A few weeks ago when the world seemed to all but shut down completely - I admit that statement seems a bit dramatic given all major media companies including the life-giving Netflix and Disney+ are still available, but when schools shut down, to me, that seems like a pretty big shut down and huge shift for most homes - teachers lives shifted in a way unique to few other occupations.
Instead of just spending time at home, teachers are sometimes working more hours than they were in the classroom given the new demands of distance learning and all that it takes to meet each of their students' needs while not in their physical presence.
This is not a newsflash for anyone reading this blog right now.
I state the obvious, though, because I want to put a stake in the ground here and say something that I hope all teachers hear and ponder for a bit before eventually responding, and ultimately making a slight shift that will benefit them in the long run.
In all this work you're doing right now, teacher, don't just be doing it for a sustainable online classroom that will eventually go away when the pandemic lifts. Let your hard work right now benefit your classroom when you return to it.
Said another way, and I very much mean this in both professional and personal ways, but today we'll focus on the professional aspect...
If we return to our classrooms in August (or whenever that might be) without having changed anything about education, we will be made the fools. We will have underserved our students.
What do I mean by this? I mean that all this work you're doing could pay off for you past your online classroom that exists right now. There are intentional steps you can take now that you won't have to take later that allow you to be more effective, more accessible, and more sustainable in the long run.
And, here's the thing... you're already doing the work. You're already implementing change at an insane pace, and you're making all these changes with your hand held to the fire, am I right?
You can decide right now that you'll come out on the other side of this pandemic as better.
And you can do that by implementing many of the "flipped classroom" strategies that I've been using and talking about for years. I use quotation marks around "flipped classroom" because that's just a name; that's just a label we give to it because that's what we do in education - we label things. But often times when teachers see "flipped classroom," they think it's a one-size fits all, don't stray from the rulebook strategy that's just another alleged silver bullet that will solve all your classroom woes.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! No it's not.
I've said it so many times, and will say it until every teacher hears me... no two flipped classrooms should look the same. That's because you want to take the basic fundamentals of flipping and make them work for your classroom. If that means you stray from what some call the "rules of flipping," then so be it. It works for you and your students, and I bet after some time, you'll have the data to back you up. You WILL have the data to back you up because you'll have put in the time and intentional steps to make sure it works. And I want to help you do that.
So here's what I want you to do. There's an action piece to this week's post, and I really do want you to do it.
Think of a lesson you'll be giving this week or next, sometime during distance learning of 2020. Make some small tweaks to it BEFORE you implement it so that it can be usable next school year, not just right now in your online classroom.
So how do you do that? Here are some suggestions.
Think of the structure you used in your classroom before the pandemic. I don't mean to do exactly as you did, because that's counterproductive, but there are ways to implement what you did using technology. Plus, keeping some of the same will be great for students and good for you as well because it's less change for you to implement and keep up with.
For instance, let's say the basic structure of your course was to deliver the content, probably in some form of lecture, have the students read in their textbook (probably for homework, maybe work some practice problems from the text if it's a math class), then after some practice activities, students took a quiz to check their understanding.
There's a basic structure you can build using a few tools of technology to implement this both in your online classroom, and then again in your flipped (or blended) classroom when school resumes.
Here's the real Bazinga (shout out to all my Big Bang theory fans)... every single one of these structures can follow you right back into your classroom next year.
And certainly don't reference this pandemic. In the videos you make that are directed at a majority of your class and whose purpose is to deliver instruction, those can be used again and again. Don't reference the pandemic or any reference to time, and make sure that any reference you make to what they do next is rather broad. That way, when you change your plans next year and you want them doing something else, you don't have to remake or edit the video.
Seriously. In an online classroom, and eventually in a flipped one, your classroom will work like a well oiled machine because the students will be following the same structure over and over. They won't necessarily feel like they are repeating themselves everyday because it will be with new concepts, standards, and skills. But their capability to just fall in line and follow the routine will free up their minds for higher order thinking as well as your time to help them climb Bloom's.
Implementing any of these tips will make each one of the following transformations for you, your students, and your classroom as a whole....
Your classroom will be more accessible. That was the biggest hurdle teachers had to get over when the pandemic hit and closed down our schools. If students weren't physically in front of us, we couldn't teach them. For the majority of the student population, their physical presence is not (and, frankly, should not) be mandatory for learning experiences. That's what this pandemic is showing us, and if we don't respond accordingly, we will fall right back to square one.
When we get through this and you've implemented all of these structures, your classroom will be accessible for your student with health issues, your student who is repeatedly pulled from your classroom for testing or counseling services, and even your student who just misses here and there but can now come back to school after having been absent COMPLETELY caught up as if she were there all along.
Once you've made these videos and these lessons, they are done. Other than a few minor tweaks you may want to make over the years, once they're made, they are reusable again and again, making for a more sustainable teaching lifestyle, and lifestyle as a whole for you.
You are the number ONE influence on student learning. If you are able to reach sustainability in your daily teaching life, you are able to influence more students over the long run. You will NEVER have the impact you could have if you're burning out by year 5, sacrificing most evenings and weekends and all your self-care and family time.
Not to mention, who wants to enter a career like that???? Let's send the message to younger generations and future educators that we are NOT martyrs, and although we would sacrifice a LOT for our students, we don't have to because we've found the skill of sustaining our effectiveness.
When you implement this structure in your classroom once we're back in school, you're setting your students up for more success and here's how.
When you deliver instruction in your traditional (non-online, non-flipped) classroom, your introverted students, no matter how badly they need to or should ask you to slow down or repeat something, and no matter how nice you are about it or how many times you remind them to ask you to repeat something, they will NOT interrupt you, they will NOT ask you to meet their need of slowing down.
When you flip your instruction and deliver it through video, they don't have to ask. They can simply pause, and even rewind you. And here's the kicker.... NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW.
The student never again has to fear that one of their classmates is annoyed by their slower pace or that they need to raise their hand and ask a question again. They are able to go at their own pace, meeting their own needs without the humiliating feeling of being exposed or vulnerable.
This built-in differentiation, a natural effect of flipping, will automatically make your instruction more effective for those students. Not to mention the higher performing students who can get through the instruction quicker and then have more time to enrich and build upon their knowledge.
It's like the old aphorism, "A rising tide lifts all boats."
Will you rise the tide in your classroom?
To help you rise the tide in your classroom and get started making this time during COVID-19 count, go grab the Ultimate Flipped Classroom Starter kit I built to help you do just that.
And join us on Facebook where like minded Flipped Teachers join together to spread ideas and collaborate during distance learning and implement flipped strategies.
Until next time,