Would a back flip break my career?

Image attributed to https://www.flickr.com/photos/wills94/

Before I get into exactly what I need to decide, this story deserves a little backstory. Feel free to skip, if you already know about flipping your classes.

Last year, I started building my PLN on Twitter by chatting with #flipclass. The idea of putting my students in the center of my classroom appealed to me. I loved the idea of creating interactive notes for my students and using our time in class to discuss and apply those concepts. I read Flipping 2.0 compiled by Jason Bretzmann, in which teachers who have successfully flipped their classes explain how they did it. And I tried it out, using Touchcast. I thought I was on my way to deeper interactions with my students.

And then my principal stepped in.

He had wandered through my room a few times. Every time he came in, everything was well in hand. Some students were on Chromebooks, some reading paperbacks, some discussing, some writing. Then he called me into his office. It stressed him out, he informed me, if he couldn’t figure out what on task behavior was because everyone was doing something different. He had gotten some complaints from students, he told me. When I asked who was complaining, he gave me a laundry list of students, all of which were major discipline problems in all of their classes throughout the day. These students claimed that they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing in class, either. I discovered that he and the assistant principal had been calling these problem students in to the office and planting this idea into their heads, “You’re having trouble understanding what to do in Mrs. Crawford’s class, aren’t you?” And then he informed me, a fifteen year teaching veteran, that I only dabbled in things, never mastering a teaching technique.

Well, I survived that year. As per his request, I put the desks back into rows. I returned to everyone doing the same thing at the same time. It was boring, and I didn’t see any improvement in classroom behavior, either.

And then this year rolled around. I have all my students together in a group, working on the same stuff, in most of my classes. But I am teaching all the electives in the English department for the first time, and I have experimented with them. In fact, my creative writing students are blogging in WordPress in the NaBloPoMo challenge, and that is going pretty well. My regular English is a completely different place. They are great this year, for whatever reason.

Is it time to make a change?

Consider these changes, combining together: I have just been trained in using Blackboard as an LMS. Touchcast is offering to make me an ambassador and teach me how to make more professional and better instructional videos. I have two new electives next semester, Media Literacy and Mystery/SciFi/Fantasy, both of which might be really great to flip. How fun would it be, to analyze media together, or discuss great books together, while students took notes about those subjects outside of class?

And now, in a great coincidence, there’s a new book on flipping your classroom out. It’s called Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement.  In fact, they’re giving away a copy.

Well, should I do it? Should I keep all my students in rows? Or should I flip my electives?

The Book Pimp

I realized the other day that I had not updated my teaching blog in some time, and that those few of you who follow me might be curious about the outcome of my Zombie Unit.

After three weeks of team building, Informational Text and other sundries, we ended with a brief look at Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. Like many of my students, I love the television show, enough that even though we don’t have cable, we stream the episodes through Amazon Prime and Netflix. What many of them don’t realize, however, is that the original comic series is excellent, too. Just like my husband and I binge watched Season 4 when it came out on Netflix, I binged on the Compendium One and Compendium Two, which together have the first 96 volumes of the comic. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share just how awesome the comic really is.

Since one of the Common Core State Standards, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.7, asks students to study a work in more than one medium, I have students watch a short summary of Days Gone Bye, the first episode of the show, and compare it to the first ten pages of the comic, which has the same name.

After taking notes on how to read a graphic novel, we jumped in to comparing the two.  We talk about why in the comic the iconic “Don’t Open, Dead Inside” is missing, why Shane is less important, and why Rick is much more taciturn. And then, when I explain that in the comic Shane dies very early in the comic, they understand the motivation of the television writers who decided to humanize Shane, to make you want him to stay around longer.

One of the requirements I have in class is that students read a book of their choice at least ten minutes of class period everyday. I knew my comic intro had been successful, because I have at least one student who promptly went out, bought the first comic in the series, and has been reading The Walking Dead ever since. One of the best parts of being an English teacher is that I can turn kids on to great books. The next great book we read? Persepolis, a graphic novel about a girl growing up during the Iranian Revolution.

Psst. Hey, you, want to read a great book?