Monday, July 21, 2014

Changing the Rules of Playing School

Eddie-grrl // Deviant Art

The game of does one play school and more importantly, win? 

Let's start with some of the obvious. 
  • Turn in all assignments by their deadlines. 
  • Be able to regurgitate what your teacher said in class during exams. 
  • You get one attempt to show what you know on exams, so pay close attention to the calendar.
  • When you're absent, reach out to classmates and your teacher about missed assignments and notes. 
  • By the way, don't be late to class and try not to be absent because the work doubles when you miss class. 
  • Don't misbehave or talk to others when the teacher is talking at the front of the room. 
  • Some highly observant students would add to smile in class and pretend to be engaged in class no matter how boring the lesson or discussion. 

What happens when teachers attempt to change some of these rules? What if students no longer had to regurgitate on exams? What if students could take notes from a video on any day, even if they were absent? What if students designed their own artifacts with their own directions to demonstrate learning or could choose from a menu of assessments and projects? What if students had some say about when to submit assignments? 

Many flipped teachers are asking these very questions while changing some of the unwritten rules of school. Some teachers are met with resistance from students, parents, colleagues or administrators. It's understandable where this resistance originates. Imagine you, or your child, has been successful in school for 10 years operating under the same set of rules, now one of the teachers threatens this success by flipping the rules and responsibilities. It's hard to ask people to change habits, so it's no surprise some students resist taking more responsibility for their learning in exchange for more freedom. It's scary, just as the change is for the teachers. 

Flipped teachers can mediate some, not all, of this resistance. We can articulate the benefits of and our rationale for changing these rules. We happen to teach at the time of Common Core and Next Generation Standards, which require students to engage in higher order thinking and take on more responsibility. We have to explicitly teach the new skills we want from our students. We need to be organized and plan for anticipated obstacles. We have to share our success stories and recruit other teachers to join us. We have to be honest about the limitations of flipped learning, as well as our mistakes in implementation. Of upmost importance, we have to be patient with our students, and ourselves. Real change is a process requiring time and growth. What an exciting time to be a student and a teacher!