My A-ha on Classroom Management/Behavior Management!

My A-ha on Classroom Management/Behavior Management!

I had a huge a-ha today while I was working on a new conference presentation: I was using the terms “classroom management” and “behavior management” interchangeably.  I think I knew they were slightly different, but it dawned on me today that they are VERY different.

Here’s a graphic from my presentation, detailing the differences between Classroom Management and Behavior Management…I’m practically saying, “DUH!” to myself as I type this!

classroom verses behavior management

So what was the big a-ha?  For me it was these three things:

  1. Behavior management is for some kids while classroom management is for all kids.
  2. Classroom management has to do with management of the instruction, while behavior management might have nothing to do with instruction, per se.
  3. My biggest a-ha is that both classroom management and behavior management are preventive: they are preventing different things, but when they are carried out well they are preventing things from happening, nonetheless!

Was this ONLY a new concept for me?  What do you think?

The Q & A Series #5 of 10 | Work Weekends?!

The Q & A Series #5 of 10 | Work Weekends?!

Question: What kind of teaching work do you do on the weekends?

Answer:  Truth be told, I carried work home with me, set it by the front door and then never touched it until I picked it up early Monday morning to cart it back to school!  Note: See #3 in this series for more on this!

If I did take something home to work on during the weekend, I made sure it was something that was creative and mindless…something I could do while I watched TV or chilled out on the coach.  Maybe something that I wouldn’t normally take a ton of time on during the week like prepping an art project, looking online for ideas for an upcoming unit, sorting papers or cleaning up my files.

I just realized really quickly that a teacher who had worked all weekend was a crabbier teacher on Monday.

We need our breaks…and I take breaks pretty seriously!

The Q & A Series #9 of 10 | A Lesson Tanks?!

The Q & A Series #9 of 10 | A Lesson Tanks?!

Question: What do you do when you know a lesson is tanking?

Answer: Well, this happens to all of us for different reasons.  Sometimes a lesson tanks because I haven’t prepped properly, sometimes because I thought they knew something that the needed to know and they really didn’t or…well…because it’s a full freaking moon!  You know how that goes!

I have been given really good advice in my life that totally applies to a tanking lesson: When you’re in a hole, stop digging.

Yep.  When I notice a lesson isn’t going well and my attempts to fix it are falling flat, I just say to the kids something like, “You know what?  We’re having trouble here and we need to start over again.” And then I start over.

Usually the kids look at me like, “Yeah, it wasn’t really going well!”  It’s not a mystery when a lesson is struggling!

I also thinks that hitting that ‘start over’ button is a really good model of resilience.

For The Instructional Coach Or Principal Who Feels Less Successful Than They Are

For The Instructional Coach Or Principal Who Feels Less Successful Than They Are

I recently facilitated a pretty tough conversation between a principal, coach and the staff.  Before they talked with the staff about how they were going to ‘right’ the coaching ship, we scripted what they were going to say and then practiced it a bunch of times.

Here was the basic outline of what the principal and coach shared with the staff:

“Staff, I want to take a few minutes to talk about our coaching plan.  First off, I want to acknowledge that I have done a pretty weak job in the past at setting up the coaching role. 

Our greatest asset on campus is our team of teachers and in order for us to increase how well and how effectively we teach, we need to continue to hone our craft.  This is where Bonnie comes in.  Bonnie was hired as our coach three years ago.  At first, I don’t think any of us had a clue what to do with her!  I know Bonnie would agree! 

When I first rolled out to you the idea that we were going to have a coach, I realized that some of you were less-than-excited and instead of explaining what the coaching would look like, I assumed (incorrectly) that when Bonnie showed up, everyone would be on board.

So, in her first few weeks she visited classes and got to know your kids and you a bit better.  Soon after, we pulled her from her coaching roll often to cover for teachers when we couldn’t find subs – I remember even asking her to cover the phones when we were short on office staff. 

Obviously, this is not what the role of the coach is designed for.  The longer time went on, the more Bonnie would try to get into your classrooms, but it was difficult for her because it appeared that you were not open to coaching.  Let me be very clear: I am not surprised that you appeared disinterested or resistant to the coaching.  After all, I gave you absolutely no context for what was expected of you…and Bonnie. 

I want to apologize for handling coaching poorly…and for letting it go on so long.  I also must apologize to Bonnie, as I was not supportive of her in the way that I need to be in order to get the results from coaching that we are expecting.

So, I ask you to allow me to hit the ‘reset’ button on our coaching process.   Our scores have shown that we are doing a lot of things really well for our kids instructionally.  Recent data has shown that our struggling students in Reading and Math are continuing to struggle – we are having difficulty moving that group of students.  I see this as a very important focus area for our coaching from this point out.

Over the next two staff meetings, I have asked Bonnie to share with you the role of the coach, the flow of the coaching, the timeline for coaching and what she sees as a logical place to start with each of you.  Please know that I have asked and do expect Bonnie to be working with each of you regularly. 

Some teachers might meet with Bonnie more often and some less often, but everyone on our campus will receive coaching from Bonnie.  How you are coached will be up to Bonnie and you – she has a structure for how to do this.

I appreciate your taking all of this information into consideration and allowing us to start fresh with our coaching work.  We know that the most powerful form of professional development is coaching – and we want to be using our coach in ways that have the greatest impact. 

While coaching might not be easy and it might require additional time from you, it is a major tool that we will use to continue to improve our service to our kids.”

What do you think?  Is there a principal on your team who needs a do-over?

If you liked this, I bet you’d want to check this out!

{American Ninja Warrior}  Long Story Short…

{American Ninja Warrior} Long Story Short…

My team & I had a great week, check it out…

  • We are SUPER excited to sign up two new sites for the coaches & principals training September 5 & 6:
    • Rapides Parish School District, the 8th largest school district in Louisiana!
    • Calhoun ISD, a great district in Michigan looking to develop 25 coaches & principals!
  • I continue to tweak the How to Coach Teachers to Teach (Almost) Anything content to bring you a dynamic telecast event.  (No easy task!)
  • We streamlined some of our marketing stuff this week, in order to simplify the decision making for our Curriculum Directors, Principals & Assistant Superintendents!
  • American Ninja Warrior Update (you can thank me later)…How about that Sandy Zimmerman!?!?!  42 year old mom of 3, Physical Education Teacher…hit the buzzer!  Go Ninja Teachers….
Hard Skills and the Slippery Slope

Hard Skills and the Slippery Slope

Today I am thinking about hard and soft skills in teaching and how I think we’re headed down a very slippery slope.

Let me explain…

I have done professional development and coaching of teachers (and their coaches and leaders) for a decade and a half.  I have seen a lot.  Correction: I have seen it ALL!

Most of my work is with some of the most struggling schools in each state in the U.S. The districts and schools come to me because they aren’t getting the results they want, despite a lot of energy and time spent on the job.  Sometimes people are under-motivated, feeling the results of really bad leadership or they’re just not a good fit for the hard job of being a teacher.

But most of the time, they need help because they can’t pull themselves off of the trajectory toward failure.  They need a lifeline or help or whatever you want to call it.

When I go to schools and I suggest that they try something (like simplifying their morning routine or sorting their kids for reading instruction), the first question they ask is: Okay, how do I do that?

That question right there (How do I do that?) is a question that begs for a HARD SKILL response.  In other words, most teachers are asking to be taught a SKILL to help them improve their performance or that of their students.  Hands down, teachers want to learn to do things.  They don’t just want to talk about them, feel good about talking about them or ruminate on big ideas.

They want answers and solutions.  They’re looking for hard skills that will help them get better results.

Here’s where the slippery slope comes in.

I speak at a lot of conferences and lately I’ve noticed a bunch of sessions (maybe half?) on the conference dockets are about what I would consider SOFT SKILLS.  I see sessions on equity in the classroom, building resilient kids…or my latest favorite buzz word (gag!) student efficacy.  First off (and I promise I won’t go off on a tangent about this!), I don’t even know what those words really mean.  Or more specifically, these words mean things that encompass so many things that they don’t have much meaning at all!

Do I believe in building resilient kids?  Of course I do!

Do I believe in equity in the classroom?  Of course I do!

Do I believe in student efficacy (feeling like they can get the job done)? Of course I do!

But…I don’t believe that resiliency, equity and efficacy (soft skills) are won through soft skill work of the teacher.  I think they’re won through the teacher’s hard skills…the hard skills that the teacher uses each day that ensures that kids master the most important content. (A few examples of hard skills off the top of my head: how to set up a flawless management system, how to redirect students off-task, how to lesson plan for a killer lesson, how to teach vocabulary so that students internalize the words, how to break down your student data and make smart decisions. You get the idea.)

So, I actually think we do a disservice to teachers by getting them pumped up about the soft skills stuff without arming them with the hard skills.  After all, when the conference session is done or the professional development session is over, they are left with this: either they have the skill to do what they need to do tomorrow, or they don’t.

In my 15+ years of doing this work, I have never had a teacher ask me, “How do I build resiliency in my students?” or “How do I create a spirit of equity in my classroom?”  Nope.  The questions are much more practical and skill-focused.  Teachers want to get BETTER at BEING great teachers…not just talking about being better teaches.

There is no amount of pump up, big picture vision or fancy worded conference session that is going to cover for a lack of skill.

Actually, let’s flip that: No pump up, big picture vision or fancy worded conference session can outshine a teacher with excellently honed hard teaching skills.

The sooner we admit that excellent teaching comes down to the teacher being really good at certain things, then the REAL party starts.  Until then, we’re hunting and pecking for superficial fix-its.

And we are better than that.

P.S.  If you liked the vibe of this, then you probably want to check this and this out.