Twice a week, I walk past this table in Bessey Hall on my way to and from teaching my TE 150 class. Each time, I notice a bit more of the puzzle is completed. I've stopped a couple of times for a few minutes but was never able to find a piece that fit. Today there was a guy sitting in the chair working on it when I arrived. I was surprised to actually see the work being done and know that it wasn't mysteriously constructing itself. Real people were giving of themselves what they could to improve the overall picture. So when I left class, I decided to give it another try and I found two pieces that fit. As I put them in place, this satisfying feeling overcame me...a feeling that I'd never felt when doing a puzzle on my own or with my children. Frankly, it shocked me. I had just felt like I had contributed something positively to this community of strangers working to make a more complete and unified picture. It was exhilarating!
It then dawned on me...what if some idiot walks by and thinks it is funny to destroy the work that has been done and starts removing pieces?! But then I realized 3 things. 1) No one has done that in all this time which means there just might be more good people out there ready to work on putting things together (or just standing idly by) than there are people ready to destroy. 2) We could finish the puzzle faster if we figure out how engage those idle/indifferent folks. 3) If someone did destroy it, the rebuilding would probably begin again almost immediately because #spartanswill. On the eve of the inauguration of DJT, my soul needed to be reminded of these things.
On January 23, 1977, Part I of the Emmy award winning Roots mini series aired. This story, based on Alex Haley's 1976 novel entitled Roots: The saga of an American family, is the heart-wrenching tale of Gambian Mandinka warrior, Kunta Kinte and his heirs, tracing their journey from the western shores of African, through colonial times, culminating in the post Civil War period seeing them through to gaining their freedom. Though I was born just 2 weeks post the airing of this series, it so impacted my family that both my cousin and I were nicknamed for two of the characters from the book/movie. My cousin was born on January 31, 1977 and I followed just 9 days later. Because I was a fair-skinned child and my cousin's skin tone deep and rich like that of mahogany, we were affectionately given the names "Missy" and "Kizzy" by the members of our families.
I was most struck by the scenes focused on names (a prominent theme throughout) and what that meant for one's identity. Kunta Kinte's refusal to answer to the name Toby; the naming of each of the children born. It's a central theme throughout the series. I thought back to a recent class activity that I was engaged in where we focused on various aspects of our identity (name, race/ethnicity, religion/faith, hobby, and gender) and what they meant for our positionality in academia. I'd always preferred the nickname, Missy, over my birth name, Dashika, and it was an agonizing decision for me to decide which name I would publish under as an academic so I could not understand why I was so connected to my name as we ranked various aspects of our identity in order of importance to us. I also could not reconcile why, at the same time, I was so attached to a name that represented a character who'd participated in such vile acts against African American people.
This entire experience has served to remind me of how complicated identity work is and how it is so important that we do not paint with a broad stroke in educational (or any other social) research. I proudly move forward embracing both aspects of my identity for one reminds of my roots (Dashika) and the other reminds me of the struggle (Missy).
(project found here) and developed a plan to implement this new method of teaching into my geometry classes. In short, I was frustrated with the amount of class time taken up by lecturing and note taking and craved more time to "do math" with my students or engage students in doing math. Flipping would do just that for me!
Four years later, I remain completely satisfied with my decision to flip. Sure, my teaching and what my classroom looks like have morphed, but the basic tenets of "The Flip" remain. Students view my instructional videos on MathWithMcCarthy (gotta change this now that I'm newly married) and we have the entire hour for skill practice where students can get help from either me or their peers and to go deeper into the mathematical concepts that we were studying. For the first time in four years, however, I'm not teaching geometry and was left to ponder whether or not I would flip my freshmen Algebra 1 class this coming school year.
So much time has passed since I first decided to do this and The Flipped Classroom has gained quite a following. An extensive network has been formed on social media and on the Flipped Learning Network. Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams (authors of Flip your classroom: Reach Every student in Every class Every day) have traveled all across the country giving talks and holding seminars. FlipCon2015, a Flipped Classroom conference in its fourth year, was recently held fairly close to where I live in East Lansing, Michigan. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend due to other work obligations.
While trying to decide whether or not I would flip with my Algebra 1 class, I did some casual Googling to see what current sentiments were regarding the Flipped Classroom and I came across a blog post entitled: The Flip: End of a Love Affair. Admittedly, this post rattled me a bit. I consider myself to be a very thoughtful teacher and wholeheartedly believed that what I had been doing for the past four years created a much better learning environment for students than pre-flip experiences. I tried to wrap my brain around how one could "fall out of love" with this way of teaching and learning. I read and re-read her post and compared our experiences and concluded three things:
One of the best things about blogging is the community nature of the experience. Almost as interesting as most blog posts is the comments. While perusing the comments of this particular post I found one by my friend, Dan Spencer. Dan, a fellow prominent Michigan flipper/teacher, chimed in stating "...I’ve seen first hand how “flipping done right” can make a positive impact on both me as a teacher and my students. While I started with what I call the “traditional flip” of replacing classroom lecture with at-home video, it also allowed me to move towards a much richer learning environment. Specifically, it allowed me to move towards a student-centered learning environment. Instead of saying "this flipped love affair was a failure", perhaps it should be seen as a success leading to a more student-centered classroom."
The post caught Jonathan Bergmann's attention as well. He commented saying "...I enjoyed your post. This may sound odd from the guy who wrote the book on the flipped class. One of my main concerns with how the term “flipped class” is being explained in the press is just what you said. Video as homework and class time for work time. That is not what I believe about education. I see the flipped class as a way to get TO deeper learning–to get to a learner centered classroom. You might want to see my blog post where I explained how the flip leads teachers to real 21st century learning. I don’t see the flip as the answer, but rather, as a way to get to the answer."
After considering all that has been said and knowing my school, department, curriculum, and student population, I can go into the 2015-2016 school year confident about my decision to flip. Just as I started four years ago, I plan to continue to demonstrate how technology can be coupled with effective pedagogy, and rich content to enable students to demonstrate and provide evidence of a deeper understanding in mathematics and hopefully redefine for students what it means to "do math".