A Bittersweet Milestone

Dorenhagen MeilensteinI’m about to reach a milestone, and I have mixed feelings about it.

I started teaching in 1994, and I taught for nine memorable years. In 2003, I realized that I need time away from the classroom, and I took a leave of absence. Now it’s (unbelievably) June 2012, and I’ve been out of the classroom for as long as I was in it!

It’s bittersweet, because I truly believe that those of you working in classrooms every day are right up there with trauma surgeons, paramedics, and fire fighters in the importance of your work. I have tons of admiration for teachers who can turn away from the million negative distractions from the outside world (from evaluating teachers based on test scores and publishing those results in the newspaper to blaming them for all society’s ills) and focus on nurturing their students and improving their craft.

I’m really impressed by teachers who find time to do innovative things in their classrooms and blog or make videos about it. Those blogs help me keep an eye on what’s happening in real classrooms, and they remind me of the best parts of classroom teaching—the moments when the teacher and the students are all in it together, grappling with mathematics and respecting each other’s ideas and contributions.

This video, which in true social media fashion, I found third-hand (Kate Nowak posted it on her blog, and one of her readers posted about it in a comment on Dan Meyer’s blog), is a great example. The teacher, Leah Alcala, uses a simple activity every day as her warmup. She has students work on a few questions on note cards, then she collects them and sorts them into yes and no piles—correct and incorrect. She then chooses her “favorite no”, and works through the solution with the class, pointing out all of the ways in which the solution is correct, and then discussing in a constructive way where a mistake was made. It’s a wonderful way to get at student misconceptions, and her execution of it is amazing, as she shows her appreciation for the student’s work and the opportunity to share and correct mistakes together.

So to Leah, and all the teacher bloggers, and all the teachers who don’t blog but are plugging away every day in your classrooms, have a fantastic summer—you have earned it!

Note: TeachingChannel let me know that they have changed video hosts, and are having trouble with some of the videos. So you may not be able to view the entire video. But the first two minutes give you the idea, and you can download a transcript from their site if you want to see how she continues the warmup.

2 thoughts on “A Bittersweet Milestone”

  1. Loved it! I’d like to do this in my class, but I have two questions for Leah or anyone else who has tried this.

    1) When Leah is up at the front of the class soliciting ideas about “her favorite no,” It looks like the students are referring to their notes. Do you suggest/instruct the students to record the favorite no and make notes about it? Can you share any specifics about this?

    2) Also, I was wondering if the individuals students get told if they were in the yes or no pile or are they expected to remember their answer to know if they did it right?

  2. Hi Margaret,

    I see that you posted your questions at Teaching Channel, so I hope you’ll get some responses from teachers who have tried this warmup! I love Leah’s demonstration of it, she does a lovely job.

    Elizabeth

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