--Originally published at Flipping With Joy
Note: this post has been cross-posted from my blog at the Flipped Learning Global Initiative. It was first published at http://community.flglobal.org/the-administrator-and-the-flipped-learning-teacher/ .
Earlier this week, my outlook went from frustrated and worried to grateful and excited in about ten minutes — and it was thanks to a conversation with the principal of my school. I’d bet that is not an everyday occurrence at most schools, and this has me mulling over the role that administrators have played in my flipped learning journey.
Administrator 1 – Initiator, Seeker, Problem-Solver
I have previously shared elsewhere the details of how I was introduced to flipped learning. When the principal of the school I was at at the time heard from our superintendent that some teachers in a neighbouring school district were flipping some of their classes, she was intrigued enough to invite me and a few other staff from our building along on a field trip of sorts to learn more about flipped classrooms directly from those teachers.
This principal had listened closely when she’d first heard about flipped learning, identified it as a possible solution to problems we had with student attendance and other issues, and determined that she needed both more information from a more helpful source and reflective input from other members of our staff. She did not brush off flipped learning as a nice-but-unrealistic idea, nor did she put off looking more into it until an indeterminate “later.” She saw the potential it had to solve problems for our staff and students, and seized the opportunity to gain more understanding of flipped learning both for herself and for those of us who went along. On the “flip” side, she also did not push us to jump into trying it before doing more research.
(On a more personal note, by including me in that trip my principal also initiated much change in my own view of what could happen in a classroom, and started me on a path that has included department leadership, flipped learning certification courses, interaction and collaboration with teachers around the world, and joining FLGI’s International Faculty.)
Administrator 2 – The Context-Giver and Connector
In most cases, I think it’s important to check in with your school’s leadership before you begin to flip your classes, making sure they have a clear understanding of what flipped learning is and what the research says about its benefits. If a concerned parent or frustrated student were to contact them claiming that your use of flipping is hurting your students, do you know whether your leadership team would back you up, work through any misunderstanding, and support you as you learned how to use the model effectively with your students?
Despite my belief in its importance, I admit that I did not do that check-in when I changed schools this year. I learned from my new department heads and other colleagues that there was already some familiarity at the school with at least using podcasts in a course; when I asked, I was overwhelmingly told that there was no need to touch base with our principal or any of our VPs about my desire to flip some courses. With plenty to do on my plate already, I let thoughts of discussing flipped learning with my new admin team drop off my over-full priority list.
Last week, however, I finally decided to approach my principal for permission to attend an upcoming conference which happens to overlap with our last day of school — a day from which teachers are not normally released. I e-mailed my request, laying out the variety of ways in which I am certified and connected to the flipped learning community, the professional development I’ve already offered the teaching staff here, and my commitment to continuing to help our teachers understand and make use of flipped learning.
In response, I was invited to pop by the principal’s office for a chat.
A couple of things happened in that chat that I did not expect:
1. The principal told me some of the history of flipped learning at this school — and of parental reaction to it — that I had not heard from my other sources. This gave me some important context regarding issues I may need to address as I continue to grow in my flipping here (and potentially bring other teachers on board).
2. He told me that some flipped learning is going on at another high school in our district — something that was news to me even though I have been keeping my ears open for any mention of its use in our Board. Not only that, but the school in question is a mere 11-minute drive away, which greatly raises the potential for visits and collaboration between our schools. My principal expressed support to get these kinds of connections happening, and I am absolutely hyped about the possibilities!
(And yes, he did also gave me verbal approval to attend the conference; while I’ve got some paperwork to submit to and get approved by the school board before it will be official, I’m pumped about that, too.)
What Kind of Administrator Are You?
Sometimes, we as teachers need to overcome the pop culture characterization of the principal’s office as a scary place of discipline and despair. Several of the calls I’ve received to visit that space have led to positive steps in my professional journey, but naturally, this depends heavily on the person who inhabits it. I challenge those of you in administration to show the leadership traits I have seen expressed in these principals: listen actively when new ideas in education are proposed (neither too openly nor cynically); take the initiative to seek out new ways to address problems faced by your students, school, and staff; help your staff to understand the bigger picture and any important context around new initiatives beginning at your school; and help your staff to find and make connections of support that will enhance your school’s development. It’s one thing to tell your staff that you’re behind your teachers — it’s quite another altogether to help them along the way.