It was not an easy day

It was not an easy day. The temperatures soared, and students were not allowed outside.

After lunch. Indoors. A group sat on the carpet, in various stages of discomfort and uncertainty. I had invited them there to work on a challenging math problem.

They want to learn. And most of the time my students persevere. Today was different. It was not an easy day.

“I don’t know how to do this,” Z* nearly wailed. The others looked relieved at this admission. Then they looked at me with please help me faces.

I offered up a strategy. Still confusion. Then, I did the thing I should have done at the beginning. I asked the students to offer up their thinking.

T* shared her thoughts. Two equations that demonstrated her understanding of the problem. She didn’t know how to go about solving it, but she could see the relationship between the numbers. Her insight was something other students with higher computational skills had missed entirely. T saw the essence of it. It was the execution that alluded her. Thrilled to see something that would take others further and lift her up as a mathematician, I offered it to every student, calling it the “T strategy.”

Off T went to her team to attempt the hard computational work.

Hearing this new approach, two boys’ faces lit up and off they went to try it out. You’d think I’d just given them a new toy to play with.

Meanwhile, a little more confident, Z went to join her math team that could not agree on the answer.

The noise level increased as more groups debated their results.

Five minutes later, I approached Z and her team. “I helped them understand the problem!” Z said bouncing up and down. They were all beaming. “We helped each other,” she added.

Each member then explained how they had taught another member with something.  Helping their teammate see their missteps in a way that made each feel good about the mistake and their understanding. They did exactly what I’d hope they’d do. Work together to get through struggles.

It was not an easy day. I saw a side of so many of them I had never seen before. Kiddos were at a loss. Upset and loud. And then with tiny aha’s, turning a corner to help each other. The “high-flyer” leaning into the kiddo who admits to not knowing.

It was not an easy day. But, I think it was a good one.


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. A place to share and reflect on a teaching and other life journeys. Read more slices here.

14 thoughts on “It was not an easy day

  1. What a powerful learning opportunity! I love that you all persevered through what started out to be a “not so easy day.” If my not-so-easy days were like this, I’d take it! Thank you for sharing!

  2. “It was not an easy day, but it was a good one.” That is a line that we all can use at the end – or middle of a tough day. Finding the gem moment – the aha moment – is what can keep us all moving forward! Beautiful piece! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I felt the stress and strain and also the pride when they turned to each other for a solution. What a learning team you have!

  4. I think you sell yourself short. Last line should be: It wasn’t an easy day but a great day of collaboration!! I laughed as I read “You’d think I’d just given them a new toy to play with.” You remind me to shut up more and let them talk and help but I do need to listen and offer tips as YOU clearly did in this situation. Thanks for teaching me from CA. I’m getting my notes together from Sat and will share with you. And I got into the Book Club Institute for MS and HS. Super excited!! It’s in Nov.

  5. I wish all teachers could read this, and see the complexity of teaching, and the need to adjust, to “see” students in new ways. Your “T” method idea will stay with that student for a long time. Beautiful to read, Julieanne!

  6. Not easy but exciting. It is so valuable to let kids share their thinking. I am glad you saw several lit up faces during the lesson.

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