***This content is based on a webinar presented by head of Meridian School, Tasi Young. ***
The majority of teachers go into teaching because they are passionate about making a difference in the lives of their students. Many were inspired and motivated by teachers over the years and now they have a desire to pay it forward. Unfortunately, due to a seemingly endless list of criteria teachers have to meet, they spend the majority of the school day in the instructional zone, and the role of mentor gets left to the wayside.
Luckily there is a new movement within the educational community where teachers are enabled to be the mentors they long to be: blended learning.
Mr. Albert’s Woodshop Class
When I was in 8th grade, I chose to take Mr. Albert’s woodshop class. It was great! We had a cool teacher, we got to work independently, and we got to see our success in a tangible way. One day my friend and I were goofing off in class, and Mr. Albert pulled us aside and had a mentorship moment with us. He told us that we were goofing off too much and that I had some real leadership qualities that were being squandered. He gave me a vision of myself that I didn’t already have.
Later in life, after talking with other people who had taken Mr. Albert’s class, I realized that my experience was not unique. This teacher had touched the lives of many of his students.
Here are three elements from Mr. Albert’s Woodshop Class that enabled him to be a mentor and that also exist in the context of a blended learning environment:
By allowing students to choose the time, pace, path and/or place of their online instruction, we provide them with the opportunity to take ownership of their education. Because teachers are freed up from the instructional part of the education process, they actually have time to mentor their students. In these mentorship moments teachers not only go over student data from the software but can also help students develop educational goals and reasons behind making these choices. This in turn leads to increased student motivation.
In our woodshop class, Mr. Albert could immediately see which project we were working on and how far along we were in that project. Immediate visual feedback for teachers is harder to come by in a traditional classroom setting. For example, teachers have access to the standardized test results of their students but there is usually a four-month wait before actually receiving access to those results. However, in a blended learning environment, teachers can see how students are doing within five minutes based on online software results. This provides teachers with the information they need to create immediate mentorship moments with their students.
If you take a look at a classroom from the 1800s and compare it with a typical classroom today, you’ll note that not much has changed. Sure, there might be a couple computers and maybe a projector now, but both rooms were designed with one purpose in mind—teacher instruction. When you’re in a typical classroom environment, it can be hard to break out of instructor mode and into the role of a mentor.
On the other hand, in a blended learning environment (as well as in a woodshop class), there are different stations located throughout the classroom. Each station is unique and it is visually clear which activity is expected in each location. It is easy for teachers and students to distinguish the stations that are designated for mentoring and those that are meant for instruction.
Click on the following link to learn more about the role of a teacher in a blended learning context.