The Jiu-Jitsu of Flipped Learning — Part I

--Originally published at Flipping With Joy

Some of the women from my Saturday morning class.
My coach is the 3rd person here (in case you can't tell, I'm the 4th).

In October, I did a thing: I started training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and thereby made those close to me drop their jaws in shock (my best friend asked for a DNA test!). Sure, introverts are supposed to protect their hamster ball of personal space with their life, not invite strangers to grapple within it. Sure, those of the INFJ Myers-Briggs personality type are supposed to seek harmony and avoid conflict. Despite all that, I’ve long been intrigued by martial arts, and I’ve had a passing interest in trying one out for years. When I decided it was time to start doing some sort of physical activity again this school year, I decided it was also time to do something different and looked up martial art studios close to my home and school. Straight Blast Gym (a.k.a. SBG) has a location in Scarborough that had consistently high reviews describing it as very welcoming and beginner-friendly. It also offered a 1-week free trial and just happened to have a women’s beginner jiu-jitsu class starting a couple weeks after I started looking, so I once again embraced my theme this year of “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” and registered for a trial week even though I knew nothing about jiu-jitsu.

Almost 6 months later, I’ve now got my first stripe on my white belt. I’ve obviously learned something about jiu-jitsu. What I didn’t expect, though, was the way I’d find connections between my training on the mats and my teaching practice. There are too many for me to share in one blog post, though, so welcome to my first blog post series(!), in which I will share some of the thoughts I’ve had lately about the jiu-jitsu of flipped learning.

1. There is no winning and losing in jiu-jitsu/flipped learning

In one of Steven Grossi’s videos, he addresses white belts and shares “5 tips to improve the jiu-jitsu journey.” One of these is that there is no winning and losing in jiu-jitsu – there is only winning and learning. When you spar against someone and “lose,” it’s actually a type of win, because it gives you a chance to analyze what didn’t go well, learn how to do better, and thereby grow in your game. Grossi goes so far as to call a winning/losing mentality "toxic" for those just starting their training, pointing out, "You're going to 'lose' a lot as a white belt, and that's just the way it goes."

One of the benefits of flipped learning is that it allows teachers to get the delivery of basic content out of the “group space” (time spent with students in the classroom) and instead use that time to provide the students with better-supported practice, more active learning, and activities that move them into higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Since classroom time has traditionally been used for content-delivery lectures for so long, however, teachers new to flipping often wonder what exactly it is they should be doing in class with their students. While it’s true that much has been shared by flipped practitioners about their practice, that training and certification options are available, and that the best flipped educators are often those who collaborate with other flipped practitioners around the globe, there is still a lot of “play” going on as we try out new things with our classes. The flip community grows as we experiment to see what innovations will work best with this group of students, this year, for this course. As they say, though, to make an omelette, you’ve got to break a few eggs, and sometimes an activity we try out with a class falls flat and doesn’t have the success we’d envisioned for it. When you're a white belt of flipped learning (and even as an experienced "flipper"), you will experience some "flops" in your flips! To embrace the jiu-jitsu of flipped learning, we must approach such seeming failures with a growth mindset and see them as opportunities to learn. Reflect on what may have caused that activity to go in a different direction than you’d planned, get input from others (including your students and other flipped practitioners), make adjustments as needed, figure out what may better accomplish the goals you had in mind, and keep going. Your practice can’t help but grow if you don’t give up.

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