Month: July 2009

Total 8 Posts

What Is Thirty Minutes Worth?

These two photos go a long way to summarize the transformation of Dan Meyer circa 2003 into Dan Meyer circa 2009. I lifted the first one off an advertising kiosk in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in June and used it last week in a discussion of similar figures.

The second photo shows what $17.00 and thirty minutes will buy in Abbot’s Thrift Store where, last week, I walked around agog at all the interesting glassware and rolled them around on the floor whenever the clerk wasn’t looking.

In 2003, I would have counted that half hour as a regrettable casualty of a demanding job, but I realize now that the calculus is much trickier than that. I realize now that the return on that investment of thirty minutes of my personal time isn’t the promise of more personal time later. (ie. “I’ll get to reuse this next year.”) Rather it’s the promise of easier and more satisfying work time now.

The question I suppose I’d put to my younger, narrower self is: how much personal time would you give up every day if it meant that your students would be, on average, excited to come to your class? Would you give up thirty minutes every day if it meant that driving home that afternoon you’d feel flush with connection to other people and assured of the relevance of your work to the world your students see in thrift stores and airport concoursesIt’s worth a footnote to mention that I become more and more thrilled by Algebra every new year I teach it. Thrilled.? I think my younger self would go for that. Especially when the alternative, driving home, was this sort of sterile sense of basic competence and the freedom to do whatever completely forgettable things I did with all that free time back then.

The magic isn’t in keeping work and play as far away from one another as possible. If I can get to that understanding with someone, if I can convince a new teacher of that, then we can talk about the best investments for those off-contract hours. But until we get to that point, it’s all seating charts and pyramids of intervention and my heart just isn’t in it.

How Do I Expedite This Process?

Michael Wesch:

Instead of focusing on self, [Diana Degarmo] focused on the beauty of the audience and the whole event. And I allowed myself to do the same thing. I never let that leave me. I would start with that. I would start with loving my students. And it’s striking how much my teaching has changed in five years, as a result of that. It’s basically about shifting from getting people to love you to you loving them.

It is paralyzing for me to think how Dan Meyer circa 2003, student teacher, would have endured a discussion facilitated by Dan Meyer circa 2009, aspiring mentor teacher, on the lifestyle of a teacher. That kid wanted as close to an eight-hour work-day as he could manage. He wanted strictly amicable relationships with his students, neither enamored of nor enraged by any. The mailman doesn’t let the mail get him down, he told himself then.

I can’t bring myself to walk all of that back. I still wish I worked less. At that point, though, I saw a happy life as a zero-sum of work and play, where professional investment came at the expense of the personal. It made me mostly miserable on the job and also, regrettably, a non-presence to my students.

The problem is, these aren’t differences in methods or pedagogy. These are differences in personality and lifestyle and it took me three years to start to move away from such a compartmentalized view of work and play. I don’t know if it’s possible to expedite that process for another teacher, or how, but I suppose that’s the fun I have to look forward to in graduate school.

Compass & Straightedge

Summer school right now involves six hours of Geometry instruction followed by three hours of planning for the next day’s Geometry instruction, which basically leaves me fully tapped for tweeting, blogging, smiling, anything but sleeping. I’d say something laced with regret here but the fact is I enrolled some truly incredible students who challenge me and crack me up for the better part of those six hours. These kids make for light work.

Their proficiency does cause its own kind of trouble, though, because my strongest and weakest students space themselves out dramatically over six hours, requiring all kinds of differentiation. My favorite recent method, particularly with today’s investigation of reflections, is to say, “okay, now do that with just a compass and straightedge.”

I had a method in mind but several students each did me one better.

One student made kind of stunning use of SSS congruency. Another dripped sweat all over the page constructing perpendicular bisectors, copying angles, copying sides in an incredible (but functional) mess. Another used the method I chose but did it in three fewer arcs.

I have five more days to enjoy this.

[BTW: I have determined that at least 20% of this is garbage.]