Meditations on a Cogen (No. 15) • Thursday, February 3, 2022

During the 2021-22 school year, I’m having weekly co-generative dialogues (or cogens) with my students. In an effort to help me process these talks and document progress, I summarize and write reflections after each cogen. This is the 15th post in the series.

A good problem
It is 2:45pm and I sit down around the table to realize that this is the largest cogen of the year. I have nine students around me as we start. This included three cogen “graduates” who came back for another round (two of them are now regulars). I successfully filled the empty seat from period 1, but the invited student brought their friend with them. An added bonus! I now have three students from period 1 and two from periods 5 and 9.

I am flattered and excited about the turnout. Kids actually want to be here! Maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise during 15th cogen of the year, but it does. I try not to take their time for granted.

As we start, I quickly realize that with such a large group, I have another problem on my hands: too many voices. Throughout the year, worried that I wouldn’t have enough students, I have been welcoming all students — even those whose six-week commitment has passed or those who wonder into the room on a limb. But now, after today, I’m concerned about my open door policy. There are several new and reserved students in the cogen and I fear that their voices might get lost in the crowd or inadvertently silenced by more established members. The intimacy and exclusivity of the cogen is precisely why it works. Do I politely ask older members to step aside to make room for their successors? Do I turn away non-regulars who stumble upon us? Or do I remain inclusive and find a way to balance it all? This is a good problem to have.

Reflections on Bingo
The primary goal today is to debrief the Bingo lesson that I cotaught with five of the cogen students this week. It was a big deal for me and to the evolution of my cogen. We have reached the next phase.

Coteaching with the students was so rich and informative that I had to write a separate blog post about it. In addition to detailing how the lesson went, the post also captures the cogen reflections from today.

Next cogen project
After witnessing their predecessors coteach the class, I turned to the current cogen members. What lesson do they want to teach? Similar to the last group, I want them to choose. Drawing off the competitive vibes that resulted from the Bingo lesson, they mention games. Bingo was fun and the class enjoyed it. Why not try a different game?

The first student mentions one she played in her AP Spanish class that used In the game, students stood and moved forward and backward based on correct answers. It sounds fun. She provides details and we take note. A second student recommends Jeopardy. I’ve played plenty of Jeopardy-style games in the past, so I could help a lot with planning if we go that route. A third student recommends something interesting: a board game. It’s such an unexpected idea that it gains traction with the group. We imagine each of the four groups in the room playing the same game asynchronously. It’s an early favorite.

I ask the students to continue thinking about their lesson. We should commit to one and start planning it next week.

Updates and Next Steps
With about 5 minutes left, I provide the crew with some quick updates.

First, we had a quiz today in class and I ask the students if they noticed my improved timing. Acting on the cogen’s feedback from last week, I organized the lesson so that no one would have to stay after class in order to finish it. The kids noticed the improved timing on the quiz and appreciated it. I give my word to continue this.

Second, I remind them that tomorrow will be our first DeltaMath Day. We have been talking about this for a few weeks. I ask for quick suggestions on structure. Should we treat it like an independent workday? Should I set up a “help desk”? Should I simply float around the room? What would work best for them as students? They seem indifferent, but do like the help desk idea. We’ll see.

Lastly, we have an exam next week. Two cogens ago, we revised the class retake policy for exams so that anyone can take action to improve their grade (not just students who scored below 85%). We also realized that many students in the class may not know that a retake exam replaces their original grade. I vow to reannounce and place emphasis on both of these class policies next week before and after next week’s exam. I ask the students to hold me accountable for this and to also help spread the word.

After the students leave, I realize that I forgot to ask the new members about taking over the role of announcing our DeltaMath completion percentage. The cogen members have been doing this on Mondays and a routine is starting to form. I make note to follow up during class tomorrow.


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