The Music Has Stopped. You Still Doing the Running Man?


Time management in the classroom. It’s the bane of our existence when it doesn’t work and it’s the reason why things move smoothly when they do work!

A sub-question of “How do I work to get my kids to do what I want them to do?” is “I keep running out of time…if you could give me more time, I could ‘fit it all in'”

I would be a gagillionaire if I could give you more time, but I can’t.  And I REALLY wish I could, because being a gagillionaire sounds like it’d be GREAT!  I mean, all that cashola just hanging around…purses, trips, shoes, lip gloss, etc……what, what was I talking about again?

Oh that’s right…time management…

The first place to start is by asking a few questions to see where the problem is.  I shared these questions recently with a coach client of ours who was struggling to support her teachers in hitting the time management marks.

  • Are you seeing them taking longer than they should in places?  Which places are these?
  • I wonder are they doing lots of worksheets (those are optional and shouldn’t be used as time fillers)?
  • Are they teaching the whole time?
  • Are there management issues that are taking up instructional time?
  • Are they starting on time/ending early?
  • What parts are they getting bogged down on?
  • Have they timed how long it takes each band of instruction so that you can look at the data of what you find in the classroom, not just the “feeling” that the teacher has?
  • Do they have a swift pace?
  • Are they adding additional things to the block from outside of the program?
  • Are they taking drink/bathroom breaks during the block?  (I certainly hope not)

The great thing is, when you figure out where the “sticking point” is, you can fix it!  Yep, just like that.

Fix it by keeping a timer and moving yourself along when you’re running slow.

Pick up additional instructional minutes by shortening the “morning routines” or the “after lunch routines”.

Plan ahead for what your direct teaching time will be and what time will be student practice and then opportunities for feedback.

Figure out if you’re adding “would be nice” content – that content that would be nice, but is not necessary.

The bottom line?  You can control.  You can fix it.  BUT you have to begin by isolating WHERE the problem of time management is coming from!


We must put an end to this…and I mean it!

We’re better than this.  We are more professional than this.  We are more skilled than this.

What is “this”?

It is a conversation that goes something like…

Oh my.  Just WAIT until you get my kids next year…good luck!”

“We have that really wild group of 4th graders coming through…wait until you get ’em next year.  Yowza!’

“These parents are a trip!  I’m glad I get to send them to you next year.”

THIS is the “this” that we must stop immediately.  Why?

Because here’s what we’re doing when we talk like that:

  • We are pre-establishing our expectations to “this won’t work”
  • We are admitting “I couldn’t make this work”
  • We are saying “There’s no hope for these kids”
  • We are setting the kids up to a “You won’t make it” future

I don’t know about you, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you are about as competitive or
driven as I am – I want to be great, I want my students to be great and part of how  judge my
performance is by my ability to work with ANY kind of students with ANY kind of parent.

I usually find that it’s the same people who “always have the low kids” or “always get the rude parents”…and I don’t believe it for one second!   I’ve seen teachers take the “same kids” and the “same parents” and they work WONDERS!  And the kids are happy!  And the parents are kind and engaged!  What was the difference?  The teacher.


So, I hope that you’ll join me in keeping “teaching” family business within the family.  What does this mean?

  • Spread the good stuff about teaching and keep the venting to 1-2 colleagues who can help you get out of a funk by some good problem-solving.
  • Check your attitude and see what your response is when you hear the Negative Nelly’s griping about next year’s students – do you engage?  Do you smile and move on?
  • When you get a new class of kids, do you check the cum files to see about their “past” or do you give them a fresh start?  Everyone deserves a fresh start.
  • Do you anticipate the troublesome kids and prepare a plan BEFORE they arrive so that you can AVOID troubles?

If I’m talkin’ your language…click the “like” button at the top of the post, or leave your two cents below! 

Busting the “I Could Do That If I Had A Smaller Class” Myth

Did you know that…

…research supports the idea that quality of instruction and use of formative assessments have 4 to 5 times the effect on student achievement than class size?

I hear it around schools all the time: “Oh gosh, if ONLY I could have a smaller class size then I could really get crackin’ with these kids!”

But here’s the weird thing, I also hear: “Oh gosh, if ONLY my small group wasn’t filled with the ‘bad’ kids then I could get crackin’ with these kids!”

So here’s the question……..which one is it?

If you read my blog, have heard me speak or know me personally then you know that I am absolutely unapologetic about the effect of quality teaching and how I do believe that it WILL solve all of the drama around education.  Let me repeat: I have found the answer to all the drama in the education world and that answer is QUALITY INSTRUCTION.

Notice I don’t “Quality instruction under perfect circumstances”!  (I haven’t said that because I’ve never seen it!)

So, while smaller class sizes might provide us with OPPORTUNITIES to do better, more or greater work with kids, if don’t TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY, then the small group size doesn’t figure into the “effect” on students.


What does it mean to take advantage of a small group setting?  Well, a well-run, highly effective small group should provide MORE of everything for the students in that group:

  • MORE extended discussion
  • MORE corrective feedback
  • MORE specific, academic praise
  • MORE opportunities to respond
  • MORE think time
  • MORE explicit, direct teaching
  • MORE more overall intense instruction
  • MORE teacher modeling
  • MORE scaffolding

Small groups should also give kids LESS of certain things:

  • LESS opting out
  • LESS interruptions
  • LESS behavior problems
  • LESS teacher talk while the kids watch
  • LESS watching the more mastered students do all of the work
  • LESS confusion
  • LESS lost instructional time due to slow transitions or

An iPad is the Holy Grail…and other lies I tell myself

So, it’s Sunday night and I have another one of my recurring thoughts: How is THIS week going to be different with my diet and exercise? 

Can you relate? 

I mean I haven’t been doing too badly…I’ve cut Diet Coke (except for the five I drank on Friday night, but it was Friday night and so it doesn’t count because Friday is different than other days in so many ways, but I digress…a lot) and I’ve tried to not eat after 7pm and I’ve walked twice in the past week (I know, breaking records all over the place for commitment). 

These little changes that do add up, but still NOT the golden ticket.

So late this afternoon while I’m packing for my trip tomorrow and sipping my Diet Coke…um, water…I have a brilliant thought.  And here it is:

I need an iPad. 

An iPad?  To do what?


If I had an iPad, I would download my mp3s that I listen to for my business coaching.

Then I would take said iPad to the gym that I joined in a fancy shmancy part of town (you know, the gym I joined because it’s in a safer part of town so that when I’m coming home late from the airport and I want to put in a workout at midnight after an 18 hour day I could be safe…yeah THAT gym – the one I’ve not visited in a month). 

I would hook up my iPad with said mp3s into the elliptical (my favorite thing, if anything in the gym could be characterized as “favorite”). 

I would listen to my coaching recordings and take notes on the little bitty post-it note app.  All whilst (I like saying that word as often as possible) I was working out and sweating up a storm.

Tell me this doesn’t sound like a GREAT idea!

Here’s the problem – it’s not about the iPad.  It’s not about the elliptical.  It’s not about the fancy gym in the good part of town.  It’s not about the 18 hour days.  It’s about me.  And my commitment.  Or lack thereof.

So all of my shenanigans have brought me to remember this one quote that I have on my office bulletin board: A YEAR FROM NOW WILL YOU WISH YOU HAD STARTED TODAY.

Oh my, I love that! And I hate it at the same time…it’s too true for me!

So, here I am on Sunday night now, getting ready for the week after a fun dinner with friends and some good TV catching-up to do (my not-so-guilt pleasure after lots of hard work).  And I don’t want tomorrow to be yet another start to the week where I say, “Tomorrow’s a new day.  You are going to work out 19 times this week,” and then do nothing and crab at myself in my head.

Because that’s what I do – I over-commit and then get down on myself when I don’t follow through.

When I’m trying to break a habit or start a new one, I try to stay positive by doing a few little things:

  1. Focus on what IS possible, not what is not possible
  2. Cast a wide net and give myself a big vision for the future, but figure out one small, do-able change I can make to get closer to my goal
  3. Talk nicely to myself
  4. Change my morning routine a bit to accommodate the change – get started off on the right foot
  5. Get away from the “I’m so bad I ate a cookie” or “I was so ‘good’ because I didn’t eat a cookie” mentality – after all, I think I’m a pretty good chick most of the time, so this isn’t about ‘bad’ and ‘good’ anyway  – a missed workout or one-too-many cookies doesn’t make me a bad person – or at least I hope it doesn’t because I’m in deep trouble…

You might be thinking…wait a minute – isn’t this a literacy blog?  Where does she start talking about books and stuff?

Well, I might skip the book talking (you can read my past and future blogs with lots of that stuff in it) in this article, but what I DO want you to think about is this: What do you need to do to improve the health of your literacy work? 

If you’re a leader…what small habits can you get rid of or add to your life to become a more effective instructional leader?

If you’re a coach…is there anything in your role that’s standing in the way of you being a more excellent coach?  If so, what step can you make to remove that block?

If you’re a teacher…is there an area that your data is showing that you need to make some improvement?  Do you need to ask for help or start a conversation with a colleague to help you build something into your instruction to deal with that data?

My goal this week is to get three, yes only three but I’m trying to be realistic, workouts in this week while I’m on the road.

Where will you start?