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Something a First Year Teacher Does

February 7, 2012

Let me tell you how the last 2 hours of my night have gone.

“Okay – doing translations tomorrow. Got the practice problems and notes made. Need them to know about coordinate notation and be able to actually draw and re-draw a shape given a translation. Just gotta put together this presentation. Let’s see… start by introducing translations as functions in 2-D. Do the whole function machine thing. Or wait – maybe some sort of game thing? You’re a mouse and you need to get to the cheese. Or you have to shoot something but can only move in x and y directions. Like we’re programming a platforming game or something! Yah! And you have to describe it using x and y directions! So it’s like you’re translating the mouse! Geez I’m brilliant. Okay – let’s open up Geogebra and see what I can do…”

(10 minutes pass)

“Okay – don’t want any graphics. But whatever – I can have a red dot and a blue dot. Need some buttons to randomly generate their positions… okay, now a way to tell the red dot where to move… Oh man, wouldn’t it be great if the red dot actually moved to the blue dot? Yah – I can do that – just gotta use sliders. Okay – so first I need these extra points to keep track of everything…”

(20 minutes pass)

“Wait, crap – I want the red dot to move in the x direction, then the y direction. That’s hard to do with just one slider. Also, how do I get a button to animate a slider? Ugh – time to google search Geogebra scripting commands. And figure out how to separate out this equation to make the red dot move using only one slider variable…”

(10 minutes later)

“So if I halve the value of the overall slider for moving in the x-direction, then try and pick that up for moving in the y-direction, I’ll be good to go. Then it will seem like the dot moved as far as it needed in the x-direction and just picked up in the y-direction. Okay – just need to mess with how I parameterized this slider variable…”

(15 minutes pass. Editors Note: If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s okay – you’re not supposed to. Instead, notice how little of this has to do with my lesson for tomorrow)


(The following becomes my facebook status: “I have a tangible situation where I need a function that maps [.5, 1] onto [0, 1] and I’m struggling. HELP ME!”)

(2 minutes pass. One of my math friends responds with “2x – 1”. I feel a little silly)

“HA! IT WORKS! BRILLIANT! Okay – so now when I press Go, it’ll fire the red dot along the path I set up so it’ll reach the blue dot. Awesome!”

(5 second pause)

“Okay… so… I introduce translations as 2-D functions… uhhm…”

(10 seconds pass before I realize that the last hour of making this awesome cool thing doesn’t fit in my lesson anywhere, so if I have time at the end, my kids get to play the ‘shoot the red dot at the blue dot game’)

The moral of the story: This is not the first time I’ve spent over an hour focused on something I think will be amazing in my lesson tomorrow, only to realize once it’s done that it doesn’t fit or it only engages me without engaging the kids (in other words, the only reason my students will think it’s cool is because I think it’s REALLY cool) or it’s actually a great way to talk about this other thing that I’m not talking about today (ie: this game is great for vector notation, which I don’t plan on talking about tomorrow).

Anyway – Here’s what I made. I still think it’s cool and maybe you can use it. And I’ll try to use it tomorrow, but this is just one of many mini-projects which, once it’s completed, ends up taking only a few minutes of my lesson with minimal results.

This is probably the most informal blog post I’ve ever done. I hope it’s completely shattered any illusions of me being some sort of professional.

  1. I have the opposite problem. I plan something that’s supposed to be a simple warm-up activity, and it ends up taking my students half the class or the whole class to complete it… They’re cool activities, but we need to get on to the main lesson.

    • Yes! I used to do this a lot more than I do now – I think I’ve just embraced the idea that I can have one full day of engaging concept-building activities and a full day of guided practice – whenever I try to mix them I would run out of time on both fronts.

      I remember I designed a bellwork about tessellations during student teaching which I have now turned into a 2-day lesson with a homework assignment. It’s crazy the things I tried to pack into an anticipatory set.


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