This post isn't about mathematical tangents. I'll write about that another day... maybe. Instead this post is about going off on conversational tangents in class. As a teacher, do you ever veer off topic? Or stay on topic-ish but tell a quick story that pops into your head? I do. A lot.
So what's the big deal and why even write about this? Well, I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that students are rarely so interested than when I go off on an unexpected tangent. They LOVE it. I'm not sure why that is exactly; I don't think these tangents of which I speak are super captivating. For some reason, though, my students are fascinated by things I've done/seen/read or random facts I may know (which seem to comprise the bulk of my tangents). I've even had students mention in surveys -- or years later! -- that these tangents are one of their favorite parts of class.
And yes, I know some students may just be thankful for a break in whatever activity we may be doing when I go off on a tangent. I think there's more to it than that, though, and I've decided to embrace it. Perhaps it's that going off on tangents gives students a bit of the "real" me which also helps build trust and stronger teacher-student bonds. Perhaps it's just a quick way to make the lesson more authentic, more genuine, more fun. Or perhaps they love it because it gives them an opportunity to share their own thoughts and stories. Whatever the reason, it creates a special moment in class.
If you're a teacher, do you go off on tangents in your classes? Do you notice an increase in interest from students when you do? If so, why do you think that is?
Thanks for reading,