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How the Flipped Classroom Shifts Your Role as a Teacher

May 05, 2020

Raise your hand if you are so totally over this whole online teaching thing?  If we were together in person (reminisce on physical presence with another human being real quick - big huge nostalgic sigh - now back to reality), I'm sure we'd reflect on all the things we miss about the classroom and being physically present with our students.

In fact, I think this whole pandemic is teaching us a very solid lesson on the importance of physical presence.  With our families, with our friends, coworkers, and especially our students.

In fact, your role as an educator sans students you see on a daily basis is probably nothing more than "messenger and grader".  Your role doesn't go much deeper than that because without physical presence any attempts to do so seem superficial and not as effective when done online.

Over the last week or so as we've been hearing the news of schools closing for the year and as I've listened to many teachers about their struggles with online teaching, I have to share that I'm concerned.  My concern is that we have a bad taste in our mouth with this online teaching thing, and that it's going to send us back on the other side of the pendulum when classes resume.

I'm sure you've heard of the proverbial pendulum swinging, right?  Especially in education.  There are swinging pendulums for testing - we go from one extreme to the other - but also for teacher evaluations/requirements, academic expectations of students, and even behavioral expectations as the rules and policies of individual schools fluctuate from rather strict to too lenient.

I've stated on this blog and in various Facebook LIVES that as serious as the COVID-19 pandemic may be, it's providing us an opportunity in education to rise above and even change the status quo.  If we return to school in August as if nothing has changed, having not improved in some way, then we are doing our students, and even ourselves a disservice.

In this post, I want to add an important Part B to that message... we can't let the pandemic and current state of distance learning skew our view of the blended or flipped model because it simply is NOT comparing apples to apples.

The most important part of the flipped classroom is synchronous time when your students are physically present.  In the online setting, that's just not possible, making the flipped model the best of both worlds.... the content delivery is asynchronous (and therefore differentiated with scaffolding), but the more meaningful time together can now actually be meaningful, not just delivery of content.

Your Role in the Online vs. Flipped Model

In the online setting you are starving for student connection, wishing you had the ability to joke with your students, have meaningful conversations that help them see the bright side or the value in doing what you're asking of them... all the things we do as talented motivators; one vital aspect of what we do as educators. 

You may be loving the planning part of the online model because it's forcing you to get creative and think outside the box, but then you see all the work you've done go to waste because reaching all students is next to impossible right now.

In the flipped model...

You can geek out a bit on the planning part if that's what you're into (although it's not totally necessary... geeking out that is), and the organization of it all is something I guide teachers through in my online course, Flipped Classroom Formula.  But all that planning you do where students get to discover the content from your digitally accessible notes and then how they get to explore and dive deeper into the content when you are physically present is where the sweet spot, and the effectiveness of the flipped classroom resides.

Make no mistake, the online teaching world IS NOT the flipped classroom world. 

Not even close.

I believe using the flipped classroom model can give you an advantage in the online teaching world, but the online teaching model can not replace the awesome balance that flipping allows a teacher in her classroom.

Your role as an educator in the flipped classroom is to remain an expert in the content but in a way that your students can reference you as one tool in their own learning and discovery.  I told my students often, "I am not the beholder of all knowledge."  Sure I know a few things, but I always pushed them to answer their own (and each other's) questions.  And, in the flipped classroom, you have time to facilitate that questioning - ask and answer - time.

Your role as an educator in the flipped classroom is one that is accessible.  I've done lots of talking about how the flipped model allows your classroom to be accessible, which is the big selling point for teachers during social distancing.  But there's another layer of accessibility that, to me, is even more integral.... YOU.  Because your students will be watching your lecture (or content delivery, whatever you want to call it) at home (or in the first 10-20 minutes of class 2 times per week), YOU are now available during class time.  No more SSSHHHHshing your students when they have questions because you've got 20 more slides to get through.  No more shoving returning absent students aside to figure it out on their own because you've got to start your presentation.  No more ignoring important yet off topic life lessons that although they have nothing to do with the content will help these human beings shape into well-functioning adults.

Take a deep breath, teacher.  You now have time for all those things.  You now have time to stop feeling like you're always rushing through each bell, each day, and your teaching life as a whole.

I remember being asked by a professor once in college after she had observed a lesson of mine, "why are you in such a hurry to do all things?"

In my 22-year-old mind I was appalled at the question.  My answer was "Because, well, life."  I'm hurrying because there's so much to get through and so many awesome ways to get to it all but I've had to spend so much time sifting through all the resources just to select the best.  PHEW!  Teaching life is always a rush.  And if it's not, it's because you're not teaching as much as you could.

In the flipped classroom... that's just not the case.  You now can help your students get through the content, discover and learn the concepts in a way that isn't rushed - still on a schedule - but not rushed.

If this shift is something you are looking to make in your classroom, without the bad taste of what your role currently is within the online world, I have a couple invitations for you.

First, be sure to grab this printable PDF that is my Flipped Classroom Starter Kit that will help you consider if the flipping model is a good fit for your students, classroom, and YOU.

Second, at the time of this posting (meaning it will be over if you're reading this after May 2020) I'm opening up my online Flipped Classroom Webinar again all about how to take advantage of the flipping model during AND beyond distance learning.  Click the image below to see the available dates and I hope to see you there!

I wish you all the best during this chaotic time of education, my friend.  I pray for you often, and want you to know that I hope to be even a small form of support for you.

Until next time,

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