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Why Would I Flip My Classroom? Answered.

Aug 26, 2019

Last week we chatted about the first two weeks of school and how to set up your flipped classroom for success, because let's be honest, the first two weeks are so important in addressing challenges that you KNOW you will face.

Here's my not-so-secret secret...

The flipped classroom allows you to face the unique challenges you KNOW are present for you and your students HEAD ON.

Each classroom has its own unique challenges, and I can not begin to list or even fully understand what those are.  That's part of what we do as teachers; we teach in our unique schools, to our unique kids, and that makes each of our jobs different even from one teacher to the next.

The flipped classroom, however, allows you to face some of the big challenges that you'll find in many classrooms, and this post is all about answering the big question...

Weather

What an odd one to start with, but I've got a personal story to share with you on this one.  It relates to last week's post because the challenge I need to address every year when going back to school (along with most of my colleagues) is teaching and engaging students when our classroom temperatures are around 90+ degrees.

O yea, that's right... 90 degrees, and feels even hotter with the humidity of the midwest.

So, about that story... back when I was pregnant in 2013 with our first little one, the start of the school year welcomed me back at 37 weeks pregnant!!!!  It was late August and the temperatures were particularly high.  Now, I should mention that this is a first world problem, and I am a frequent user of the #firstworldproblems tag.  But here's the thing, this is the first world, and I'm living in it - always have, so it's what my body is used to.

At 38 weeks pregnant in the second week of school, I suffered a heat stroke and was rushed via ambulance to the emergency room.  It was pretty darn scary when my left visual field went completely blank and I couldn't speak the words to describe what I was feeling and experiencing to the nurses and doctors.

Everything was fine; I was released the next day and returned to my non-air conditioned classroom the following Monday, but the point of all of this is to say that student engagement was at an ULTIMATE LOW for at least the first month of school in my classroom.

But, thanks to the flipped classroom, we're able to power through that.

Same goes when we have snow days, which I'm sure more of you are familiar with how winter weather can totally throw a wrench in your content calendar.

Welp, NOT in the flipped classroom.  Of course, you'll have to tweak the calendar a bit when you're off for more than a few days, but kids are still getting the basics, and the foundation of your content from you even when school is cancelled.

Relationships

This one holds a special place in my heart because I believe relationships are what is sacrificed in this face-paced world of high-stakes testing in education.

I have heard from teacher after teacher that the flipped classroom is what allows them to feel comfortable about spending classroom time to build relationships with students because they know their students are still getting the content from them.  It's like the best of both worlds - engaging with content AND building relationships.

WOW!  Seriously, do we need to go on in this post?  Ok, yes, but, really, this one is huge.

When a teacher is able to both deliver her content in an effective manner AND have time to talk to EVERY ONE of her students EVERY DAY!  That's power.  And it's all because of a system, not because you are necessarily working "harder" or a ridiculous amount of hours.

Differentiation

Now, something tells me this little loaded term is somewhere in your evaluation.  So let's just say right now that the big decisions you make in your classroom (particularly to flip) are probably not all focused on making your evaluation super shiny and perfect, but it doesn't hurt that it benefits your students AND your evaluations, so we'll just find contentment in that, shall we?

But here's the real reason (and inspiring truth) behind how the flipped classroom allows you to differentiate for your unique students.  The reason is twofold.

1. Differentiation is freaking HARD WORK!

Not just hard work, it's a LOT of work.  As in additional hours outside of your contract (on top of the 10+ non contracted hours you're already putting in just to get by).

However, when you flip your classroom (and TEACH your students how to excel in the flipped classroom), differentiation is in the system.  As in, you put in the work to flip, and the differentiation naturally happens.  And here's how... the pause button.

That's right, your students get to go at their own pace in encoding and digesting your content because they are able to make you shut up for a minute while they write a few things down.  And that's exactly what I tell them to do (check it out in a post here).

Then, when they're in class, they get to ask you THEIR questions...every one of them, because you've got the time, and it's awesome one-on-one or one-on-a few time where you can speak to the individual or small group needs of your students.

2. You don't have to continue to only teach to the middle

In most traditional classrooms (not all, but I'm guessing quite a few), teaching to the middle level of understanding is right where the teacher will get the most return on investment.  That's where most students understanding level lies, so you're safe there.

That's not so in the flipped classroom.  When your students are watching your videos (meaning getting your content) at their own pace, they then can build on that knowledge WHERE THEY'RE AT.  They don't have to come to class and be ready to write a dissertation on a very specific aspect of the content, nor do they have to come to class and go over or work with concepts they already have down pat.

This is where I use stations.  Often times, stations in any given lesson include one focused on remediation (that allows students to remediate specific terms and concepts THEY need to remediate, not just the commonly missed questions or concepts), as well as one for extension.  I then give certain students permission to stay in one of those stations and skip the other based on their scores or their self-reported understanding levels.

Absences

Not just student absences, although that's the meat of this point, but also yours.  Say whaaaat?  You got a sick kid or just need a mental health day????  No shame!  Freaking yes, I do, and I don't want to feel guilty about it.  The Flipped Classroom allows you to leave #teacherguilt at the door!  Here's what we got.

Student absences

O. My. Lanta... my nemesis!  Anyone else with me?  But, hey, it happens everywhere... kids gotta miss sometimes. So, note to self, stop whining about it.

In the traditional classroom, when a student misses your class, that means that if they miss your lecture, they return to class, grab another student's notes and just copy it down word for word, not ingesting any of it, and probably never looking at it again (but that's another issue).  I tell my students, "You are just practicing your ABC's, and I'm pretty sure your brain can handle more than that."

This is not so in the flipped classroom.  

What would you do if when a student was absent (let's say for a college visit or doctor's appointment) they came back to class with their notes completed, knowing they heard the content FROM YOU?????????

Mind. Blown. Am I right?

Seriously, that's exactly what can happen in the flipped classroom, and I encourage all teachers who flip to teach this technique or policy to their students... I call it "Helping Your Future Self" with my students, and you can too.

Now, will this happen with all absent students?  Absolutely freakin' not.  But even when they roll in and ask, wait for it, "Did we do anything yesterday?" and you have to shove your super snarky response to the side (You know, the "NOPE, we decided to completely cancel class because we just couldn't do it without you here.," yea, that one), you can now say "Of course we did, but have no fear you're able to get the notes still and I can't wait to see them first thing tomorrow morning."

BOOM!

Your Absences

Where my #teachermoms at????  Or my #teacherdads???  I see you.  You are my real, I'm in it for you people.  Because when you aren't feeling #momguilt or #dadguilt, you're feeling #teacherguilt, and that just ain't right.

I can not tell you how many times I have gotten ready for work and seen my perfectly healthy children, just to be called within 10 minutes of walking in the door of my classroom that they now have a fever, or diarrhea or are projectile vomiting.

Within about 10 minutes, I'm making the commute back home just like that, and, in the traditional classroom, would be TOTALLY freaking out about what in the world my students will do now or how much I'll need to now shift the calendar.  Hard eye roll, right?

Here comes the hero, your flipped classroom to the rescue.

Just give them a day to get ahead on their next set of notes.  Simple as that.  They still get it from you, they are still being productive, and you don't have to lose a day in the calendar.

Granted, you'll have to shift things in the calendar a bit (meaning where you do what in the classroom) but you don't have to totally scratch lessons.  With that being said, this nice little solution won't apply nicely to every time you have the occasional inconvenient absence.  The universe just ins't that timely.  But even if the flipped classroom alleviates 25% of your stressfully missed days, it's SO worth it.

So, why should you flip your classroom?  I'm so glad you asked, and I'm hoping this post resonated with you, providing at least one reason why the flipped classroom could have a major impact for you and your students.

Do you find these reasons totally intriguing and want to hear more about them or even other reasons to flip???  Come join me, LIVE in our community, The Flipped Teacher, at 7:30pm EST on Thursday, August 29.  I know just about everyone is back to school by now so I tried to choose a good time that isn't while you're at school, but hopefully isn't during practice or dinner time either, and BEFORE you hit the hay because there ain't no early like butt-crack of dawn, teacher early when that alarm goes off :) . Ok, maybe firefighters and police officers and plenty of other professions, but you get what I mean.

If you're wanting to take a few more steps in flipping right now, I encourage you to check out my Ultimate Flipped Classroom Starter Kit, where I take you through three big decisions you'll need to make in order to start flipping.

I'll see you in the group.

Until next time,

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