Life Flip


On a Southwest Airlines flight in August, I read an article in their magazine Spirit by Jennifer Miller about an intriguing new idea that some teachers and schools are bold enough to try called the flipped classroom. “Flipped Out” is mostly a story about one admirable teacher who noticed that both his students and he were suffering from boredom. He decided it was time to do something about it. He researched, investigated, experimented, observed, adjusted, & refined the “flipped” classroom. You can read the article here:  I wrote Spirit magazine  a letter to tell them I enjoyed the article. They wrote back to say they wanted to feature my letter in the October issue. If you fly Southwest, take a peek on page 24. Spirit magazine titled my letter “Life Flip” and they included their own note at the end:

What a great idea to give the kids a sabbatical. Now we at Spirit are thinking how we can do that…

I might have to follow-up with a note to ask them: do they mean how can they (workers at Spirit magazine) take a sabbatical or how can can their kids take a sabbatical?

Anyway, here’s my published letter:


Marc Seigel was wise to pay attention to his boredom after teaching the traditional way for 10 years. He was bold and brave to figure out ways to cure the boredom by trying something different: the flipped classroom. During our daughter’s seventh and eighth grade years, our family decided to flip not just a classroom, but our lives. We took a two-year break from the traditional classroom for reasons cited in this article: too much testing, too much irrelevant homework, an over-reliance on textbooks, etc. You could call what we did homeschooling, but because one of us is a professor, we called it a sabbatical. What does one do during a sabbatical? Behave like Marc Seigel. There were no tests and no textbooks, but lots of reading, writing and conversations. We hiked, biked, danced, and walked. We planted a garden. After two years, all three of us — not just our daughter — felt smarter, healthier, and happier.  A remark our daughter made in the sixth grade rings true: “You know, there’s a certain part about getting good at something that involves loving it.”  Learning (and teaching) is all about loving. — Pamela Beere Briggs

P.S. That Marc Seigel continues to observe, ask himself questions, and refine his teaching methods is what I admire most. His students are learning so much by watching him!  The idea with a sabbatical is to Re-think, Refresh, Revise, and Re-focus, in order to gain new wisdom and greater clarity.  As educator-storytellers, we are constantly brainstorming ways to ignite lifelong learning, which we call thriving (vs. surviving).



  • Suzanne DeCuir

    Yes, even small breaks can make a huge difference. My sisters children attend a French immersion school and every six weeks the school gives the kids a week off to recharge and relax. I’m homeschooling my 10 year old this year and we are both having such a happier year following her interests and learning in more creative ways. She cannot sit still in a seat and why should she have to?

    • TwointheMiddle

      Yes, I am a big believer in “sabbaticals” (inspiring breaks) which should apply to people of all ages. Taking even a small break from the regular routine, which might in fact be a dispiriting and unhealthy regular routine, can lead to healthier and more effective approaches. Who says everyone learns sitting in a chair? On an outdoor field-trip I went on as a parent chaperone with Natalie’s 5th grade class, I will never forget the boy who was placed in our group. He was considered a “troublemaker” in the classroom, unable to sit still and focus. I was a bit apprehensive, to tell the truth, to have him in our group. But what a wonderful time we had! In the outdoors, he was attentive, engaged, and cooperative!

  • Carolyn Goodart

    The Southwest Airline article on the Flipped Classroom made my head spin! Such an education doesn’t seem very down-to-earth. Maybe I am more inclined to compartmentalize. I would prefer more hands-on real life experiences for youngsters. I worry about too much “screen time” for kids. I would favor a more “project oriented” approach to learning where computers and the Net would be just another tool.

    • TwointheMiddle

      Carolyn, I agree that too much time spent with computers is not the solution. It’s funny; I think I mainly focused on the teacher’s story because I found him inspiring. I think his willingness to try different ways to engage and teach students is good not only for his student, but for him as a teacher (to stay engaged in his own learning). I think the “flipped classroom” refers to the idea of having students sometimes (but not all of the time) listen to/watch a lecture at home (which we think of happening in the classroom) and then using classroom time to discuss, create, write, work on projects. I think too many classrooms seem like dull, inactive places, and that’s what the flipped classroom is trying to take a look at. What do you think? And I wholeheartedly agree: there is much to much “screen time” for kids. Perhaps if they can engage more in the classroom, they’ll find other things besides the computer that are worth engaging with outside the classroom.

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