I’ve been quiet. And a large part of it is the following… which probably sounds so silly, but after a tweet by Brian Bennett, I decided I would go ahead and post this bit of rambling :)
Let me start with some background. I went to NYU and studied economics in the College of Arts and Sciences. My father wanted me to be in the Business School. I considered it, but the competitiveness among the students was truly unattractive to me. So I went with the econ major (NYU offered a theory concentration, which I loved because it was all applied math!) and had an awesome experience. I went on to grad school at UVA and then got a job as an economist. I worked for a little over a year doing cost-benefit analysis, mainly for an engineering firm that worked on transportation issues. It was a good job, but I hated sitting at a desk all day long and I didn’t find my work fulfilling. I really wasn’t happy and knew that I needed to do something else. My mom is a math teacher and I was constantly surrounded by math growing up. It started with the summer enrichment she did with me in elementary school, culminating with me attending classes she taught at the local community college in 4th and 5th grade. Yep, I got started early! From there, I went to a magnet math, science, computer science middle and high school. Math, math, and more math! I also began volunteer tutoring in 9th grade and did that virtually every weekend throughout high school. I did it because I loved it – not because my mom made me :) So basically, I always knew that teaching math was where my heart was but: 1. I didn’t want to do exactly what my mom did; and 2. I wanted to make money. But finally I came to my senses, went with my heart, and became a math teacher. I haven’t looked back a day since!
My first year of teaching, one of the things that most struck me was just how giving teachers are. After being in the corporate world, this was amazingly refreshing! I felt like I was part of a community who all shared one goal: to give our students the best education possible. Teachers freely shared lesson plans, tests, and their best ideas. In the corporate world, it was all about bonuses and advancement for doing the best work. Though this model definitely encourages hard work through reward, you completely lose the sense of community, collaboration, and sharing that you see in a world that is not so performance driven.
So all of that brings me to now and my feeling surrounding the hype associated with the flipped classroom. I decided to change my classroom dynamic to ease the anxiety that I saw in my AP Calculus classroom. I went into teaching because I wanted to share my love and appreciation of math with young minds. But I didn’t want them to have the same high-stress, nervous experience that my high school was. I don’t think that my education was a healthy environment for a teenager. Yes, it made me a wonderful student and I learned a ton. But I was constantly on edge, always striving for more, and worked to the maximum. So when I saw high anxiety in my AP Calculus classroom, I knew that I needed to do something. Lecturing always seemed like such a waste of time, however I couldn’t just get rid of it. So that got me looking to technology, which led me to finding out about Camtasia Studio, and that’s when I knew I was looking at a solution to my problem…
Well that brought some recognition for doing something new and innovative, which was incredibly exciting: to have the opportunity to share my love on a larger scale and to be rewarded in such a meaningful way. However, as the hype has continued, I have found myself uncomfortable many times. Such as when somebody calls me an “expert.” I’m just a teacher trying to do what works best for my set of students. I’m constantly learning and growing and try my best to share and give back when I can. And the other thing that makes me hugely uncomfortable is the notion that I would say that every teacher or math teacher should flip their classroom. Yes, I think changing the traditional classroom dynamic makes a lot of sense. For me, for the students I teach, for the school that I’m at – I think what I am doing in my AP Calculus class is the best model for my classroom. But would never tell other teachers that they should be flipping their class? Not unless the teacher was fully committed to trying and believed they could make it work. I do want to share my experiences with others, in case it might be helpful, encouraging, an idea, etc. I always say that there is no one-size-fits-all in education. Period. And I truly mean that. What works in my classroom works as well as it does because I feel, with all my heart, that it is the best thing to do. I try my very best to look at my students and to really listen to what they say (not just when I’m asking them questions… I learn the most by just observing). Anyway, I think that lately I’ve been a bit quiet because some of all this hype has a competitive vibe to it – which is exactly what I was trying to get away from. I would never claim to be an expert and I don’t believe that any of us are “originators” of the idea. I think that most of my “flipped classroom” buddies are just like me – trying to be the best teachers we can be – and sharing our passion with others in the hopes of spreading ideas and growing together. Because that’s what teaching is all about, right?!
Anyway, this post has become incredibly long and I wonder if I’ll even end up ever posting it… These are just my real thoughts, uncensored :) I love what I do and I hope that always shines through. That love is why I am a teacher!!