than at that very moment when they’re looking for a chance to argue.

  2. Fred Jones is a god. Whenever they get around to making the “Heroes of Classroom Management” baseball card box set, his card will be the first released.