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There’s power behind infusing tidbits or randomness into the classroom. Connection to academic content is unnecessary. Simply spend 2-3 minutes each day on something completely irrelevant but appealing. Buy your students’ attention. Steal their interest. Give them a reason to show up to class. Give them something to talk about. Give them something to remember. Let them know you’re not all math, you’re more.

This comes to life in my classroom through the projector. Photos and clips. Photos and clips. They come off as random entertainment, but also serve as an intermission before our brains work math again.

The majority these tidbits are funny or entertaining. Youtube clips of ninja cats or babies biting fingers. Photos of new gizmos and gadgets to highlights of recent sporting events. 2-3 minutes a day – small sacrifice to pay for large impact. Kids’ look forward to my class. And they remember it. (As evident by SO MANY ex-students who can still recall… “have you shown your new classes ____ yet?”)

Today I decided to do something different. Last night, riots occurred in Oakland demeaning what could’ve been a highly successful, highly meaningful nonviolent protest. Scoping the net during prep, I read over what broke out. I also viewed images. Why not take a break from silly intermissions to something more real? Why not show these images? Why not discuss? This is something current, relevant, AND engaging. I decided.

I’d preface the discussion to prevent it from degenerating into violent story time. This is about politics as personal. I’d set a 5 minute time limit & ground rules, and we’d do it. The goal: to provide a space for students to discuss issues of social justice, a space for students to be exposed to what’s going on in their own backyard, a space for students to voice and form opinions. I’d share my opinion to close, but would emphasize that this is our dialogue… not mine. They ultimately form the vision they’d like to see of the world, not me.

And so it went. And it went well! Each student highly engaged, listening intently to each others’ opinion, looking intently as each image sat on the screen (ordered from powerful & calm to unruly & violent). Of course, I’d interrupt at times and play moderator to students eager to offer disagreement. But it went, and I was happy with it.

What I did hope to impart: Protest and rallies for a meaningful cause are effective. It is our duty to push for progress, especially in a place like Oakland. However, action without organization is a formula for potential disaster. And what occurred last night weakened the message folks hoped to send.

And now, onto inscribed angle properties…

(Huge credits to MW for the guidance and suggestions on this one).

(Huge credits to dy/dan for showing me how to “buy” my students’ interest & attention).

4 Responses to “I Hope to Teach More than Math”

  1. camille says:

    that is awesome you did that.

    this reminds about being a junior in high school on 9/11 and the time after. a few of my teachers taught normally without any mention of the happenings of that day. then there were a couple others who put on the news coverage in class and encouraged discussion. it was nothing as structured as what you did though.

    props mr. g!

  2. Mr. D says:

    Your “random breaks” might be the most important thing you do. You can’t teach in a vacuum–schools should adjust and react to the things happening in their students lives, just as they do in the real world. It helps build your classroom culture just as you alluded to.

    In addition, who knows what kind of connections your students may make with the material. Maybe *they* see how it connects to your content. Maybe they decide they need to graduate and go to college so they can do something they thought about because you showed it for 20 seconds in class. Really, isn’t that just as important as the content?

    Good job and keep it up!

  3. la says:

    wow! this post reminds me that you are definitely becoming one of THOSE teachers.

    you know, the ones students talk about years later, fondly, realizing the impact they had on their life. top 5 teacher. or don’t even know it but they changed you in ways you can’t even conceive of teacher.

    keep up the good work, I!

  4. Jacklyn says:

    I happened to be observing several middle school classrooms in Oakland the day after the riots and was very excited to see that the teachers turned the riots into a whole period-long lesson. The kids were extremely engaged and asked if they could discuss current events more often. Beautiful, I thought. :)

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