– Dan Jones –
December 2003 was a time in my life when I was ready to show the world what I could do. I was destined to be Teacher of the Year, do it better than anyone else, and impact more kids than my peers. I was going to be great, and I was going to invest in me. I was going to make certain that my administrators knew I was doing great things by inviting them into my classroom to see how I was engaging my students. You see, for much of my life, I felt like I was unseen by my peers in school and unseen by my coaches because I wasn’t the most popular, or I didn’t have the right last name. As an adult, as a new teacher, I had something to prove: I have value. I was so incredibly misguided, self-consumed, and arrogant, even in a service profession where I was doing my best, supposedly, for my students. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be my best or do my best, but if it is all for me.
I started out with a very egocentric mindset: it was my classroom, my students, my lessons, my successes, my greatness. And then my energy tank became less and less to the point where I was running on fumes. I had nothing left to give, and I wasn’t accepting other people’s help (because then it would be about them, and less about me). I had something to prove. Though teaching is not supposed to be a competitive profession, most want to be that teacher; the one parents request or the one students talk about how they can’t wait to have. Again, there is nothing wrong with being that teacher, but if our sole motivation is to be that teacher, we have grossly missed the mark. In February of 2012 (or thereabouts), my emotional tank, energy tank, whatever you want to call it, was bone dry. I couldn’t give any more of myself. I had given all of me away. I began to exit the profession. Luckily, my administrators blocked that door and refused to let me leave. They redirected me down a pathway that would lead from being me to becoming we.
I was told to find a different way to teach, but what did that mean? I didn’t realize that they were saying I needed to teach from a we mentality, not a me mentality. And I don’t think I understood what that even meant until recently. I needed to learn that being a teacher isn’t about being perfect. It isn’t about delivering the best lesson or creating the most engaging discussions. It isn’t about being the most organized and it sure as heck wasn’t about having the highest test scores. It is about ensuring that every child in the classroom experiences a sense of belonging, encouragement, compassion, kindness, and love; and that every child in the classroom learns something. It is about making sure every child is heard and invested in. It is about building community and positive relationships. Now those are two words that can’t exist in a me mindset: community and relationships.
Each and every one of our students deserve a teacher that is a we and not a me. We will never be as effective as a me as we are when we are a we. This past year, The Flipped Learning Global Initiative released the Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning. Now mind you, I had been flipping my class for six years when the elements were released, but I was still functioning as a me. As I said, I didn’t understand the importance or value of being a we because I was so consumed with being me. The elements, though, allowed me to see that I was missing the mark with Flipped Learning. My focus had not been on building relationships with students, investing in my local community of educators, or helping to develop a global community of Flipped Learning educators. Truly, Flipped Learning balances on the fulcrum of relationships and community. When I fully understood that simple truth, I realized that there was no more me; it could only be we.
Flipped Learning is what it is because of the community that engages in it. It isn’t about a single person or doing it one way. It doesn’t grow as a me; it grows as a we. The great thing about this particular community is that it embraces me just as I am. It doesn’t make me understand every aspect of it before it welcomes me. Flipped Learning embraces failure, reflection, relationships and community. It encourages growth. Think about that for a minute; it is impossible to expect growth if you are not allowed to fail or if you are expected to understand everything completely before you begin. The most important thing we can do is take that first step into moving from passive to active learning.
The Flipped Learning global community is extremely focused on supporting each other and learning from one another. A strong community, combined with global elements of best practices, makes for a combination that continues to grow the we perspective. If you have been going through your Flipped Learning journey as a me, you can take some simple steps to begin to function as a we:
Start to engage other flipped educators by sharing what you are doing in your classroom, as well as being willing to be vulnerable. We can’t grow if we hide our struggles and don’t ask for help. And when there is a tendency to want to be a me, it is so important to be reminded that each of us is part of the collective we. Our individual growth as flipped teachers not only reaches students but can help others through their journey. Our growth provides comfort and shade for those that may be struggling. We struggle the most when we try to function as a me. The greater the we, the better the me.
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