Saturday, August 30, 2014

What I learned about flipping from trying to fix our car...

We got a new car last November.  Well, new to us meaning a 2007 Toyota Highlander, with room enough for Grayson's carseat and some leg and breathing room.  The battery, which hadn't been replaced in 7 years, died about a month ago as I was attempting to meet up with a friend for lunch and we got a replacement (thank you AAA).  Then, last Monday, the fateful "battery" light came on our dash.  I looked it up and this is what I was told on multiple sites (but this one is from

Charging System Warning LightThe charging system, or battery, warning light, is one of the most critical warning lights on any vehicle. Whenever this light goes on, it means that the vehicle is running solely on battery power and will only be able to drive a very limited distance before it runs out of electrical power and dies.

Awesome.  That's exactly what you want to hear the night before you go back to work full time after having the summer off, when you have a 15 month old at home that you can do absolutely no work unless he is asleep.  Just perfect...

The diagnosis was that we needed a new alternator, and in the efforts to save some money and make my very handy dad proud of us being able to figure this thing out, we decided to buy the alternator and repair it ourselves.

This process started on Tuesday.  And we still don't have it fixed.  (Don't worry, we have another car I can drive to work.  My husband and son just have no way to leave the house while I'm gone all day...)

By last night, we (when I say "we", I actually mean my amazing husband, with my loving encouragement, support, and "how's it going" followed by "how much longer") had gotten the old alternator out and the new one in.  But the darn serpentine belt just would not get back on.  We had all the right tools (breaker bar, wrenches, etc), but we couldn't get enough slack to get it around.

It was about 8pm last night when I gave up trying to work on unpacking and intermittently "got my hands dirty" and tried to help my husband either get the belt back around or put pressure on the breaker bar to release the tension.  As my frustrations increased and it turned to 10:30pm with no success, I felt like this was a perfect analogy to why even Flipping 101 is so valuable...

The teacher needs to be there when the students are doing the "hardest" work - when they are actually applying, analyzing, and evaluating the information.  They DON'T need to be there (as much or if at all) during information dissemination or basic knowledge transfer.

We watched several YouTube videos, read a few websites, and with my limited car knowledge (i.e. NONE) I am now confident that I could explain to anyone where the alternator is, what it looks like, the pattern of the serpentine belt, the ridge/smooth edges of the belt and how they line up with the ridge/smooth parts, what a breaker bar is, how there are different sizes of wrenches and two ends to them.  Yeah... I learned a lot of basic factual information all on my own.

Once we actually started to apply the information we learned, we thought it would be pretty easy.  After all, the videos made it seem pretty easy.  Obviously, it wasn't that easy.  We needed the teacher physically present.  We needed someone live who could troubleshoot our issues and tell us what we were doing wrong/differently from the instructions.  We needed someone to "spot us" and guide us to not miss something we didn't realize was important. (P.S. If you aren't following Paula Torres' blog, you need to.  One of her recent posts on being the "spotter" for her students was "spot" on ;).)

So... think about how this applies in the classroom.

How often do we give the "information" during class time and then send students home expecting they can apply it themselves with no support?  They have the basic facts, vocabulary, and even some written/verbal/visual examples, all given to them by the "expert" who makes it seem so easy?  And, when students go home, they look at it, try their best, but just seem stuck.  They get frustrated, just want to cry and give up, and feel hopeless, like they are so stupid they can't figure out what seems to be "so easy" to other people? [cue our feelings from the last 48-72 hours...]

How much better is it, even to begin with Flip 101, and give students that basic information before they come to class [or even, for the anti-homework people out there, asynchronously during class time on student devices where they can receive support and help "just in time" for when they need it and are ready to ask question or apply it], when all they have to do is digest it, think through it, take notes, and write their questions down... Then, they come to class and are able to get their questions answered (that they now know they have, since they had time to process the material).  They are able to apply their knowledge of the basic facts and information and struggle through the material WITH help right next to them to "spot" them and help them when needed.  The students don't get to the point of utter frustration and giving up hope because there is support all around them!

I just told my husband this analogy (as he heads back downstairs for another try).  Hopefully it makes sense... and hopefully the "Grayson-mobile" can make its way out of the garage shortly.
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