Flip This: Film Yourself Teaching to Deconstruct Your Instruction

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user JonathanCohen

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user JonathanCohen

I Googled the following for fun.

01 flipped 04 literacy 03 math 02 inquiry

The flipped classroom can be interesting, cool, and useful. But transformative? A high yield instructional tool, tactic, or strategy? Come on.

What if we turned that video camera on ourselves for a different reason? How about, on occasion, we video ourselves teaching and our students learning so we can focus not on the content of what is being explained, but to deconstruct our own teaching?

One of the most important moments I ever experienced as a classroom teacher was the first time I really saw myself teaching a full lesson in front of a class. It was around five years ago. I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in a series of workshops Barrie Bennett was running for school administrators on how best to give feedback during/after walkthroughs.

I still have the video, but cannot post it here because: a) there are students in the video whose parental and personal consent I do not have to do so; and b) it horrifies me to the core. The voice, the hair, the constant pacing, that weird thing I do with my hands! Ghastly would be the word.

A few days after the filmographer completed her afternoon in my class, Barrie Bennett did something to me which blew my mind. In front of an audience of a couple of dozen principals, we collectively watched the video as he gave me amazingly helpful feedback on everything I was doing during the lesson. It was like a colour commentator breaking down the 3rd down play on ESPN. Really, it blew my mind. If there was a photo or video of me during that moment, it probably would have looked like this. You know how all of us who are kinda OK at this teaching thing can cite a few seminal moments or people that influenced us or transformed our thinking and practice? That day is in my top 5.

Since that day, I have always found it almost too easy to step out of my own shoes and watch myself teach as though I were a fly on the wall. It taught me that one of the most important things about being a transparent, growth-oriented educator is to be not only figuratively, but literally reflective to one person in particular.

Yourself.

Have you ever filmed yourself teaching, or contemplating doing so? If yes, tell me about your experience. If no, what’s stopping you?

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22 thoughts on “Flip This: Film Yourself Teaching to Deconstruct Your Instruction

  1. I recall that day, that experience and the change it spurred in me. My lessons were taped too and Barrie Bennett also deconstructed my teaching and the student learning that occurred in the video. I feel our Literacy@School visits have the same impact on me. During a visit when a team of teachers views my literacy block, I’m constantly deconstructing the lessons myself. Now, I do it daily whether I have a visit going on or not. The unfortunate part of this high degree of reflection is I put a great deal of pressure on myself and there are some days I feel I need to do everything better and that becomes overwhelming. 21 years of teaching and each day I still say to myself, what went well? What do I need to improve? What other supports does that student need from me? What research will extend my learning? What can I do differently tomorrow?

    Yes, put a camera on yourself, or imagine a team of parents, teachers or media viewing your lessons. Reflection is the key to improvement.

    Teaching is an awesome profession that keeps me engaged, reflective and at times, exhausted!
    Angie Harrison

    • We still seem to have a profession where a small group feels comfortable making their work transparent. The one thing about transparency, though, is that it drains you if you’re in the minority. One can only put themselves out there for so long. I wonder if we will ever change?

  2. Whoa!
    Never thought about this. I do film my kids so we can deconstruct their learning, but never thought to look back at myself. Kinda seems obvious now that you point it out. Meta learning is so powerful and transformative. That whole “is that really how I work?” piece sticks… And it moves learning. Feedback from others is great, but I’m a way harsher critic of myself.
    Great idea.

  3. This is the hardest thing ever. I had a short lesson filmed years ago, but it was so hard to watch. It was a lesson for other teachers, so it wasn’t even with my regular students. I always have a hard time listening to my own voice and seeing myself in videos. I guess it is time for me to face the truth.

  4. Since September of this year, I have been filming my math congress maybe once or twice a week (sometimes missing a week) and I agree that you can learn a lot about yourself as a teacher by viewing these films.

    A big thing I learned about myself early in the year is that I talked too much. At important junctures during the congress where a nice question was waiting to be asked, I often did not give any time for students to ponder and pose the “nice question” back to the community. I instead jumped all over these “question” opportunities and realized in horror, later, that I took a good learning opportunity away from students.

    If you were to view a video of our class congress now, then you would notice meaningful pauses in discussion, in place of my usual ‘over talking’. You might also notice that since I have talked less, students are now posing meaningful questions back to the community, followed by engaged student talk.

    …that and I talk a little bit less with my hands …

    • I would say that talking too much might be the #1 thing most of us would notice when a watching ourselves teach. I find I do the exact same thing.

      One pattern I’ve noticed is that when I dominate talk, it’s usually because of insecurity in what and how I’m teaching.

      • Paul and Royan–I noticed the same issues when I was video taped a while ago–I talked too much and didn’t realize how much I used my hands. While I agree that the amount of my talking often reflects bad planning or my own insecurity, I read a study (wish I could remember where) that argued a teacher’s physical movement can increase student learning. I think we need to use our hands, arms, legs–but with a purpose in mind.

      • The comments about using our hands keep making me laugh. I teach using the AIM approach in French, and that’s how I communicate – I sign, and the kids talk. It helps make it okay for me to use my hands, which I do anyway!

  5. Royan, I absolutely LOVE this post of yours! I videotape myself teaching all the time (or more accurately, I get my students to videotape me teaching all the time). Sometimes it’s because I have a lesson that I want to post for students to review later, sometimes it’s because I have a large number of students away, and I want them to see what they missed, sometimes it’s because I’m teaching an important concept and I want parents to review it at home with their child, and sometimes it’s because I want feedback on my lessons from my principal, vice principal, or fellow teachers. Whatever the reason is, one of the most useful things I can do to change my teaching practice is to videotape my lessons.

    As my students will attest to now, often I can reflect on my lessons as if I’m videotaping them, even if I’m not. I often stop in the middle of my lessons and say, “Oh no, I didn’t give enough wait time. Sorry! Let me rephrase that. I didn’t word that question clearly. Or wait a minute, let me try that again.” As you mentioned as well, videotaping my lessons have allowed me to be more reflective, even when I don’t videotape them. Just like Angie, sometimes I can find myself being too negative of everything (I’m paraphrasing here), but I wouldn’t stop videotaping myself now. I’ve become a better teacher as a result.

    I’m curious to hear what others say on this topic. I’d love to know different ways that people use videotaping to change their teaching practices and further impact positively on their students.

    Aviva
    http://www.weinspirefutures.com

    • Do you ever notice your grade 6s get extra excited to learn during a lesson you’re taping? I find that, and it’s another bonus.

      I have this crazy idea for another year. One student per week gets to be the class filmmaker. He/she gets special privileges to film the class and maybe interview people. Then they have to edit it into a less than 5 min movie.

      Crazy or what?

      • Crazy…. Like a fox!
        I have found that even the hint that you’re teaching may be recorded scares the beejeepers out of people. True self reflection is very scary. But I agree that there is no more powerful learning. That class filmmaker of the week is an idea I may explore. I like it.

  6. I am seriously thinking about the filmographer thing for next year, and Aviva’s already on her way with the photo blogging her class does all the time. I got kind of annoyed last year, during some co-plan, co-teach, co-deconstruct session with a group of really talented teachers. The first two steps went incredibly well, including video-ing, but no-one but me had any desire to do the last bit. I have the video of me, and it makes me cringe, but I really relate to the comment about isolation. It’s tough to transform yourself in a vacuum.

  7. Hi Royan. Your post really got me thinking! Recently my Grade 5’s and I have been consistently writing goals for ourselves and reflecting on them at the end of the day. We use a small chart we tape to the corner of our desks. At first I felt self conscious about sharing my goals. That renewed my respect for my students and how difficult it must be for them to make their goals public as well. Lately I’ve been working on doing less talking (and being consistent about posting our Learning Goals). The kids have been very supportive and encouraging. I’m sure they’d love to take turns filming me. I’m definitely going to do it! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • I really like your class filmmaker idea. My students would go crazy for this! They love videotaping everything, especially me.:) This could have a very interesting media literacy connection too. Many of my students choose filming for our daily photo shoot blog, but this would add another layer to their filming. My head is spinning now — you always do this, Royan! 🙂

      Aviva

  8. My name is Catherine Warren. I in the class EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I have never thought of filming myself teaching until reading your post. I think it will be most beneficial. I have watched films of myself in videos created for class projects. Because I was a character, it was enjoyable to watch. I would love to film myself in my future classroom. I don’t think I want to let someone else critique me, though. Your post is an interesting proposal.

  9. Luckily, early on in my career, I was a Reading Recovery teacher. Although this didn’t involve video taping, it involved bring a Grade 1 student to demo a lesson with you behind mirrored glass while your colleagues watched and listened and provided feedback afterward. It could be very challenging to keep a 5 or 6 year old focussed at 5:30 pm (these happened after school) but the feedback changed me as a teacher, especially around de-privatizing practice.

    I was fortunate to finish off my M. Ed. with Barrie’s course called Instructional Intelligence so I can relate to the kind of impact he had on your teaching – he’s remarkable!

    I have a post in the works about this very topic for VFLR – it nice coincidence!

  10. Royan – This is a great post. I know that the first time I watched myself lead a class that I could not watch the whole thing. I was ready to destroy the recording immediately. However, I did take notes and since then have improved not only my style but now I feel more comfortable being recorded. Now that I am creating more and more online eLearning, I really appreciating the experience as I now record myself for the online modules I make. I think we are all our own worst critics.

    Amy

  11. Hey Mr. Royan Lee,

    My name is Tyeshay B. from the University of South Alabama and I currently take EDM 310 class. I enjoyed reading your post. I think that watching yourself teach every now and then is a good idea and a great way to critique your own lectures.

    I have recorded myself teaching for a class project and I enjoyed watching it because I got a chance to see myself and learn about myself more. I noticed that I use my hands a lot when I am teaching! LOL

  12. Pingback: Branding My Teaching… Sort Of – mister stepan's Class

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