The Jiu-Jitsu of Flipped Learning — Part II

--Originally published at Flipping With Joy

This post is part of a series in which I reflect on connections I've noticed between my training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the practice of a teacher implementing the flipped classroom model. You can read the beginning of the series on my personal blog.

 
2. It’s OK to make them uncomfortable
 
At one point in SBG’s documentary about women in jiu-jitsu, it discusses a tendency some women have to not fully assert themselves on the mats.* I have seen this in my own training and with some of my training partners (though I have admittedly noticed it less and less the more experienced we've become): some of us can fall prey to over-apologizing and/or being over-anxious in asking whether our opponents are OK. That’s not to say we should have no concern for the humans with whom we roll – we start with easy pressure, to help our partners learn the mechanics of each move before we gradually increase the challenge – but in a sport that involves chokes and armbars, a certain amount of giving and receiving pain is expected and agreed to. It’s because of this understanding that we learn to “trust the tap” and our training partners. (It’s also why we sign waivers before we start!) In the video, Rory Singer points out that to be a good training partner, you are actually supposed to make your opponent uncomfortable. In fact, they should thank you, because it is when you are in discomfort that you realize you need to learn more and grow to address the situation (and avoid ever being put in it again).
"Yikes, this is uncomfortable. How did I end up here, and how can I make sure I never
have to be here again? Also, I guess I should tap out before my arm gets broken."
 
While flipped learning has been growing by leaps and bounds over the last several years, there are still many students who have yet to experience a flipped class. Teachers of such classes may well hear complaints from such students at first because the structure is so fundamentally different from the one to which they’ve become accustomed. Those teachers who understand the flipped model also understand the benefits that it has for students in spite of this initial discomfort.
 
If we really believe in the “why” of flipped learning, we need to be OK with putting students through some growing pains as they undergo a paradigm shift regarding what school can look like. However, we must show our students that they can trust us as “training partners.” We must help them understand what it is we're trying to do, we must support them through the transition by teaching them how to successfully navigate the new system, and we must give them sufficient feedback and time to help them climb the growth curve. We must also collect feedback from the students in return -- they generally cannot "tap out" of our class, nor have they signed waivers agreeing to any level of pain ahead of time, and so it is critical that we monitor their response and ensure the level of discomfort we cause is a reasonable one.
 
It is fine to stretch our students' thinking; it is not okay for us to cause the equivalent of a pedagogical choke-out. If we are strategic about the way in which we challenge our students, most of them will eventually see the joy on “the flip side” of the discomfort, and thank us for taking them through the adjustment. 
 
 
*Note: the SBG documentary addresses this point from about the 27:54 mark through to about 33:29.
 
Thanks to draft reviewers Anna Muessig and Lucas Conner for their feedback on an earlier version of this post. The points about students not having signed waivers/agreed to discomfort ahead of time and what "trusting the tap" can look like in the classroom have been included due to their input.

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