This is the third post in our series highlighting teachers in blended-learning classrooms, and our first post about a teacher outside of a Notre Dame ACE Academy. Today’s post features Rose Oldenburg, an outstanding teacher at a Seton Education Partners blended-learning school, Nativity Jesuit in Milwaukee. Read on to learn about how Rose faced her technology fears, focused on classroom management, and got creative to make the school’s blended-learning program a success in her own classroom.
The first time I visited Nativity Jesuit in Milwaukee this past December, I heard whispers about Rose Oldenburg’s classroom.
“Have you seen that fourth-grade classroom?” I heard one of my fellow visitors ask another. “The teacher is amazing!”
My interest was, of course, sufficiently piqued, so I made my way over to Rose’s classroom to see this teacher with my own eyes. In the few minutes I was fortunate to spend observing her class and asking questions afterwards, she demonstrated through both her words and her actions an undeniable appreciation for the benefits of blended learning, as well as an understanding of the key moves a teacher must make to be successful in a blended-learning classroom.
Rose served as an ACE Teaching Fellow in a Notre Dame ACE Academy in Tucson, Arizona, for two years before moving to Milwaukee and beginning her career at Nativity Jesuit in 2015. Though excited to join the Nativity Jesuit community, Rose remembers feeling apprehensive about the school’s new blended-learning initiative. “I was more scared of using the computers than anything else. My technology skills were…not great,” she laughed.
Because Nativity was in its second year of blended learning at the time, Mason Cook from Seton Education Partners–the school’s blended learning partner organization–provided training to Rose and the other new teachers. Rose remembers the information and strategies he shared as being key to her success as a new-to-blended-learning teacher. “After he explained the why and the how behind blended learning, my fears quickly subsided,” she explained.
One of the strategies Mason emphasized in his training was to start the year by implementing outstanding routines and procedures, particularly regarding appropriate use of technology, and Rose could not agree more with his recommendation. “Classroom management is key,” she told me. “So much can go wrong when you introduce technology to students. I really drill in my classroom routines for the first month of school. This is often where blended learning goes south, when schools don’t implement routines with fidelity.”
With her routines in place, Rose quickly started to notice the many positive impacts blended learning had on her students. Their excitement is palpable–every time she introduces a new lesson, hands shoot up all over the classroom. “Students always want to tell me that they have seen the concept I’m teaching on i-Ready already. They don’t realize that I often pre-assign lessons to introduce them to the content before I teach it myself, and it totally boosts their confidence going into our small group lesson,” she said.
She also points out that it’s often lower-performing students who are the most excited about making a connection between the material they are learning with her and the concepts they learned on i-Ready. It gives them a feeling of being “ahead of the game” that they rarely experience otherwise.
When I asked Rose to share any advice she might have for teachers implementing blended learning for the first time, she shared three key points:
1. Don’t be scared.
“It’s perfectly natural to scared, but it’s not scary,” she explained. Teachers should be excited about the possibilities this new way of teaching and learning brings to their classrooms.
2. Focus on classroom management.
“Make your routines a priority,” she urged. “Make sure you express to the students a sense of urgency and accountability so we can all progress.”
3. Be creative with it!
Rose noticed the greatest change in her own instruction and her students’ learning when she started to assign more lessons on i-Ready and incorporate other online content providers. “Students are so excited about blended learning. We have to capitalize on their enthusiasm and show them how many options they have in their learning to be as successful as possible.”