Why I fall in love with #flipclass everyday anew.

Last year I did some renovations to my teaching practise. The process was exhilarating, demanding, and left me with taste for change. I did some exploring over the summer and charted out a plan for the coming school year. I came back in September with some great new ideas: portfolios, full on standard based grading, 20% time.

I was ready to bring it.

Thing is….my students were NOT.
They had not spent the summer immersed in books, online courses and a trip to MIT.

All this change I was craving was not embedded in anything meaningful or reasonable for my students. I might as well shown up talking Japanese for the amount of sense it made to them.

Maybe you are saying: “Well if you just kept plugging away, if you just kept at it, eventually they would come around.”

Maybe your right, maybe they would have, maybe slowly, they would have had some magic transformative moment and inspiration would have been lit in their learning souls.

But by then…. I might have become a drooling zombie.

I could not push any harder, I could not…

In this space where students have very specific and prescriptive expectations about how things will and should work, and will say right to my face “Don’t you dare mess with it Ms Durley cause I need to get 90% for the nursing program.”

I hate to admit defeat, it is the hardest thing for me, a perfectionist people pleaser, to do. I hate to be so emotional about it, but I am. I have been carrying this silently inside for many weeks and it has been bogging me down, draining my drive and making me feel generally like a failure.

I have regrouped and gone back to the drawing board, I will give portfolios another shot, just scaled down. I still am working on standards based grading, with others in my department this time, to make it fit within the points driven paradigm of this system. I will offer some exploration time but in smaller chunks and with slightly different parameters.

Many of you out there in my circle of influence, write in dramatic landscapes of absolutes: no homework, no worksheets, no videos, no direct instruction, no marks, etc.

Do you know how it feels in a room of 30 Grade 12’s who want you to be something very specific, in a school of 60 staff members, and in a community with their eyes resolutely on the prize?

It eats at you slowly, bit by bit, erodes your confidence, your energy, your dreams, your ideals…..you.

I am fairly energetic and spend time on my practice. I am ready to take risks and change. I love reading the big sweeping ideas about how education needs to change and I need to read them, as they serve an important function in my evolution as a teacher.

But what I need, what I crave, what saves my sanity, is a sturdy and safe bridge to get me there. A bridge, a walkway, a map, a blueprint…. pick whatever metaphor you want.

I need to know HOW… how to get there… and get there safely with these kids, the ones right in front of me with their mindsets, their parents’ pre-conceptions, the report card parameters, the school final exam policy, the AP exam in May, with ALL these realities on my plate.

So I fall in love with flip class everyday anew because I can do it within these four walls and my one mortal life. I can get out of school by 5, get to the gym, and be present in body and soul at the dinner table.

I can see and feel tangible changes in my practice, in how students are interacting in the room with each other, with me and with the content.

I can show up each day, have the wherewithal, the time, and the energy to look each child in the whites of their eyes and say: “Do you get it, what don’t you get, and how can I help?”

I have to remember how huge that is.

Flip class is my bad ass bridge, I will continue travelling with it to get me safely and sanely…there…with these kids….in this time and place.

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8 thoughts on “Why I fall in love with #flipclass everyday anew.

  1. Great post Carolyn. I know how hard you work to better your students’ learning experience. The evolution of your classroom, to me, has been inspiring. I know its hard when student/ colleagues don’t buy in to what you think is so valuable but hopefully they will eventually. They may not be ready for those big changes yet and maybe they just need a little more time to get there. But, when they do come around, all those great ideas you just discussed will be ready.

    • Thanks Scott!! It is such a confusing road sometimes, maintaining the balance between what we want to so and what we can do. But I so appreciate your sensitivity to this topic, some days I wish I had thicker skin, but most days I am glad that I don’t.

  2. I think this is a brave choice you are making. By creating a system the students want you are responding to their needs as learners. It is not a ‘failure’ in the sense that the goals you have for your class and your students get refined by the realities of the situation you are in. I believe if we impose our ‘absolute idealism’ as educators it is no better than the system we are trying to change.

    Keep the faith, listen to your kids and your staff, doing what you can do in the way you can do it.

    • It is a balancing act between ideals and reality, and as teachers I think we are many times between a rock and a hard spot, with no real wiggle room. I feel much better in making this compromise, in the open and with intent as before I was just felt battered by my lack of immediate success.
      I won’t give up, and yes I think we have to listen to all invested parties as classroom teachers, and in that, I’ll find my may.
      As ever appreciate your support and enthusiasm Quinn.
      c

  3. Hi Carolyn
    I really applaud your honesty and courage to write this post. My biggest fear upon embarking on this journey of reinventing my classroom was that it would fail miserably. Luckily things on the whole have been positive – but if it wasn’t for teachers like you who paved the way for teachers like me to be brave and make a change, it never would have happened. There are ups and downs, some things work well, others need lots of work etc…I still have a long way to go. But people like you inspire me to continue. This post reminds me that even those we admire and strive to emulate can struggle sometimes and feel frustrated. But we shouldn’t give up and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it. We can only try our best with the time and resources that we have. As your friends have already said, please keep up what you are doing. You really inspire me.
    Thanks for everything
    Juliana

    • Hi Juliana,
      Thanks for the comment and insights. I think we all have our ebbs and flows with success and failures. Also I think often times what at the time feels like a failure later n retrospect turns into success. Change is hard when you are going though it, it take time patience and support. I am glad I have yours!!
      best,
      c

  4. Very interesting post, as I’m coming off a few pretty bad weeks myself… http://physicsoflearning.com/edblog/sbg-is-it-worth-it/

    I think I’m hearing some similar issues, where kids want/need a high grade and that means they will compromise a classroom culture to reach their goal. Of course this is not their fault or even their intention. The Sorting Hat demands input.

    In my case, I witnessed a lot of what I would call inauthentic learning. I was trying to use SBG with a mastery learning 3 point scale, and allowed for student initiated assessments. I won’t go into detail, but when all the dust had settled I think there were successes. Perhaps you saw the same.

    No bonus marks, no extra marks, no reduction of marks for prior mistakes. Just telling it like it is, ma’am. The ability to have a student that is struggling and show me solid work that was strong evidence of learning, and to be able to recognize and acknowledge that demonstration regardless of past failed attempts. High fives to students that are trending upwards, knowing that the end is the goal and they’re not punished by the path they take.

    But there is always the push-back. Tell me what A is, I’ll practice A, and then test and ask me what A is. Apparently there is no such thing as exceeding expectations – 100% means that a correct answer is given, evidence is not required. And if all else fails (less than 90%), you just withdraw and take the course on-line where higher marks are guaranteed.

    This is the culture that needs to change, and it can’t be changed by one person in one classroom. It requires work from the community. Stay a leader, and lead the change.

    • Hi Doug,
      This whole issue of grades is a huge elephant in high schools right now (especially at senior secondary where students are using grades to gain entrance to uni). The system as it stands leads students to believe/perceive learning as a transactional process: “If I do this then you (the teacher) will give me this.” This has layers of behaviours that have developed to “game” the system to get the “marks”. It is like we teachers are Pez dispensers, and as long as the student knows how to operate “us” then they are good to go and can get what the believe they need to move onto the next stage of the game (university).
      I have moved away from point collection as much as I can in effort to focus on the learning, to some extent it has had some minor successes. However it is an uphill battle to change mindsets, and as you say one person in one classroom does not get much traction. However, I see other teachers looking around for alternatives and think we are on the right track here. I know how draining and disheartening it can be to see what is really going on, but don’t give up, it’s what needs to happen right now.

      best to you Doug,
      c

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