Teaching High School Mathematics
Today I had the opportunity to go with a fellow teacher to observe math classes at our two 6-7 middle schools and our 8-9 mid high school. We had a great day and were pleased by great teaching and student engagement.
One of our stops was to the class of one of my former students, Joel Jerde. I’ve always liked Joel and I really appreciate his kindness, integrity, and love of life. There is more of a story here, but let’s just say I feel connected to him becoming a teacher and am proud of his accomplishments.
As I showed up at Mr. Jerde’s class students were pouring out after the bell. Mr. Jerde followed them out and sat on a stool just outside his door wearing an orange hat, an orange shirt, orange plaid shorts, orange socks, and orange shoes.
I said, “Hi Joel,” and he responded with, “I’m Mr. Orange. Mr. Jerde is absent today and I’m his substitute.”
I know Joel, so I wasn’t entirely surprised, but I was extremely excited about what we were about to witness. I said, “nice to meet you,” and stood back to enjoy the show.
He greeted his students as they came in explaining that he was their substitute for the day. The students played along. Mr. Jerde (aka Mr. Orange) played the part well and asked students their name even though he knew them. He did other things a substitute would do as well, fully entrenched in his role. Once the lesson began the students were all in and Mr. Jerde never faltered as “Mr. Orange.”
Mr. Jerde wanted his students to discover the Pythagorean Theorem. He knew that for them to discover it themselves he needed to get himself out of the way. While the students followed his activity in their groups they would sometimes ask him questions and he would respond with something like, “I don’t know how to do these problems, but Mr. Jerde said you would be able to figure it out on your own.” The students did figure out the pattern on their own because the activity Mr. Jerde planned gave just the right diagrams and problems for the students to make conjectures and check them. The drawings on the paper had right triangles with squares on each side and the area written in each square.
The students were pretty excited about their discovery. I talked to his students and the EA in the room and found out that on other occasions Mr. Jerde has left class only to return a moment later with crazy hair or something changed while acting like a different person to energize the lesson. I was impressed that Mr. Jerde has gotten to this point so early in his career where he is able to create a lesson that is a work of art both in the structure of learning mathematics and in his role as a teacher. He is truly a master of his craft. Teacher as an Actor… He nailed it! Mr. Jerde’s students are very lucky to have such an energetic, creative, and dedicated teacher.
I later found out that this was day two of having Mr. Orange as a substitute while discovering the Pythagorean theorem. I guess that’s one way for Mr. Jerde to get a couple days off. Lol. Students totally bought into his shenanigans and I was just sitting there loving it. I was a little jealous of his students as they got to experience this fun for a second day. As a student, wouldn’t you be wondering what crazy thing he’d do next.
It’s very rewarding for me to see my former student rocking it as a Math teacher! Thanks Joel!