Liveblogging Student Teaching #2

Dana's "Do-Now" was tight. Every kid working silently. Aim: Students will read a line plot, and identify trends.

She leads kids well with hand-raising. Good wait time. Now cold calls Miguel. Solid pacing. She's circulating. I need everyone sitting up nice and tall (they straighten up). Good vibe.

If I were a principal right now thinking about "Do I want to pursue this candidate?" the answer is yes.

So now I want to turn my attention to kids actually learning, or not. Basically, Dana is ready for all the stuff that University of Michigan's Deborah Ball wants math teachers to understand. Math questioning techniques. Mind you, many rookies couldn't handle the Ball stuff, because they can't get kids working hard. Dana has them humming along.

Kids are copying down a definition of "line plot." It's a complicated one, though, which begins: A line plot is a visual display of data's frequency.

Q: What is frequency?

A: The stuff that happens often.

Q: Fred, do you have a different idea?

A: No.

Q: Raise your hand if you have heard of a frequent buyers club or a frequent flyers club.

A: (Nobody).

Dana probably thinks "Ooop." But she goes on, doesn't lose any momentum.

That's big, and greatly to her credit. One problem for rookie teachers who don't have 100% buy-in from the kids is: if you make a misstep, if you ask a question that leads nowhere, the energy of the room -- which was balanced on the edge of a knife between nominal attention and total disdain -- tips. You can almost hear the giant sucking sound of energy leaving the room.

But that's not what happens here. Dana owns this room.

Later, of course she'll think: "Ooops, I shouldn't have chosen the frequent flyer example." Teachers do that every day: here's what I said, here's what I wish I said. They play back classroom exchanges in their minds: on the train, in the shower, in their dreams.

The more at-bats you get teaching any particular math concept, the better you'll be able to choose good examples, good analogies, better definitions, etc. Another way to get there: Curric-in-a-box, so you don't have to figure all this out yourself.

But rookies have to accept that they'll be giving sub-optimal explanations sometimes. What they can always control is their relationships and classroom management moves. It's like sporst. Even a great offense sometimes sputters. But if a team has a great defense, that can be there every day.