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In this episode, we get to learn from Dr. Ed Small who has held multiple teaching and leadership positions and has been recognized for his work at the national level. He’s now an Assistant Superintendent in Delaware, and I love how he says that being a husband and father drives his work with schools and students!
The Big Dream
Schools should be about helping kids get what they want. Educational landscape, the community, and family/home are 3 points of a triangle. We want students to yearn for school and their relationships with teachers. We want kids to think about school like Six Flags!
Alignment to the 4 Stages: Mindset, Pedagogy, Assessment, and Content
The school systems and instructional framework should stay the same in all classes so students don't need to learn to code switch. For example, the warm up in one class is called a warm up in every class. Students should only need to be grappling with the content, not the culture or expectations.
Currently, the district has 16 common instructional strategies as a district, and they’re working on getting down to 8 or 9 so everyone knows what they are. Doing less is doing more! Some of our current instructional strategies include: clear learning intentions and success criteria, collaborative structure (e.g., Socratic Seminar), and chunking. Dr. Small recommends schools or districts have 4 collaborative structures everyone uses, and then once those are really going well, adding a few more.
He cites advice he received: “When you go into a classroom, you should be looking to paint on a canvas, but you need a canvas to paint on before you can start painting.” The canvas includes the high-yield instructional strategies. An instructional leader can identify where a protocol can leverage the energy present in a class. Behavior is communication. A coach can suggest a movement-based activity to focus a high-energy class.
We use praise statements and growth action statements to frame coaching conversations. Praise might be: “I noticed you did X well because it’s good for Y. Keep doing this!” Growth action statements might look like: “I noticed you were doing Z. Maybe try ___ instead. I look forward to coming back in a month to see how it’s going. Let’s talk about it to make sure kids are benefitting from this idea.”
Nobody likes to be critiqued. It requires trust, relationship-building, and the chance to talk about it. Teachers need to know that leaders and coaches want them to win. When teachers win, we all win. The cost of leadership is time. Leaders have to invest time in conversations with teachers to gain that level of trust.
One Step to Get Started
Leaders, take an inventory of your relationship with your teachers. (Teachers, you can take inventory of your relationship with your leader.) Have there been opportunities for you to grow together? And if the relationships need to be improved, spend time building relationships.
You can find this week’s guest on Twitter @DoctorEsmall or via email at Edward.email@example.com.
To help you start building your list of common instructional strategies, I’m sharing a recording of my Circle protocol workshop with you for free. (This is my favorite protocol of all time.) And, if you’re looking for more details on the ideas in this blog post, listen to episode 97 of the Time for Teachership podcast. If you’re unable to listen or you prefer to read the full episode, you can find the transcript here.
If this episode grabbed your interest, take a look at this video below where I share a strategy for reducing cognitive load and teacher planning time:
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Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.