This book was inspired by the following…

  • I want students to develop confidence in themselves and their abilities. 
  • I want students to understand that their grades are a reflection of their skills, and they are capable of improving those skills at any time.
  • I want students to complete assignments because they are meaningful, interesting, and rewarding, not because they are worth points. 
  • I want students to know that their teachers are there to support them as they work because learning is a process and everyone needs feedback and help to improve. 
  • I want students to be intrinsically motivated to revisit and improve their work because they feel like active agents in the learning process. 
  • I want students to think about their learning and understand themselves–their strengths and their weaknesses–because it is only when students know themselves as learners that they will feel in control of their learning journeys.
  • I want teachers to form meaningful relationships with their students and dedicate time to building a true partnership with them so that the responsibility for learning is shared.
  • I want teachers to find a balance between their lives at school and their lives beyond the classroom. It is only when we find this balance and nurture ourselves that we will be the best teachers for our students.

There are two aspects of my job that I find incredibly draining: grading and parents. I know how important it is for students to receive regular feedback, so they know where they are excelling and where they need to focus their time and energy to improve. I also want to be clear that most parents are lovely and supportive, but there are always a handful of parents each year that are demanding and aggressive. Ironically, these two challenging aspects of my job–grades and parents–are often linked. 

Parents are frustrated by what they perceive is a lack of communication from teachers about how their students are progressing. On the other side of this tension are secondary teachers with 150+ students. Most secondary teachers are still employing a teacher-centric approach to their jobs. They deliver lessons during the actual school day, but the rest of their responsibilities–designing lessons, grading, attending meetings, and communicating with parents–invade their lives beyond school. It is exhausting. Most teachers are so drained from a day on their feet engaging with students that these other tasks can feel overwhelming and, as a result, get neglected.

Four years ago, I made two important decisions. First, I was not going to take grading home anymore. Second, I was going to have students track their progress and communicate directly with their parents on a regular basis. These two shifts changed my teaching reality and led me to re-evaluate (yet again) my role and my students’ role in the classroom. 

For the last 10 years, I’ve been using blended learning models and technology to shift control in the classroom from me to my students. However, it was not until I changed the way I approached feedback, assessment, and parent communication that I had an epiphany. Teachers must partner with their students! If teachers and students work together to assess, track, and reflect on the learning happening in the classroom, teachers will have the time and energy to innovate and personalize learning.

The goal of this book is to provide teachers, who are using blended learning models and technology strategically, with the resources, strategies, and tools necessary to partner with their students on assessment. Grades are not something that should happen to students. Grades and academic progress must be an ongoing, two-way conversation between student and teacher. The more transparency we create around student progress, the more effectively students can articulate that progress to their parents–keeping them in the learning loop. 

I wrote this book primarily for secondary teachers. Although elementary teachers can take and adapt many of these principles, strategies, and ideas for their classrooms, they do not have as many students and their students do not typically generate the same volume of work and writing that students in 6-12 grade produce. Most secondary teachers are drowning in work and need concrete strategies they can use to shift the traditional workflow in their classrooms to be more effective, efficient, and energized. 

Balance with Blended Learning will present ideas and strategies that may initially feel lofty or unrealistic given your particular teaching assignment. I want to reassure you that I have done this in a public school with class sizes of approximately 30 students. It did not always go smoothly. It required time, practice, and fine-tuning, but it worked. You don’t need to do everything all at once. I certainly didn’t. I would encourage teachers reading this book to try one strategy at a time. You will make mistakes, you will hit bumps, and then you will find a way to make it work for you. 

My goal is to inspire a mind shift in the way teachers view both their role and responsibilities in the classroom as well as their students’. This is a process. It took me close to four years to get to the point where I was truly partnering with my students in our classroom. I hope that this book inspires teachers to approach their work in a more sustainable way that prioritizes their relationships with students. I am confident that the more of these strategies teachers can incorporate into their classrooms, the more rewarding they will find their work.

10 Responses

  1. Caitlin, I just discovered your site via our tech administrator. I use a lot of Alice Keeler’s tips with digital feedback re: private comments and typically “flip” my writing workshop so students draft with initial instruction at home, revise in class with me, get immediate feedback, and the chance to resubmit.

    I share this to indicate I’m not totally new to blended learning, but I want to get a better handle on your approach. Your list of “wants” at the top of this post resonated with me since, despite my change in feedback approaches, students still want the grade more than the learning.

    Do you recommend I start with this book or read one of your prior titles, like Blended Learning in Action, to start?

    • Hi Lindsay,

      My new book Balance with Blended Learning assumes that teachers have familiarity with blended learning models, like station rotation, flipped learning, whole group rotation, and playlist/individual rotation. It does not go into the nuts and bolts of the different models and how to lesson plan for them. If you feel like you want to get that foundational information about the various models, I would start with Blended Learning in Action. It sounds like Balance with Blended Learning might be a better fit for where you are currently. It will definitely support the work you are already doing while giving you more strategies to shift the focus away from points and grades (so frustrating!) to the learning happening.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!


      • That sounds great. Thanks so much for your response! We co-teach using station models already, so I feel like this will really improve our practice and give us some fun new ideas for how to keep it sustainable and make it more meaningful.

  2. Hi Catlin…we just finished running an afterschool PD workshop & book study on your other book, “Blended Learning in Action” and we loved it! Can’t wait for your next book to arrive, so we can dig deeper into blending and your refreshing approaches to “balance”– something teachers NEED to hear about and learn. If the book is anything close to your 2019 CUE talk, it’s going to be amazing! Love your blog, love “The Balance,” keep up the great work! Are you at the Schoology conference this year?

    • Hi John,

      I’m THRILLED your team enjoyed Blended Learning in Action! That is wonderful to hear!

      Yes, my new book Balance with Blended Learning includes most of what was in my CUE keynote but with a lot more detail and concrete resources. I agree that balance is sorely needed in education. I hope this book helps teachers to rethink their traditional roles and workflows to find more sustainable ways to do this job!

      I have not heard from the Schoology organizers about speaking in July 2020. If they ask, I’ll be there! It’s a great conference.

      Take care.

  3. Hi again – I’m trying to purchase the book, but Amazon and my bookstore say it is not being published until Feb 13?

      • Thanks! I got the book via my local book seller.

        In co-taught classes, students are really familiar with stations. We usually do three stations (2 with a teacher, 1 independent). I’d love to build in a fourth, but we don’t have much time for 3 in each class period to begin with (42-minute classes in middle school).

        When you plan a station rotation model, do you intend for kids to cycle through four stations in one class, or is it spread across two? Do you tell kids when to “switch” stations, or is it self-paced?

        • Hi Lindsay,

          The station rotation model is totally flexible. If I was working with 42 minute periods, I would definitely do a multi-day rotation (e.g., 2 day x 4 stations–20 min per). Racing kids through really short stations can be counterproductive. Kids need time to dig into the tasks.

          I coach teachers who use teacher-timed stations when they lead a teacher-led station and do self-paced rotations when they are pulling individual students to conference or provide one-on-one support. It depends entirely on the lesson objectives, but I will say that most students prefer to rotate tasks when they are ready to transition. I’ve seen self-paced rotations work in first grade!

          I hope that helps! Enjoy Balance with Blended Learning!

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