“Can You Just Let Us Do It?” Or When I Forget Myself

I tweeted about this the other day but I wanted to expand on it further.

Last Monday my Business Calculus class took a midterm, so the week before I held a review session. My lesson plan was just to work through as many problems as we could and remind them of all of the things they had forgotten/never tried/didn’t understand. I had already discussed the solutions to a few u-substitution problems, had already written the statement of a third, and was about to work the solution when a student interrupted me.

“Uh, Taylor? Can you just let us do it?”

What I tweeted was my actual reaction.

“Oh. Yes. Of course. That’s what I want. I would much rather you do it. That’s the whole point.”

The strange thing is that on previous occasions I have done this–letting them do the work–for both lessons and review days. I write some problems on the board and let the students work on them in groups as I come around to “help”. (This helping is usually me answering their questions with more questions. Not all of them enjoy that, but I find it amusing and better for them.)

But for some reason I was just running on lecturer autopilot that day and was explaining everything. I think even though I tell myself and repeat to others that the best way to learn math is to do math, I forget myself and let my ego take over. I was worried about how they were going to do on the exam the next week and I was afraid that they weren’t going to study so I subconsciously thought, “I better just do it for them.” And so there I was, doing the problems for them on the board. Luckily, they remembered better than I did what was going to help them learn the most.

It’s easy to subscribe to the “Teachers should be the guide-on-the-side instead of the sage-on-the-stage” philosophy and I do subscribe to it–even though that line is so cheesy. But it’s also easy to default to doing it all yourself.

It’s nice to be reminded by your own students.