Thursday, February 2, 2012


The best part of flipping my classroom this semester, and to a lesser part last term, is the amount of time freed up.  I know that a lot of folks will decry the fact that I spent 10 years teaching chemistry in a largely lecture-centric fashion.  Honestly, that wasn't the problem in my mind...I was a good lecturer, I think a few hundred kids would attest to that.

The problem though was the real lack of time.  To walk students through a lecture, letting them take notes, ask questions, etc, tended to eat up anywhere from half to 3/4 of every class, with the rest of the time devoted to sort of starting homework in class, or maybe, just maybe, a demo or fun activity.  I know, sounds terrible.  I'd be embarrassed if I thought I was really robbing the kids, or felt I didn't help them learn chemistry that way.  Wasn't the best way, but it worked to some degree.

But in switching to flip, wow...I have a lot of time,every day.  I mean a lot of time.  When you go from 2-3 demos/ labs/ hands on per week to 5-6, it takes a lot of time.  The fact of the matter is that after 10 years, the lectures are largely done, my slides are prepped, etc.  This year, I don't even use them.  Instead, that amazing amount of time goes into my kids getting their hands dirty or wet more likely, doing real chemistry, exploring in ways that my old methods didn't allow us.

Sounds awesome right...?  And it is....but...

You can't take a day off, you have to be super prepped every single day.  Of course all teachers know how key prepping is, but at the same time, any veteran teacher knows that you have off days, where what you have planned isn't enough, where you are at a weird point of finishing a section, but not really enough time to start the next.  Or in my current case, where you did demos, labs, and activities all week, and one night you were just tapped out.

That was so last night for me.  I came home, set my backpack down, cooked dinner, read to my kids and then vegged out in front of the computer and read for a while.  I probably shouldn't feel guilty for taking an hour or so for myself, and I really don't. but wow, it hurt today.

My wife texted me in the middle of the school day today to ask how it was going, and I said that I felt like a lousy teacher.  We did work, the kids learned, I helped a lot of them, but wow, it just wasn't clicking today.

While that hurts, and makes me feel like a slacker, I have to realize that you can't run a breakneck, sleep 4 hours a night, work 16 hours a day pace for a whole year or semester.  It just runs you down, then you get to the point where you get snippy with the kids, little things at the school start to drive you insane and you start think about going back to be a quality control chemist in industry again.  Or maybe that's just me.  It's happened to me before.  Really this whole week was rough, though I think the kids enjoyed it and learned from it.  When we reviewed our kinetic theory activity from yesterday and they all knew what had happened, that gas particles were formed and traveled by constant random motion to react with the BTB, it was worth it.

But I'm still beat.  So I'll consider my 2 hours of work from home tonight enough and look forward to review and assessments tomorrow.  And maybe some fun too...for me and the kiddos!

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