Over the course of this past year (and in all reality, the last 5 years), I’ve spent a lot of time considering the value of this word as it pertains to everything I do in education. It is easily at the heart of everything I do.
(I’ve also spent time realizing that I need to – want to – write more. Yikes.)
The more I work with students, observe teachers in all disciplines, and connect with my PLN, the more I realize how key the relationships we build impact the learning that happens in our classroom. There are few things that make a bigger difference in learning than this, and I’ve found that I’m more successful at teaching when I take the time to connect with my students and colleagues.
The focus of relationships and my drive to make every connection I can with my students is directly tied into my goals for this past year, which focused around continuing my journey with Flipped Learning (with an emphasis on greater student created content). Now that I’m 5 years into this incredible experience, I’m well beyond what we call “Flipping 101,” and have worked to create experiences for students that make the learning meaningful, and sharpen my students’ curiosity in the world beyond the 80 minutes we spend together each day.
My classroom has continued to evolve since I decided to remove traditional direct instruction from my day to day work. We spend a majority of our time at the lab stations since they provide a much better set-up for small group discussion and interaction. This allows me to freely move from group to group and I interact in a more personal, conversational way with them then I ever did when I primarily used lecture. By doing this, my students feel more open to ask questions they never would ask if we were in a large group. It’s in these small group situations where I get the chance to focus on the relationship, and where we build our trust with each other.
Building on flipped learning, I made the goal to develop more student created content. Here my students take a more active role in designing the content we learn. While we have a broad idea of the subject, the students really decide what specifically to learn, and then create the content to share with each other. So far, I’ve only addressed this with my AP students, but hope to expand it to my other courses in the future. An example of this was developing the vodcasts on cellular respiration. The students each took a part, everyone had a role in determining what we’d learn, and then they created it and shared it. They really did an amazing job, and showed there can be humor in learning, as Gridley, Dennis, and Eric demonstrate:
Yet in all of this I know there are things I can do better. Always.
I’m still working on providing effective feedback, and not so much about giving the feedback itself, but about using it as a true mechanism for improvement. I’ve noticed that the direct conversations I have with students about their work carry more impact than written feedback. This may be because my verbal comments are in real time while they are working, and the written feedback has a lag time that can cause a disconnect. In an ELA class, you work on drafts and continue to improve the same piece of work. In our class, we don’t really have this luxury, so I’ve struggled to find the most effective way to balance our journey through the content with helping them improve the work they do. In all honesty, in my AP and Advanced classes, I’ve found the ‘credit recovery’ revision on exams to be where some of the most effective learning happens. This has been FAR more helpful than a retake exam (something to consider for CP instead of retakes???), because the student have to go back to each incorrect response and explain why the correct answer is the best choice, and why each wrong answer isn’t. This pushes them to rethink the material and work to understand it. I love it, and the students (at least from what they tell me) find it far more useful.
Connection to School-wide Goals:
Even when I look at the timeline we have on how we work as a school to improve, I notice that building relationships is at the core. If we work to this, we build a community of learners.
Personally, some of the work we’ve done as a school fits in wonderfully with how I’ve come to view my role as a teacher and how I view student learning. Flipped Learning, by nature, is student centered, so through increasing my face to face time with my students, I’ve learned to let go of the control that comes with lecturing and spend more of my time as a guide and coach. This is by no means the only way create a student-centered environment, but it works for me.
Strong relationships between the faculty enhances the experience for everyone. You can’t do this job in a bubble. There is NO way I would be where I am with Flipped Learning if it wasn’t for the cohort of #flipclass teachers I know and have learned from (and now consider some of my dearest friends). Ever since I was a teaching intern in 2002 at Noble High School, I’ve appreciated the importance of observing other teachers in their work. My experience that year impressed upon me the value of learning from others through observation, and by having others observe me. We as teachers can share in each other’s strengths – why lock it away when we’re all here for the same purpose? I hope we continue to encourage the instructional rounds, but I’d also like to see us encourage teachers to drop in on other classes – not so much as an observation, but just to see what is going on. I get that we don’t want to “interrupt,” but wouldn’t it be cool to establish a culture where I could pop into a class just because something cool was going on? Of course, this take time (that dreaded thing we seem to have so little of), so finding that balance is the tough. However, I love seeing my students in other courses, and when they see us it can help to reinforce the relationship, and they can see us as a united community rather than individual pockets of separateness.
There are so many AH-MAZING things that happen in my classroom on a daily basis, and I need to write them down. My goal as I being my 15th year at Kennett this fall is to record and reflect on the everyday awesome that happens in my classroom.
Oh, and puppets. There will be puppets.