Money Issues

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Chicago right now trying to distract myself from thinking about the keynote speech I have the opportunity to give tomorrow morning at the 5th annual Flipped Classroom Conference. More on that later.

I have seen a recent article make its rounds through Twitter this past week. Without jumping to conclusions, I read the article, and I have to say, I’m disappointed at the connotation the headline is conveying given the content of the article. I know that headlines are often written with hyperbole to garner readers, but this one has continued to rub me the wrong way given that the article tells an entirely different story.

Flickr CC, Johnny Vulkan

In short, no, the flipped classroom does not put low-income schools at a disadvantage if we approach the problem with innovative solutions. The article even says that:

…Luria realized that none of her students had computers at home, and she had just one in the classroom. So she used her own money to buy a second computer and begged everyone she knew for donations, finally bringing the total to six for her 23 fourth-graders at Rigler School.

At Westside High School in Macon, Ga., more than 85 percent of students are minorities and 78 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Chemistry teacher Jennifer Douglass estimated that about half are so transient they don’t have a guaranteed place to sleep each night. Members of feuding gangs are placed into classes alongside pregnant teenagers, she said, and parent involvement is rare.

With the help of a federal grant that provided netbooks for all students, a handful of teachers in different disciplines at Westside flipped their classrooms and reported that doing so improved students’ grades—and their level of engagement.

All this to say that yes, money is an issue for many districts, but no, it should not derail innovation. Money is available, but we have to start thinking in terms of “What can I do to fix this,” rather than, “There’s no money, so I can’t do it at all.” A defeatist attitude will not help anyone move forward.

I’m so glad that the teachers in the post recognize that yes, money is sometimes and obstacle that needs to be overcome, but no, it is not the end of a tool that does real good for the students. Both the teachers, even without much money, have found ways to work within their means and help their stuents find major success where there was only failure before. They’re great examples of teachers going the extra mile for their students.

I’ve written on the use of class time in the past. Who cares where the learning happens…if they cannot watch videos at home, that does not mean the class isn’t flipped. If the responsibility is put back on the students, whether its in class or out of class, the class has been effectively flipped. Let’s stop seeing money as a barrier and look at it as an opportunity to form new connections or get kids involved in the improvement of their schools.

  • DLR

    Good points. All good literature classes have been “flipped” for generations: students do the reading at home and the discussion and analysis in class. It has always amazed me that other classes don’t operate this way….

    • Andrew

      Still, more resources could be shifted homewards for Lit classes– grammar rules, sample poetry analyses, thesis writing, etc. The joy in English classes, especially with the new Common Core push towards nonfictional texts, is that English class becomes about whatever you want– kids can write about science, math, history, current events–and you can build analysis into any of those types of texts. (From simple stuff all the way up to articles in the New Yorker and The Atlantic…)

      Then, you can use all of that as a bridge to the big ideas and big texts. Like ecology? Read Barbara Kingsolver. Civil War? Cold Mountain. Russian revolution? (the list is long!) Video games? Junot Diaz! You get the idea.

      And, of course, all these threads virtually demand interdisciplinary connections rather than private fiefdoms.

  • Ms. Nguyen

    Thank you so much for this post. I will be a first year teacher this upcoming school year and I’m planning to flip my classroom. I am very nervous because the school I’ll be teaching at is composite of also 85% minority and over 70% of the student bodies are on free or reduced lunch. This post made me feel more confident that it is possible I just have to be creative! Thank you