Friday, November 21, 2014


What I am about to say is semi-heretic in some of the circles I float around in online and on twitter, and to some small degree, even at my amazing school.

I like to lecture...

I'll compound my blasphemy with the comment that

I'm pretty good at it...

This came up to me because while I run full flipped Chemistry I class and for the most part flipped intro to Organic class, I do a lot less in my AP class and sometimes I lecture for a bit in my organic class.

I had a terrible teaching day a few days ago and just went home defeated.  I've been sick for a couple of weeks and all sorts of craziness is going on at school and at home and it has been a rough slog of a year in many ways, but still, this day was one of those that just makes you want to reconsider your profession.  Not from any bad behaviors or anything, just a bad day that it felt like no kids learned anything and I wasted their time and mine.

So in partial personal response to that, when I had those same classes two days later, I shifted away from my usual very student centered model to that more traditional teacher in charge day.  I lectured for 20-30 minutes in my first class, and you know what?

It felt great...

I understand and know all of the arguments on the other side of that, I've made them myself, often vehemently:

  • Just because you "covered" the material doesn't mean your students learned it
  • Students tune out after X number of minutes of lecture and you went way over that
  • Students need to be in charge of their own learning
Again, I've drink that kool-aid on a daily basis, even whipping up batches for other teachers pretty often.

But I think sometimes we forget what can occasionally be the simple effectiveness of direct instruction, live, in front of a class of students.  I'm not saying that every second of class should be eaten up that way, I'm not saying that pre-recorded content is useless (I've wasted a lot of my time if it is!), or that every student learns best that way.

Some students do though...some students want the chance to ask questions immediately and get an immediate response.  No manner of discussion threads or managed messaging or emails or comments on videos or voicethread will do that, and as a flipped classroom teacher, even though I spend most of my class every day answering questions in small groups or for individuals, which I believe is more effective than for a whole group, there is real power in answering a question for the whole group, all at once, in the moment that it was asked and they were most confused.  There is power in capturing that moment at the moment that it happens.

No that doesn't have to happen during a lecture and probably shouldn't most of the time.  But it can, and it is great when it does...

My title of conflicted is a bit overblown because I'm not really conflicted per se.  I know that there is no real pedagogical silver bullet and that being a "pure" flipped classroom teacher or constructivist or 21st century educator or student-centered classroom facilitator or whatever the hot new thing of the day is doesn't really matter.

What matters is having a variety of approaches and methods in your toolbox and using the right tools at the right time judiciously and with discernment for the betterment of the students.

And sometimes, that might be a good old-fashioned, sage on the stage teacher delivering content lecture!