The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 14 2012

Can We Please Have Just 30 More Seconds?

Day 8: About 24 hours ago, today’s classroom prospects seemed a little dim. I was maybe 50 percent done with creating my lesson on malleable intelligence and the value of persistence … a lesson I had never taught before, and which featured a read-aloud … which I had never done before. Ultimately, by the time I was satisfied I had enough of a lesson planned as to not look like an idiot, I had kissed goodbye to any prayer of a decent night’s sleep.

I needed a stellar day to make the late night feel worth it. Fortunately, that’s what I got.

As I read an article on how you can grow your brain, my kids text-marked for important information and wrote comments and questions in the margins. Every two paragraphs, kids shared their commenting with each other, and then the whole class. Soon, the room was full of spot-on thinking. “This is saying you’re not born smart; you have to work at it.” “If I want to get smarter, I have to practice.” “I need to use my brain and try harder, even when I fail, or I won’t grow.”

From the article, we moved on to one of my science heroes, Thomas Edison. In response to a question regarding his quintuple-digit failures to create a working light bulb, Edison once famously said, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. Every wrong attempt is just another step forward.” My kids used that example to craft their own definition of the word “persistence,” and explain how persistence was relevant to science class this year.

I could write plenty here about how kids were engaged and invested and loving what they were learning. But I really think it might all be best summed up by one student’s comment. Every time I gave my kids a chance to talk to one another about what they text-marked, or about what they believed the article was saying, my kids wanted more time to think about the questions and hear each other’s thoughts. Once, noticing my timer was about to hit “0:00” and end a think-pair-share, Angely earnestly turned to me and asked, “Could we please just have another 30 seconds?” It was all I could do to not shout back at her, “YES AND HOLY CRAP I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW MUCH YOU GUYS ARE INTO THIS TAKE AS MUCH TIME AS YOU WANT FOR YOUR AMAZING CONVERSATIONS!”

As the cherry on top, the head of professional development for my school wandered in about three-quarters of the way through the lesson. When she started asking questions about the day’s work, the large majority of the class raised their hands to explain. Every answer was 100 percent spot-on; student after student explained that no one was born smart, everyone had to work hard to grow their brains. Whenever anyone spoke, his or her classmates tracked the speaker with their eyes, and pointed their hands and wiggled their fingers to show “props” for what was said. I’m not sure I’ve ever been that proud of a class ever.

At the end of the day, this same class got their first class points reward – the famous Diet Coke and Mentos explosion. As it turns out, five Mentos makes a bigger explosion than one Mentos. So, it says something that what sticks with me today is not the giant fountain of Diet Coke, but the incredible culture of learning, respect and achievement I saw in my room today. Put another way, this was one of those days when I really, really loved my job.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
Middle School

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