On today’s episode of the Sustainable Teacher Podcast I am so excited to welcome Charles Youngs, a 30-year high school English teacher in Western Pennsylvania, who has been recognized as a Pennsylvania State Teacher of the Year finalist, a Fulbright scholar, and is a frequent presenter at the annual convention of the National Teachers of English.
Currently he spends his days in a suburban public high school just south of Pittsburgh, teaching courses in Writing, Public Speaking and in AP Literature. That’s just part of his day. The other half is spent as an instructional coach for faculty on the ins and outs of ed tech.
Charles and my paths crossed in the spring of 2020, as he explains in the interview, when he was thinking about ways to make his time with students more intentional and more effective. He took my online course, Flipped Classroom Formula, and offers today a unique perspective on flipping, one that includes that of an English teacher and how to flip in an ELA class, but also one that is incredibly reflective of what the past year’s experience has been for educators and how we can move forward.
Without further ado, here’s Charles.
"Tell us about you, your teaching life, what it was like before, and what it is like now."
Thank you Mandy, it’s great to be with your and your audience.
This is my 30th year as an English and communications teacher. And as you mentioned, for the past five years, I’ve been working with high schoolers in the mornings and with faculty on instructional technoloigy in the afternoons. Since 2003, I’ve been the ELA department leader, and I am the club sponsor for the school’s literary magazine. All this keeps me fairly busy.
And as you know, last summer I joined your Flipped Classroom Framework course, which was a great training not only for flipping my teaching but also for working effectively in hybrid situations as we’ve experienced this year in response to the pandemic. For the past three months, our school has been running in-person classes concurrently with remote students participating from home. So that’s a lot.
I like to say as much as I’ve been flipping, I’ve been somersaulting, back flipping, free falling, and jumping back and forth, with my students. I’m sure many of your teacher friends listening can relate.
"What shifts have you seen in your students because of flipping?"
Students--and teachers--have had to shift in many ways, right?
This year has had so many shifts. Of course, I’m talking about the change of circumstances due to the pandemic.
When the closures hit in the spring of 2021, our school decided to take a totally asynchronous approach for the remainder of the school year. So suddenly my colleagues and I were looking for ways to deliver instruction and curriculum digitally.
We were also working against the trauma of a pandemic, and so we were feeling that out -- looking for ways to engage students in meaningful learning activities while not knowing all of the gaps in technology, home wifi, community hot spots, and the human element, the social and economic and psychological impacts that the closures may have been having. So that time wasn’t just a flip--it was a total shift.
In that time I learned how to make videos with my computer, with powerpoint and recorded audio, and with screen casting software, like Screencastify.
So to your question about students--the students were going through this, too. And by “this” I mean everything--sudden closures, loss of activities, job losses, and now having to learn asynchronously. In the best cases, it fostered a new responsibility in learning,
Advocacy, asking for help, --Asking questions became the golden rule.--and there was accountability in new ways. Everything was individualized and could be differentiated to meet the needs of students and what they were dealing with at home and at their ability level.
How has flipping impacted your classroom this year in particular amongst the hybrid and online learning?
So last summer --with my experiences of asynchronous learning and use of digital apps and media making behind me--the Flipped Classroom Framework, your 10 week course on flipping-- caught my eye.
It gave me strategies and a frame of thinking that prepped me for the new normal.
This fall we started in a total remote mode again, but mostly synchronous. We ran, an four-day hybrid concurrent sycnchronous schedule of remote and in-person of half the students for of those two days and asynchronous Fridays. Then in November through January we went total remote. And then in March shifted back to the hybrid concurrent in-person plan but transitioned to a fuller model--where all students were welcome to attend in person, and we’ve found about 1/3 remain at home.
Thanks to your Flipped Classroom Formula, In the summer had I started making videos to use. And into the fall, throughout the first semester, I made about 20 videos. These were largely instructional--curriculum delivery videos. I was moving the lecture, that “teacher talk” time outside of the classtime so I could spend more of the precious time--and we’ve all found out how time gets squeezed in the virtual meeting scenario, haven’t we?-- I ‘ve been able to use that in-class time for discussion rather than lecture and working with students, checking on understanding. At least that was the plan, discussion remote can be tough to get rolling with half the class in the room with you and half at home, right?
"Can you say more about that?"
So, I found out that synchronous teaching in the virtual world was not the same as synchronous teaching in-person. The technical aspects of delays, mute-unmute, cameras on/off, screen fatigue and so forth-- all took their toll and TIME. So not only have I found ways to deliver instruction outside the classroom through video, but also I have discovered some helpful apps to engage the students with each other in online discussions --regardless of whether they are in-person or remote-
Three that have proved particularly useful in helping students connect in writing and in video discussions are Flipgrid, Perusall, and VoiceThread. I started using Flipgrid back in the completely asynchronous days, last year. I found it was a good flip in which student could both be accountable and so everyone could SEE each other. It’s a handy, free app from Microsoft that’s easy to use on computers, tablets, or phones. That’s been useful for my speech class.
And for my literature classes, I use Perusall, an app developed by a team at Harvard--it’s a social e-reader, wherein teachers upload texts and students annotate and discuss reading in a texting-like discussion format. This keeps them accountable to me and each other as they practice the art of reading and writing in analysis,
Thirdly, I use VoiceThread, a great discussion app that’s been around for a while--it is a media platform where teachers and students can add media and everyone can comment in text, audio, and video together, These sorts of interactive online discussion platforms allow me to flip what used to be in-class discussion out to the asynchronous zone. This provides equity in the students ability to participate, individual accountability and practice, and it give me the time back to focus in-class time on clarifications, highlight elements, and summarizing.
Time is a big item on my mind. Flipped teaching has not only me more intentional in what I deliver, but how much time I allot for specific learning tasks. I figure I have claim to about 270 minutes of my students’ week. That’ is, I have five 42-minute classes and 60 minutes of homework time (if you figure about 10 minutes per grade(I have seniors) x 5 days a week).
So that includes all the reading time, discussion time, writing, assessment, and what’s left for tutorial lecture.
I’d love more--who wouldn’t?-- but I know that my course is just one of half a dozen and high school students are living busy lives filled with extracurriculars and work.
What will your classroom look like moving forward? What advantage do you think you have because of flipping?
Time management and accountability are two elements that come to fore. As a teacher honing my craft, I want to be more and more intentional in my work with students. Harnessing the digital tools, so that I can deliver more outside of class, allows me to focus on skills and assessment in-person. Framing my practice with the Flipped Classroom Framework, I can make the connections not just to the curriculum but to the students. That time together is so precious, now more than ever.. If flipping can make more of that time be about using what we are learning, rather than just covering it, that’s a huge advantage.
Man, what an interview. Each time I do these I want to make sure that it’s not too scripted so that it goes wherever it’s going to go in an authentic and natural way, and man did that happen today or what? I absolutely love Charles perspective, and how he really helped me, and I hope you too, think about time and how we use our students time, but also about how we can come out what has been pandemic teaching as better.
I’m so thankful for Charles taking some time out of his busy teacher-schedule to chat with me, and hope that you got to enjoy hearing about his experience and transformation as much as I did.
Remember that you too can have a reflective and intentional experience, like Charles, one that helps you be more sustainable in all aspects of your teaching life, and you can start by joining me in the online teacher workshop, 3 Insights to Flipping Your Classroom: Being More Sustainable in the New NOrmal of education, that will only be available in a few select times coming up, and then will go away for the foreseeable future. It is a live training that I offer, right here from my desk in my home office, and it will be a professional development experience unlike any other you’ve attended. Namely because it will be from your couch, which is the ultimate perk, but also because you’ll walk away with tangible action steps in prioritizing your sustainability and effectiveness in the classroom. I truly hope you’ll join us for that opportunity.
Until then, we’ll see you next week right here on the Sustainable Teacher Podcast. Bye for now.
I am SO Excited to announce, and want to personally invite you to my exclusive and only comes around every once in a blue moon, teacher workshop on the flipped classroom. It's totally free, will be about one hour in length, and you'll get a certificate of completion at the end for CEUs!
Please join me for my all new teacher workshop, 3 Insights to Flipping Your Classroom: Being MORE Sustainable in the New Normal of Education. I'll have freebies for being there live, give you immense training on the flipped classroom, and then share an opportunity to work more together. I hope to see you there!