I remember the very first time I stood up in front of a room of teenagers and asked them to do something. I nervously gave them a scattered lecture on the intricacies of y = mx + b. As I was talking they were writing down the things I was saying, and whatever I put on the whiteboard they also put into their notebook. During the lecture I even asked the students some questions, and a few of them even raised their hands and offer up answers. Next I told them to get out their workbooks and there was a huge rustling of paper as they actually did it. I told them to go to section 5-4 and do problems #1 – 20 or something like that, don’t remember the exact numbers. Either way, in unison the class asked me “which page number is that?”, I mean it was probably only two students but it felt like they were all asking. I learned students prefer page numbers to section numbers.
At that point it was about answering individual questions. So I basically just floated up and down the rows, or at least it seemed like I floated because I don’t remember hearing my footsteps. Or maybe I just ignored them because the sounds in the room were really beautiful – I was hearing words I wasn’t used to hearing teenagers say, like “slope” and “intercept”. And I was hearing words more familiar to me like “yesterday” and “that’s cool”. The students all knew each other because it was the middle of the year. I was just there for one day as a requirement before beginning a student teaching assignment. I was a guest in their house.
At the end of the period they all turned in their papers to me – full of calculations and circled answers. And their names were all at the top right even though I never asked them to do that. Then a bell sounded and they all packed up and left. I looked at their papers, more specifically their names, and thought about how cool it would be if I actually knew who they were. If I was actually their teacher.
I was amazed at the whole experience. And I’m not saying it was the ideal class, nor am I advocating for any particular teaching strategy – I’m just saying I was amazed.