In December, a student gave me a gift card to a nearby sandwich shop. It was used. He didn’t care about the balance and neither did I. It was an irreverent Christmas gift, a tiny act of care from a student too cool for caring. I appreciated the gesture, naturally, but had no idea what to do with it until a few days ago.
It was lunchtime and I put it on a shelf somewhere just off the beaten classroom path. I circled my lunchtime crowd and asked them, “how do long do you think it’ll last before someone takes it?” We took bets, bragging rights for stakes
If you guessed 24 hours, you’d have every reason to crow.
It kind of kills me how slippery my stuff is around here. Students take everything. Compasses, calculators, and rulers, in particular, have a shorter shelf life than whole milk.
That fact wedges me awkwardly between two competing interests. On the one hand, I want my stuff to remain my stuff for maybe a semester or two.
On the other hand, the obvious solution here (some kind of check-out system) is completely antithetical to my classroom game. My classroom is the place that it is, in large part, because I keep time-hogging administrative details to a few minutes daily and, as much as possible, I keep them out of my students’ line of sight.
I don’t dedicate a regular time slot to attendance. I don’t dedicate a regular time slot to homework review. I rarely pass back work â€” just assessments and only while they’re occupied by something interesting.
I feel strange wasting even small units of time. I draw up the next day’s highlighted problems the night before in Keynote and have them ready to go at a click of my remote.
Total time saved: maybe thirty seconds per problem, but all these measures taken as a sum make me, like, the richest teacher I know.
If I want to host a classroom spitball session on strategies for surviving a 47-story fall, or show Vampire Weekend’s awesome little music video, or mention in passing last year’s most popular baby names, or all three in the same period, I don’t worry about falling behind my colleagues or missing year-end benchmarks. I have hours in the bank.
I can’t speak with much precision for how my students feel about all this but I try to imagine this classroom from their perspective, a classroom which actively excludes boring self-sustaining details and instead pushes engaging moments into all available space, even the margins.
I’m working hard at it. I want this class to be the best paced and most engaging math class they’ve ever taken, even if it’s really, really poorly stocked.