Maybe we should be trying a different kind of “flipped” learning.
My excitement over an beautiful art-and-science web resource that TeachersFirst just reviewed makes me smile — and wrinkle my forehead. We so readily accept the fact that teachers of different subjects have trouble seeing the world through any other lens but their own. The greater the subject matter expertise (e.g. high school vs. middle or elementary), the more focused good teachers are on their own subject — to the exclusion of all else.
While passion is great, the slicing of experience and knowledge into academic disciplines is a real disservice to our students. As teachers, we need to try out other lenses and allow our students to do the same. If you have ever had your eyes checked for glasses, you have looked at an eye chart through a funny machine (called a phoropter) while a technician or doctor flips the lenses and asks, “Which is better, A or B?…C or D?…” We need to flip our lenses.
One idea for flipping would be a one week job swap. (I have always wanted to try this.) For one week, maybe during
the doldrums of winter, let teachers trade places. A math teacher could trade with the English teacher. The physics and music teachers could reverse places. The eighth grade history teacher could trade with biology.
Of course we would have to leave lesson plans for our swap-teacher, but also leave him/her some flexibility. A math teacher, accustomed to looking at numbers and patterns, might see patterns in English class: average number of words per sentence of Hemingway vs. Dickens, the proportion of adjectives that a student uses in his writing. The history teacher might notice that the way cells work is not unlike the way colonists did. If we ‘notice” things out loud in front of our students, we would be connecting the disciplines instead of dividing them. Our “Wow, I never saw that before” could be a model for the kind of learning we want our students to experience. With a little flexibility in the lesson plans, the students could come out of Swap Week with more connections than usual from a week of school.
If nothing else happened during Swap Week, we would at least gain an appreciation for how our students feel in the artificially subdivided world of school. That might be better than any subject lens we might try on.