Thursday, January 16, 2014

Relationships Matter in Learning

When I was lecturing, I thought I had a relationship with all students, but in reality I did not.  Yes, I interacted with students, but it was often me with the whole class. There was a whole class relationship but not many individual, personal relationships.  I normally only got to develop a real relationship with a student if he/she regularly came in before or after school to get help.
In the fall of 2010, I started flipping my classroom, and I noticed a couple of things.  I loved not being the dispenser of information, being able to be out with the students, helping individuals or small groups of students.  I get to talk with each individual student.  I get to know them, their learning style, and their interests.  Each student gets to know me on a personal level.  As I am working with students and getting to know them and their interests, I can talk about how mathematics applies to their interests.

Personal relationship often leads to students putting in more effort.  
My Calculus 1 class is taught for college credit through a university and is taught at a very high level.  My calculus class last spring had incoming state math scores 15 points lower (a 100 point scale) than prior classes, but they out performed every prior calculus class taught by lecture and flipped.  I developed very good relationships with each student in that class.   In my Algebra 2 class, we missed two days last week because of the extreme cold (50 degree below wind chill) in the middle of a challenging chapter on trigonometry, yet their quiz average was 92% (historical average 82%).  With these deeper personal relationships, it is like I say, “Jump!” and the students respond with “How high?” and no matter how high I set the bar, they jump to that level.  Reflecting on this, I feel like I am able to get more effort/work out of my students because of the personal relationship I have with each student.  So when students know that their teacher genuinely cares for them on a personal level, they do not mind putting in the extra effort for that teacher.

More evidence of relationships mattering.  This past November, I was surprised by my students.  On a Tuesday, I got a phone call during class letting me know that my father-in-law had passed away unexpectedly.   I ended up leaving school in the middle of the day, but right before I left, a couple of students came back to my room to express their condolences.  That evening I received two emails from separate students expressing their condolences.  The next morning I received a card from one student.  I was touched by all these expressions of sympathy.   But what really brought tears to my eyes was on Wednesday at the end of school another student left a card for me on my desk.  I looked at it later when I had time, and every single student from all my classes had signed the card expressing their condolences to me at the passing of my father-in-law.  After returning from the funeral, I shared with my students how they impacted me and shared how touched I was by their card.  In the past when I was lecturing and experienced a lost, I do not recall any student saying anything to me.   I feel that I only experienced this out-pouring of sympathy from my students because of having those personal relationships with each student.

Right before Christmas, a student gave me a card that stated, “Merry Christmas!  I also want to say thank you for everything you do.  Even though I feel like I put a lot of time into Calculus, I know you put even more!  Also, just like you said that we impacted you, you definitely impact us too.  It’s nice to be able to know that there are teachers that genuinely care, and even cooler to know that you are one who also shares my beliefs.  … So thank you!  Anyway, I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas, and I will see you next year.  Thanks for dealing with me when I get frustrated.”
I think some of the increase in learning that I have seen in my classroom has been because of having students doing mathematics in class as a result of using flipped learning, but the other part of the increase in learning has been because of the relationships that have occurred as a result of flipped learning. 

1 comment:

  1. From the time I was student teaching with you (near when you started flipping) up through now, I can see how the relationships you have with your students are getting so much stronger. I used to look up to the way you explained topics and the way you set and held high expectations -- I still do -- but now I look up to how you continue to do both while building such strong connections with your kids. Simply flipping does not guarantee those relationships, but it does open the door for the time to build relationships if you use it as well as you do.