The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 28 2013

Not Pretty, But Effective

Day 140: Through TFA, I was able to have a scientist visit my class Thursday to speak about his job. He is an electrophysiologist with Amgen, so he spoke about taking cells and measuring their electric potential, so he knows when the drugs he’s testing are working. Specifically, he’s working on a drug to treat major pain, like cancer pain, or pain from amputations. That last part proved very relevant; my guest was able to explain that the drug could help people like those hurt in the Boston Marathon bombings.

All in all, my kids were great. They sat, were respectful, and were engaged. 6A was its usual sleepy self first and second period, but pretty much every other class got into the presentation with great questions. My students were particularly entranced by the guest’s work trip to China, which Amgen had paid for, allowing him to sample such interesting cuisine as dog and horse.

One of the main tenets of my teaching philosophy is that students should not be sitting and listening for more than a few minutes at a time. It’s hard to manage silence, and it probably means they’re not doing enough thinking for themselves. So, fourth period, after 6C had listened to the guest for a period, I decided to jump straight to practice. No Do Now, no cards up guided practice. Just moving right on to a short packet to practice information on the six kingdoms.

The transition was a bit ugly, but given that I’ve nixed most procedures for 6C as the year has gone on to try to match their learning style – and what they get in other classes – it could have been worse. Within a few minutes, all but one student was working on the packets. I had to redirect KA to sit down a couple of times, but that’s nothing new. And I had to send JT to the office for doing literally zero work over half an hour. Everyone else, though, got the big packet done, and the tickets-to-go tell me pretty much everyone has the content mastered.

As I walked my guest to lunch after this, he commented that it was a bit of a madhouse in there. I thought about this for a minute – are my standards too low? My answer is no – we’re doing fine. As I mentioned above, this is a class that given what they experience in other classes, the hard-and-fast routines made them disinvested to the point of not working. Everyone was working, and while it took a little effort to manage the wanderers, everything got done. Students were collaborating, students were asking good questions, and students were mastering content. I’ll take that, even if it’s not always pretty.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
Middle School

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