Let the Cat (and All of Your Students’ Papers) Out of the Bag
For years I have had the same afterschool routine: power down my computer, turn off the lights and stuff essays, assignments and tests into my teacher bag – the bag of magnificent intentions. The name came about because no matter how well intentioned I was about grading and returning papers with thoughtful feedback, my molehill of papers grew exponentially into a mountain. Even more, with the adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards I found myself both curious and anxious about the new demands for teaching and learning. So there I stood, at the proverbial crossroads asking the question that has plagued our profession: How to balance the desire to create rigorous and engaging lessons, give timely feedback, and personalize learning so every student grows academically and move towards mastery?
My answer came when I implemented a blended learning model in my classroom.
With the new classroom model I am able to target my instruction to specific students in small groups, give more substantive feedback, and provide students with authentic opportunities to collaborate and problem solve on more meaningful assignments that truly assess their learning. Blended Learning has even allowed me to supplement some of my direct instruction and assessment with engaging, research-based digital content.
Niecy, a struggling and often disengaged 7th grader who was frequently disruptive because she would rather be the “bad” kid instead of the “dumb” kid, went from guessing answers on exit quizzes and assignments to earning perfect scores! When I asked her what changed she boldly replied, “I could do it different kinda ways, not just one way. And I got to take my time and do it until I got it. It was kinda fun too.”
This new found success has given Niecy a new identity as a student and shown me that implementing blended learning can dramatically improve teaching and learning in my classroom. Niecy isn’t the only success story. Students in my classes are more excited about learning. They are mastering content and Common Core standards. I am hopeful and proud of the changes that I’ve made because blended learning has enabled me to get kids that are off track back on the road to success.
In the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), we do not have the luxury of allowing our kids to fall further behind. In fact, the District and its stakeholders are committed to providing “every student with a safe, academically challenging, and inspiring learning experience.” Therefore, I am duty bound to do what’s in the academic best interest of my students.
Blended learning gives proven results. This new way of teaching has re-energized my passion for teaching. It has become a foundation to build more success and most importantly, it has converted my bag of magnificent intentions to a bag of magnificent actions.
How will you move from intentions to actions in your classroom?