Be More Interested

“What is the point of this bunker?” belongs to my favorite subset of classroom questions, The Question Whose Answer Looks Insultingly Easy. No question goes farther to disrupt and expand a student’s perception of the world than the one which, moments ago, she was absolutely sure she knew the answer to.

Muir Overlook Emplacements from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

Personally, I thought it was a gun emplacement, as most of my students will, but the information kiosk told me otherwiseBTW here are my high-res photos and video zipped up..

The point of this post isn’t really to ask, “what can you do with this?”That lesson plan, involving triangulation and some a/v simulations, pretty much writes itself. The point of this post is a rejoinder to How To Be A Boring Teacher.

All pretenses of modesty aside, I facilitate classes this year that apply tenacious inquiry to goofy conceptual digressions and difficult standards-based math alike. At this point in the year, a small handful of students are still frustrated that the point of our class isn’t to reproduce example problems from the textbook but the rest are shockingly patient with irresolution. I am never less than stunned at the dereliction of duty they tolerate in their teacher, that they let me set them adrift on unfamiliar intellectual tides while I watch from shore, doing nothing more helpful than asking some elliptical questions. I’m shocked, basically, that these kids don’t roast me over a spit every time I ask, “So what can you do with this?”

Much of this happened accidentally. Much of the alchemy eludes me but I know that one of my essential teacher actions here is that I model my own interest constantly, that I make the messy process of reconciling my own curiosities a matter of classroom record as often as possible.

I can only do this if I make a habit of bringing that process into their classroom. So I keep a camera on hand and use it often. I bring the world and all my messy questions about it into my classroom through a digital projector whenever I canThis, from my experience, is the real gift of a digital projector, not the ability to overlay text on top of a photo.. The net effect has profoundly reshaped my classes and my priorities.

I no longer care if they are interested in me. That is a young teacher’s game. I care that they are interested.

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.

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