The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 05 2013

A Veteran Moment

Day 95: You know it’s shaping up to be a rough week when you can’t post about Monday until Tuesday afternoon. To some extent, my current state of exhaustion is my fault. I was skiing with college friends this weekend, and I was dumb enough to plan a week of high-prep labs and demonstrations the same week I started taking two grad school courses and had midterm grades due.

However, any week that you begin with seven hours of sleep between two nights deserves at least a little pity.

Anyhow … Yesterday, despite my fugue-like state, I managed to have a pretty awesome moment. As I’ve written, my homeroom can appear anywhere from sluggish to apathetic at times. Thursday, they were clearly motivated by having free time at the end of class. When I realized that, my first thought – which is pretty nerdy, but hey, I’m cool with that – was, “Oh man, time for preferred activity time!”

Preferred activity time, or PAT, essentially allows students to earn extra time. For example, if I say I need silence in ten, and you do it in two, you get eight seconds. The time adds up, and at the end of the week, students can use their earned time. Last year, I did this often, and rewarded students with games or free time at the end of the week. Nearly all the time, those games were related to the content. I’m sneaky like that.

Within two minutes of class starting, I knew breaking out PAT was a good call. A class that normally struggles to do their work and follow procedures efficiently was tracking, getting silent and transitioning with urgency. Students were urging others to move their butts to earn extra time. I even managed to invest AC by putting her in charge of updating the time bank during class as we earned time.

Last year, my first year as a teacher, I had to build my teacher toolbox as I went, developing and using strategies and tools as they became necessary. Yesterday, I was able to identify a need and pull out a strategy I’d ALREADY tried and tested. Even half-asleep, I think I earned some veteran teacher swagger.

About this Blog

Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
Middle School

Subscribe to this blog (feed)