Two weeks in, I can say that every class is doing great. They are working really well with the in-flipped classroom and I am really loving it. My classes this year have a real mix of abilities. Some of the students have significant learning difficulties, and many of the students got Ds and Cs for science last year. Over the years these students have been “beaten down” by getting poor marks in science. So they came into my class the first day with a defeatist attitude and many of them arrived to class ready to be disruptive and adversarial. I know that if I was trying to deliver a lecture, these students would quickly gain my attention and my wrath. However, in an in-flipped classroom, I am able to spend quality time with each of my students one-on-one and have gentle, calm, and caring conversations with these students. I find that when I spend this quality time with each student individually, their demeanor changes immediately. You know the saying, “Students don’t care what you know until they know you care.” I firmly believe this is true.
I use an in-class flip model in my junior science classes. Students interact with the videos on their computer in class, at their own pace, then work on the questions, exercises, and experiments when they are ready. I walk around the classroom teaching micro-lessons, interacting with the students, checking for understanding and encouraging my students. Because they are working at their own pace and are empowered to work independently, my students never seem to act out with poor behavior. Amazingly, the students get in and do the work without fuss. I used to dread teaching some classes because I knew there would be students who would act out or disengage as I was lecturing. I no longer have this fear, simply because I am not trying to teach the whole class at the same time.
Proponents of Flipped Learning identify differentiation, relationships, active learning, and student-centered learning as some of the benefits of Flipped Learning. I would like to add to this list another benefit that may even be more important and that is the well-being of teachers. It is not healthy to go to class with a sense of dread about how the students are going to behave in the lesson. I am glad to say that Flipped Learning has enhanced my enjoyment and decreased my anxiety in the classroom. My anxiety about trying to teach the class as a whole has been replaced with the passion and joy I experience from interacting with my students as individuals in a meaningful and authentic manner each and every lesson. That is why I became a teacher; that is what gets me out of bed each day, and that is only possible by flipping my classroom.
There is still a cost to my well-being. That is, I spent a portion of my holidays creating the resources that would ensure my classrooms were successful. This is a sacrifice I was willing to make. However, I don’t think every teacher is or should be. So I share the resources I made with the eight other teachers and across the thirteen other Year-nine science classes. It is my cunning plan that other teachers will see the immense benefits in flipping and share the load with resource creation in the future. At the very least, I can reuse and recycle the resources I create for many years. In addition, another benefit is that I don’t spend hours each night finding resources for the next day because I have already found them.
Finally, lecturing is performing and, like most performers, I get performance anxiety. I even get anxious about whether the computer will talk to the data projector when I have 28 students waiting for me. This is no longer a problem because I have already done the performance, in the video, and now my performances are usually one-on-one or in small groups, conducting micro lessons with engaged students who need specific guidance.
A potential anxiety of in-class flippers is whether the students have a computer that is charged and connected to the internet, and headphones ready to access the videos. Whilst students are expected to bring these every lesson, I do have some spare headphones and iPads for students to use if they don’t have theirs. It could be seen that this rewards their behavior, but the message I am sending is that there are no excuses to doing the work. It also says to the students that “I have your back.”
One of the reasons teachers leave the profession is due to workload. Flipped Learning does not solve this. However, other important reasons teachers leave is due to student behavior, stress, dread, and anxiety. I can say, for me at least, that the answer to longevity and fulfillment as a teacher is the in-class flip. I am passionate about helping my students be the best version of themselves possible. I do this through gentle and supportive guidance, one on one, and seeing each student as an individual, precious soul. I could not possibly do that standing at the front of the class lecturing.
Steve I really appreciate how you were up front about what causes you anxiety. I think this is so important because it lets others know that they are not alone. Teaching is exhausting and stressful work, especially when you want to do it well. Also, sharing your hard work with your colleagues is so powerful. I am hoping that many folks get to read this piece and when they do they will not only feel better about themselves, they will be inspired to be better.