Be You

August 1, 2010

Treating every summer school class like it’s the Eastern Conference Championship has its ups and downs.

Student motivation wanes with each passing hour.  It’s challenging to bring them in.   Food usually works.  Something sweet or a granola bar.  Deviating from math-centered conversation can also lift spirits.  They ask you questions quite a bit.  Are you married (twice), do you have kids (eight), how old are you (44), have you ever been in a fight (last night), did you win (no), do you and your wife hit the clubs (what’s a club), do you think I’d be a good boxer (stand up and show me your stance), how come you get so red  (happens to my people), how come you talk so fast (birth defect), how come you lying on us (habit).

Sometimes I’ll look at them and think, man, there’s no energy in here.  Then come the platitudes:

1. ‘Be aggressive.’

This is when they’re feeling listless.  Also when the confidence isn’t as high as it could be.   Success rate: 12%.

2. ‘Take what’s yours.’

This is when someone’s about to solve an equation, but are confused about the last step.  ‘Divide both sides by 3 and take what’s yours Rob.’  Success rate: 85%.

3. ‘You guys look happy to be here and ready to learn.’

Used when the opposite is true.  Success rate: 38%.

4. ‘My name is Sean and I have a problem.’

When I intentionally make a common mistake.  Students often forget to label graphs, or to distribute the negative sign.  I’ll make the same mistake they do, on the board, and they point it out.  Success rate: 78%.  Students love to tell you you’re wrong.

5. ‘Give that girl one clap on three.’

When someone does something positive.  Quick, to the point, celebratory.  Humorous when used with a rugged and non-girl football player.  Success rate: 64%.

6.  ‘Never.’

Used to respond to the question, ‘What time we get out of here?’  Success rate: Frustration.

6.  ‘Be you.  We’ll wait.’

Needs to be said assertively.  Most effective when a kid is having difficulty articulating their problem-solving strategy.  Can loosen the mood a bit, relax their thinking.  Success rate: 73%.

It’s been a fun ride out here.

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