Whether you teach in Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Columbia, or the United States, there are amazing flipped educators in your country who are shining examples of how to flip your class. It’s natural to aspire to be more like them somehow. We admire them from afar and look to them for inspiration, and we might even follow them on social media so that we can get a glimpse into their classrooms. Do you have a “professional crush” on someone? Are there teachers doing incredible things that you wish you could do? Those amazing educators are at their level of impact because they embraced who they are and worked on their craft. It is time to stop walking behind and start walking beside those amazing educators so that we can grow together.
There have been times in my career when I wished I was more like this amazing educator or that awesome educator. I wished I was more patient with my students and didn’t always feel stressed out about grading. I would watch other teachers smile as they talked to their students, and they always seemed to be well planned and organized. I admired their passion and enthusiasm for their students as well as their content area. Those other teachers were just brilliant, and all I knew was that I was not like them. I wanted to be, but I was not. I felt like a hot mess and always thought I was just trying to keep my head above water. I struggled with organizational skills. I hated grading, so I put it off until the last minute. I was never well planned, which added to my stress level and anxiety. So what happened? How did I go from looking at everyone else and how great they were to making the right changes in my career so that I could make a more significant impact? Mentorship, collaboration, partnerships, whatever you call it; I had to start walking beside others, listening to their guidance and become willing to make real change in my approach to engaging students.
It is important to understand that you will get out of a mentorship exactly what you put into it. We cannot improve what we are not willing to work on. Mentors will never do the heavy lifting for you. And the truth is, we all have areas that we would like to improve. The difference is who is willing to put in the work. For me, I knew what I wanted to be as an educator, but I had no concrete steps to make it happen. I didn’t know where to begin. Most of my frustrations as an educator were a result of trying to go it alone. My frustrations don’t have to be your frustrations, though. So let’s take a look at some insanely simple ways to grow as a flipped educator.
Steve Griffiths, a science teacher in Queensland, Australia shared with me that much of his growth as an educator comes from the teachers that he mentors. One of the things that Steve wants to do is help new educators feel comfortable flipping their class. He provides these teachers with flipped videos so that they can begin flipping their classes with greater ease. Steve said, “To borrow a term from Top Gun, I think that everyone needs to find his or her wingman or woman.” He shared that he is convinced he gets as much out of his mentoring relationships as the colleagues whom he is mentoring. There is great satisfaction in helping someone else grow. We need to find someone who shares our enthusiasm, will challenge us to look differently at situations, as well as someone with whom we can be honest and vulnerable. The relationship must be reciprocal and centered on trust. So don’t feel as though you’re troubling your mentor, or that you are a burden. They are benefiting from the relationship, just as you are.
In today’s world, our wingman doesn’t have to be in our school, our district, or even our time zone. We work in a globally connected culture. Some of my Flipped Learning wingmen, Jon Bergmann and Errol St. Clair Smith, live in other states. We have worked with each other for years, and we just met in person for the first time this past March. Other individuals have pushed me to grow as a flipped educator, and I have never met them in person, but it doesn’t mean their impact is any less because we have never sat across the table from one another.
Hector Piño, a flipped primary teacher in Spain, shared with me that when he started to walk alongside an administrator by the name of May Fiño, that is when the greatest professional growth began to happen. Fiño encouraged Piño to give his best every day and to invest in himself. It was as though he had been given permission to take his instructional methods to the next level. What struck me the most was that he took the initiative to seek out his administrator. Sometimes the most challenging part of collaboration and mentorship is that first step: asking for help. Piño was able to take coursework that allowed him to grow in ways that were meaningful to him and would allow him to have an even greater impact on his students. His vision to grow as a professional was directly related to his desire to collaborate with his administrator. So be willing to grow and seek out those people whom you trust to set you on the best path towards growth.
According to Carol Dweck, during her TED Talk on Growth Mindset, she said that children understand that their abilities could grow through hard work, thus defining a growth mindset. She goes on to describe the power of yet and the tyranny of now. Many of us are not good at many things that we value… yet. But with hard work, effort and dedication, we can all achieve greatness. Working against us are the limitations of now. If we judge our full potential by the skill sets we have now, we feel defeated and stymied. If we are not where we would like to be as a professional now, it is our vision of yet that propels us to begin the journey from where we are to where we want to be.
There are times when we find ourselves in a rut and become overwhelmed with our current situations. When we walk with someone through our educational journey, we discover that there is hope for the hopeless and rest for the weary. If we do not walk alongside others, we are not able to be supported in the ways we need. Teachers need to be willing to be vulnerable. Brene Brown said, “Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think.” Let’s be honest, flipping is not easy, and there are times when we need to vent, complain, cry, and seek encouragement. There are flipped educators that have been there, and it is vital to sit with them (even if it is online through email or text). When I first started flipping, I didn’t know anyone else who was flipping their class. I searched online for communities of flipped educators, and when I didn’t find any, I made my own.
The simple fact that you’re reading this magazine puts you one step closer to finding thousands of other flipped educators, just like you, who could give you their virtual shoulder. We can accomplish more together than we can individually. I encourage you to reach out by going to flglobal.org and looking through the forums. You don’t have to walk this journey alone. A year from now, you could be that teacher who others wish they could be like. You could be that teacher that is in a position to mentor. You could be someone’s wingman or shoulder to lean on. Be encouraged; you are on your way to the greatness that you already see in others.