The Flip Side

I’ve read a lot about flipping classrooms, and it’s a topic I am very interested in. As one of my individual professional development goals, at the start of last year (2014) I began to create videos and use other videos I found online to send home with students as “homework”. When students would watch the videos, the idea would be that they’d see and internalize the lesson, then come back to me having some sort of background knowledge and preparation for the lesson the next day.

While I thought it was a great idea, there were some parents who weren’t totally thrilled. Some teachers (especially those in the middle school), started to hear that parents felt it was out responsibility to teach, that home was strictly for review and practice, and that lessons online weren’t the same as hearing it and seeing it from your teacher. I can definitely understand parent perspective, but with a lot of time and energy being placed into preparing these lessons and recording yourself, it was a little tough to hear. I created a modified version of sorts, where I reviewed skills on camera, or introduced skills that built upon skills my students had a solid foundation with already. Especially in elementary school, I found that students seeing their teacher, interacting with me, using manipulatives, and being able to ask me questions is essential.


I still love the idea of a flipped classroom. I love that students feel prepared and excited about discussing what they saw the night before. My kids come in whispering about the “secret word” I put into my videos (to assure they watched them). They feel smart when they come in knowing about a skill or trick. This confidence is super helpful, and I see how it positively affects my students. There are a ton of ways to create a flipped classroom or a “kind of” flipped classroom, where students can benefit from direct instruction, small group work, and centers with me, but then also experience the benefits of the flipped model. My school community, like parents, administrators, grade level team members, and other elementary school teachers I work with are not ready for a complete flipped type of model, and I’m the only elementary school teacher in my building who has incorporated it at all. It’s a different way of thinking, and it isn’t something that everyone is ready for. Despite really liking it and seeing a ton of benefits, I also admit to not being totally ready for a flipped model, especially in my language arts instruction.

With all that being said, I got some awesome new ideas from searching online, but especially from exploring on Twitter. The community of educators using Twitter shocks me…very few people I normally interact with use Twitter, and I don’t know a single person in my elementary school (3 teachers per grade level) who uses it. I asked everyone yesterday at a faculty meeting, and not a single person raised their hand. I think we might be seriously missing out…


This picture I found inspired me to remember that flipped classroom ideas don’t need to be just instructional videos, but I think that’s what a majority of people assume. This picture bring up some great, creative resources that a teacher might use to “flip” class. f1d0d337a9f0ba76aa7b209f67a440b2



I really loved some of the ideas from this photo, because I felt like I was a little narrow minded about how many ways you can use a flipped classroom model. I think if I taught upper grades, I would be running with it. I’m still trying to figure out how it works for my kids in 3rd grade. What has worked for me so far, is to create my own videos using a document camera or my phone. I think if you make it too complicated, and spend hours and hours scripting and planning, it can be too much of a burden. In addition, when you’re too rehearsed, kids can tell. Being yourself and approachable is important, even if it’s on video. I nade the mistake of being too formal in my first few videos. I also made the mistake of saving some videos to my hard drive, uploadnig the across several different YouTube accounts, and sending some links through Google Drive. I am kicking myself for not streamlining and organizing my content, especially when I want to assign something I used from a past year.


Here is an example of a video I gave for homework tonight:

Though it’s informal and really nothing spectacular…my kids LOVE it. They love that I’m the only teacher in 3rd grade that does this, too!


Sometimes I involve my class when I’m recording a trick or skill, like in this video:


These are just some examples of how I’ve tapped into the idea of a flipped classroom. There are so many ways to implement this, and so many benefits of doing so. I am looking forward to learning new things and expanding collections of videos and resources to share with my kids!


To Post or Not to Post…

is a question I have to ask myself whenever I consider putting something on social media. Articles reporting about teacher internet indiscretions like this one here might make most professionals in education, particularly classroom teachers, think twice before they click to post. Social media can be a powerful tool to connect and build our personal learning networks, but professional and personal can quickly begin to overlap.

The article outlines how a Texas teacher posted some sarcastic memes to a Pinterest account, and a parent came across them. The parent notified her school district, which led to her school officials to look into the issue. In situations like this involving social media, the lines between professional and personal are most definitely being blurred when colleagues, parents, and others within the school community are connecting through personal social media accounts. The question I find myself asking about this sort of scenario would be, are teachers held to unreasonably high standards? If so, is it fair to hold them to these higher standards? There are a ton of stories online that describe some of the situations teachers have gotten into that led to investigations and possible repercussions as a result of their posts on social media. Even the NEA’s website has a page warning teachers about online behavior. Other articles I came across, including some I had already seen prior to this week, like this one titled “When Young Teachers Go Wild on the Web”  or this one, “St. Louis Teacher’s Tweets Cause Uncertainty for Social Media and Educators”, examine the issues with teachers having information that might be available to the public.

I happened upon this infographic from Daily Genius, that had some interesting do’s and don’t about teachers interacting on social media. While there are some good rules of thumb, I was particularly amused by its suggestion to avoid bikini pictures or anything with a state of “undress”, and to keep all posts light and positive, or “keep quiet” and don’t post anything at all. 


This infographic and article suggest that teachers should be acting and portraying themselves a certain way when using social media, even going as far as suggesting it’s inappropriate to post too frequently. This was a great time for me to question some thoughts and ideas from these articles, because just this week a parent of a current student Facebook friended me. I felt immediately uncomfortable with the idea that parents of a student I currently have could see where I might be going, what I might be doing, but more importantly, see what types of thoughts and opinions I might have about the world. In school there are certain limitations and professional standards that I adhere to completely, but do I also have to censor myself (jokes, opinions, pictures, check-ins at locations, etc.) on social media, as well? When discussing this very topic, a colleague of mine said, “Sometimes it’s like we [teachers] aren’t allowed to be human.” Privacy settings, organized lists, and general good judgement to censor yourself can help avoid a lot of problems, but if you can’t really post what you want anymore, is this portrayal of you real at all? What’s its purpose if you can’t say what you really think?

Most of the time, I can’t say what I think. Mostly because of my political and religious views. I have accepted and embraced that my social media accounts are for pictures of my children, and positive interactions with friends and family (with some healthy debate thrown in every once in a while). This here is mostly what it looks like:


There are some exceptions, of course. I have an anonymous Twitter account to tweet about whatever I truly feel like saying, secret Pinterest boards, private Instagram account, and some restricted audiences on Facebook posts. As a teacher, keeping most of my information private is important. Even if you don’t think you have anything to hide, you really don’t know how any person will respond to a link, picture, or thought you might have expressed on a social media platform.

A final thought about this came to me today, when I looked at my “Timehop” app. Spring break pictures from senior year of college popped up, and reminded me that maybe it’s time to double check my privacy settings…

My apologies for the state of undress.

Hi! I’m Erin.

  • Where do you find the majority of your teaching resources?

-I find the majority of my teaching resources online, but there isn’t one specific resource I go to the most often. Several teaching resources I use the most frequently are determined by my district’s adopted curriculum. While I use supplemental resources from all over, there are some underlying online and text book procedures I follow as a result of what our school has implemented.  With that being said, I love using Pinterest (I know, I know…me and every other teacher and mom on the planet), Teachers Pay Teachers, a variety of elementary school blogs run by teachers, and good old Google. Exploring new avenues by sorting through websites found in searches on Google and lists on Diigo, have been the way I’ve found some of my favorite classroom materials and ideas. This method sounds a bit “old school”, but it helps me generate new ideas and break up the monotony of visiting the same websites and using the same resources.

  • Who do you look to for support and research for new ideas?

-I look to a few people for support and research for new ideas, a close colleague of mine who is also a third grade teacher. We made a lot of decisions together, which allows us to constantly bounce ideas off of each other, and develop new and fun ways to reach out students. In addition, we use common assessments in our 3rd grade at FTS, so we consistently work collaboratively in order to make sure our standards are mastered, and that our student needs are met. My family is also a great place to look for support and help develop my ideas, because my parents and my husband are also teachers. My husband is an amazing listener, and I bounce all of my ideas off of him. He always gives me a fresh perspective, and his solution to a problem usually has a different approach than mine, which is a great asset when brainstorming.

  • What challenges do you face as you try to incorporate new ideas and research with your students? 

-While I do have freedom and space to create and develop ideas for my classroom, there are some expectations I need to fulfill because I’m part of a team. Besides this obvious roadblock that many teachers encounter, incorporating new ideas and research is difficult when you’re prepared for, and have done the leg work for something already.  For example, I might create a center for math that I felt was really amazing practice. I create, cut, laminate, instruct, show a routine…and then in a professional development a few months later I find an even better way to carry out that lesson or center for my students using a totally different technique. Keeping what I already had made would be the easiest solution, but the path of least resistance is not always the best one for our students. It takes a lot of time, planning, and motivation to constantly evolve, but dedicating time to research, and striving to change in order to implement best practices in our classroom is part of what we signed up for as educators.