Clip 7/13: Lesson - Part 7
A student group clarifies their approach to substituting for x; Cabana joins them to discuss their progress.
This is an interesting grouping of kids, because Leticia can really wrangle a group of people, especially these three boys. Eduardo is across from Edgar. He had previously been unsuccessful in Algebra, not because he couldn't handle the math, but because he couldn't be bothered to do the bits and pieces that would help him be successful. He just didn't see the point.
I remember feeling like my job was to make this kid feel as smart as I can possibly manage so that he does all these things for his essential intellectual accomplishment, so that he brings some pride into who he is as a student. It wasn't always easy and it wasn't always successful, but I think it was a different stance than what he was used to being, which was being nagged at and scolded because he could be so much better than what he was producing.
It's pretty rare that I orchestrate the kid's seats, but I usually kept Alfonso close to the overhead if I wanted attention, or so I could see whether he was listening to me or not. Also if I was in the back of the room because if the kid was presenting, he was right in my line of vision. So this group has three boys with very, very different needs and patterns of interaction. Leticia was the perfect person to orchestrate all of that-- I don't know how apparent that is in this video, but she brings them all together. She is the most unabashedly vocal.
When I speak with this group about generating "A+ work," this comes from an early experience, where they were given a project and, for the most part, we got mediocre results back except for one girl who was so amazing that it transformed our sense of what the project could be about. I remember the girl's name and I remember her take on it, which was very much from this standpoint of connections from representations. That example became the norm for what we were looking for in groups. It's not that we held up her project as, "Make it look like this", but "here's some elements of what she did that make it A+ work."
That became part of our toolbox as a department in terms of alerting kids to what we expected of them. We framed A+ work as being within the grasp of every kid in the classroom. It had teachers showing off wording and showing off thinking, which I think is where I was being nitpicky with her. There was something where her train of logic was missing in her work, and I wanted to be public about that. I think I was also trying to push her to be more communicative. I knew that she cared about being successful and getting a good grade, but was just too scared to go get it if it wasn't already accessible to her, which is, I think, the opposite of how we usually think about kids. I usually want to find the strengths in their work. There are sometimes when, especially with kids that are successful but impetuous, where I have to point out what they can get from others. What they can get from thinking about this learning agenda that I've set for them.
The last thing I would say about A+ work is that I feel like there are lots of things that as teachers we're not aware of needing to attend to. We know that we need to attend to classroom culture. If we don't, the kids will do it for us. We also need to attend to the classroom definition of what it means to be smart, because if we don't, the students will. Closely related to that, I think we have to attend to the definition of exemplary work. By holding up "A+ work" as a common standard that is available to any kid, for me it removes that exemplary distinction from being available only to the so-called smart kids in the room.
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