This summer, though, I get the opportunity to fly again, to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for FlipCon13, where Cheryl and I may (if we're lucky) get to present something about this crazy beautiful year we've been having with the #coflipallstars. It will be a time of joy and laughter and cupcakes and learning.
And, to be fair, some terror.
This impending summer trip is kind of a microcosm for this whole year of changes: new school; new subject matter at a new grade level; new friends; new colleagues, both on the local campus and worldwide; a new expanded teaching style; a new expanded insistence for students to take control of their own educations and try things that terrify them. It's only fair, then, that this year of educational transformation be bound on both ends with major changes. On the front end, deciding to team-teach English classes with a person I've never met from 2700 miles away; on the back end, getting on a plane to fly halfway across the same country to meet this person (and dozens of others who have changed/challenged/pushed my thinking and grown my educational reach).
It's easy to sit in my green chair and say that I should just shut up and face the fears and get on the plane and everything will be hunky-dory. It's easy to say, from this seat, that this is just another example of modeling the type of courage in the face of new experiences that I expect from the students I share my classroom with.
It serves us well, though, to fly this metaphor a little further (surprising, I know, for an English teacher).
First, it would do us all good to remember that school, every day, is the kind of terrifying for some students that walking into that airport may well be for me. Every day represents something new, something that pushes them outside their comfort zone, either academically or socially. Every day, they are probably faced with a whole bevy of problems they probably have no schema to understand or face or solve. Every day, their sense of competence and control is subsumed. Even as flipped educators, what we're asking from kids is new and difficult and challenging, even if it's challenging in a completely different way than asking them to memorize a ton of facts.
Second, for some of us (like me), the fear of flight is literal. But it works as a metaphor for all of us, especially the teachers among us. My fear has more to do with lack of control than height--but we need to remember that to reach those dizzying heights and speeds on an airplane, we have to give up control (or get a pilot's license).
And so it is in the classroom as well. Cheryl and I have talked a lot about student choice lately, and the bulk of that conversation belongs in another entry. However, we recognizse that for our classes to reach the beautiful mountaintop edu-awesome heights we plan and dream for, we have to give them the parts to build a plane and, with guidance, let them have at it. Yes, some days in classes like that, we crash into the side of a mountain. But some days are helicopter days, going up and up and up with no end in sight.
So yes, I'm getting on that plane this summer. And yes, I'm going to be scared. And yes, our new semesters hold days of wreckage and days of perfect propellors, but man. So totally worth it.
Special thanks to Cheryl, Karl, Crystal, and the rest of the #coflipposse, who, if I try to name all of, I will leave someone out and cause wailing and gnashing of teeth. You are all amazing. I can't wait to #cofliptheworld with you.