I was at our high school this afternoon doing some administrative walk throughs when my day changed for the better.

Algebra teacher [half joking]: "Do you want to teach my next class?"
Me: "What is the lesson?"
Algebra teacher: "Factoring trinomials.  It's a challenging class of students."
Me: "I'm up for it."
The Algebra teacher started the class and went through the practice problems from the previous night.  She introduced me and I took over from there.

Before I reflect on this experience, I want to provide a bit of context:

  • Some of these students had siblings who were my former students.
  • The Algebra class I taught was comprised primarily of 9th and 10th grade students who are fulfilling a math graduation requirement.
  • I taught factoring once in my student teaching experience, but never in my own classroom.
I started off by sharing a little bit more about myself: You may see me in the buildings from time to time, often in teachers' classrooms.  I work in the central office, but taught high school math several years ago.  

Next, I shared about the importance of learning math in high school and the community college remedial math course problem.  Looking back, I'm not sure why I did this.  It was one of those spur of the moment decisions that seemed right for the audience.  I used to share this annually with my Geometry classes when the time seemed right.

Next, I asked students to get out of their seats and work with a partner on a few math problems linking previous learning to today's lesson.  "Factor....why doesn't this one factor nicely?"and "FOIL...what is the connection between FOIL and factoring?"  Finally, we discussed (Think, Pair, Share) leading coefficients, FOIL and how to factor trinomials in a slightly different way today when compared to the previous lesson.  It wasn't 3-acts, but with fifteen minutes to prepare, it was the best I had to offer these teens.  

A few take-aways from today's teaching:
  • In my previous "administrator becomes the teacher" experience, I knew some of the students and had previously taught the lesson.  Today confirmed that a blind relationship with the students and content makes teaching even more challenging.
  • Even though I did not have time to check for understanding, I felt like the activities activating students' prior knowledge were meaningful.  Philosophically, I believe math is "applying what you know to a new situation" which entails making connections every day between previous and current learning.  
  • Classroom management can be a challenge without a seating chart.  The teacher provided me with a copy of her seating chart, but in the moment I resorted to pointing at students rather than addressing them by name. A few students tried to test the boundaries with a new guy in the room, so I established myself early with some wait time and "teacher looks."  As it turns out, the student who was asked to leave the room due to his antics was extremely apologetic and claims he is not an issue for the classroom teacher.  
Overall, it was again a positive experience.  Should all administrators teach a lesson from time to time?  I think so.  I did not have an established rapport with many of these students before I stepped in to teach, which may or may not be the experience of a building administrator.  

As I drove back to my office for a meeting, I felt energized.  I missed the opportunity to provide several teachers with walk through feedback, but I grounded myself in a sea (okay, maybe a small drip) of classroom reality.  I look forward to debriefing with this teacher later in the week to see if my instructional strategies were effective through the lens of her and her students.  

Back to the office.  Back to the emails, voice mails and paperwork.  It was all worth it.