Sunday, June 3, 2012

Receiving criticism... hard. 

I always do an end of year survey, and every year I prep myself for compliments but also negative feedback. The old rule of "ten positives for every negative" rings so true. I was talking with my husband today and I mentioned how I get so caught up with one negative comment that it's hard for me to remember the positives.

It's true in any area of our life... If we are an athlete, we hate being told that we played a crappy game. We hate knowing that we let a good friend down when they needed us the most. We hate being told that we aren't good enough. As a teacher, it is tough to receive criticism when you know you are working your butt off day in and day out to help your students succeed and they take advantage of little of what you offer to them.

We want to hear what we are doing great. We want to hear that kids love our class. We want to hear that we've made a difference. And yes, I have heard plenty of that. I had six or seven seniors choose me as their professional inspiration for their senior project. I receive notes from students thanking me for how I have helped them. I got a lot of positive feedback on the end of year survey.

I have received sixty six of my year end survey responses so far, out of approximately 160. So far, I have seven students who said they are not satisfied at all with their flipped classroom experience. Then of course, they were able to give me a reason for their answer. Now yes, I know that means fifty nine of my students enjoyed their flipped classroom experience this year. But like I said, the negative has a way of making you feel crappy and miserable no matter how many positives you hear.

I will blog about the positives soon. For tonight, I need to get out the negatives I have heard and why they are bugging me.

1. I was told by a parent that I should just send home a form to get signed about the flipped classroom because no parent is going to take the time to read a letter explaining the process. This is from a mother of student who has never given the flipped class a chance and, in the last month of school, has probably shown up to class unprepared twice a week minimum. This same parent, elsewhere in the survey, said that I needed to do a better job informing parents about the changes. But she wouldn't read what I sent home. Argh.

2. I was told by a student that he doesn't think it is fair that other teachers have to teach for forty minutes when all I have to do is make a ten minute video and not teach during class. This one hurts because I seriously work so much harder in class now that I'm not up front teaching. And, I have to be a lot more creative with how they will be spending class time since it's not listening to me.

3. I was told by a parent (spelling/grammar intact) "I didn't like huw you make videos why not teach the old fashion way its much better". Another parent said "give the kids a break and let them try there best". Both parents of kids who hardly did any work in class, often came unprepared, and never followed thru with any phone conversations I had with them about how their child could succeed. These parents frustrate me to no end.

4. An honors student said "I began to do extremely horrible after we started this"...and yet this student would never ask questions in class, would not participate in group discussions, and never came for before or after school tutoring??? This student was an A- or B+ student first semester and is a C student now. 
Other students in her same shoes are ones who just don't understand the concept of taking responsibility for their learning and thus they struggle. I don't really know how to teach them that responsibility besides learning from experience, but I had several students this year who took the flipped classroom as an excuse to not try hard and to just blame their poor performance on the flipped classroom rather than their lack of effort...just like students who blame their bad grade on a teacher instead of on their study habits and effort.

5. The students who, when asked why they don't want a flipped classroom, respond with "because I don't like it". No reason. They just don't like it. Argh. How do I deal with the students next year, because I know that I will have them!! How do I support them to come on board and to not negatively affect those around them. My sixth period class has been the worst because there is one student with the worst attitude that students tend to clamor around and because of her influence, they have struggled as well. Senioritis coupled with this supposed "I hate the flipped classroom so you can too" peer pressure has just been horrible the last month of school in that class. I want to separate that student and assign consequences for attitude and behavior, but I was hoping by just staying positive with her and letting her continue to work with those around her, she would come around. But no, she just brought them all down with her. Same with a group of three boys. Should I have let them stay together, even though all three attitudes were so horrible?? I tried to separate them to different groups but then their negativity just prevailed and brought down the other groups. So, for the last two months I have let them work together so at least it was confined to them.

6. Student quote (one of the boys mentioned above) "I would prefer learning in a traditional classroom because then I won't get annoyed and hate the class". I still don't know what this student was annoyed over all year other than that I required him to show me work, explain his answers, and participate in discussions.  He would never give me any reason when I tried to talk with him and work with him so he could succeed in the flipped classroom.  His attitude was cocky and annoying, and brought down those around him. He wasn't willing to help anyone but himself.

Now that I wrote them down, they don't seem as much to me. Good therapy :). I know that since I have almost 2/3 of the responses still to come in, there will be more negatives, it's a given. But, I will try to focus on all the positive responses and all the great feedback I have gotten all semester.

One question this leaves me with, which I asked above...

How do we get them to work hard even if they don't like the structure of the class? It is a question that goes beyond the flipped classroom... It's a question that any teacher who uses any teaching method asks.
I've tweeted a lot lately about reaching students, and I have come to the realization that I need to be okay with not reaching every student and not take "offense" when they don't gel with me. It's not something that will come easy to me by any means. It's something I never thought I would say as a teacher. It's not really something most teachers talk about either, so I am glad I feel I can be completely honest here.

Oh, and I am just secretly hoping these students come back to me next year or in a few and say that they realized how much the flipped classroom really benefitted them. I am hoping next year they end up hoping their math class was flipped. I'm hoping that this is just a "grass is always greener on the other side" moment. And if not, well, I guess I will have to be okay with it.

Positives are coming... And there's a lot of them... But I needed to get the negatives out because they were bugging me.

And right after I pushed publish, I got this "final comment" from a parent: 

"Only that you are doing a wonderful job with the students. The flipped classroom is a wonderful concept, my daughter has benefited so much from your videos."

A post with some other positive parent comments here


  1. Great post. I just am reading through my student feedback on my year of video lessons. I gave it to them in class so I have everyone's responses. About 50% were enthusiastic about the video lessons. About 30% preferred the video lessons. 15% didn't care either way. 5% disliked them. The students that disliked them are typically students that did well in the traditional format of passive learning. This is a radically different approach to teaching and learning that will take students time to adjust to. Keep in mind that we are teaching these students 21st century skills by using video lessons. Traditional lessons teach students skills that were very important pre-printing press(write down everything I say, remember it). We are teaching students something much more important than polynomial or conic functions. We are teaching them to learn in a new era of learning. This will take time for parents and students to adjust.

  2. I wonder if you will get less of these types of comments when you start from the beginning of the year? I feel like they are always going to complain because it makes THEM work harder but if that is the expectation from the beginning it might not be so noticeable!

    1. I'm thinking so... That, and presenting it from day 1, at Back-To-School night, etc - it will all help. They won't know the difference from my class traditional to flipped like my students did this year.


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