Today was the first time I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to return to the same classroom for an encore😊. It was a sixth grade math class at my daughter Kaydee’s school, and the first time I was in the class – it was one of my favorite experiences thus far as a substitute.
Since my first visit to the class, I have spent quite a bit of time at this same school in a variety of classrooms. I have helped out in a dual-immersion language arts class, and I also spent an awesome day in the band classroom. I’ll need to do some catch-up posts about both of those experiences – but all of my visits to the school have allowed me to get to know many of the students in this sixth grade class even more.
On my prior visit to this class, I tried out my ”Box of Mystery” with these students. During that day I stacked Starburst neatly inside of my mystery wooden box, and would allow students to ask questions to obtain clues to how many pieces of candy where inside the box. Questions could only be asked if the class was being respectful, and working hard. The students really seemed to enjoy the puzzle ( as did I ), so I decided to try another new game with this group: One Eyed Willie’s Treasure Chest.
The last time I was in the class, the students were learning about how to calculate unit rates to solve problems. So I thought it would be fun to make some unit rate word problems, and have the answers of those questions be the key to unlock One Eyed Willies Treasure Chest. If you aren’t familiar with Willie – he was the storied pirate in The Goonies who had hidden a treasure on the coast of Oregon and a group of kids were hunting for said treasure to save their parent’s homes from being bought by an evil real estate developer.
My original plan was to have all five questions in envelopes at the front of the classroom – only two would be the key to unlock the chest, and questions would be removed from the pool if the class was being on task and respectful. But the lesson plans for the day required me to pivot my original plan a bit – as the class was going to be taking an assessment test most of the period.
Instead I just would pick two questions per period, and set the lock combo to match the solutions…. you have to keep the answer ever changing with these smart middle schoolers as word travels fast in the halls and via cell phones it seems. Once kids were done with their test – they were given the option of working quietly at their desks on anything, or to play the bonus question game.
Students would come up to me after finishing their test, I would explain them the rules of the quest, and they would take a photo of the questions on their iPad. Once they had completed their work on the questions, I asked them to show me their work, and I would then allow them to try and open the treasure box. Successful mathletes would be rewarded with a choice of stickers, pencils, and of course candy. Seeing their eyes light up when cracking the code, and watching them select a prize was lovely.
But perhaps the most wonderful thing of the day for me was hearing the greetings from the students when they would file into the classroom each period. There were so many ”HEY MR TIMMY” and ”IT’S MR TIMMY” from lots of kids – it really made me feel amazing. The rapport built by spending so much time at the same school is simply the best – and also the knowledge gained about the challenging kiddos is pretty fun too. It’s almost like a puzzle for me to try and figure out each time too 😊
The test the kids took was a very challenging one – it was to gauge progress of the content presented so far in class – but there was definitely content that they had yet to see. I re-iterated to them to just try their best, and if something looked completely foreign and odd to them, that it was totally okay to make their best guess or try to rule out some answers first. I utilized one of Teagan’s awesome gifts – a “whiteboard button” – to remind everyone to try their best.
This was one of those days in the classroom that just felt awesome for me – like I was in my element, in the flow, I really felt like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing that day. When I contrast that feeling to some of the experiences and feelings I’ve had in the past year when working my remote software jobs, I am incredibly thankful and grateful for pursuing this new adventure as a sub. I’m learning each day, inspiring kids to have fun learning too, and simply having so much fun doing so.