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The best students December 7, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, geology, math, teaching, younger son.
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At teacher conferences a few weeks ago, my son’s teacher mentioned that she was going to be taking a short period during the day to break kids into two groups.  One group needed some help with some of the more basic concepts in math, while the others seemed fairly advanced.

I got very excited, and I asked if I could come in and do some fun math stuff with the advanced group.  She said she’d appreciate it because then she could focus on the other kids who needed more help with things.

Yesterday was my first shot at this.  It’s only about 20 minutes of seat time once a week (along with about an hour of prep, considering I have to bring in materials).  I worked with a group of six, and it was fun.

That’s the one thing about teaching college versus elementary school kids: college kids never get excited the same way little kids do.  Of course, maybe it’s because you have to use a fundamentally different approach – more hands on – with little kids.  On the other hand, I think you lose something with maturity.  I have worked with a couple different cub scout groups, and they often have requirements to learn some geology for various badges.  There is something amazing that happens when you put a group of 6-10 year old boys in front of rocks and other things they can touch.  They’re fascinated with everything and seem to hang on your every word (when they’re paying attention).  When you do the same to college kids, they just kind of shrug and proceed forth, maybe discussing the rocks with neighbors.

For these kids, I’m using a Mathworks book on how to be a zoo vet, and I decided to let each kid have their own animal as we work through the problems.  Yesterday, we talked about building crates because we’re shipping our animals from one zoo to another.  The kids were SO excited that they got their own animal.  I tried to bring a variety: there were poison arrow frogs, king cobras, and piranhas for the boys and pandas and koalas and dolphins for the girls.  I was pretty close: the two girls chose dolphins and koalas, and the boys mostly went for the dangerous animals.   (One chose a polar bear, which is on the fringe between dangerous and cute and cuddly, IMO.)

Either way, they were really getting into building their crates.  They were  talking about the differences in sizes between all the animals, and it’s amazing all the movement and excitement and gestures that go into discussions among 7-8 year olds.

After the twenty minutes was up, I was exhausted.  My comment about how college students never seem to get excited is exactly why I prefer to teach them: I can’t handle the energy level of really young kids all day long.  I have to admit that I admire elementary school teachers for doing this.  However, despite being exhausted, I was really tickled with their excitement and the fun we had.  I’m looking forward to next week.

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