Flipping the Classroom

At first glance, Jon Meister ’13 looks like a teacher from another time with his handlebar mustache, black satin vest, and thick-framed glasses, but his teaching style – honed at the University of Mary Washington – is anything but old fashioned.

For his final research project, Meister explored one of the latest trends in education, a flipped classroom.

At its most basic level, a flipped classroom is where students learn a lesson at home via video and then come to class to work on homework. It’s a move away from the traditional classroom where a teacher gives a lecture and then students work on homework problems on their own time.

In his final semester at UMW, Meister was a student teacher at his alma mater, Norview High School in Norfolk, Va. He worked with 18 seventh-grade students to flip the way that they learn algebra and geometry. Meister recorded YouTube math lessons that the students watched outside of class time, and then the students worked in the classroom on homework.

“I’m trying to get away from direct instruction and serve more as a guide on the side,” Meister said.

The only drawback he saw from this format was access to computers for students. But the positives to this method outweighed the negatives. Parents were better able to help students with math because they were able to watch the lessons as a family. In the classroom, students worked together to solve problems.

Meister’s favorite part of the process was that students could watch the videos at any time. If they were unable to watch the videos at home, they could come to class and watch them. “All of the students said this was very helpful. It made me feel good that it worked that way,” Meister said.

However, teaching for Meister is not all seriousness all the time. He brings his unique personality to the classroom with a full beard and groomed mustache. He spends 20 minutes every morning using a special mustache wax to twist the perfect curves.

“I catch [students] with the mustache. They think, ‘this guy means business,’” said Meister laughing. In the past, he’s used mustache mathematics to teach his students. For example, in one class he told students that if they earned an A on a test that he wouldn’t shave for a month. On other occasions, he’s let students choose his beard style for good grades. So far, he’s sported a Fu Manchu and Mutton Chops.

He also works hard to relate to students and bring their own interests into the classroom. He goes to soccer and football games when his students are playing, and most recently he read “The Hunger Games” while his students were reading the same book.

“With math, [the students] always expect the teacher to be cold and all about numbers. I tell them, ‘if you’re interested in learning about math, I’ll be interested in what you like to do,’” he said.

Meister began his first teaching job at Norview High School this summer working for his favorite high school math teacher.

“As a first-year teacher, my goals are classroom management, expanding on the basics, and the history of mathematics – I want [students] to look at math and have an understanding of how it came to be,” said Meister, who’s grooming his mustache for the next classroom challenge.


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