Dear Claire,

I drafted this post, but never published it last week.

This was a week of transitions, one in which I was very thankful for this blog, twitter, and my wife as a sounding board.

On Monday, the air-conditioning in room 908 still wasn’t fixed, and the temperature climbed to 89° before 6th period ended. David (a student you’ll meet in a few months) suggested, “Why don’t we go outside? There’s a breeze.”

So we did. We took our whiteboards and worked through literal equations outdoors. It was… pretty good. I took 7th period to the air-conditioned library to do the same thing. It was also… just pretty good.

I came home and wrote a post (that I didn’t publish) about how I wanted more traction with the students. We’re four weeks into the school year; surely by now there should be some sense of what a “normal day” feels like. Or worse, their chatty and tough-to-wrangle behavior is a “normal day,” but I’m too much of a softie with my classroom management to notice it.

That’s a distinct possibility.

Shibuya (who teaches next door) and I chatted about the need to be strict without being rough, stern without being mean, and… that’s hard for me. I’ve been telling new teachers for the last three years that “students can smell when you’re doing someone else’s lesson or someone else’s management style. Be genuine.”

Now here I am, being genuine and realizing that I should have higher expectations for how we treat each other.

All of those feelings happened on a shortened-schedule Monday with no air-conditioning.

Fast-forward to Tuesday and Wednesday, where we did notes and whiteboard practice for solving and graphing inequalities. They were on-task, respectful, and we blew through plenty of content.

Here’s my internal struggle. Not the one about being nice vs. stern. A different struggle.

Students appear to want notes and whiteboard practice more than weird and innovative lessons.

There. I said it.

Not just in their collective compliance, but out loud.

“Your way is weird. Can I just use the formula?”
~Madi, period 7

There’s more. The piece I’m realizing (right this minute, as I type) that I’ve forgotten:

Of course, they will be quieter when they’re writing stuff down. And that looks like compliance and desire.

Claire, that post I drafted on Monday was falsely correlating silence and engagement.

The opposite is probably true.

~Matt “Robert, it’s Eric’s turn to talk. Go ahead, Eric.” Vaudrey