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The "New Normal" in Education

Mar 16, 2021

If I sit still and quietly for a moment…. More than ever, at least in my own life, I can almost physically feel the currents of change in education.  We could spend time labeling that change good or bad, but it’s happening with our without us due to circumstances and powers we can not control.

Have you heard the phrase “A rising tide lifts all boats?”  It’s an aphorism tied to economic policy, but one that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately in the educational realm.

What if we looked at the shifts that are happening in education and our approach to the new normal as a chance to be the tide?  We as individuals, seize this moment to say I’m going to shift and I am going to take advantage of this opportunity to show folks the possibilities here.  What if?

I’ve got three takeaways for you today, and after reading this blog, teachers will feel empowered to face the inevitable changes in education, knowing that the flipped classroom will allow you to be flexible and proactive as we approach the new normal of education.

 "Before we rush back to normal, be intentional about what aspects of normal you don’t want to rush back to."

In different and probably fewer and more effective words, I’ve seen this quote on social media recently, namely from Dave Hollis for our Hollis Co fans out there, and it resonated with me so much about teaching and our classrooms.

In today's blog I am all about keeping it real as teachers.  Let’s keep it professional and positive, but let’s also be real.  So when I say let’s not rush back to parts of the old normal, we need to be real with ourselves.

Being real with yourself about your teaching life is going to look different for each and every one of us.  Knowing what it is about your teaching life that you do or do not want to change.  Getting real on what you can and can’t control, and then responding to your desire for change through that lens - that’s all important and very individually unique reflection we should be doing.

Today I would like to offer up three key points to help you in that reflection so that you aren’t rushing back to aspects of normal that you don’t want.

Key point number one is… 

The Happy Medium

In college I wrote this big long paper on the necessity of standardized testing, and how if we value our schools and their effectiveness with our children, then we must know if in fact they are being effective and the only way to do that is by measuring effectiveness.

Well, of course measurement of effectiveness is necessary in some capacity, but put that statement in front of most in-the-classroom-administering-and-living-standardized-testing teachers and you’ll get an eye roll so big you’ll be able to hear it.

And rightfully so.

The bureaucracy and regimentation behind testing is making our schools less of a place of connection and more like factories everyday, and yet we must have a way to ethically and equitably measure how well a student is doing in our system of education so that we can know if our strategies and techniques are effective or should be adjusted.

So, what about this…

Maybe this is the greatest opportunity we’ve been waiting for where expectations of testing are set aside (whether that’s because the tests have changed or been cancelled or because students are opting out of the voluntary ones) and we get to educate our kids with less high stakes.  What if?

Measurement of effectiveness, and testing in most regards, isn’t going away though, so although we would love a completely project-based and discovery-led classroom where there’s no testing whatsoever, that’s just not reality, and we’re not able to fully give up that amount of control over our effectiveness.  

There is a happy medium… flipping.

Many teachers have experienced this in the last year or so due to distance learning, and although results have varied and not always been lovely by any stretch of the imagination, many teachers have seen the possibilities.  They’ve seen the ability to deliver content in a truly differentiated way to their students that also then allows their students the time the need to dive deeper into the content and truly understand.

They’ve seen the flexibility in assigning their lectures or delivery of content through a video during asynchronous time and how it allows for way more consistency in students getting the content, and not having to rely on repeating themselves or copying notes from other students in order to get the content.

They’ve seen the impact of simply having the time to meet one-on-one with students during class time, not after class or before/after school, in class! And those meetings breathe life into their teacher and student relationship, building a rapport and therefore higher likelihood of the student feeling comfortable and safe enough to show up, put forth some effort, and prove to themselves that they can learn.  

Finding the happy medium is about making your classroom centered on their learning without totally giving up the delivery of content to “they’ll just get it through this project.”

Key point number two.

Preparing for Kids’ Choice

More than ever our students (and their parents for that matter) have seen the possibilities of education outside of our classrooms and schools.  This could simultaneously go two polar opposite ways.  For some kids they will see the value in being in school that’s been taken from them recently and will be even more invested than before.  For other kids, they will have lost all motivation and see little to no value in attending school.  

And of course, there is a ton of variation in between those.

Either way, there is more power in a student’s choice now.  Whether a student is choosing an entirely different path than traditional school or just choosing whether or not to take and then show up for your class, there is more power in their choice, and we need to take the giant step in recognizing that it’s there. 

It also means we’ve got to step up our game in how we make our curriculum accessible, but also how we engage them in it. 

Sidebar - just because I see a need in stepping up our game in certain areas it absolutely does not mean that I think we need to do more.  In fact, I think teachers doing less is often the cure to most ailments, but just so you know, NO, I’m not adding to your workload here.  Stick around and you’ll see what I mean.

What’s so cool though is that teachers are stepping up their game.  I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve seen on the news or posts on social media about the awesome things teachers are doing to engage and meet the needs of their kids.  Learning upteen new platforms and strategies to interact with students virtually.  Making their resources and activities digitally accessible.  SO MANY THINGS!

Like I said, the tide is rising, right?!?  So what does this look like as we approach the new normal?

Flipping the classroom allows you the structure and time to still be completely focused on the content, but allow time for differentiation and enrichment so that you are engaging each of the individual students in your classroom.

Kids will choose to come to a class everyday of the week if it’s one where the teacher is able to talk to them in a small group or even one-on-one, and that the teacher is invested in their life and performance in the class.

Kids will choose to show up to a class that  is about more than just the content, but about how it applies to their lives and will help them in the future, which you now have time to invest in because you’ve flipped your classroom.

Again, recognizing the power in a kids’ choice is upon us.  Let’s recognize it and use it to our advantage for a more effective classroom.

Key point number three is this…

Make Yourself an Asset to Education

Are teachers essential?  We would all like to think so wouldn’t we?  The truth is that we all are completely replaceable… I don’t sugar coat things on this podcast.  We really are, as are other professionals in fields other than education.  We are not unique in that way.  But there is a way to build up your clout and make yourself essential, and it’s not just with the passing of time as you slowly become a veteran teacher.

I believe there is a silver lining to the educational experiences of the last year and that is that teachers have an opportunity here to make themselves into an incredible asset to their students, their school, and education as a whole.  

And it’s got to happen outside the four walls of your classroom.  You’ve got to be accessible and effective outside of your classroom.  Not just because you will have students in person and online simultaneously, there is another reason, but let’s talk about this one for a minute….

Remember what I said about student choice?  Here’s the thing, if schools don’t offer students an online alternative they will lose students, and that means losing teachers.  I’m not saying this to trigger you.  And this doesn’t automatically mean that you will always teach both in-person and online students.  But someone has to teach those students online, so why not build an asset to your classroom that allows you to be flexible and accessible to students no matter how they arrive to your classroom?

The other reason you need to build an asset to education outside the four walls of your classroom is this... because you’re building your clout in an area of education and making yourself a necessity to the kids that you serve, no matter how you serve them.  ANd you’re not working longer hours… you’re simply taking some strategies, and optimizing them to build an incredible educational asset that is your teaching ability in your content area.

The flipped classroom allows you to build an asset for your students that is accessible outside the four walls of your classroom, that elevates you as an expert in the content you teach, and optimizes your valuable time and efforts while doing so.  It’s a win-win for all parties involved.

The possibilities are endless here, from teaching in-person and online students with ease, to building an entirely online teaching platform completely on your own, but the bare minimum possibility is that you are serving your students at your school in ways that are accessible to them, and sustainable for you. 

And my friend, flipping allows you to do all of that.  

I wish it wasn’t called “flipping” or “flipped classroom.”  That makes it sound all trendy like it’s just a trend or the next great thing that’s going to fade in the next few years like all the other trends.

I don’t see it as a trend.  I see it as a transformation to the way I taught the human beings in my classroom that allowed them to access our classroom when and in ways that they needed it, without me having to work twice as hard to make it happen.

This really is an opportunity of a lifetime, or at minimum the opportunity of a career.  How will you take advantage of it?

Often times we get so wrapped up in all the negative that comes with change, but I hope that after listening to this episode that you feel empowered to face the inevitable changes in education, knowing that the flipped classroom will allow you to be flexible and proactive as we approach the new normal of education.

Like I said, I don’t like calling it flipping, but if you’d like to learn more about the techniques I discussed in this episode I have just the resource for you.  It is my Flipped Classroom Starter Kit that I built to help you do just that, get started in seeing the benefits of flipping your own classroom.  Grab it at the link in the show notes.

Make sure you have subscribed to the podcast because I’ve got a bonus episode coming up that you are not going to want to miss.

See you next week.

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