2.08.2011

Me, on top of the world...


This is me, on top of the world. I'm with Bushwhacker, a guy who seems to set out on the AT every year. I wonder if he's going this year. I imagine M is the one taking a photo. I look tough there because I was tough. And maybe my physical strength has faded with time, but the mental lessons are here to stay.

Today the theme of my lecture was "confusion is part of the process" - but it was really about not giving up when something gets hard. My students mostly give up. When they don't know how to solve a problem, they work madly to look as if they are thinking, but are really just avoiding eye contact with me.

I called them out on it today and we worked through a stupid word problem about the rotation of a baseball. They should have known to just use the formula for a circumference because it was on the same worksheet with a bunch of problems about circumference. It concerns me that they struggle with navigating worksheets. If I was going to write a math textbook, I would take all the word problems and mix them up, so you would actually have to think about it, but Pearson is on the predictable side.
However, much of school, and life, is not about really thinking or problem solving, it's about knowing what to do automatically by reading the cues in your environment.

They get mad because I make them write about what is confusing. It's not enough to say I don't know. You have to say why, you have to pick apart the little things you didn't know you knew, but are there, just under the surface. You have to share your ideas. Tell me where your Knowing stopped and your Confusion started.

Much of school, and life, is about perseverance. Sucking it up and powering through fatigue or pain. Trying and failing and trying again. I'm twice as old, so I can't get mad at them for not having had the opportunity to push themselves. But sometimes I still get mad.

At 14, I was playing soccer and taking Ray Peter's Geometry class. My dad had just started working, and my brother and sister and I were on our own for a few hours after school. I had to do chores and cook dinner sometimes. I honestly can't remember doing homework. Did I study after school? I know we generally didn't watch tv at my house, but I loved to sneak and watch the Guiding Light before my brother and sister got off the bus. I didn't know M yet, but he was around, our circles of friends weaving in and out of each other.

M is baking again. Check Flickr later for another picture - I'm sure he'll take one. Here's a secret...he sucked at baking a year ago. Many of his first attempts were barely edible. But he's good at taking his confusion or his failure and figuring out what went wrong, and turning it in to something right. And now he churns out artisan quality bread once or twice a week.

That's what I want my students to take away this year. I want them to say "I hated math in August, but now I know what to do with a two step equation. And I want to try a three-step."

3 comments:

Betty Giles said...

Hi Cocoa, The AT kinda stays stays with you, doesn't it? I've tried baking too but I'm not up to Monkey's standards yet. Bush Whacker is currently hiking the Florida Trail. http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=336574

Beach Bum

Grant/Fire Marshal said...

M and K,

Hey, it's Fire Marshal. How do I get in contact with you?

Drop me a line on my TrailJournals guest book page and leave your e-mail hidden in the field, if you could, please.

Grant /Fire Marshal

kj said...

Ah, K, once in a while I'll think of you and M and come back to your blog. It's always a pleasure--the greatest being that you always make me, as the reader, think about the greater meaning of everyday life. This post was a perfect example of that. Hope to talk to you soon. L is looking lovely and with you and M as parents, it's no surprise.

kj