Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reflections on Week 19... It's finally summertime and I survived!

It's finally Thursday, June 14th, 2012... the day that has been on my calendar as the official end of the school year.  Yes, I still have to go in tomorrow for our duty day and finish cleaning up my classroom, but school is officially over.  It is very surreal for me right now.

The end of a school year is always so bittersweet.  I think everyone is so ready for summer, so burnt out (teachers and students alike), that we are all ready to just leave... but it is sad leaving the classes you have developed relationships with all year long.  I love starting fresh every August though!

Before I begin my reflection, I want to thank everyone for reading this semester and for participating with me in my journey.  I am still amazed that a blog that started as a way of "On June 14th I want to remember what the heck I did this semester" turned into a blog which, in less than 5 months, garnered 54 followers and 32,000 page views. I remember being so excited when my blog got 100 hits and I got my first comment and RT on twitter.  Blogging has been one of the best things I have done this year so far and so worth the time it has taken to sit down and reflect.

As I begin reflecting on this last school year, I seriously feel like I have writer's block for the first time all year.  I don't even know where to begin.  So, let's begin with these four questions:

Was my year with the Flipped Classroom successful?
Success can be defined in so many different ways.  Would I say that my year with the FC was perfect?  Far from it.  But, was it successful?  Definitely.  While it is so easy for me (and I'm sure many of you) to focus on the few negative comments I have gotten from students, parents, or other teachers, the student and parent response to this change overall was incredibly positive.  Whenever I need to remember this, I read the tab above labeled "Student Thoughts and Comments" and it provides more than enough reminders of why I do this:
  • I see my students taking responsibility for their learning and growing both as students and as young adults. 
  • I sense that the students feel more confident about the math they have learned, and truly believe they have learned it at a little bit of a deeper level because of all the conversations and questioning we went through on our journey. 
  • Most importantly, I feel like the FC enabled my classroom to be more student-centered and took me away from being the center of attention (oddly, the students who still disliked the FC at the end of the year wanted me to be back in the center of attention...). 
  • In addition, it became a place where the students were practicing TWIRLS every day - a goal I've had for five years but never really found a way to do successfully. (for those of you wondering, TWIRLS stands for Thinking, Writing, Interacting, Reading, Listening, and Speaking).
  • Lastly, I saw great growth in my "middle of the road" students - those students who just need a little more time to digest material, a little more time to ask questions and work with me or others...those kids now had the support and guidance they needed on a daily basis.

Am I glad I flipped my classroom?
 Yes!  The phrase I heard over and over again last summer and throughout the beginning of this school year is: "Never work harder than your students".  The way I take that is: the responsibility of learning is on the learner.  The teacher can't "want" it more than the students.  The teacher provides all of the opportunities and support, but if a student really doesn't want to learn, it doesn't matter what you do as the teacher... it won't happen.  Likewise, I believe that if a student truly wants to learn, anything is possible no matter how complex the subject matter may be.

I used to work so much harder than my students.  It was like I wanted their success more than they did.  Being motivating and encouraging is still very important - that will never stop no matter what type of classroom I have.  However, I was wearing myself out and burning myself out, and it's way too soon in my career for that to happen!  

With this, I hope I am clear that yes, I am still working incredibly hard... but I am slowly relinquishing control to my students and putting their learning in their hands.  I was not even close to perfect at that this year - it's tough to let go... but I definitely feel like I got better at it.

One last comment on that - some students HATE everything that I just mentioned above.  They want me to be in control of their education...last week I even had one student define a teacher's job to stand up front and teach students, and basically told me that I didn't teach him this year.  

I truly believe that the changes I have made in my classroom will only benefit my students and develop them into better learners, workers, and people.  However, I don't think every one of my students will realize that during their year with me... I only hope that they continue to grow and realize it soon enough :)

If I could go back and change anything, what would it be?
  • Start at the beginning of the year, which I will be doing for 2012-2013.  I think my biggest obstacle was just transitioning my students from my traditional classroom where I clearly set expectations from Day 1, to a flipped classroom.  What made it even worse is that when I started flipping in Math Analysis, I really had no idea what I was doing - it was really all about watching a video at home and doing homework problems in class.  I had no accountability, no reflection, no conversation...Then, after winter break when I actually had 3 weeks to think through and do some more research, I came back with my WSQ strategy and started making the students do a little more thinking both at home and in class.  
    • From my students' perspective, I can see why some of them thought I was making it harder for them... The first two months of school they didn't really have to do much because (1) The content was all review and easy and (2) They could do their math homework in other classes, at lunch, or just rush through it and not really think about it.  Then, for the next two months, they had to start watching a video that was 8-15 minutes long, so they had to do it at home (for the most part, unless they stayed after school or came early) and there was actually a time "limit" to spend on homework based on the length of the video.  Then, for the last 5 months or so, they have had a video AND a reflection (WSQ) to complete. 
    • Starting from the beginning of the year with clear expectations will be much better!
  • I was trying to put into words what I am thinking for #2, but it keeps going back to #1.  I had a few students who frustrated me to no end at the end of the year, which has never really happened before (they have always come around in years past!).  I had several students who basically gave up and stopped trying.  I had students who were so capable but just weren't willing to put in the effort that a FC requires of them.  I really feel like starting a FC from day 1 will help with many of these issues.  The FC provides a supportive environment for students and provides both accountability and resources for students much more so than a traditional classroom. 

What areas of growth do I really want to focus on this summer?
  1. Work on making better use of my class time with more differentiated assignments and more variety.  I bought a book from Amazon on using Menus.  I would also like to do some research on Project-Based Learning in the high school math classroom. 
  2. Continue learning new ways to help support and motivate students and encourage them that taking control of their learning truly is good for them...and that it's worth it.  This will be done by reading, sharing, and conversations with my colleagues about what has worked for them.
  3. Continue to develop my "Flipclass Keepers" as I decide what is really important to me in my class with my students.  I don't want to change things up so much this next year - my students craved a little consistency, especially since the FC was a huge change to begin with.
  4.  Continue to work on "challenge concepts" (and activities to go with them) for my top students to work with when they have already mastered the current content but want to go a little deeper.

And, I think it would be helpful for me to answer the 9 reflection questions I had my students answer in their interviews... from the viewpoint of a teacher
  • What is the Flipped Classroom?    
    • A Flipped Classroom is a shift in educational mindset that switches the focus of the classroom from the teacher to the student.  A flipped classroom creates an environment where students are able to work more hands-on with the content, communicate more deeply with instructors and peers, and are required to take more responsibility for their learning.  It generally utilizes some form of technology (videos, podcasts, online resources) to help time-shift instruction ofconcepts so students receive the most support (teacher andclassmate presence)when they areworking on theheaviest cognitive load (actuallysolving problemsand working onunderstanding/using the content by themselves).
  • What is the best part about the Flipped Classroom?
    • The best part about the Flipped Classroom (for me as a teacher) is the amazing conversations I get to have with my students about math.  I love being able to question them individually and in small groups - I was never able to do that in a large-group setting! I get to answer my students' questions in a differentiated environment.  I am able to provide extra support to the students that need it and extra challenges to the students who are moving ahead.
  • What part of the Flipped Classroom this last year was most beneficial to you as a student?  
    • (As a teacher) - The most beneficial part of the FC for me as a teacher was the ability to work with ALL my students every day, not just the students who were bold/confident/outgoing enough to ask questions in class.
  • What is a WSQ?  What does it look like at home and what do you do with it in class? 
    •  A WSQ stands for Watch - Summarize - Question.  At home, you watch a video and take notes in your SSS packet.  Make sure to pause and rewind the video when needed!  And, if you think you know how to solve one of the problems, pause it, try it, and then fast forward until the end of problem to see if you got it right!  At the end of the video, you will usually be asked to solve a couple of problems on your own, and supplementary videos will be available if you still need help.  When you are done watching the video, write a summary of the lesson.  You will normally be given "guided summary questions" to answer so your summary encompasses all the important aspects of the lesson.  If you can't answer one of the questions clearly, go back and re-watch that portion of the video.  Lastly, you ask a question - either a question you are still confused about (so you remember to ask it in class!) or a question you know the answer to but think (1) your classmates might not or (2) it would provide good discussion in class.
    • During class, the WSQ is used as the basis of your small group discussion time.  As a group, you will discuss the questions and key concepts covered.  You will also discuss the questions you wrote.  If your group cannot come up with the answer or are still confused, you will ask another group or Mrs. Kirch to clarify.  You will also review the examples from the video to make sure everyone is clear on what was covered.
  • Give advice to a student on how to get the most out of the lecture videos. 
    •  FITCH:
      •  Take a Focused, serious attitude about the videos - they are there to learn from and not just watch half-heartedly or casually.  You must be paying attention!
      • Be Involved in the process - take good notes, pause and rewind the video, take initiative to try problems before they are worked out.  The more involved you are, the more you will get out of it
      • Close all other internet Tabs.  It's way too tempting to go check Facebook, Email, or Twitter instead of fully paying attention if those tabs are already open.
      • Put away your Cell phone for those 20-30 minutes.  Put it in another room if you need to!  Like the previous tip, it is way too tempting to respond to the text immediately if your phone is right next to you.
      • Put your Headphones in.  It's another way to limit distractions around you.  Remember, if you want to get the most out of the videos, you have to do your best part to stay focused on the task and that starts by taking the initiative to limit distractions.
  • Give advice to a student on how to get the most out of in class time. 
    •  Come to class ready to ask questions and work!  Even though class time is much less structured than what you are used to, it is not free time - it's time for you to get help on what you need help with!  Sit with people who will help you focus and who you feel comfortable working with.  Move to sit alone some days if you need it!  Class time is for YOU, so make the best of it.  If you don't make good use of class time, you will regret it because you are making more work for yourself.
  • Give advice on using the WSQ charts to a future student (organization, motivation, working ahead, etc???)   
    •  Plan ahead! You don't have to watch a video every night!  Know your schedule and see what is planned for the next week or so, and work ahead!  Mark off your assignments as you complete them and remember that it's not about getting the work done, it's about understanding what you are doing.
  • Give advice on how to succeed in the Flipped Classroom in general to a future student. 
    •  Give the change a chance.  
    • Take advantage of all the resources available to you.  
    • Do what is expected of you and you will see the results.
    • Take responsibility for yourself your learning.  Don't blame anyone else for your successes or your failures.
  • Give advice to students next year on how to get along well with Mrs. Kirch and succeed in her class, flipped or not.
    •  My basic rules: KIRCH :)
      • Keep Mrs. Kirch Happy by paying attention, giving full effort, and doing your best
      • Initiate Communication via email, Edmodo or in person.  Let Mrs. Kirch know when you have questions and let her know what is going on - she is there to support you!
      • Remain Honest in all you do, say, and submit.  Integrity is huge.  Don't cheat, copy, or lie... just be honest about it!
      • Complete all assignments thoroughly, thoughtfully, and on time.  Do what you are supposed to!
      • Have a positive attitude - that means to "be present" in class (physically AND mentally), limit side talking (conversations not about what we are working on now), participate fully (in group discussions and learning activities), and be open to learning (even the stuff that seems really tough!).

Some posts I know are coming up in the next few days/week (in addition to lots of reflections and comments on my Virtual #flipcon12 experience, I am sure!)


  1. Fabulous reflection! You present a very honest look at your classroom. It has been fun and inspiring to follow along. I have flipped a few lessons last year, but this coming year I am flipping fully. Thank you for your willingness to let us look into your room and and ask questions.

  2. I wonder if you've realized that with all your blogging, follow-up and reflecting that you are doing as a teacher what you have been asking the kids to do as students. Taking responsibility for the way things are and where they are going. Okay, maybe the similarity is weak, but I just want to say that your end-of-year stuff is very helpful for me to start putting "edges" on the way I plan to get my flipped class(es) started next year. Thanks so much for all the insight.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...