When Jerome Flewelling started teaching high school physics, he stuck with the “lecture, lab, test” approach he had been taught. Flewelling, the 2018 Indiana Teacher of the Year, soon found his classroom spiraling out of control. Exhausted from his students’ apathy and discipline problems, he considered if he was even cut out for teaching.
Instead, he decided to assign his students a project: they had two weeks to build a catapult that would launch a tennis ball across a football field. The project ended up launching something else, too: Flewelling’s new approach to teaching.
“I discovered my students wanted to be engaged, they wanted to be challenged, they wanted to find the curriculum had meaning in their lives,” Flewelling told a group of School of Education students. “I could have thought oh, I don’t want to be evaluated poorly or we have these end of year assessments [to worry about], but instead I knew that something had to change and I had to step out of my [comfort zone] to do that. It was the courage to be greater than average.”