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?


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