The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 06 2013

OK, But I Want Great

Day 96: I have made a profound discovery. Naps put me in a good mood.

Anyhow, today was the first two of the four organelle debates. Which is more important to life, the cell membrane or mitochondria? By and large, they were fine. But they weren’t great.

The first time, everyone was talking way too quietly. I could tell too many people were getting bored. JVM got a warning for reading a book … Then kept reading, so I took it away. Meanwhile, JM kept shouting out, and eventually I kicked him out. It probably took 20 minutes for the debate to get up to speed, and then the end was great. It just took a while to get there.

I talked to my mentor from last year for some tips on how to energize the conversation, and came away with three. First, start the debate by asking who REALLY disagreed with the person who just spoke. Second, make sure the teams alternated. Third, make sure people spoke loudly enough for everyone to hear.

6C, fourth period, take two. MUCH better start. I’d say about half the class was really engaged, and all but one or two were perfectly behaved. The only downside was some bumps – namely EC shutting down toward the end because someone taunted her, and a brief hiccup of side-talking – and the energy sort of disappearing toward the very end. But overall, a very strong performance from a class that can struggle. Plus, AC and AM, my long-time antagonists, were by far the most engaged and active participants in the whole class. Weird, but I’ll take it.

Try something new, see what happens, course correct, see what happens next. In other words, I made a few changes, saw some improvement. Tomorrow, I’m going to be even more insistent on engagement even when you’re not speaking, and try to inject some energy at the end with a “lightning round,” which I (unsuccessfully) tried to implement on the fly. Again, the debates were OK. But I’m curious to see if I can turn OK into awesome.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher


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