Thursday, July 31, 2014

Moving the Entrenched Teacher

Evidently the scariest, most terrifying threat to education is the bitter, cynical, entrenched classroom teacher. They impede progress, sow dissent and are bad for students.  Oh by the way... these are the same teachers that for past twenty years have had no meaningful training, tools or support, have had their jobs threatened, their salaries eroded and have worked for a revolving door of supervisors and managers.  As I tell principals, if your veteran teachers don’t possess a healthy level of cynicism, they haven’t been paying attention.

But the question does remain. How do you get these teachers moving forward in a concerted fashion? It will be more difficult than leading a team of rookies, put the payoff is greater because a group of veterans know more than a group of rookies.  Here is what I have always done.

1. Have a concrete, visceral mission.  Mine was, “Get them to school. Get them in class. Get them in college.” Then repeat this mission like you are a broken record. Keep the mission in the forefront and make sure it frames discussions, problem solving and decision-making.

2. Create visual change.  Deep clean the building, spot paint, make repairs, and rearrange the geography of the building.  And explain why you are doing it. 
A. Our eyes are our biggest source of sensory input.  If you see change, you start to believe change.
B. Environmental cues lock us into habits and routines.  It is much easier to break those habits and routines in a new environment.

3. Simplify.  Don’t rollout a 75-point plan for campus improvement. No one can do 75 things. Work on getting better at the few things that really matter.

4. Train, train, train.  Small modules over extended time.

5. Cue. Cue the practices the staff is training on.  How? PowerWalks.

6. Reinforce.  Reinforce the attempt. Reinforce the effort. Reinforce the progress. Reinforce the success.

7. Measure.  If you are doing something, measure it, track it, and discuss it.  Celebrate the successes, huddle up to plan for overcoming adversity.

And finally, with your entrenched, cynical, veteran staff, “Gritching” is good.  It means that they are getting out of their comfort zones and trying.  No gritching means they aren’t doing it.  To misquote Robert Duval, “I love the sound of gritching in the morning... It's the sound of victory.”

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Your Prioritized Improvement Actions

As you are getting ready for the upcoming school year, I want to help you prioritize the actions that will maximize effort and performance, for both students and teachers.

1. Teach the right thing, at the right time, at the right rigor.  If this is not occurring, at scale, even though the students and staff are working, performance will always lag behind effort.

2. Identify your core instructional delivery model, and use it, with increasing frequency and quality. Provide ongoing training and support on the model. We suggest you use The Fundamental 5, but even lesser systems can work if implemented with fidelity.

3. Identify your core behavior/student discipline model, and use and MODEL it, with increasing frequency and quality. Provide ongoing training and support on the model. I suggest you use Girls and Boys Town, but other systems can work if implemented with fidelity.

4. Indentify the specialized content delivery models (used in conjunction with the core instructional delivery model) for Reading, Writing, Math and possibly Science. Use the models with increasing frequency and quality.  Provide ongoing training and support on the models.

5. Keep working the above list, in order presented. 

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lesa Cain Writes... Elementary Scheduling Considerations

LYS Coach, Lesa Cain, recently shared the following with a group of elementary school instructional leaders.

The Elementary School Master Schedule: Overall Considerations

Scheduling is an important part of any school’s success.  There is no one right schedule; it is the implementation of the schedule, driven by the adults, that is critical.  

It is my understanding that in this district we will maintain the self-contained model in grades K-2, and adopt a partner pair model in grades 3-5. 

The next step is to use data to drive your decisions in terms of which students go in what classes.  Who should be together and who should not? What homeroom teacher or teachers have your special education students? How will you determine the resource, in-class support and co-teach times? Who has GT and what students will share class with the identified GT students? Be aware that classes can become “stacked” if you are not aware of reading/math levels – so we need to be in solid agreement of what criteria we use to tell if students are on level or below level.

We also must determine the specific number of minutes for each content area and include the number of minutes for RTI time as well. 

I challenge you to think about how you will monitor the implementation of the schedules.  After last year, you know that if you do not monitor the schedule and transitions, it will not be a focus for staff.  What we monitor is what is done.  Being on schedule is a perfect walk-through focus for the first 2 weeks of school (which we’ll talk about at our next meeting).

The Self-Contained Classroom Model

Why?
1.     Best for primary grades – students get to learn how school works and this model SHOULD support quicker transition times.
2.     Supports “My Kid” thinking – teachers are responsible for the student achievement, behavior, communication – all aspects of development for the students in their class.

How?
1.     Determine the groups for classes – heterogenous, homogenous, GT, ELL, Special Eduction, 504 etc. and create classes.
2.     Determine how many minutes to be spent on each subject and create a daily schedule – must do this for any type of pull-outs – so all students are served.

Challenges?
1.     Planning – what agreements will teachers make to ensure that planning is a collaborative effort? Dividing and conquering content is not an effective way to plan, so what will we agree to instead?
2.     Relationships – what is the expectation for developing relationships and what will we do if there are issues in this area.  In a self-contained situation, students and teachers get no relief from difficult situations unless we are willing to be flexible in extreme cases.

The Partner Pair Model

Why?
1.     Scheduling for teacher training (both at the district and campus level) becomes more efficient.
2.     Training on campus is also more effective and can be done throughout the school year with less need for substitute teachers on a given training day.
3.     Expectations for teacher expertise can increase because overall responsibilities are decreased.
4.     Teachers teach what they are best at teaching.
5.     Students have the opportunity to learn from more than one person – this supports relationship building, especially in difficult situations, for both the teacher and the student.
6.     Allows flexibility with class schedules for ESL, Special Education, Gifted and students with behavior issues.

How?
1.     Determine how many minutes per content area.
2.     Determine which teachers will teach what content.
3.     Build the schedule so that am/pm classes have equal minutes.  Usually 150 minutes for a total block.  That is 60 minutes for reading, 60 minutes for writing and 30 for social studies.  For the math/science block – we had 75 minutes for math and 75 for science. These times vary from district to district and grade to grade.
4.     Determine the needs for Special Education students – push-in for in-class support, or pull-out for resource, and from what classes will the pull-out services be scheduled?
5.     Determine what your interventions look like.  We used Title I support to “push-in” during the reading block so that students had the most support during the small group time.

Challenges?
1.     Teachers must communicate with each other on a daily basis – they plan with their content buddy and talk to their teaching partner.
2.     Partner teachers must be on the same page about classroom routines and procedures – especially in terms of transitions.  Transitions should NEVER take more than 2 minutes.

Reflect on what I have shared at we will discuss when we meet next week.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn... 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Monday, July 28, 2014

Top LYS Tweets From the Week of July 20, 2014

A number of you in the LYS Nation are now Twitter users.  If you haven’t done so yet, we want you to join us.  To let you see what you are missing, here are the Top 10 LYS Tweets from the week of July 20, 2014.

1. Rigor is not about complex content. Rigor is about students thinking complexly about the content. (By @LYSNation)

2. You can either throw in the towel or use it to wipe the sweat off your face. (By @Crysrommuel)

3. One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation. (By @CoachKWisdom)

4. Leadership is about adding value to others.  It’s not about the position. (By @blitzkrieg607)

5. Accountability is just that, counting. Equity and excellence is found in the achievement of your subpopulations. (By @TinneyTroy)

6. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is consistently doing more than what is expected of you. (By @ValaAfshar)

7. Allow yourself to be a beginner... (By @JasonElsom)

8. It is much easier to criticize a leader than it is to be one.  (By @ToddWhitaker)

9. Teachers, here's food for thought...when your most fragile students are successful, all students are WINNING! A "genius" team taught me that! (By @TraciTousant)

10. Hostess is bringing back the chocolate covered Twinkie. Anyone looking to eat healthy should just stick to the regular Twinkie. (By @ConanOBrien)

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What We Can Learn From the Countries With Schools That Outperform Ours

Do we have the best public education system in the world?

Short answer, “No.” 

Long answer, “It's complicated.” 

In the U.S. we are pursuing the seemingly competing goals of: 

1. Teach for equity; and 
2. Teach for excellence. 

We do neither the best, but in combination...

I have to admit the above statement stings, a lot.  I think we should and can be the best at both.  But we won’t get there following the path we are currently on.  We will have to chart a new path. A path defined by embracing more of the things that work and letting go of the practices driven by opinion and a skewed world-view.  Now charting a new path sounds like macro-level change, beyond the scope and resources of the rank and file teacher, principal and even superintendent.  But I don’t believe that is the case.  I truly believe that a handful of focused and motivated individuals can team together and change a system.  This can be the case in our profession.  You and your team can be the trailblazers.

In preparation of this trailblazing endeavor, let’s review what we have learned from the schools in countries that regularly outperform us.      

1. Have students spend more time engaged in academic activities.
- Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator, District Administrator  

2. A coaching relationship with students is more productive than a cheerleading relationship.
- Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator

3. Improve the quality of teaching candidates.
- Influencing Agents: Campus Administrator, District Administrator  

4. Train teachers like their job is important.
- Influencing Agents: Campus Administrator, District Administrator
 
5. Track students less and when you do track students, do so much later in their academic careers.
- Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator, District Administrator  

6. Fund schools based on the needs of the students.
- Influencing Agents: District Administrator, Voter  

7. Have common standards but don’t have too many of them.
- Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator, District Administrator, Voter

Compare your campus improvement plan to the seven practices listed above.  If you plan doesn’t address at least three of the practices on the list, I would suggest that you re-work your plan.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Master Schedule Priorities

At LYS we get a lot of questions concerning the building of Master Schedules.  Which is to expected when you are the home of secondary scheduling gurus E. Don Brown and Sherilynn Cotten and elementary scheduling gurus Lesa Cain and Barbara Fine.  Regardless the operational parameters, they can build you the best possible schedule for meeting student needs.

If only it was that easy.  You see at most schools the master schedule is not about students.  In order of priority, here is what drives the building of a master schedule at the typical school:

“A” priority - Ease of creating schedule
“A” priority - Make the adults happy
“A” priority - Protect a pet project
“A” priority - Solve paper problems (trailer course opportunity)
“A” priority - Don’t rock the boat
“A” priority - Do what we have always done
“D” priority - Meet student needs

Compare that to the campus that consistently outperforms its peers (the working definition of a great school).  The Great School master scheduling priorities:

“A” priority - Meet student needs
“B” priority - Adequate time to teach
“B” priority - Adequate time to plan (with team)
“C” priority - Reduce transition events
“C” priority - Build expertise
“D” priority - Minimize transition time
“Z” priority - Ease of creating schedule
“Z” priority - Make adults happy

What priorities drive your master schedule?

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Reader Writes... The Astronomical Cost of Comp Time - Part 1

In response to the 6/19/2014 post, “The Astronomical Cost of Comp Time,” a LYS C/I Director writes:

SC,

I have to reply to your comp day example.  We use comp days to compensate staff for attending professional development in our district. This was the practice in the previous district I worked in as well. However, the comp days are designated on our calendar already.  So, instead of professional development during the year when teachers are busy and not focused, we have personalized professional development occur in the summer prior to the next year of instruction.

So, the cost is nothing for us except for the summer professional development costs.  The days they are off students are not in attendance and therefore instructional time isn't lost.

Just another scenario for your comp day time since you note it as the worst option.  I think in the scenario you provide it is possible, but in our comp time scenario, I disagree with it being the worst option.

SC Response
First, you and the district are to be commended for working to find a way to compensate staff for their off contract time spent on furthering the district’s mission.

And I appreciate that the days that teachers can use the comp time is predetermined by district calendar.  I too, did the same thing when I was in your position.  Teachers who attended extra summer training were able to take the entire Thanksgiving Week off, instead of just the last three days.

Seemingly a Win/Win.  But I wouldn’t do it now.  Now I would pay my teacher’s a stipend for off contract Summer Training and use the two days before Thanksgiving for on-going training, student staffings, team instructional planning and the like.  Are teachers distracted at that time of the year? Yes.  But as professionals, I would expect that given a meaningful task or activity the days could still be productive.

I just know that we talk team, we talk collaboration, and we talk on-going training.  But when we have opportunities to put that talk into practice, we have a lot of justifications for it just being talk.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “Look at Me: A Cautionary School Leadership Tale” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/lookatmebook 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Plans (Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan Tool); PW Lite (Basic PowerWalks Tool); PW Pro (Mid-level PowerWalks Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: The Fundamental 5 National Summit (Keynote Presentation) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook