The Next Step…

“An innovation is one of those things that society looks at and says, if we make this part of the way we live and work, it will change the way we live and work.” -Dean Kamen

I have been monitoring the whole ‘flipped‘ movement for awhile. Listening to the variety of conversations…everyone providing their own version of what it is and what it isn’t. Some arguing that it’s just a fad, while others emphatically praise its value for upending our teaching and engagement models for students.

In July of this year, Bill Ferriter on his Tempered Radical blog stepped the movement up another level. He posed the question, What If You Flipped Your Faculty Meetings? Mr. Ferriter not only posed the question…he pushed it out there as a challenge. A challenge for principals. For principals to model as an instructional strategy for their classroom teachers. Which Mr. Ferriter expounds upon in this excerpt from his article…

“And faculty meetings as their currently structured – 30-45 minutes once a month where information is delivered instead of created – do little to make those kinds of cross-conversations possible even when everyone is sitting in the same room with each other.

But if they’re flipped – if the information that needs to be delivered is consumed before the meeting even begins – there’s PLENTY of time for teachers to learn from – and to build relationships with – peers who work in different departments or on different hallways.”

And before the dust had a chance to settle from the first post, the Tempered Radical followed up in August of this year with an expanded emphasis, Still MORE On Flipping The Faculty Meeting.An opportunity to expound upon his reasoning and support for this strategy…“Teachers won’t be convinced that flipping the classroom carries benefits FOR learners until they experience those benefits first-hand AS learners.” And for the amount of views the posts received, it was obvious that it touched a chord with people.

Yet, for me, what struck the chord…was that Bill Ferriter was posing the right question. It wasn’t about how cool ‘flipping‘ was and how everybody was doing it. It wasn’t about being a technological maverick. Rather, it was about what was most important. It was about the learning.

It was about what is most important when people come together in our meetings. Do we put the right emphasis on the right things? It was really about what people should be doing. To put our emphasis on learning and collaborating and away from the sit and get format. He was breaking down the aging lecture as the emphasis…as the model.

And that hooked me…that lit up the light bulb. It made me wonder and consider if this model would be effective at even another level? And eventually served as my why for taking it a step beyond the faculty meeting…

As a previous principal I miss the ability to collaborate, interact, share, and communicate continuously with those in my building. I miss being able to walk down our hallways during passing periods, recess, lunch and engage ideas and possibilities with teachers and staff. To engage in conversations that helped to drive the learning in the building. It was about an ongoing rapport and loop of sharing, feedback, and next steps. And it was all there within the building. Which makes flipping the faculty meeting the icing on the cake…

However, that all changes at the district level. The hallways are gone. And the distance between those conversations is much wider.

The focus has now turned towards engaging principals. Very busy principals who work not only in different buildings, but are spread out across a large and expansive district. Principals who are not right down the hall, but a fifteen minute drive across town. So our limited interactions and busy schedules serve as an added hindrance to the process. And for that reason, every department scrambles for their time and turf at each meeting knowing that their information is most important.

The problem is that everyone thinks their information is most important. And for that reason, our meetings are very similar to…a middle school student who has six teachers, with each one oblivious to the other, only finding their homework to be of importance…so at the end of the day our student goes home with six hours of homework that not only frustrates endlessly, but has no real chance of being completed. We affectionately refer to those meetings as the “Parade of Good News Announcements”.

So, unfortunately announcements and ‘vital’ information grab front seat to long and laborious agendas that relegate collaboration and learning to an afterthought at the backend of most meetings. And this served as the impetus for knowing it was time to ‘flip‘ the principal meeting…time to take the next step in the ‘flip‘ model and bump it up to the district level.

First, it’s new…we know we will hit some bumps in the road…however, we believe those will be outweighed by the benefits of our ‘flipped‘ district model, such as:

  • Provide precious collaboration and learning time for our principals when they are gathered as a group
  • Incorporate a variety of technology tools within the ‘flip‘ model that will require our principals to access, utilize and learn; providing them valuable information for implementing technology at their school
  • Provide a variety of collaborative mediums that can be accessed to increase networking, sharing and collaborating between district meetings
  • The district serving as a model for implementing the ‘flipped‘ construct for principals to take back and model/share with their own staff

While we are very early in the process…we’ve started. And it looks very promising as a strategy and/or tool to increase our ability to serve our principals better and utilize our precious time together focused on what’s most important…learning.

And not another year of the “Parade of Good News Announcements”

6 thoughts on “The Next Step…

  1. David,
    I really like this approach! As a school principal I would love to model a flipped classroom approach but I want to do it with integrity. I don’t want to do it just to say I did it. I will definitely look into the other blog you posted. This is the best part about having a PLN through Twitter is that we connect and share ideas like this.
    Excellent blog post today!

  2. Spot on David…
    Unfortunately, I think many educational organizations fall into the “information flow” trap. As building leaders, we go to district meetings where we “receive” information. This is then brought back to our campus where we transmit that information to teachers…thus eroding potentially productive collaborative time. I think modeling “flipped” meetings at the district level is a great idea.

    To me, the concept of “flipping” a meeting (or a classroom) is simply about maintaining a focus on valuing time. Just like maximizing instructional time in the classroom, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our teachers’ time and too often we (me included) are not effective in this regard.

    One thing I have been doing this year, is keeping a running list of staff announcements in a shared Google Doc. Each day is indexed, for future reference. I have found that by adding informational items as I think of them, and then sending out a daily link to the list, I have dramatically reduced what needs to be covered during meetings. This is time I plan on allowing teachers to recapture with self-directed professional development and collaboration. I don’t see any reason this would not work at the district level.

    Nice post…keep us updated on your progress!


    • I am in agreement with Jeff. I love the concept David and I would love to see us move in this direction, but it is definitely a change in direction. “Information flow” has been the practice for so long that it will be difficult for many districts to change. I find it especially so, in the smaller rural districts that surround me. Still, I have hope that we can move in that direction for the benefit of learning by all.

  3. I think, David and Jeff, that you’re both on to something: Principals rarely work in collaborative environments themselves. Instead, their district level meetings are about delivering as much content in as short a window of time as possible.

    Think about the impact that has on efforts to encourage collaboration to spread in buildings?

    Researchers — and I can’t pull their names off the top of my head — have shown that teachers embrace the instructional practices that they see modeled in their learning environments. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

    And if it’s true, that means principals are less likely to encourage collaborative settings because they aren’t experiencing collaborative settings themselves.

    Glad you’re tinkering with this, David. Looking forward to seeing where it goes,

  4. Pingback: Are You a Steward of Time? « Molehills out of Mountains

  5. Pingback: Are You a Steward of Time? | molehills out of mountains

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