Spring Fever

In California we didn’t have much of a winter–it seems like we skipped from fall straight to spring with a sprinkling of winter days thrown in. As a consequence, spring fever hit early. And when I say early, I mean like January 15th. And when I say fever, I mean allergies on the home front and sassy attitudes on the school front. It’s always been a long stretch from Christmas break to Spring break, but this year it seems ridiculously long. I know it’s all in my mind…but that doesn’t change the fact that I. AM. READY. FOR. SPRING. BREAK.

Just an example of my poor attitude: I thought all was going well with my proportional reasoning unit in my 2nd period class. We were cruising along solving proportions; we went over the fact that a proportion is really just like two equivalent fractions and, “How do you find equivalent fractions?” I would ask and they would respond, “By multiplying or dividing the numerator and denominator by the same number!” YES!!! (I don’t teach cross multiplication unless we can get to the point of understanding WHY it works). Then we went into what other ways we could use to solve proportions (like multiplying both sides of the proportion by the LCD to “bust” fractions–see this method in Nix the Tricks via Tina Cardone and MTBoS) and the students were sharing some of their own very cool thoughts. So, I thought we were ready for word problems. We went over a few, using some Reading Apprenticeship strategies (talking to the text, notations in the margins–of course I provided photocopies of book pages. Read more about Reading Apprenticeship here. Their metacognitive questions can be modified for math journaling–very cool!). Then I put the kids in groups and assigned them one word problem each. They were to solve using two strategies and then “posterize” them for presentations. Here’s where they hit a stone wall. You would have thought I asked them to complete the square of a quadratic–they all acted like they were being asked to do something brand new. The moaning and groaning was more than I could take–and with my attitude on the fence already, it didn’t take much for me to just stop the activity and lecture them for the rest of the period on paying attention in class and using what they have ALREADY in their brains to apply to this assignment. (And when I say lecture, I mean “nag”…not sure it did any good, but it made ME feel better!). I regrouped my efforts after that and tried again with a simpler set of problems.  Looks like I have to scaffold the word problems too!

Upon reflection, this encounter (and many others over the course of the year) just reinforced that I’m doing the right thing by taking my time with the standards.  They have to MASTER them…spending one day on a concept will not allow for mastery.  Spending two days on a concept will not allow for mastery.  Sometimes it takes weeks–and if you scaffold it right, then students will be able to apply it when the right context appears.

In the meantime, while I wait for Spring break to arrive, I guess I’ll just spend some more time at the gym each day after school squeezing the negativity out of my brain and the toxic juices from my muscles hoping to regain my sanity!

I would love to hear how YOU deal with Spring Fever or any other “down in the dumps” attitudes you might have.  I’m always up for learning something new!


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