Relationships in learning are important but it is only recently that I have realized how important these relationships are. When I was lecturing – first 20 years of my teaching career – 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 they regularly came in before or after school to get help.
I started flipping my classroom in the fall of 2010, and I noticed a couple of things. I loved not being the dispenser of information, and being out and about with the students, helping individuals or small groups of students. Flipping allows me to have many individual conversations with the students on a daily basis since I am helping students one on one the whole class period. I get to talk with each individual student. I get to know them, their learning style, and their interests; I can talk about how mathematics applies to their interest. Each student gets to know me on a personal level. It was after I started flipping that I felt like I made many more personal connections with students and truly got to know individual students.
Evidence of Relationships Mattering. A former student teacher shared this with me a couple of months ago, “You taught me that at the heart of teaching is healthy relationships. You made it a priority to get to know each and every one of our students personally and make them feel welcomed, respected, cherished, and challenged”
Just 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. 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.”
A couple of my students wrote a blog post “Student Perspective of Flipped Learning”. Here is part of the post that discusses the student teacher relationship. “The relationship that we’ve all developed with our math teacher is something that none of us would ever trade. Not only has Flipped Classroom helped us to know him in a professional setting, but it has also allowed us to know him on a more personal level. Even during the parts of the school year when we’re not involved in one of his classes, he still finds the time to check in with all of us. Be it through email, during passing time in the halls, or even around the lunch table, he is always there to make sure we are doing well.”
I received a couple of notes at the end of school from students and I have shared parts of the notes that deal with the student teacher relationship.
· One student wrote “Mr. Faulkner, I don’t know where to begin, other than thank you. You have not only touched my life academically, but in every other aspect as well. You’ve taught me so much that I can’t even begin to explain how much you’ve impacted my life. It seems so minuscule to send an email that says “thanks a ton”, but unfortunately I don’t know what else to give. There are no words to describe how much you’ve changed my life. Starting high school was a tough time for me, but you were always there to help. Every conversation with you is a blessing. You’ve given me opportunities that I never thought I would have. … You care about your students and you truly listen. THAT is what makes you a great teacher and even better person. You give so much and ask nothing in return. You’ve changed my life in so many ways, and that’s all for the better. I look forward to continuing to communicate with you in the future for advice, math help, or merely for a friend. Thank you for all that you do and God bless.”
· Another student, “Mr. Faulkner, You are someone that I am unbelievably thankful for. You really opened me up and helped me realize my full potential. Not only in math but also in life. You work so hard and I respect that and hope to be just like that. Lastly thank you for taking me in and being such a great mentor and friend to me.”
· Three students wrote, “Words cannot express how grateful we are for having you as our teacher. From Algebra 2 to Calculus, you’ve helped us grow not just as students, but ultimately has people. You’ve shown us that without hard work and dedication, our goals are much harder to reach. You’ve show us that sometimes you have to put your nose to the grindstone and get the job done (with laughs and espresso beans along the way). You’ve shown us that there are no such things as stupid questions and that questions are how we become lifelong learners. We’re proud to call you our teacher, but even more proud to call you our friend. Thanks for all those life lessons and some math along the way. THANKS AGAIN FOR EVERYTHING and for helping those three quiet kids in the back of Calculus class!! Sincerely your lifelong friends the ‘Back Table Crew’.”
I tried flipping my classroom hoping that it would improve learning but I think it is the combination of flipping and an increase personal one on one connections with students that improved the student learning in my classroom. (See https://goo.gl/hnWX0y for data on how student learning has increased in my classroom and “Positive Impact of Peer Instruction Flipped Learning” for more information about student teacher relationships in learning.)
So whether you flip or not develop those personal relationships with students, their lives and yours will be richer because of it; plus students will know that you really care about them and learning will likely increase as a result.