One day this week, as the sophomores started reviewing each other’s blog posts, I spoke briefly to the whole group about pedagogy. Though not using that actual word, I raised this question: Why bother gathering at a physical place called school? The question allowed me to share my thoughts on the subject–thoughts that have been developing over the years spent with students in a physical place called the classroom. As I described my thinking to these sophomores, I asked them if they had heard teachers mention the idea of a “flipped classroom.” No one raised his or her hand, but soon after the silent response, one boy offered, “Do you mean students teaching teachers?” I told him, and therefore the whole group, that although I do not remember adults using those terms , I thought his idea was fabulous. “I want to remember your idea,” I told him. “Some time,” I added, “I can tell you stories about students doing exactly that.” For example, I remember a ninth grader in Tulsa who unwittingly helped me tighten my writing.
So, back to what I was telling the whole class, before this teenager “interrupted.” I was answering my rhetorical question, using the example of their in-class partner-proofreading. The most productive use we can make of in-school class-time–I am paraphrasing now– is for real-time social interaction–in the form of meaningful collaboration, for instance. Let students work together to help each other. Let them, for example, with our guidance, give each other feedback on their writing. The adult guidance is key, and we can layer samples, models, practices and demonstrations to develop the basic skills that enable productive feedback. But, as the adult conversations about flipping continue, I want to include the students–from time to time, not all the time. Occasionally, I find myself forgetting to extend the hand of respect to the students. I forget to offer that hand and bring them onto the boat. Sometimes, in my excitement to cross the river, I find myself on the other side, waving encouragement to the students who stand on the far shore. “Swim,” I yell. “Swim.”
The trust and respect that underlie healthy relationships must characterize my time with students, too. They are intelligent young people with distinct, valuable thoughts. Why not use all of our human resources, once we have come together in the same physical place called school?