Laser Pointer

Jamie G is a grad of our teacher residency. He teaches 6th grade history at the awesome Roxbury Prep Charter School. He recounts a lesson from last week:

During class today, we were watching a short, 3.5 minute video comparing and contrasting Confucianism and Taoism (How did people teach before the Internet?). I was stopping the video every 45 seconds or so to do some quick checks for understanding.

Maybe the second time I was asking a question, I saw a very, very brief red light in the back row of my class.

So what goes through the teacher brain? Jamie explains -- and he notes, all dialogue should sound as if it is being transmitted by CB radio. Roger that. He refers below to our view of the "teacher brain." I will teach you two parts.

There's the PEBO (Patrolling Effort/Behavior Oblongota). That's the part of the teacher that keeps the eyes on kids.

Then there's the Performance Cortex. That's the part that does the "teaching" -- explains stuff, asks questions, etc.

In skilled teachers, the PEBO is highly developed, and fires automatically. Thereby not taking much needed brainpower away from the Performance Cortex.

PEBO: Captain G, we got a super quick burst of concentrated red light in the back row.

Performance Cortex: Roger that, PEBO. We're just affirming that Joe correctly identified the all of Confucius's five key relationships. Stand by.

PEBO: No seriously, Cap'n, you better check this out... We might have something serious here.

Performance Cortex: Standby PEBO, we're asking Jill to explain how Confucius thought the 5 key relationships could help establish peace in China.

PEBO: Captain, this is urgent, our sonar system suggest we have a, a, a LASER LIGHT in the back of the classroom. WHAT SHOULD WE DO?!?!?!?!?

Performance Cortex: Remain calm, Lieutenant PEBO. We need more information on the bridge to mount an effective response. Keep monitoring the situation.

PEBO: Roger that, monitoring...

And thus, dear readers, we see episode 5 Quintillion and One of: real life of a teacher. Jamie breaks down his thought process.

I was trying to really nail down not one, but TWO ancient philosophies in a quick 5-minute review before tomorrow's quiz (not to mention today's class on Legalism and the Qin Dynasty). I had no idea who had the laser pointer.

Maybe 90 seconds later: I spot the laser again. This time I saw it on the ceiling. Again, think it's coming from the back, but no hard proof.

Decision time. What to do?

Don't wanna stop the lesson to investigate. Kids are loving the video and nailing the CFUs. (Checks For Understanding). I decide to keep monitoring.

Five minutes later: Students are silently and interactively reading the first three paragraphs of an article and have a question to answer. I am circulating like a hungry condor above the Grand Canyon on a 110 degree day. The kids KNOW that I'm looking for something, and they are working really hard. I'm psyched about this.

Ten minutes later: Students are reading in partners. Again, great focus, very few misbehavior occuring.

End of class: Students pass up their exit tickets and silently line up. No sign of the mythical red-laser-fire-breathing dragon.

But WAIT! What's that in Jane's hand as she walks out the door? Why is she carrying a mechanical pencil and a thicker gray pen? Could it be? Jane opens her hand, and whoomp, there it is!

In conclusion: The great laser hunt of 2012 concluded peacefully and without major conflict. Lo, the students were learning and the teacher rejoiced! Another 4th quarter comeback for PEBO, who will go on to face "Cellphone ringing in student's locker" in the Super Bowl next Thursday afternoon.