Yesterday was the aforementioned Quality Review visit to my classroom. The effort to have the iPads synched and running the appropriate app was fairly Herculean; I am rather proud of the accomplishment which succeeded mostly due to my sheer force of will and refusal to fail. The day prior to the visit was truly a Kodak moment in my classroom (so wish I had remembered to bring my phone); the Lego ‘Funky Furniture’ activity grabbed the attention of those unsuspecting senioritis-afflicted students before they knew what was happening. The amazing power of a baggie with 14 Legos. Thank you, Fawn .
Day 2 (the observation) of Linear Programming (the observation) included an exploration with a pre-made file and Sketchpad Explorer into a problem involving restaurant capacity, adult:child ratio, and profit. The kids were great – attentive, participating, independently working when required. I needed to begin the lesson with a brief recap of the Funky Furniture activity. We ran out of time the day before (as we often do), and thus, my Do Now included actually graphing the system and discussing what the graph meant (introduction of the vocabulary “constraint” and “feasible region”). The visitors arrived right on time. The beginning of the lesson was necessarily teacher-centered; my students had never completed this type of activity before, and it was imperative (to me) that the previous exploration was concluded as planned before they began the second activity on their own.
So I took a little longer than I would have liked with the Do Now (it lasted 15 minutes, inviting a comment on my pacing). As I ran through the material, I willed more students to raise their hands, willed myself to keep my questions open-ended, willed my classroom to scintillate! Why do we inevitably feel awkward doing what we do 5 times a day, 185 days a year, when someone walks into the room? The fact is that the QR doesn’t affect me specifically (it has a much bigger impact on my principal’s life than mine), but the weight of the school’s pending rating was palpable to me. In any case, we got through the Do Now (or Do for A While), I distributed the iPads, and the kids went to work – very independently. When the reviewer, principal and my AP left, we all breathed a sigh of relief. The kids said I was great, but looked nervous (duh!). I owe them some serious candy.
At the end of the day, I went to my AP for feedback. Like a shrink, she asked me “How do you think you did?” I commented on the teacher-centered-ness, but explained (as she knew) that the students would not have been able to complete the activity on their own. I also admitted it took longer than I would have liked. She then told me she thought it was fine and that her only issue was my pacing. She then told me that my written lesson plan received a “Highly Effective” and was going to be used as a model for the department. I left the debrief unsatisfied, a feeling that has remained with me.
My students finished the activity independently today; their homework is to create a similar problem with different constraints, graph the system, and identify the maximum profit. I am truly curious to see how they do. These are students who are not generally successful at math; getting them to the point where they can create and solve a problem – now THAT would be something!