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.