Paul and Gayle are taking a year from their roles in Picton and Belleville and will be teaching at the Maple Leaf International School in Trinidad. We will use this blog to record some of our edventures!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Blindly Avoiding the "X"

Every two weeks or so we try to attend the Saturday Hash that is hosted by the Port of Spain Hash House Harriers.  You've likely read about our hashing adventures.

Hashing is a game, not a race.  There are no winners or losers. Everyone has a different experience and every hash is different.  As we run, we follow blobs of shredded paper that mark the trail while yelling "ON, ON" to tell others which way to go. The "problem" is that not all trails are correct so at times the trail is more like a maze, complete with dead ends.

I like hashing because of the challenge of finding the correct trail. All trails look the same, so you don't know you're wrong until you find an "X".  Whether the trail is correct or not, IT FEELS EXACLTLY the same -- it feels like SUCCESS, it's that same feeling when you "know" you are RIGHT.

When you find the "X" there is a brief moment of frustration and disappointment, but that is quickly overcome by an overwhelming need to back-track and catch up to the people who have found the correct trail. The FEELING OF FAILURE lasts a very short period of time.

As a new math teacher, I learned quickly that my grade 10 students hate the feeling of failure. They have translated that "HATE" feeling into hating math.  Everyday I remind them that mistakes are good because we can learn from them. Yet, I have continued to assign work and to give tests in a way that reminds them what it FEELS LIKE TO FAIL.

A good example was Wednesday. I was away and left a test. The students had done very well on their review activities and I thought we had corrected their misunderstandings. They were ready.

You know where this is going right?... Yepper. Bomb-a-rama.  I looked at the results and saw blank pages and confused answers. I was not greeted by many happy students on Thursday (even before they saw their results).

I listened very carefully as I took up the test because I needed to find out what I had done wrong.  The answer was reveal on the second question "State the slope and coordinates of the y-intercept for each of the following:..."  CRAP.  "coordinates". We didn't talk much about the coordinates of the y-intercept -- they all knew that the "y-intercept was the 'b' or the initial value but the coordinates....  BOOM -- That FEELING OF FAILURE had taken over on the second question and most were unable to recover from it. The bigger problem is that that feeling lasted for the rest of the day, over night and beyond.

What a different experience they would have had if I had left out the offending word, more importantly, if I had been there to PUT THEM ON THE RIGHT TRAIL.

What they really need is a MATH CLASS HASH.  One question a time -- THE FEELING OF SUCCESS. INSTANT feedback when they are wrong. ENCOURAGEMENT to go back and find the right way.

Friday's class featured a "Performance Task" (which sounds much more professional that a Math Class Hash). Students were given one "challenge" at a time. When they were done successfully, they moved on to the next.  If the made a mistake, they had to go back a try again. While, it wasn't perfect -- the shift happened -- the FEELING OF SUCCESS was everywhere. They even started to help each other.

I don't really know where this will lead, but I think I have found the right trail...ON ON!

PS -- Thanks to Laura Woodall, who, in a very short conversation, helped me understand the concept of what it FEELS like to be successful.


  1. Hey Paul. Looking forward to working with you down in the County upon your return.

    Check this out. Might find it interesting.


  2. Thanks Rob. I've seen some of Jo's work, but have not see this before. It is great.


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