Rookie Year: Day 75

First day back from Winter Break!

I think I bored the crap out of my students today. I gave them a practice exam to take home over winter break but I didn’t expect them to work on it (I mean, wouldn’t have worked on it) so I gave them another copy today and we went through the exam solutions together, working through them as a class.

The format was very traditional. I stood up front working through the solutions on the SmartBoard, asking questions and prompting the class as we went. I had a high level of disengagement across all the blocks. Many students had their heads down or just didn’t respond. In each class I had 3-4 students who answered every question, another 8-10 beyond that making eye-contact and following along, then zone-outers, and then probably sleepers.

I paid for it with my voice. After over two weeks of lounging at home reading science fiction, an entire day of working problems on the board and doing 95% of the talking means I just about lost my voice by 3rd period and it never really came back.

I didn’t do any planning over the break myself so I had nothing else prepared in terms of activities to go through solutions with them and honestly since today was the first day back I didn’t have the energy to try to corral any other activities. I kept thinking about how well “trained” the students I have are. With my desks in a traditional row formatting and me up at the front talking, most of my students realized that they were supposed to talk so I had very little discipline issues today. But of course engagement was very low. When I try to change up the format and no longer send the traditional classroom signals I usually get higher engagement/excitement, but I also have a greater degree of discipline issues because the lessons are a little louder and being off-task ends up being more disruptive than head down or nose buried in phone.

I really think the solution to this is me. I have to do a better of job of “training” the students. By this I mean I need to be more consistent at the beginning of courses showing students what it looks like to engage and do well even if we are not doing the traditional classroom format. Other modes of going through solution to the practice exam should also be sending non-verbal cues to them that it’s time to settle down and get to work. (Even if settling down means discussing solutions with neighbors and not me talking to the whole class.)

Thanks for reading.

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