In the last few days of our time in Minnesota, Andrew and I talked a lot about what the next year will hold for us. You can watch our 5-5-5-5 video reflection here, but that's really just the Big Picture Overview.
And the first thing you have to do when you look at changing your classroom is take stock of where you've been. I haven't blogged much since early March, which is for lots of reasons (all of them, I assure you, are Very Good Reasons. I know that Andrew will write me a note attesting to the veracity of that statement). Practically, what that means is that all of the work we did in the last two units are completely and utterly unblogged.
So there are several major summer projects on the table for Thomasson Morris Instruction (TMI), but more than anything, we need to start by reflecting on the work we have been too busy working on to blog about. Here are some of the blog topics/subjects we'll be covering in the near future, either as separate posts or combined in some way:
- Close reading
- Collaborative reading activities
- Student-designed novel unit(s)
- Use of student-made #coflip videos
- Integrating blogging into the 20% project (Blank White Page)
- Integrating blogging into a novel unit
- Going paperless without having 1:1
- The Really Hard (but No Rules) College Test
- Flipping feedback with VoiceComments
- Reading analytically as you go vs. reading entire novel, then analysing it
- Socratic Seminar as part of #CoFlipReads The Fault In Our Stars
- Student-selected literature circle unit (hint: Not A Success)
- Reading journals with a difference (and choice!)
- Student feedback and reflections
- Critical reading --> critical thinking --> critical writing?
- Using new media and YouTube Edutainment to engage students
That's a pretty good list. And of course, that doesn't include any of our plans for next year, or our extended reflections on #FlipCon13. We have about two hours of video with Andrew and me IN THE SAME ROOM AT THE SAME TIME and that will eventually be a series of short videos about what we learned and how we plan to use it in our classrooms.
Now, because I believe in adding value, I'll write about one thing in this blog post that's not on the list, but is relevant nonetheless.
Andrew and I are approaching summer much like we would the regular year. We have a schedule that includes several important projects: short and long-form writing, making and editing instructional videos, planning our courses for next year, etc. My first administrator told me that if you ever take a summer off from work (he was talking about summer school particularly) that you'll never go back to it because you will be forever spoiled by luxury. Well, that turns out to not be true in this case. I took the large majority of last summer off, and this summer, I'm actually MORE excited to work than I have been in a while. I know the tasks won't all be "fun" but honestly, there have been very few times in the last year (of intense collaboration) where it hasn't been enjoyable. It feels less like work and more like hanging out with my best friend and co-teacher.
I know inspiration is fleeting, but the excitement I have for our summer work is founded on a few reasons. First, FlipCon helped to light a fire in me. I have been so drained and worn down and exhausted that I really limped over the finish line of spring semester. But now, I have had so many ideas, and feel much more energised and ready to work. I know it will be difficult, and there will be times we don't feel like continuing on. But this is more excited than I've been about summer....maybe ever. And it's not because I get to sleep in until 10 AM every day and watch a lot of Dexter and Wheezy Waiter all day; it's because of work.
Well, it's sort of about work. Like EVERYTHING we do, it's more about collaboration. Andrew has made even the most mundane of tasks much more fun. There is a rumour that we are indeed one person, and sometimes, that doesn't feel so incorrect. It's pretty difficult to write anything substantial without his #SpecialSkillz in writing and editing and thinking now that I've gotten used to having his help.
But more importantly than a shared brain, is the real reason behind "Better Together": that we know we would have burnt out alone. Yes, the collaboration gives us new ideas, and it gives us a second brain to help when ours isn't finding the right words. But more than anything, I have someone invested in my success. I have someone who believes in me far more than I believe in myself. I have someone to filter my thoughts and writing so I don't say something stupid on the internet...where NOTHING EVER DIES. Andrew pushes me to be a better teacher, a better writer, and a better learner. I know not everyone needs that, but I do. He knows when I'm doing something half-assedly, and isn't afraid to call me on it, but then also will help me fix it. I trust his opinion more than my own.
It is totally possible to flip your class on your own, but we sure don't recommend it. I think the reason our story resonates with people is because most teachers, and nearly all #flipclass teachers, want someone who will help them do a better job for their students. But the reality for most of us is that there are few colleagues willing to help us do that, or if some are willing, many are pedagogically opposed, or over-scheduled to the point of uselessness. That's why Andrew and I needed each other - neither of us had colleagues willing to experiment with flipped learning. Neither of us had the knowledge, the tools, or the experience to know how to flip our class.
So we embarked on this journey together, just three days short of one year ago. I would not still be blogging, I would not have attended #FlipCon13, I would not have several Very Exciting Offers to consider, and I would not be as happy as I am now. I don't need Andrew to be a good teacher. But this way, even with the many, many challenges we face, is So Much Better than anything I ever did on my own. And I am grateful - ridiculously so - to have a teaching partner and friend like Andrew.
So I'm really looking forward to this summer - there is much to be done, and I am excited to see what crazy ideas we hatch as we dive into our projects. I would love to hear which of the topics you'd like us to write up first, so leave that in comments if you have a preference. And if you are part of (or starting) a collaborative partnership, please let us know! Andrew and I love to talk to people who are starting this same journey. We were lucky enough to meet half a dozen collaborative partnerships at #FlipCon13, and we'd love to add to that list.
Happy start of summer, everyone, and we'll see you all at #flipclass chat Monday night! All are welcome, 8 EST, to talk about #FlipCon13, #CanFlip, and all other #flipclass summer work and reflections.