Dr. Harrison McCoy: Should You Consider NOT Flipping Your Class?

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Dr. Harrison McCoy, UTA grad and teacher in Arlington ISD, shares his thoughts on the flipped classroom.

One of the reasons I love being a teacher is that I am free to continually learn and experiment with what I am learning. After 17 years, that’s a big part of what keeps me coming back every August.

A couple of years ago I discovered the idea that one could increase student engagement in the classroom by doing something that had become known as “flipping” the classroom. At the risk of over simplifying, “flipping a classroom” is often described in terms of reversing the learning process so that what is normally done in the classroom is now done at home (or offsite) prior to the student coming to the classroom. That frees up time in the classroom for discussion, application and higher critical thinking or hands-on strategies. Direct instruction is in the form of videos (usually created by the teacher) that students watch before arriving at the classroom.

What’s your takeaway on all of this? For me, having my students learn how to learn was a high priority. Flipping wasn’t accomplishing that. Putting them more in charge of their learning was the right thing for me to do.

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So when I first discovered flipping, I loved it. What’s not to like, right? Basically, that’s what I thought. I went to training, I watched videos, I asked a lot of questions, I analyzed the potential roadblocks and overcame most of them, I won the support of my administrators, and I began flipping my classroom. I even got pretty good at making my own videos.

In the past year, however, I have found that I am flipping fewer lessons. I was surprised when I felt the change taking place, because it is now easier than ever before for me to do flipped lessons; I teach highly motivated ninth grade technology students in a 1:1 environment where just about all of them have access to the internet at home.

A number of things have influenced the change, but the writing of two people are worth mentioning here so that you can follow-up on your own. (Both, by the way, came into my life because I use Twitter to connect with other educators around the world.)  Check out Shelley Wright, a high school educator in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Two very old blog posts by her helped me gain some perspective and were very affirming of my journey. Check out this one from 2012 and an earlier one from 2010. The comment feed on the first one is pure gold.  I also have followed the work of Ramsey Musallam, a high school chemistry teacher in San Francisco. His discussions on inquiry-based learning are incredible. This podcast, featured on Tim and Scott Bedley’s podcast feed is especially helpful.

So why am I changing my strategies? Student engagement is still a desirable outcome, and I am even evaluated by my principal on the level of student engagement observed when he visits my classroom. I still want students engaged. However, I have come to see a more important outcome as a means to ensuring student engagement: creating a student-centered, inquiry-based learning environment.

For most students, there is something highly engaging about being in a classroom where the student understands that he or she is the focal point and has been turned loose to investigate and problem solve.

My earlier strategy of flipping was tending to spoon-feed my students by front loading the course content so that they could be more prepared to discuss it when they arrived for class. My current strategy puts the student in the position of digging out the content on his own through investigation and problem solving — before I have unloaded the content myself. Then, as students move forward on their own or with learning partners, I facilitate, coach, and sometimes redirect the flow of their investigation. When they are struggling, I ask leading questions to get them on a new track. Then, after they have some to some of the conclusions, I often pull everyone into a discussion where I lay a little content on them before sending them back to work.

The result is an extremely high level of engagement, in a student-focused environment of inquiry and discovery. I love the fact that I can almost feel them taking ownership of their learning process. I can individualize and personalize the learning by adjusting the rigor of specific student’s work. I offer choices based on data provided by pretests, student passions, and the students’ previous track records for producing quality work.

I still might occasionally “flip” a lesson, but the flipped video is now less content-oriented and more motivational, designed to tease the students and create a higher interest level when they arrive in class the next day.

Check out Mr. Musallam’s blog at cyclesoflearning.com, and Ms Wright’s new blog at shelleywright.wordpress.com You won’t be disappointed and you will definitely be challenged to really think about why you do what you do as an educator.

 

Bio: Dr. Harrison McCoy is in his 17th year of teaching. He is certified ELA 5-8, ESL, Tech Apps K-12, Business Ed 9-12. Beginning my 11th year in Arlington ISD. 2015 AISD Junior High Teacher of the Year. He is now teaching Computer Information Applications at Arlington Collegiate HS. Master of Education from UTA. He is on Twitter.

Guest Blogger: Sofieh Hopovac Shares about Prepping for the First Day of School

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Second year teacher and UTA graduate Sofieh Hopovac shares words of encouragement for new teachers and what resources helped her to get started in a new classroom.

Sofieh Hopovac shares below about getting her classroom ready-to-go to feel ready-to-teach! Many new (and experienced) teaachers can relate to the excitement of getting your room ready for a new group of students! ~Dr. Semingson

“Just remember, as soon as that door shuts, there’s no turning back and you just give it all you have.” I’ll never forget these words a professional development trainer told me during new teacher orientation for Harmony Science Academy.  I asked him how many years he had taught and he told me he had taught for over 10 years and not to ask how old he was! He also said that every year it gets better and better. I laughed and thought to myself that he must be crazy.

After training, I went to the teacher store. It was odd to me how the school gave me a $100 gift card to buy supplies for my room/teaching, but I didn’t know where to begin! So naturally, I looked at Pinterest and got plenty of ideas! I just started buying things and went to my school and began fixing up my classroom. I started to make a list of things I would need to organize like turn-in baskets, bins for notebooks, folders, supply holders for each table,  and etc. Then after a few days, I finally felt like I was ready.

Then the first day of school came and my heart raced.

I did exactly what the professional development trainer told me to do. Those words helped me out so much.

A year of tears and reconsidering my career has passed. I made it to, now, my second year of teaching third grade. I am also the department head of the English Language Arts Reading/Social studies department. I owe it to my education background at UTA and the support of my dear family, especially my mother, and faculty I worked with at my campus.


 

What part of Sofieh’s narrative resonates with you? Leave your comment below! -Dr. Semingson

Guest Blogger: First Year Teacher Clairessa Cruz Shares Advice

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In our inaugural blog post, first year teacher and UTA graduate Clairessa Cruz shares her thoughts on maintaining a strong sense of self and identity in the first year of teaching. She also suggests remembering why you became a teacher in the first place.

When you feel like quitting think about why you started.  For myself, being a first year teacher and a perfectionist can make anyone think about quitting, but I refuse to quit!  I think back to where I was two years ago, starting the education program, enduring countless APA papers, transitioning into a full-time student-teacher, while maintaining a part-time retail job, a marriage, and communication with friends and family.

Being a first year teacher I’ve learned to release some of my perfectionism, but I hold onto myself.  In college, I was the girl who wore make-up and semi-dressy outfits to school.  This is who I am and it is what helps me get up each morning and conquer another teaching day.  In the morning, I put on my music, a cute teacher dress, and put on my red lipstick.  Because if the day brings about unexpected conferences or twist and turns my outward appearance shows strength!

Find things that make you – YOU!  I myself love red lipstick and 1950’s iconic dresses.  When I began teaching this year I was afraid to let myself truly show.  But after pulling many 12-hour days, countless parent-teacher conferences, and revised lesson plans, I knew I needed something to help me. Especially, on days when teaching can seem draining both physically and mentally.  So I thought back to where I started and began remembering my own mental lines I use to tell myself, “One day I would finally be able to afford the iconic dresses and high-end cosmetic lipsticks seen in magazines.”  Sure this may seem mundane to some, but to me it gives me strength and the courage not to not quit.

If you are a first year teacher, do not be discouraged.  Try to remember why you started this journey and keep that in the front of your mind, especially if you are thinking about quitting.

What I have learned in this short time from being a first year teacher is we all go through grueling/demanding days and endure sleepless nights. I firmly believe we all have a story on why we started this journey and I hope you will remember, “When you feel like quitting, think about WHY you started!”

-Clairessa Cruz

UTA Graduate May 2015

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About Clairessa: Clairessa graduated in May, 2015, Summa Cum Laude from UTA with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, Generalist EC-6, and ESL Certification. Read more about Clairessa here.

Welcome to the UTA New Teachers Blog!

Welcome to the UTA New Teachers blog!

We will be launching a UTA New Teachers Blog in late November, 2015 and are looking for guest bloggers to write content! Guest posts can range from 200-1,000 words and can share advice, tips, words of encouragement, and success stories about being a new teacher. They can be written by preservice teachers, recent graduates, or experienced teachers!

Question: Would you be interested in guest blogging for the forthcoming UTA New Teacher Blog?  If so, please contact Dr. Peggy Semingson directly and ask to be. Let us know what topics you would be interested in blogging. We are open to ideas and welcome one-time contributions or regular posts! Benefits of blogging include influencing new teachers, building your skills as a blogger, and adding it to your resume as a published venue!