One of my least favorite things to do when I was a kid was cleaning my room. I hated it. I was fine living in squalor. Bring on the dirty clothes and toys all over the floor. I was fine with the mess, but apparently my parents were not okay with the plastic litter and chaos of my bedroom. My parents believed that a bedroom should be a sanctuary and sanctuaries are supposed to be clean. What if your sanctuary is a landfill though, how are you supposed to clean an actual dump? While saying things like that only made my father angrier, it was fun to mess with my parents. But, at the end of the day, I did have to clean my room. So, I did. I shoved everything into my closet and under my bed. A few times, this method of cleaning got the thumbs up from my parents as they failed to look in my closet or under my bed. One day, however, my mom saw something sticking out from under my bed, and this made her bend down to see what it was. Like a ticking time bomb, the junk heap under my bed had been discovered. My laziness only brought me more yelling and consequences. After several years of this, I learned my lesson and thoroughly cleaned my room the proper way. I realized that laziness was not the answer. Trying to rush along the process only made matters worse.
While I find that I generally remember this little knowledge nugget from my youth on a regular basis, occasionally, I slip back into those bad habits. Today was one of those days. I needed to leave STEM class early today for personal reasons. Having known that for a few days, I planned what I thought would be a quick and easy mini-lessson that would allow the students to finish the period by working on the homework packet independently as my co-teacher remained in the room and answered any questions they had. I had it all set and ready to go. Then came the execution, which was where I went terribly wrong. Because I had flipped my agenda around a bit to allow the students time to work with their partner on updating their portfolio on the Stock Market Game website, I only had about 20 minutes for my mini-lesson. I thought for sure that would be enough time. Boy, was I ever wrong. I began the lesson by explaining the benefits and obligations for a company when they decide to go public and sell shares in their company. This is where it all started to go wrong. Instead of giving a brief overview of the reasons listed on the handout I had provided to the students, I had the students read the reasons aloud to the class. I then stopped and explained or clarified each of the points, which was completely unnecessary as the written explanations said all that was needed to understand the point being made. I then beat a dead horse by addressing questions raised by the students because of my overly specific explanation of each point. While this portion of the mini-lesson was only supposed to take five minutes, it took me about 20 minutes to get through the handout. At this point, I should have left the classroom, but I wanted to be sure the students understood the rest of the packet. So, I had them peruse it to make sure they understood the remaining questions and activities. This lead to more questions that were unnecessary had I simply provided them time to work and process what was being asked of them. Instead, I answered their questions with more confusion. I took one final question before I departed the classroom. At this point, I knew I had totally botched the lesson, but had to leave. I felt terrible.
Here’s what I should have done… I should have began the mini-lesson by asking students why companies would want to go public and sell shares of their company on the stock market as we went over this in class on Monday. This would have taken about two minutes to do. I then should have briefly summarized the rest of the items on the handout, without reading them aloud. This would have taken about another three minutes. I then should have quickly explained the reading part of the worksheet packet by mentioning the objective on which their answers to the questions would be assessed. I then could have spent the next 10 minutes solving some sample math problems from the rest of the worksheet packet with the whole class on the board. This would have created more understanding and less confusion. It would have also allowed the students time to process this new information. I would have then had about two to three minutes to answer any final questions the students had before they got to work. I then would have been able to leave on time. Instead, I ended up leaving 15 minutes late because I tried to rush a mini-lesson. While mini-lessons are intended to be short, they should also be clear and concise. My mini-lesson ended up being long and laborious. If I had put more deliberate thought into how the lesson should go prior to executing it, I might have been able to prevent the chaos that ensued in class today. Trying to take the easy way out, only results in more work and consequences for all involved. For my next mini-lesson, I plan on spending extra time preparing for it to be sure that I am covering the ideas and information in a clear and relevant way. I want my students to learn and not be confused. Luckily, my brain is much more developed now than it was when I was seven and so I am sure that I will learn from this mistake and be sure to never repeat it.