Yesterday I messed up. It was the first time so far this year that I’ve seen my kids miserable and unmotivated. They were falling asleep, wandering around the classroom, and needing serious prodding to get any work done. That was the story of my life last year, but this year has been so much better and I’m sad to see it happen. But I’m pretty sure I know exactly what caused it and I’m pretty sure it was entirely my fault, so maybe I can prevent it happening again today….
Basically I have been extremely careful this year to not overwhelm them with math. We’ve been starting extremely low and working our way up. Sometimes we work our way all the way up over a few days, sometimes we work our way up quickly but we’ve created materials to help them (like a fraction number line or a list of perfect squares and roots), and sometimes we just never need to do anything too challenging because the beginning of the year objectives just aren’t that hard. Regardless, it gives the kids confidence and motivates them to get the work done, and it’s okay to do this because we always reach 8th grade level in the end.
The night before yesterday, I was getting stressed about the amount of work I had to do. It’s not that unreasonable, end-of-semester amount of work, but it was still just too much for those few hours. I had a stack of tests to grade and analyze, two sets of worksheets to make, a stack of data to enter, planning that needed to get done for a meeting yesterday, and so on. I also wanted to do normal human things like go to the gym, cook, or clean my apartment, and I’ve been so tired lately I can barely move after about 10. So when I found a worksheet I made last year that fit my material for class, I was so relieved that I just used it without examining it thoroughly enough (honestly, I’m embarrassed to even admit that here).
Last year, I was great at writing 8th grade level problems, but terrible at writing problems in gradually-increasing difficulty to scaffold the material for the kids. This year, I’m much better at that, so the kids were pretty much stunned when the first problem they did alone was tricky on multiple levels. And the one after that wasn’t any easier. It’s only the really motivated kids who persevere, and even they had to check and re-check their work. Oh man. I felt terrible and it was such a dumb teacher move.
Luckily, I calendared another day for the same material, so we’re going to try it again, and we’re going to re-start from the beginning….