There are very few topics I teach that I don’t get excited about presenting. However, today was one of those days. I was teaching how to solve systems using Guass-Jordan elimination in PreCalc. I had taught it to a different class two days ago, and I felt it lacked enthusiasm and excitement. I was bored teaching it. I felt so bad for my kids. For a while there, I wondered if some of them had a pulse. 

Not my finest teaching moment. 

So today I was to teach it again to a different class. Since it went so swimmingly on Monday, you can imagine my enthusiasm to teach it again today. 

Let me preface this by saying that I often have an internal struggle as to how much theory, how many proofs, how many “by hand” examples I should show my classes. Do I make them sit through this proof? Do I force them to do it without a calculator? Do I show them the long way before showing them the shortcut? If so, for how long?

It’s a battle. 

All this to say, when I taught this on Monday, I started by telling the class, “Don’t freak out when you see this example. Your calculator is able to do these steps, but I want you to see the process it goes through. I’ll let you use your calculators on the homework and on the test.”

I know, Guass is rolling in his grave…

Well, not surprisingly, I lost my class. They just waited for me to give them the calculator commands. And then we all went on with life. 

So today, I decided that I would pretend that the kids would be solving these systems without a calculator. 

Oh man, they were writing furiously and asking questions right and left. The example took up a whole whiteboard. They were absolutely frantic as they tried to understand each step. 

It was hysterical. 

When I told them that the calculator could do all this for them (after answering a myraid of questions), I–of course–got some of the, “Why didn’t you START by telling us that?!”

But, mostly, I got, “This is SO cool.” 

And when I asked if they now have an appreciation (and maybe even a cursory understanding) of what the calculator is doing for them, I got a resounding, “YES.”

One of the things I’m most worried about in life is that I’ll lose my passion for teaching. That as I get older, I’ll become less patient, less compassionate, and less enthusiastic. 

But my one good thing today is that we had a little bit of fun with what has traditionally been a boring topic in my classroom. So, maybe I am getting better. Maybe I’m actually becoming even more enthusiastic. 


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