Am I Overwhelming My Students??

I just presented the list of work required, included deliverables, for our next unit of Geography.  You should have seen my students’ faces!  After some prompting, one girl finally was able to tell me that she felt overwhelmed.  “I feel like it is too much and I can’t do it.” Wow.  I feel that way everyday I work on building this blended learning environment. How could I be so blind to the fact that my kids are feeling that way too?

In an effort to give them a clear picture of how they are expected to show me that they understand the content, I have been building assignments in Google Classroom that take them through the content and require them to create something that shows they are understanding, can combine this new knowledge with what we have already covered, and do some analysis or synthesis.  These are the same goals I had with no Chromebooks in the room, but now there are more options for them and better ways for me to present the information to them.  I front load a great deal of stuff – resources, files, links, etc.  Clearly, some of them are not comfortable with this new model.

Part of the issue could be that they have arrived in this blended classroom having experienced predominately teacher-led learning.  They struggle with independence and having to help themselves as they are conditioned to ask for clarification constantly.  They will ask me a question before even reviewing the content of the assignment instructions.  I am redirecting them but they have such a look of betrayal on their faces – like I am refusing to help them. They are not used to having a choice about what to do during each class period or having a list of to-do’s rather than one assignment at a time.  Choice is really freaking them out!

For my part, I tried to be more explicit about the actual deliverables this time.  I am still seeing a lack of familiarity with the Google Classroom interface and how they can see and track assignments.  In order to help them with that, I created a tracking spreadsheet and posted it in the room.  Each student is listed and there is a column for each assignment. They have been asked to physically “x” out the box next to their name and under each assignment as they complete them and turn them in, whether physically or electonically.  I think this will help all of us to have a better picture of progress and pacing.  It will also up the ante a bit for those who are not particularly motivated to complete anything in a class period.  I plan to keep referring back to it and to remind them to keep it updated.

Today was a wake-up call for me.  I have to slow down a bit and make sure my kids are ready to absorb all of these new procedures and ways of receiving and submitting information.  Although I was trying to be super teacher, it turns out I was making it more difficult for them because I was moving too fast and assuming a comfort level with the model that just doesn’t exist yet.  It is no wonder they are looking at me like I have three heads!  I have been sprinting – it’s time to slow down and make sure everyone is with me.

Wrestling With An Octopus

If you are at all like me, you are already thinking about heading back into the classroom and the details of what that will look and feel like for your students.  I have an added dimension to plan for – a station rotation model using a set of Chromebooks.  Great news but holy moly, what direction do I run in first???  As I research resources, talk to colleagues who have some experience with this, read about best practices, and reference my CCSS aligned curriculum I am quickly overwhelmed.  Yes, my new reality is like a many tentacled octopus – and we are definitely wrestling!

Perhaps it is the expectations that I am placing on myself.  Never one to dip a toe into the water when I could just cannonball right in, I have quite a list of goals for myself and my students.  I have also offered to be a resource for other teachers to further their professional development.  Along the way I will be blogging, maintaining a website, creating learning portfolios to document the experiences of some of my students, and trying to figure out if my teaching is actually more effective as a result of this change.  The list is a teensy bit long but I am not ready to ditch any of it,…. yet.

My real problem is information overload.  For each of the tasks I listed for myself above, there are about a gazillion sub-topics, videos, hints, tips, tweets, blogs, books, and podcasts.  My brain hurts….

Maybe I need to stop looking, but I am one of those people who really struggles to do that. You know, the perfect resource could be right there, just beyond that next click.  I swear, its like gambling!  I am addicted to clicking.  There it is, that is my problem.  I am a serial clicker.  I’m glad we figured that out.

Let’s face it, I am going to have to pull my act together – August 25th is looming large!