What the “Flip” Do I Do Now?

No. I am not using flip as a curse substitute. I am starting to wonder if flipping my classroom is really worth it.

Pedagogy says, “Yes!” My own reasoning says, “Heck, Yes!” But everywhere else I turn seems to say “Why are you deviating from the norm?”

I decided to flip my ninth grade math class. It’s a year-long course, so there is plenty of time for different instructional methods to be used and experimented with. What’s been getting me down lately is all the negativity I’ve received in response. It hasn’t been an entire class, but it has been just enough students and just enough parents to bother me and make me question my teaching ability.

As a first year teacher, I am well aware that I have made (and will continue to make) mistakes. It’s part of my learning. Mistakes are where the real learning happens. Unfortunately, my students hate making mistakes.

I’ve set up my Math 9 class so that the videos are like an appetizer to the lesson. They do a few easy examples or maybe explain a few processes. Nothing earth-shattering, but certainly less information than I would give during a “regular lesson.” Each assignment that follows is carefully crafted to progress from easy questions to difficult questions, in an inquiry-style format. Students are more than encouraged to work together in teams to figure out the processes.

Some students hate this. They don’t like change, and they don’t like making mistakes. Perhaps it’s that I’m getting tired and need a break, but I am having a hard time tolerating all the student-criticism. When I was in school, I would never have dreamed of criticizing the teacher’s teaching style. I may have complained to my mom, but it certainly never left my home. My mom would always tell me that the teacher knows what he/she is doing, and there is are reason for how they teach. I always left it at that.

I have also had a few parents recently who have asked if I would mind “teaching normally.” They weren’t rude about it or anything, but it is frustrating. I am trying to teach their students how to learn independently rather than regurgitating math examples. They don’t seem to see the broader picture.

Perhaps who I am frustrated with is me. One of those mistakes that I was talking about earlier is not communicating with the parents about this change in teaching styles. Next semester, I will send home an email highlighting the exciting changes to my classroom.

I guess the bottom line of this is that I want students to be able to make mistakes, then learn from them. Just as I am learning from my mistakes, I want to afford my students that opportunity too.

4 thoughts on “What the “Flip” Do I Do Now?

  1. There’s a misconception that good teachers make the stuff easier to learn. Path of least resistance does not necessarily lead to the best or most learning. I think a good teacher is the one who motivates students to work hard.

    The problem is, parents are too ready to “rescue” their kids that are unwilling to “step it up” to the required level of work. They fight for their child rather than against their child. Path if least resistance again.

    I think that parents need to be told that their kids CAN do it, and then make them know that there is no other option, this is the way you teach, and it is the most effective way to learn. You can’t convince them until you are completely convinced yourself.

    Don’t let ’em make you doubt yourself!

    • Thanks, Tommy. I really appreciate your words of wisdom. They were very timely for me. I know I’m not wholeheartedly convinced yet, but I know I want to be. The more I do it, the more convinced I become. Many thanks again.

  2. The biggest challenge you face here is time and relationships. Making minor, subtle changes to the way students experience and engage in school is not that hard but when you change their mindset, ask them to own their learning to a great degree, it’s disruptive. They’d rather stick with what they know and what’s safe.

    This is why so many teachers retreat after failed attempts with things like Project Based Learning. You don’t have as much time and maybe don’t have the relationships with students and parents to live in the messiness of the change. It takes courage and conviction and sadly, few teachers possess it. Occasionally I’ll read of a teacher, under the right circumstances that persevere and come out the other side but it’s difficult.

    The key, I think is in continuing to articulate and share your convictions about learning and be committed for the long haul. The delicate portion is knowing that it might take you several semesters to get it right and you’ll have some causalities. Hopefully the damage will minimal.

    • Thanks for the advice, Dean. Fortunately, Math 9 is a year-long course. I feel like I have the luxury of more time with them. I recognizing that change is difficult and uncomfortable, but hopefully it will be all for the best.

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