Wednesday, August 1, 2012

With change comes objections

Flipping your classroom is a daunting task. It is not easy, takes a big time investment from the teacher up front, and requires patience when it is being implemented for the first time. You may encounter resistance from students, parents, administrators and your peer teachers.  You will experience technical difficulties - both your own and your students. Kids will not magically start doing their homework, nor will they all become fluent language speakers.

So, with all the issues, why would anyone bother flipping their class? The answer for me is easy...because the traditional way of teaching was not working for me or my students. I was spending so much time lecturing and "leading" class, that many students could get good grades without truly learning the material. I had other groups of students that could keep their head down and be quiet, make their "C" and also not really learn much. Then of course there was the third group (albeit small) that just ignored me as much as possible and barely made it through class. This was not acceptable to me and I knew I had to find another way. (see earlier posts for my AP story and thematic units.)

Here is my attempt to answer the common objections:
  1. Students won't do the homework. Honestly, this is completely true. Students that continually refuse to do homework in a traditional classroom probably aren't going to do homework in a flipped class. For me, a big difference is that they don't have to do homework. They can plan to watch the videos in class. In fact, I encourage some of my "homework slackers" to do it that way.
  2. I will lose my relationship with my students. From my experience last year, and talking to other teachers that have flipped, the complete opposite is true. Since I am not being a "sage on the stage", I am able to work with students individually and actually have better relationships with them now than I did before the flip. When a student was having a problem with content, or a personal problem, I was able to detect it quickly and help the students work through the issues.
  3. Parents and students will object. Whenever we try new things in the classroom, the one thing we can be sure of is that some parents and students will object. The key is to try to predict the objections and be ready for them. Start the year by explaining the changes you are making and why you are making them. Everyone fears change. Many parents fear change for the sake of change, especially in education. (As a parent myself, I can attest to this!) Make sure you can justify changes that you are making in the classroom BEFORE you make them. Last year, I had only one student at fall conferences who tried to convince her mother that I wasn't teaching and that is why her grade wasn't where it should be. I had many parents tell me how much they loved the lectures via video because it really helped their student.
  4. Peer teachers aren't supportive. I am so fortunate that in my small school with three other foreign language teachers, I always receive support from my fellow teachers. Although I am the only one flipping, I have never heard any of them be negative about this decision. I know that many other teachers are not so lucky. I believe that it goes back to the fear of change. If our peers have been teaching the same way for years and are comfortable, it is difficult to contemplate changing their methods. I think some teachers fear that if the flipped class works for some teachers that they will be forced to make the change in their classroom if they want to or not.
  5. Putting lectures on videos won't improve learning. Actually, this is something I totally agree with. However, what many people misunderstand about the flipped classroom is that the videos are a small part of the process. What improves learning is what happens in the classroom once the teacher becomes a facilitator and the students take the lead in the learning process. I have been blown away by not only what my students could achieve at the end of last year, but their motivation was even more exciting. So many times, even my good students think of Spanish is something they have to "get through". Last year was the first time I had many students really start to love the language and be excited about class. That to me is the indicator of true success.
My advice to you if you are considering some type of flipped classroom is to be ready for objections, make sure you are making changes for the right reasons, and then to stay the course. Listen to criticism and learn from it. Get support and advice wherever you can find it...if not at your school, then elsewhere in your district or your state. Work on an online PLN and follow other's blogs, Twitter chats and websites. Continue learning, adapting and striving to be the best teacher you can be....that is true success.

Thanks Karla for inspiring this post! Keep commenting!