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Backflip into the New School Year

Coming back to school this year has caused me to rethink my entire pedagogy. Why? I have a unique opportunity and I know there is a better way (to teach). I teach at Lawrence Cook Middle School as a special educator in Santa Rosa, California. We are a developing community school. A community school is one where there are real wrap-around services available to both parent and student. There are non-profit support services on campus that support learning like a therapy service agency that serves as many kids in the school as possible. Another organization offers free services to the parents like English classes,  advice on finances, immigration law, and free preschool.


These are amazing things for a population where 98% of the families qualify for free and reduced lunch. The school is mostly made up of students from a Hispanic background. Many parents are from Mexico and the kids are 1st generation American. It is hard to connect with parents because they’re time and resources are impacted. The point is, my students have deep needs. We talk a lot during staff meeting about vicarious trauma. This is the stress taken on by working with students in chronic stress or trauma from their challenging home lives.

We have taken steps to alleviate their stress and bring more calm into their lives by installing quiet time (mindfulness sessions) into the bell schedule. It’s 15 min in 1st period and 15 min in 6th period. So far so good. I’d say they’re is a very different feeling in the school than there ever has been thanks to the mindfulness.

However, I am not writing this post to talk about mindfulness. I am writing this post to talk about the flipped classroom I am creating on the fly and the NEED for it. My students have a very difficult time taking notes and following lectures even with the notes projected. Direct instruction in whole group can be hard at times. Trauma becomes loud in kids’ brains when their surroundings quiet down and require sustained focus. I can teach in a direct instruction form, but I know there’s a better way, especially for the population I am trying to reach.


We decided that we needed another choice in a small group setting in our school. So, this year I get to start a Maker Space/ class for kids with IEP’s. My background is as a muralist. I am starting there. Last year we created a mural that I directed. This year my goal is to help my sixty kids with 4 special ed classes on their schedules learn how to create their own murals and be their own project director. In order to do this they need the following:

  • Basic drawing skills
  • Basic color theory knowledge
  • Measuring skills
  • Understand and utilize ratio and proportion
  • Be able to plan and implement a project timeline
  • Present a design and discuss it’s theme
  • Complete the project according to the mural process outlined in class.



To make this happen I could run the whole learning experience via direct instruction, practice, and reteaching. I have done this and student mastery is limited. Kids interrupt. Kids schedules with therapy and counseling interrupt OFTEN. Kids are often absent. It’s hard to get everyone up to speed the old way.IMG_1687

What I need to do is teach via video. Here’s an episode that I was inspired to go this way from the Flipped Learning Network Worldwide Podcast with Jon Bergmann. Doceri is already my number one teaching tool. I never want to teach without it again! I never want to stand in front of the class again. Doceri allows me to control my PC which is connected to my projector from anywhere in the room. I want to be near my students. However, it takes time to create videos.Recently, I have been hitting the record button during one of my four classes. I have already used the saved videos for kids transferring into the class to catch up. The stops on the timeline are SOOO helpful when I play back what I drew out in my 1st period class for my 4th period class. Just tap record set it up with my instructions, then hit play and all of my drawing plays out to the stop mark. Then, I pause the recording when I go to check kids work. At the end of period 4 I have a record of the lesson for the day. If period 4 was a bit chatty then I have 2 other classes to get a decent recording.


My next step is to create more basic drawing screencasts ahead of time so they can view them on their own using a class iPads. Yes. I have sixteen iPad 2’s. I told you I was in a unique situation. It will be a LOT of work upfront but will be so worth it. My goal? To become that guide on the side that every teacher has heard about. I want the kids to be more responsible for the synthesis of the lessons. Then, I can spend more time supporting and less time recording and creating lessons on the fly. My students deserve as much attention from me as possible. My students deserve me flipping my class with Doceri. I hope you enjoy this chronicle of the pitfalls and successes of my flipclass journey. This is a better way.

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