I came across an article today, which suggested that teaching is (or should be) like composting. Then, I read a blog post from @Catlin_Tucker which encouraged conversations instead of grades. Simultaneously, I am planning a Math Exposition Night this week and worrying over logistics for that.
As I pause to consider the multiple layers of student-teacher conversations that have taken place in the past two weeks because of the Honors Precalculus projects we are doing, I am in awe. I’m grateful that all of this is happening, but I also regret that I did not do more of this earlier in the year. With about 20 days left in the school year, I have a lost opportunity.
Last year, I built up a rapport with two different classes in ways that I never have before. As I reflect on that now, much of that is due to the fact that we spent time doing two lengthy open-ended projects. I spent many days talking about math, and chatting informally with each member of each group. This year, we did a smaller project in the fall, and then didn’t do a larger one until now, as the year is closing. I definitely want to make time for this type of experience in all classes I teach at least three times a year, so as to engage students more fully in their math experience.
To return to the composting and mixing idea, these open-ended projects do just that. Students are considering their work through a mathematical lens, but then exploring beyond the walls of my classroom. They engage with other teachers and students on campus, seeking the person who has greatest expertise. I am grateful to my colleagues who happily make time to work with these kids, who are a pleasure to teach. They are truly interested in the answers to the questions they pose because they are invested in finding out more – in fact, they sought us out! This is what teaching should be; if I know how to do something, and you need to know, let me teach you. How do we generate this type of authentic learning?