My geometry students are working a little harder than previously. Why?

I have been handing out problems a page or two at a time and encouraging them to do whichever they want to try. They turn them in and get feedback from me. They’ve been working at a pace that is best described as “casual.” I’ve been explaining, putting up charts, giving them lists, trying to get them to see that to avoid taking Geometry for the third time they need to keep moving. They take that in, I can see that it hits them, but no change in the pace.

This week I just handed out the next sheet of problems a few days earlier than they expected.

“Wait, Mister – we’re done with the last one?”

“If you’re not, keep working on it, but we need to move on.”

“Ohhh …” … followed by some assiduous effort.

It’s obvious in retrospect: Tell me I need to keep focused because the next thing “is coming soon” and I may or may not hear you; I certainly won’t worry too much. But put stuff in my hands that I’m expected to deal with, and I’ll deal with it.

This new teacher gig is strange: I keep discovering things I already knew, thinking “why didn’t they just tell me” in my intern year, realizing they did tell me in my intern year …. I guess being told is no substitute for finding out on my own. Which is the premise of how I teach math, so I shouldn’t be shocked to find that it applies to teaching students how to pace themselves, or teaching me how to teach them that.

Still, it’s like there’s some rate-limiting factor that retards the obvious from percolating into my outlook, into my routines. And so it’s taking a long time, but it shouldn’t take a long time, but it is taking a long time ….

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