Flipped Instruction

and a flippant question.

If homework is such a HUGE issue in education with parents being pretty much against it, then how, exactly, does flipped instruction work?  You see, watching a video and making sense of it is STILL homework.  This just seems… weird.

I guess I find it strange that what we’re teaching is SO LARGE it has to go that far outside the school day.  Why not just slow down, lecture, practice, refine, coach, compare, collaborate, etc.?

Honestly, as a teacher, I have an issue with outsourcing my job to Khan Academy so I can, allegedly, act as a coach.


10 Commandments of Teaching

For some reason I was thinking about the 10 Commandments some more yesterday while hanging out, working, and talking with a retired teacher-friend of mine.  While I didn’t verbalize this, I realized that, appropriately skewed, these would make a great road map for education as well.  At least I think they will.

  1. Educating students is your only true purpose in working in education.  Thou shalt not place any other goals in front of this one.
  2. Thou shalt not place pretty walls, bulletin boards, and dog and pony shows above educational goals.
  3. That shalt not insult, deride, or take the names of the students, parents or colleagues in vain.
  4. Take one day each week as a day of sabbath and show fidelity to the act of rejuvenation.
  5. Honor teachers and educational practices that were in place before you.  These may be the ones you need to help fully educate a child.  Do not assume age equals inflexibility or that keeping a course means fear of progress.
  6. Thou shalt not kill students‘ dreams, motivations, desires, or passions. Nor shall you kill your colleagues’ reputations and job prospects through gossip, envy, or anger.
  7. Thou not put anything before the educational goals for the students or make student goals secondary in education.
  8. Thou shalt not steal ideas, materials, manipulatives, desks, etc.  Thou shalt show integrity in all interactions with all people.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy fellow teacher.  Thou shalt show great integrity in being honest with colleagues about their actions.  Thou shalt give all colleagues the benefit of the doubt.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy colleagues‘ students, room arrangement, teaching assignment, prep time, materials, or relationships with others.  Thou shall work on improving one’s self and not bringing down others.

OK, it’s a bit funky, but you get the idea.  In order for education to be truly reformed (which we know nobody really wants), we have to start building the community among the adult stakeholders (and ALL adults who work at a school should be stakeholders).  Building consensus, having common goals, being respectful of other viewpoints, and being collaborative will do wonders in producing a school everyone can be proud of.

The Ten Commandments, in my mind, have always been the road map for creating a peaceful and harmonious community that works together for the common good.  Religious or not, theist or not, or even conservative or not, I think we can all agree that to truly make progress we have to agree to behave in a way that honors the community.

Now, this was off the cuff and not completely worked out before writing.  So… what would you add? 

Wow! What a Week

This last week has been a whirlwind.  Again, I’m not sure where to focus, how to process it, or even how to begin.

I guess first with the bad news.  Michael Patrick was cremated and buried in my mom’s plot this week.  I didn’t return to Iowa for the funeral due to my perceived professional responsibilities.  While Michael wouldn’t have cared AT ALL, I suspect the rest of the family are upset or disappointed by my decision.    Hints have been dropped, anyway.  The interesting part is that, depending upon whom you talk, is the person who doesn’t agree with the decision.  Wrong or right, thank goodness for DTP and DBT (both depression programs designed to minimize relapse). The skills have helped me navigate the unhappiness and expectations fairly well.

Apparently my grandmother has also had a bad week.  She is VERY WEAK and keeps falling.  This is one of those places where if you could change the past you would.  No one told me this summer after she was diagnosed that she had been given 6-12 months to live.  If so, I would have flown out in July.  I missed my cousin’s wedding (which looks like it was great fun) because I was waiting to go to Iowa in October for our first school break.  I could have changed that KNOWING I’d see everyone and say my good-byes.  Well, coulda, woulda, shoulda.  There’s no changing what happened.  It can only inform future decisions.

When the same cousin was kind enough to let me know that Grandma’s prognosis had changed (this is when I learned the 6-12 months part) and that Grandma only has 3 months left (give or take, at best, etc.), I did ask when I should come.  K encouraged me to wait until Labor Day because Grandma was still in good spirits.  Since then I’ve learned that Grandma has been falling due to weakness.

It’s morbid, but if I had to choose between stage 4 cancer and a massive heart attack in bed, I’d go for the later.  I can’t imagine the pain of watching someone waste away.  I know how hard it was on Mom when she watched her sister, my Aunt Irene, die earlier this year.  Mom was HEARTBROKEN.  She and Aunt Irene talked all the time until Irene’s illness made it almost impossible.  Mom still is realing from not being able to say good-bye to Irene when she did die.

Just a reminder, people.  Not possessions.  People are really, really important.

Now onto the good.  My bunnies (students) are really low.  They are also as sweet as everyone said.  Even better, 90% of them WANT to do a good job and make progress.  I’ve already seen a lot of impressive thinking, team work, and work out of half of them that I feel good about the choices I’m going to make the next school year.

You see, Thursday (the second day of school), I put science on the agenda.  You’d think I wrote “Goof off with your friends for an hour” they were so excited.  Apparently science and social studies are not the subjects they get the most.  Therefore they’re excited to engage in the learning.  With that in mind, as well as my schedule, I’m looking to extend my day by an hour.  Unpaid.

I really want them to have time to work on curriculum that’s fun and enriching (I can’t schedule assignments or homework because not every parent will let his/her child stay) and interesting.  I want to give them time to do homework with me.  I want them to have a place that makes sense to them and helps them move forward.  I was already TOO HONEST with them.  I pointed out that while people will THREATEN to hold them back, the fact is we’ll do something far more cruel to them.  We’ll move them forward unprepared for the challenges of the next grade.  Holding back would be a kindness, but we don’t do that.

While we haven’t engaged in state sponsored curriculum yet, we started work on day one. I trained them on Tic-Tac-Toe Products (multiplication practice), listening skills (a challenge.  The barometer kid really tells me when to move on!), started string art (we aren’t done), made classroom shirts (not as successful as I’d like), and started Fizz and Martina.  Fizz and Martina is probably no longer made or sold.  It’s another good thing this week because (TRIUMPHANT TRUMPET BLARE!) I was given a projector that was allowed me to hook up my DVD/VCR to it.  Yes, that’s how old the curriculum is — it’s on VCR! 😛 Mind you, I drug in our old TV just in case.

The students are really working together and THINKING about what they’re doing.  It’s been hard, but they will work on it for 90 minutes without realizing it.  How great is that?  The program is designed to make them take notes, share information (so hard for many of them), WRITE IN COMPLETE sentences, and THINK about what they’re saying.  It’s been difficult, but they are getting there.  Most really want to show their families because they have such pride in their work.  How great is that?

Not only are the students great, but so are the people around school.  When I lived in the portables, I never knew anyone.  I mean, I KNEW them, but I rarely saw or talked to them.  That’s changed.  Just the way I arranged my room, the quotes I put up in the hallway, my bulletin boards, and my interactions with the students have shown them a new me.  As Tracy said, “You’re in a new space — your room and here (points towards head)”.  It’s true.  I’m in a better place, and it shows.

In fact, I think people are responding to me because, once again, I’m having fun.  Truly.  I’m laughing, and not because of morbid, ironic, ignorant things.  I’m laughing for fun.  I laughed in class yesterday.   I haven’t done that since I had 6th graders.  Even the former students who stop by are happy to be in my company, and I feel the same.  Is it possible I’m the same teacher?  I don’t think so.

Hopefully with class, medication, mindfulness, and a new attitude, this year will continue to be one filled with positive encounters, great challenges, and the achievement of goals.  Once again, I can’t imagine being in a different job because I love this one so much.

Again, how great is that?


I love teaching
but I don’t love checking
worksheets and tests

I love talking
but not always about
the topic at hand

I love reading
but not always the assigned
selection or book

I love a plan,
but not planning
for the week

Which explains why
I’m baking
when I should be
and planning

In short,
I’m just like
the kids


Telling People Off — A Fantasy in Multiple Acts

I suspect normal people fantasize about sex with celebrities or winning the lottery, I fantasize about gaining an audience with educational policy makers and the people who have made them their minions.  In my brain, I have the ability to confront the people who are messing with education without having a clear understanding of it.  I also get to call them all sorts of inappropriate names.

I don’t even know if I can cover every topic that ever comes to mind, but I’m going to start here.

  1. When you talk about schools, please leave out the words: rows and black board.  Very few of us place kids in rows.  In part because we do expect them to work collaboratively.  Also because many of us are forced to have more students than the room was designed to hold.  Any chance of getting around the room (especially if you’re a bit heavy in the hips) is limited by a row arrangement. Also, schools are not as backward as you think.  Many have white boards, smart boards, projectors, and Elmos.  Please update YOUR image of school.  It doesn’t match what we’re delivering.
  2. Please, when you get a free moment, fill us in on the skills you really think our students should have.  You keep going on about how schools were set up for blah, blah, blah.  However, I can’t exactly prepare my student with 21st century skills for 21st century jobs when, well, last I checked there was no new job creation.  Most jobs have been shipped overseas.  The jobs that are left appear to be service jobs — you know, car washing, waiter, McDonald’s, maid.  Or the medical field.  So please, give us a clue so we can help laser train your employees.  You know, rather than educating them and turning them into responsible citizens who can dissect an argument and vote accordingly.
  3. It would be nice, I’m just saying, if we didn’t have to aim at a moving target.  I’m pretty sure if I gave my current students a test I had to take when I was in 8th grade, they’d knock that mother out of the park.  We forget that we’ve upped the ante so many times that the test in 1978 does not match any test in 2012.  In fact, I think most of our students would actually master the test from 1978.  Shall we try it, just for shits and giggles?
  4. I don’t exactly know how you want me to use Khan Academy (which I think is wonderful) in my language arts class to flip instruction when he focuses primarily (right now) on math.  Furthermore, how can I flip my class when my class won’t do homework.  Are you honestly suggesting they’ll watch a video, work through his practice questions, and come to class prepared for me to laser focus on refining their understanding? I mean, since they don’t do homework now, nor do they go to Khan Academy as a helper when I suggest this would help with math.  Just saying…
  5. I don’t know if you get this or not, but I’m going to throw it out there.  You do realize, of course, that I actually can’t MAKE a kid do anything, right?  As a matter of fact, you can’t either.  It’s always a choice.  With that in mind, how do you propose I MAKE a kid behave?  Furthermore, what is up with “You can’t deny a child education based on his behavior!” crap floating around?  If the kid WILL NOT behave, and I CANNOT MAKE the child behave and the child is INTERFERING in the education of other students, how do you propose I teach?  When you read this, do you recognize the crazy, or are you still of the mindset that “good teachers” don’t have “classroom management issues”?
  6. I find the “Neil (kneel)/Stand Up” routine of “drop out prevention” strategies enough to make me want to cry and run from the absurdity.  I don’t get how it’s not abundantly and painfully obvious to EVERYONE that when you remove everything joyful from the school site, the kids might not want to come to school anymore.  They might find it boring.  They may choose to act out.  Yet, in the push to make them all the same, only the “good schools” get to have fun stuff.  The rest of us, apparently to punish us for being bad or stupid or unintelligent, must endure days filled with only math, language arts, and maybe, if we’re really good and on course, some science and social studies.  Heaven forbid we find a way to embed art, music, library, or media time that’s not drill and kill.
  7. I don’t know why you threaten to fire teachers.  First of all, most of us tithe to our jobs.  Really.  Check their taxes, their receipts, the stuff in their classes.  I’m betting in elementary at least 80% of teachers spend 10% of their incomes on their classes.  Second, this job, while you think it pays way too much for our skills (which are simply babysitting, let’s be honest.  That’s what you think.)  doesn’t pay enough for the personal stress we undertake, the scapegoating, and the pressure we pass onto our students.  Truthfully, at a starting salary of $40K with a master’s degree, you can’t give this job away to anyone who doesn’t really want to do it. Stop making it uglier through events like public humiliation and putting us in stocks.
  8. I still think people can’t figure out why we want better pay (although in CA where a 10-year teacher is making $65K a year and the average rent is something like $1700, you’d think you’d have a clue) because most teachers (in their minds) are women. Plus aren’t they just working for extras like vacations, carpet, and sending the kids to private schools?  No, we’re often heads of household, single, and trying to get our 15-year-old car to last another year.  Go to your average teacher’s house, we don’t live fancy.  In fact, given that we are “professionals”, it’s pretty embarrassing how non-fancy our lives and homes really are.  Save for those of us in “good marriages.”  Gee, I hope the male teachers have some engineer at home helping bring home the bacon.
  9. I think we’d be treated better if we weren’t women.  Police officers and prison guards aren’t vilified.  Apparently it’s just those of us trying to keep kids out of the penal system who are bad.

Sigh.  I think I’ve gotten my rant out of me for the night.  Still, there are so many things that need to be addressed in education.  I just never know where to start.  I do know that there is a real need for an authentic town hall meeting with educators so that people can really learn how it works and how they can make it better.  However, until this becomes about all of us, nothing will change.

Forget About the Cars…

my students’ PHONES are better than mine!  I’m talking 12 year olds with iPhones.  Good lord…  I guess I should be ecstatic they can’t drive yet. Then I’d really be depressed. LOL. 🙂

Wait, if they have iPhones, why can’t they surf the Internet to get my research done?  SIGH.  Boy was I slow on the uptake today.

Stupid Teacher Tricks

This week seemed to be one in which I did one stupid thing after another. By Thursday afternoon, I should have just handed my credential back.  SIGH. Disclosure would just add to the ignorance, give fuel to the fire, and possibly harm more than the innocent.

It’s strange because everyone thinks they can teach.  After all, they’ve been taught and most have children.  However, keeping students engaged is really hard and generally runs contrary to most lesson plans. It’s a rare kid whose brain jumps for joy at the idea of expanding his/her schema with parts of speech.  Oooh, direct and indirect objects you say, tell me more. NOT!

Because of the constant push to satisfy the learners with some form of new brain candy as well as society by teaching what they feel is most important, plus parents who can’t decide if they want you to push their kids or if they’re just not ready, you end up in this really weird mental place.  I had that this week.  This job allows for tons of what you don’t do right and it’s actively pointed out.  Heck, if no one tells me, I tell myself.  I know when I’ve screwed up.  And it ain’t pretty.

My job now is to regroup, pull my head out, and learn from my past mistakes.  Barring that, look at my lessons again, find some challenge in them, allow for choice of what is done, and maybe include some more collaboration.

Or maybe I should curl up under the covers and just cry.