“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.”
- Albert Einstein
What type of student are you?
When I was young, I was talker. A fidgeter. Since first grade, I’ve doodled in the margins of my textbooks. Early on, I learned if I drew, it kept me listening to the teacher and less likely to talk. Besides, I wanted to be an artist. I recall drawing my nun instructor during CCD and proudly showing her the portrait after class. Her face read a mixture of delight and disappointment. I promised her I had been paying attention.
Besides doodling, I took copious amounts of notes. So many that one fingernail is slightly flattened. In college, for a fifty-minute lecture, I’d write at least five pages. For an hour-and-twenty, I’d fill in at least seven.
I’m a tactile learner*. One of my studying strategies was to recopy my notes to prepare for an exam.
Last week on Wednesday evening, I received a call for a three-day Special Education gig at the high school. As I’ve learned from previous Special Ed. assignments, saying “Yes” to one is like picking the “Potpourri” category on a quiz show. Would I teach a subject alone or co-teach in more of an assistant role? And what exactly would the subject be? Mysterious….
I showed up on Thursday morning to find out I’d be co-teaching (Whew) MATH (Gasp). Those of you who have followed by blog for an extended period of time know that math and I do NOT get along. Want evidence? http://theresamilstein.blogspot.com/2010/01/special.html
The other teacher was the lead, so I was supposed to provide academic support. Who was going to provide me with academic support wasn’t clear. Have I mentioned the only reason I passed college Calculus is because my now-husband tutored me? And that was a LONG, LONG time ago. You’d think with all of these Math gigs, I’d have absorbed something. (Not without writing it down!)
The teacher didn’t actually introduce me to any of the classes, though he did tell me to write my name on the board.
At some point he explained the other teacher would be out and added, “Ms. Milstein will be here for the next three days.”
One student blurted, “Who’s Ms. Milstein?”
The teacher pointed to me. “Her.”
The teacher resembled the teacher from the TV show “Thirtysomething”. Remember that one? And man is he a good teacher. First, let me give him props for having a timer dock on his desk with a remote control. When a student is granted permission to use the bathroom, s/he takes the remote portion and both timers begin… well… timing. The teacher and student know how long this “bathroom” break is taking. And if a student disappears for too long, s/he has to make up the time.
Next impressive move is when a student asks for a pencil, the teacher says, “What will you give me?” I witnessed pencils swapped for a book and a trinket. I can’t tell you how much wasted time there is in a classroom over lack of writing implements. Few teachers give pencils freely since after a meager supply from the school budget, more pencils must come out of their own pockets. Some teachers have a No Pencil rule, but then precious time is wasted while students grub for pencils from their classmates. Other teachers buy boxes of golf pencils but then there’s the whole lack-of-eraser issue. Other teachers give out pencils as gifts and prizes, only to say a day later, “What happened to that pencil I gave you?”
Besides cutting out the nonsense of bathroom breaks and pencils, he was just a plain good teacher. He made use of the smart board more than any other teacher I’ve observed, not only making use of multiple boards on the screen, but also to play Math Jeopardy (I was in charge of keeping score). After he asked a question, the man didn’t mind long bouts of silence to let students puzzle out an answer. If a student mumbled an answer the teacher would say, “Loud and proud”. Students were encouraged to try in order to learn. He also broke up the time in about three different activities, making the long block more manageable so the students kept their attention. The way he taught problems, even I began to get it.
And when students wouldn't participate, he made everyone stand. A student would only be allowed to sit when s/he answered part of the equation correctly. That would've been enough motivation for me to learn math!
Other than scoring Jeopardy, I didn’t have much to do. When I looked at their problems, my mind was as blank as their pages.
At some point, the teacher told me he’d be out the next day so I’d (gulp) be ON MY OWN. He handed me the packets and told me to “look them over” during break. I was able to do about five problems in two packets, so I told him I’d take them home, figuring my husband could help me create an answer key.
Apparently, he was rusty. He acted like a student, reminding himself what the formulas were and how to solve them. And he didn’t get very far, so I was a ball of anxiety, threatening to jump out a fifth-floor window if things didn’t go well. (Even though they don’t open and the construction workers all over the roof would stop me. Probably.)
Got to school on Friday and … what do you know… he left me answer keys. I was able to help the classes. Hooray! My biggest concern became second period because they’d been a bit difficult the day before. When the one who needed the most attention began acting up, I said, “You teacher told me how smart you are. Why aren’t you focusing on your work?” That did the trick.
And I kept up with the timer and pencil-swapping rule, so now the teacher has a mini bottle of lotion.
Monday, the teacher was impressed I’d left him a note about the day. Apparently, NOBODY has ever left him a note before. And so I was back in the assistant role. It was a long, painful day. Just sitting, not doodling, refraining from fidgeting, paying attention to math equations, is a long and boring way to spend the day. I shouldn’t complain because it’s easier than the way Monday and Tuesday went last week (more on the Jerry Springer incident in another post), but the day went slowly. To say the least.
* Post that has info about learning styles: