Blended Reflections

By Raymond Steinmetz

If you have been reading my site regularly, you should know that I have been documenting the blended learning shift happening in my classroom.  At this point, I have taught an entire chapter on Surface Area and Volume without teaching in front of my students at all.  Using video, playlists, and GoFormative, I put my students in control of their own learning.  This week, I will be reviewing and giving a test on the material.  With my first totally blended topic behind me, I thought that I should share some of my reflections and ongoing questions about this experience:

  • So far, my students couldn’t be happier with the shift in my classroom.  I gave them a course evaluation, and most of them said that they like learning this way.  Though the greatest change has been my relationship with my most difficult class.  As teachers, we all have that one class (maybe more!) that we just don’t look forward to seeing every day.  In my case, I have a class with many struggling learners that always happens to meet towards the end of the day.  I’ve tried just about everything this year to make the environment more conducive to learning and isolate individuals who disrupt the learning of others.  Every day I feel my whole body change and the negativity take over before the students even enter the room.  By taking myself away from the front of the room and putting the responsibility of learning in my students hands, I have seen a complete change in the tone and mood of the kids in this class.  I no longer have to discipline students from the front of the room while teaching.  Any off task behavior is handled one on one, which does not disrupt the learning of the other students in the class.  Game changer.
  • An ongoing concern I have is whether I am leaving students behind by putting the control into their hands.  Though the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, not everyone learns in the same way.  Additionally, though I have been available to help and support students, some of them are behind.  This isn’t a large number of students, but there are still some stragglers who are working slowly.  I have not been giving regular homework, so I have asked these students to catch up at home at night, but of course these are the same students who don’t do homework regularly.   I feel like these students ARE working, but their pace is just slower than others.  To solve this problem, I ended up emailing the parents and asked them to have their children catch up over the weekend.  I guess this is just a life lesson for those students – if you don’t get the work done in class or at home during the week, you just gave yourself homework over the weekend.
  • On the opposite side of the coin, I have had some students get done REALLY quick – especially in my accelerated classes.  This makes me feel like I’ve been boring the pants off of these kids with the pace of my teaching in front of the class all year.  Regardless, these students have been killing it, and I have had to scramble to come up with extension activities to keep them engaged.  Luckily, we are using Prodigy for standardized test review, so they can play that in a pinch if there is extra time.  Moving forward, I will need to plan engaging projects and activities for these extra motivated learners.
  • Finally, the biggest question I have is – Can I teach this way all of the time?  If my students love it, and it is changing my relationship with my classes and my profession, what is the downside?  Is this too good to be true?  I definitely have concerns about 7th graders ability to take charge of their own learning at the beginning of the year.  Next year I will definitely have to consider a gradual release of responsibility, but can I teach this way for the rest of the year?  To be honest, because I am not in front of the room and exhausted at the end of the day, I feel like I am cheating a little bit.  I guess I’ll have to wait until my students take their test this week to really tell whether teaching this way was successful.

Mr. Steinmetz