It’s 2020: I’m Never Going Back

Top Feature January 20 / January 28, 2020

-Dan Jones-

Go ahead and burn the ships because there is no going back. I was listening to a song by For King & Country, and the words just hit me in the chest. They sang, “Don’t let it arrest you. This fear is fear of falling again. And if you need refuge, I will be right here until the end. Oh, and it’s time to burn the ships, cut the ties. Send a flair into the night. Say a prayer, turn the tide. Dry your eyes and wave goodbye.” These words resonated with my heart. For years, I had longed for better, and after hitting rock bottom in my teaching career, it was time to set sail to a new way of doing things. My traditional classroom was toxic, and I had to get out. I was miserable, and my students were miserable. After a conversation with my administrators, I felt like I had been given a map with no names and a broken compass. I was told to go and explore. I had no idea where I was headed or even where to begin my adventure, but I knew I could not stay put. 

Discovering a new way

My explorations led me to Flipped Learning. The more I explored this new territory, I realized how traditional instruction had bound me. It kept me from working with students. It kept me from engaging every student every day. It prohibited me from being the teacher I had always wanted to be. Fear was a daily emotion. I was afraid of people seeing how ineffective I had become. I was afraid of failing one more day. I was afraid of student rejection, once again. I was afraid of not being enough. I had been in need of refuge, but I was unwilling to take it because I was trying to prove I was someone that I was not. I had no idea there was a community of people who would carry me through my lows, celebrate my highs, and help me navigate the obstacles that lay ahead. And the truth is, this community of educators is not only committed to the practice of Flipped Learning, but I have been introduced to people that are invested in me as a person. 

Free to teach, freedom to be me

After flipping my class for a few months, it became apparent that there was no going back. I was where I wanted to be, but more than that, I was where I needed to be. I was free. Free to be the educator I wanted to be. Free to invest in kids the way they needed me to. Free to work with students. Free to engage students in active, meaningful learning. Fear began to dissipate. Failing wasn’t scary anymore. I began to understand that my students weren’t waiting for a perfect teacher, they were waiting for me to be me. They were waiting for me to get out from the front of the classroom and kneel beside them and work with them. 

The refuge came in the form of a community. I was able to rest in who I was becoming. I was not alone in my journey. There were hundreds if not thousands of teachers who were searching for better and found Flipped Learning. Investing in online communities has created friendships that will last longer than a lifetime. I have found a support system that was trying to figure it out, just like me. And the great thing is, when we are all trying to figure it out, there is no judgment. I have been able to engage with people who hold a piece of the puzzle, and it just so happens that was the piece I was looking for. All the while, I was holding on to the piece that others were looking for. None of us hold all of the puzzle pieces and we need one another. 

The price of freedom

I can say that I have a much deeper understanding of Flipped Learning now than I did on day one, but that is true of anyone who has lived in an area for years. It is time to burn the ships. I will never return to a traditional classroom. I have realized more and more that there is no going back. Why would I want to go back to a way that was so restricting, so binding, so unpleasant? So as I stand on the metaphorical shore of Flipped Learning, burning my ships has brought so much joy, and I am not alone. But what does a decision like that cost? What did I have to sacrifice or give up to live in my new environment?

One of the biggest things I had to give up was a sense of control. The truth of the matter is this: no matter the cost, the rewards outweigh anything I had to give up. One of the most gut checking things I did was ask myself a relatively simple question, but one that is seldom asked. What do I think about when I think about what my students think when they think about me? I know that sounds confusing, but truly, how do they see me? Am I the dictator in my classroom controlling their every action and every interaction? Do they see me as kind, compassionate or understanding? Do they see me as approachable or easy to talk to? Am I respectable? Do they see me as invested or do they see me as someone who is doing a job? The answers to all of those questions are different when comparing my traditional practices to my flipped practices. I went from being a teacher that yells to a teacher that has a calm spirit. I went from controlling to empowering. My students went from obedience out fear to obedience because they owned their learning. 

My hope is that my ships have a flame that burns so brightly that it leads others to a land of freedom where their passion for teaching can thrive and grow. The song lyrics of that song end by saying, “Step into a new day. We can rise up from the dust and walk away. We can dance upon our heartache, yeah. So light a match, leave the past, burn the ships and don’t you look back.” The new day is beautiful, and I am dancing upon the heartache I went through. And I refuse to ever look back. 

Dan Jones
Dan Jones Jones
Dan Jones is a middle school social studies teacher at the Richland School of Academic Arts. He earned a BS in Middle Grades Education from Ashland University and a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from American College of Education. Dan is the author of Flipped 3.0 Project Based Learning: An Insanely Simple Guide. He is a founding member of the FLGI International Faculty and has earned numerous FLGI certifications including the certification Flipped Learning 3.0 Master Class Facilitator Certification Level - I.

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