Day Zero

“The night ends, and the day, it begins.”

I was talking to my students this week about words that are often confused, by them, in their writing. When we got to fewer vs. less they were confused.

Me: So, use fewer when you can quantify it, and less when you can’t. For example, you have fewer calories, because you can count calories. But you have less fat, because you can’t count fat.

Student A: I count fat all the time.

Me: How do you count fat?

Student A: Like 30 grams.

Me: So you count grams.

Student A: Yeah. So.

Me: A gram is a unit of measurement, quite like a calorie, that you can count, specifically because you can’t count things like fat. You have to count something else that can actually be counted.

Student A: Oh…

Approximately 5 minutes later, we were all good, and Student A finally nodded, assured that fat wasn’t something that could be counted without the aid of quantifiable units of measurement. I suddenly felt like a math teacher instead of an English teacher, then things were all well with the world once more.

I enjoyed the interaction, though, because it represented a teachable moment. It also showed me that my students feel comfortable enough to question. They want to know why, not just to know the answer so they can regurgitate it for some future test. I absolutely love that, and it generally starts happening just about this point in the semester. When this happens, I call it Day Zero.

Day Zero means we can start again. It means we can have more dialogue, more interaction, more of everything that makes writing and discussing writing so much fun. It’s what I love best about teaching, because even though we’ve had conversations all along, they were generally the give and take of me giving information and them taking it in. Day Zero means more of the questioning, more of the organic moments that make me almost jump out of my shoes.

Before, it was me sharing my stories, and now it’s them sharing theirs. Before, it was me asking all the questions, now they share in it. Before, it was my class and they were taking it. Now it’s OUR class. That’s why I love Day Zero so much. Now, don’t get me wrong, it happens at different times for each class, but why I’m so excited about this Day Zero is because it happened for my last class already. That discussion I outlined above, it was the earliest in the semester for my final day Zero.

I think it’s a comfort level, a level that says they don’t care if they’re wrong, so long as they’ve tried, because they know my classroom is a safe place, that they won’t be judged, that everything is a learning experience. I think it’s a very good sign that we’re all in the same place now.

I’ve been smiling ever since.

Sam

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