Wasting a Day vs Wasting a Year

Today in Algebra 1 I tried a sorting activity designed—in theory, that is—to strengthen student understanding of the vocabulary involved and the methods used in solving quadratics by factoring and by completing the square. We’ve been struggling with this lately, so I thought I would try another tack.

It didn’t go so well, so I feel like I wasted the day. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

Because after a year of tweeting and blogging and interacting with teachers a thousand times better than I am, I have a vision of what my classroom could be like, and (1) it doesn’t look the same as what I’ve been doing and (2) it’s worth pursuing.

What concerns me far more than wasting a day is not trying new things, not experimenting, not seeking opportunities to grow, and instead sticking with my status quo and through that static and stunted approach ending up wasting an entire year.

So I’ll keep tinkering, I’ll continue trying things that may fail. And sometimes I’ll feel like I lost a day (like today). But at the end of the year, we’ll have something better than if I had played it safe all along.

Oh, and next year… pick up where I left off, and I’ll keep tinkering and trying and failing and improving and building. And I think my students and I will be far better off in the long run.

Excuse me while I head off to redesign something.

Comments 3

  1. I agree very much. I think that my number of wasted days has increased recently; that’s both good and bad. Hopefully my intuition for what works is getting more refined.

    I do remember a large number of days wasted by behaviour management and disruption when I was a younger teacher. I feel grateful that I’m choosing the ways I waste days now!

  2. Totally agree with you Michael! I feel the exact same way about my year! Keep at it! From what I’ve read it seems like you’re doing awesome stuff!

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    @Sarah, I went through a multi-year stretch (somewhere around 2009-2012) where I wasn’t tinkering, experimenting, etc., but really just polishing what I had. My wasted days were kept at a minimum, but I lost so much growth (for myself and my students) over the course of the full year. This last year has seen a reversal of that, though I’m still waiting for my intuition to get better. In other words, I’m waiting for my ability to tell beforehand which activities will go well and which need some more work before I bring them to students.

    @John, thanks for the comment and the encouraging words. Definitely feels better to struggle in a positive direction than to sit still for too long.

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