Taste the Rainbow

I am continually amazed at how Flipped Learning is transforming teachers and students all over the world.  I want to introduce you to Tamara Copeland-Samaripa.  I "met" her on twitter and she told me how flipped learning has totally transformed her classroom.  Enjoy

You know those perfectly orchestrated moments on television or in movies—the ones where the rain is drizzling down the car window and as the camera peers through the windshield we see a woman, hand half-covering her pained expression, tears streaming down her contorted face.  If we weren’t bludgeoned by the crescendo of violins, we’d be privy to her guttural sobs—we think, good lord, who cries like that?!

Well, apparently I do (minus the soundtrack), especially after a day where exhaustion doesn’t even begin to describe the slow evisceration of my spirit.

I spent the summer of 2012 eagerly awaiting the fall.  I had just finished the previous year as ELA department chair, HS tech mentor, and 1 out of 5 teachers who participated in a pilot for use of iPads in the classroom.  In addition, I had been asked to give an iPad presentation in July at the Statewide Conference on the Education of the Deaf.  Though I was exhausted, it was an invigorating exhaustion, the kind that revs you up and readies you for the next challenge.  I had believed that I had found my next challenge after connecting with Cheryl Morris, of the famed Thomasson Morris Instruction.  After reading her blog and watching videos of the duo demonstrating writing process, I knew I had to send her and Andrew an email.  She responded right away and even took the time to subtitle one of her videos for me so that I could get an idea of how to start my own videos.  She basically gave me a crash course in her flipped method and I was hooked. 

I started making my own videos and I was so excited to begin the year.  Then pre-service began and policy changes were announced, new initiatives explained, and it became clear that I was not going to have time to make videos.  It was the fall in which I attempted to do it all—I was going to become the flippin’ Queen, master all of the new initiatives, complete all administration mandates on time, convince the curriculum team to flip Professional Development, and make good on my promise to my husband not to bring work home.  I had bit off way more than I could chew.  By December, I was beyond burnt out—after only 7 years, I was absolutely, positively certain that this was my last year of teaching.  So, I sat in my car and cried.

While I like to say that I began flipping my classroom that first day of school, true flip did not happen until I found my PLN on Twitter over Christmas break.  I started out simply following Cheryl and Andrew and whomever else they followed.  I lurked and basked on their every tweet like some fanatic groupie.  I was encouraged to join #flipclass chat as well as check out the flipclass Ning. At first I was overwhelmed.  It seemed as if everyone was doing phenomenal things with the flipped concept and here I was still making mediocre grammar videos at best.  It was during #flipclass chat that I started to understand what flipclass really means. 


It really isn’t.  Flip class is a mindset.  Its willingness from the teacher to let go of the classroom and hand it over to the student.  I will not insult your intelligence and say that teachers don’t really know what student learning looks like.  I think we do, but often we assume that we need to be the directors.  We have built ourselves up through education, certification, and years of experience to envisioning ourselves as academic tour guides.  There is nothing wrong with having a tour guide, but sometimes learning comes from exploring on your own and having someone there to answer questions when you are ready to learn more.  We have to find that balance between directing and facilitating.  Engaging in discussion with fellow flippers has helped me understand what student-centered really means.  By January I was making the shift to eliminating homework.  I was focusing on allowing students to move through the curriculum at their own pace (within reason).  I was making myself more available to students for 1:1 help.  I also read more about standards-based grading and decided to put my energy into learning more about my students and their needs by ASKING them (rather than relying on the paperwork or assessment results that I’m given at the beginning of the year). 

I don’t consider myself a flippin’ Queen yet, but I’m making small steps and I have to say that post-spring break, I’m smiling more.  Maya Angelou said, during CUE13, that “Teachers are rainbows in the clouds.” Teachers might be the one positive influence in as tudent's life.   However, sometimes, Teachers need to find rainbows for themselves.  The most beautiful rainbows tend to show after the darkest of storms.  So, don’t be afraid to give flipping a try.  There are a variety of ways to do it and a variety of colleagues willing to help get you started.  Join us on Twitter for #flipclass to learn more! 

Tamara Copeland-SamaripaTamara Copeland-Samaripa is a high school English teacher at a School for the Deaf.  She is also a technology mentor who loves to share new and innovative ways to use technology in the classroom.  Recently she has begun blogging as a way to reflect on her experience with flipped classroom.  you can view her blog at!