Dragging the Sage off the Stage

We all want our students to learn. No one stays in teaching for years desiring to see students fail. In fact, many of us try desperately to reach all our students.  Like the stage manager, terrified the actors will forget their lines, rip their costumes, or fall off the stage, we charge about our classroom, trying to ensure all students learn what we envision is vital to education.

But the stage manager must let go on opening night.  The actors must be allowed to perform the play they worked so hard to perfect. This week, the stage manager let go a little of control and allowed some actors to take center stage.

I had created a video over the weekend that discussed some literary devices in our summer reading novel, All But My Life. I had been meaning to do a follow up video, covering some more of the literary devices, when I stopped. Why was i making all the videos? Why couldn’t my students help? So I dismantled my plans and made a list of tasks that I wanted my advanced students to complete that week. Writing, speaking, acquiring vocabulary, almost all my big hitters were present.

This week, my class discovered some basic truths, much like actors discover during a dress rehearsal.

We discovered that asking 5 students to create a video on an app they’ve never used before takes more than 50 minutes.

We discovered that setting discrete deadlines for tasks is important, because some students procrastinate.

We discovered that flexibility and problem solving is really important, because sometimes the technology doesn’t work.

Flipping your classroom is not about making teacher videos for homework. It is about empowering students to take charge of their own learning. Leave the stage to the actors on opening night, but make sure that the lights are on, the curtains are open, the mics are live, and the popcorn is hot.

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