What Great Teachers Do Differently – 17 Things That Matter Most

Todd Whitaker is a colleague that is very generous and helps all educators throughout the nation.  To me, he is one of those “rock star” educators that you may feel afriad to go up to and have a conversation.  The best thing is, he is so approachable and wants to give back to the field. I seem to be in his presence at least once a year or more, and along with his wife, Beth, they want to help all educators be the best in their field.  Beth called me out and another colleague this summer, in front of the entire NAESP national conference during her presentation.  She looked at me and then at Erin and made us stand up and talk to the crowd about being a connected lead learner.  That was interesting to say the least! My heart dropped – on the spot talking to thousands of principals.  Yikes!

I have shared with you many times What Great Teacher Do Differently by Todd Whitaker and Beth has contributed to this book as well.  They recently edited the book and came out with a second edition, adding three extra reasons; Meaning What You Say, Focusing on Students First, and Putting Yourself in Students’ Postion.  Here they are again below:

Teachers are the filters for the day-to-day reality of school.  Whether we are aware of it or not, our behavior sets the tone.  If students overhear us whining or complaining about something, it may be the talk of the school for days even if it was something minor.  By the same token, if we always approach things in a positive manner, then this is what the students reflect.  The most effective educators understand this and choose their filters carefully.

How Is Your Day Going?

        As educators, we hear this question many times a day.  Our response not only influences how others view us, but also affects the frame of mind of the person who asked.  What’s more, we have choices about how to respond.

        You can smile at a fellow teacher and say, “Things are great!  How about with you?”  Or you can respond, “That Jimmy Wallace is getting on my nerves!” – and all of a sudden Jimmy Wallace is getting on that teacher’s nerves too (whether the teacher knows him or not).

        You may be thinking that you could not do this because you would never lie.  Hmm:  So when the second graders ask if you like the mural they drew, what do you tell them?  How do you answer the question, “Honey, do these pants make me look fat?”  Again, it is always up to us to determine what gets through our filters and what does not.

What Great Teachers Do Differently

17 Things That Matter Most

  1.  Great teachers never forget that it is people, not programs, that determine the quality of the school.
  2.   Great teachers establish clear expectations at the start of the year and follow them consistently as the year progresses.
  3. Great teachers manage their classrooms thoughtfully.  When they say something, they mean it.
  4.   When a student misbehaves, great teachers have one goal: to keep that behavior from happening again.
  5.   Great teachers have high expectations for students but even higher expectations for themselves.
  6. Great teachers know who is the variable in the classroom:  They are. Good teachers consistently strive to improve, and they focus on something they can control – their own performance.
  7. Great teachers focus on students first, with a broad vision that keeps everything in perspective.
  8. Great teacher create a positive atmosphere in their classrooms and schools.  They treat every person with respect.  In particular, they understand the power of praise.
  9. Great teachers consistently filter out the negatives that don’t matter and share a positive attitude.
  10. Great teachers work hard to keep their relationships in good repair – to avoid personal hurt and to repair any possible damage.
  11.  Great teachers have the ability to ignore trivial disturbances and the ability to respond to inappropriate behavior without escalating the situation.
  12. Great teachers have a plan and purpose for everything they do.  If things don’t work out the way they had envisioned, they reflect on what they could have done differently and adjust their plans accordingly.
  13. Before making any decision or attempting to bring about any change, great teachers ask themselves one central question:  What will the best people think?
  14. Great teachers continually ask themselves who is most comfortable and who is least comfortable with each decision they make.  They treat everyone as if they were good.
  15. Great teachers have empathy for students and clarity about how others see them.
  16.  Great teachers keep standardized testing in perspective; they center on the real issue of student learning.
  17.  Great teachers care about their students.  They understand that behaviors and beliefs are tied to emotion, and they understand the power of emotion to jump-start change.

Put this at the forefront of everything you do, every day!  Have a great week!


Other News

  • Bus Duty for Dec 8- Dec 19:  Team 7:  Jennifer Prevost, Marci Woods, Bev Phelps, Pam Ault Upcoming bus duty: Jan 5 – Jan 16 Team 8 : Kelly Ayen, Tanya Charron, Gina Caldwell.
  • For teachers who received my email about the second walk through evaluation, please make sure you schedule a time with Mrs. Sheen on my calendar before the break.  Thank you for your help!
  • Budgets are due to Mrs. Sheen by January 6, 2015.
  • The Sheriffs Department will be here December 15th and 16th to get our students their picture id’s for the Operation Safe Child id’s for your planning purposes.
  • Mrs. French will be at East Side on Wednesday, December 17.  Please see her email.  (Just a note, I will be out this day as I need to run down to Syracuse to check my eyes.  Hold the fort down!)
  • Happy Holidays to all!  Scott and I are traveling and out of the country the majority of the weeks.  We both wish you and yours a safe and relaxing two weeks.  Enjoy it.  We won’t see this for a while!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!   Just do right!

Other Items of Interest (Read at your leisure!)

  • If you are looking for a clear, concise explanation of high school requirements and how they are changing, this deck will help.
  • Has school changed? Not so much. This video juxtaposes schools of the past and present and compares the world, past and present.
  • One of the math shifts is fluency – but it is commonly misunderstand to mean a return to rote memorization of math facts. This article explains mathematical fluency very well. It’s a great article to have teachers of math read and discuss.
  • The American School Board Journal has sharedThe 12 Rules of Christmas” with advice for school at this time of year.
  • You might hear the question: “How do I fit in PBL with everything else I have to do?” The answer is that PBL is the way you do it all in an engaging, meaningful way. Read this for a more thorough explanation.
  • A quick review of the literature reminds us that it’s not STEM that makes a difference, it’s the teaching and learning that makes a difference no matter the subjects. Teaching science, technology, engineering, and math can be done well or not.
  • If you are taking a good, hard look at the Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs, think about the Essential Elements: Schools-to-Watch program. You can learn from the list of middle-level schools that have been recognized in New York (great schools to visit). If you are thinking about applying, the 2015-2016 materials have just been posted.
  • It’s a long list, but it identifies the traits of effective leaders. In this case, it’s a timeless list.
  • Commissioner John King is leaving SED to take a job with USDOE.
  • These ideas for creating more teacher time came from teachers.
  • This quick guide describes a variety of Web 2.0 tools that are common in schools.
  • Not many of our high school graduates complete their college degree in 2-years or 4-years, which has all sorts of financial and social implications.
  • A teacher urges us to end the game of school and replace it with Standards-Based Grading.
  • If you are considering a New Year’s resolution to eliminate extra credit, thispost will get you thinking.
  • Icon Play
    Watch how a math teacher partners with an inclusion teacher to create a step-by-step method for solving equations and supporting every student in a classroom.
    Icon Play
    Using the arts as a scaffold helps all students develop key skills in an accessible environment. Notice how Lindsay Young introduces activities that gradually release responsibility to her students.
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    See how one school pairs student needs with teacher expertise to improve learning.

A Touch of Humor

Parent Teacher Conferences

One of my goals this year as most of you know is to increase family and community engagement or better known as F.A.C.E.  As you know, I am communicating with our East Side community through a blog called 40 Weeks of Learning at East Side School.  The goal is to highlight the positives of our school and tell our story.  It is what we call “branding” our school and telling our story because there is so much negative about public education, connected educators want to push out the positives.  It is also showcasing our school, our teachers and our kids.  The feedback is very positive and parents look for it weekly as well as various Facebook and Twitter pictures of positives throughout the day.

In the last post, I highlighted parent/teacher conferences and expectations for our parents and staff.  In reflection, it really goes to the four core beliefs of F.A.C.E and if we are open as a school to family partnerships.  Here are the four core beliefs highlighted from the book Beyond the Bake Sale:

  1. Core Belief 1:  All Parents Have Dreams for Their Children and Want the Best For Them:  Believe it or not, all parents do care.  It really depends on our personal beliefs and assumptions and that we need to address difference with issues of race, class and culture.
  2. Core Belief 2:  All Parents Have the Capacity to Support Their Children’s Learning.  Yes, tapping into the potential and knowledge of our parents is so important and bringing them on for positive things is so much better than negative.
  3. Core Belief 3:  Parents and School Staff Should be Equal Partners.  This is understanding lopsided relationships vs mutual relationships.  The relationships cannot be the lopsided “power” relationship and needs to be an open, mutual respected relationship.  It needs to be our role as adults to have mutual relationships with a common goal – what is best for our kids.  Our parents have a wealth of knowledge and talent and we need to invite them in.  They want to be involved.  Attend a PTO meeting and see what is happening!
  4. Core Belief 4:  The Responsibility for Building Partnerships Between School and Home Rests Primarily with School Staff, Especially School Leaders.  What the book reference is that strong leadership has to be not only from the principal, but also from the staff.  Many of our families see school as a powerful and forbidding institution.  They may have had a bad experience or feel uncomfortable coming in or calling.  It is our job to bridge the connections of home to school and school to home and break this feeling, starting from the top as well as from the bottom.

So, what is my point?  Don’t forget to see from a parents point of view, which I know you do, when you meet with parents and caregivers in talking about their child.  Listen, form relationships and understand where parents are coming from.  My friend and colleague Lisa Meade put it simple in her blog here:

I believe in you.

We need each other.

You matter.

Check out the 40 Weeks of Learning Post here.  Have a great week!


Other News

  • Bus Duty for Nov 17- Dec 5:  Team 7:  Kathy Buell, Kate Spriggs, Megan Weldon  Upcoming bus duty: Dec. 8 – Dec. 19 Team 8:  Jennifer Prevost, Marci Woods, Gina Caldwell
  • The East Side PTO Harvest Festival was a great success.  Thank you all for helping out.
  • Mrs. French has asked to meet with elementary staff on November 20th at 7:35a.m.  She will be going over the capital project.  You will want to be present for this presentation.  (This will take the place of our scheduled staff meeting.)
  • Bridget is running Angel Tree and needs your help.  Please check out her emails and help with requests for Angel Tree.  If you are free this Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, please help in the lobby with our students.  Thanks so much!
  • I am finishing up walk through evaluations next week.  In January, I will start up walk through#2.  This will be Domain 1 entries for tenure staff and scheduled walk through’s on my calendar.  I will email those involved with directions to help you.  My plan to work downward from 5th grade down and those who will be giving test accommodations for NYS tests.  Thank you all for working with me and making this happen!  Much appreciated!
  • Due to me being out next week, I will not be producing a Monday Focus for November 23rd.  I’ll try and get one out for Nov. 30th.
  • Dismissal for Half Day conferences will start at 12;05 with K, then we will announce for grades 1-5 as normally.  We are planning for buses to roll at 12:15p.m.
  • The NYS Police department will be here on Nov. 18th for Operation Safe Child.  Students will be picked up from your classroom to take an i.d. picture per permission from their parents.  This will be occurring in the activity room.
  • MUST blog post to read by my colleague annd friend, Tony Sinanis, The Three!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!

Other Items of Interest (Read at your leisure!)

  • Don’t forget the “why”behind every plan you make and initiative you undertake.It’s important that the why is understood – it’s what makes change possible. Of course, many of us have seen Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about this.
  • Physical activity can decrease the symptoms of ADHD, according to this study. Inattentiveness, moodiness and peer interactions can be positively impacted.
  • This post from someone working on the Social Studies Toolkit provides an interesting perspective about the changes to social studies.
  • This cheat sheet will help you stay straight with all the technology and technology education jargon.
  • Having an authentic audience is one of the essential ingredients of a good project. This column can help you with those partnerships.
  • In a very frank manner, Eric Sheninger contrasts the way kids learn with the way our schools continue to be organized. He also describes the steps his school took to change.
  • This video explains why math instruction has changed. You can use this with parents at a math night.Ed Week has gathered their recent articles about Common Core math into a single collection.
  • If you are taking a good, hard look at the Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs, think about the Essential Elements: Schools-to-Watch program. You can learn from the list of middle-level schools that have been recognized in New York (great schools to visit). If you are thinking about applying, the 2015-16 materials have just been posted.
  • Pre-kindergarten is an important part of the birth through 3rd grade continuum. This article offers suggestions for vertical alignment within the primary years.
  • This infographic contrasts the way we schedule teachers and time with the way we should organize time in schools. The only thing that is stopping us is the status quo.
  • Although not specifically identified in the Common Core, social-emotional skills contribute to student achievement.
  • When working on presentation skills with your students (or your own), these simple tips can help.
  • These videos explain one of the 4 Cs: critical thinking. They do it in a common sense way, with common sense examples, while expressing its importance.
  • This young high school teacher gives a TEDx talk that is pretty frank about school and its relevance to students. He questions the format of school and it’s orientation to the past rather than the future. He also describes a different path.
Icon Play
We continue our Observation series by taking a closer look at the instructional moves that help teachers release the responsibility of learning to students. Join us!
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Teachers at this school improve their practice by collaboratively observing their colleagues. See how they rotate around the school in groups of three, focusing their observations, and then discussing what they learn.
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Don’t miss the insightful questions and answers from Coaching Q&A Week. And a special shout out to guest experts Elena Aguilar and Jim Knight for their valuable advice!

A Touch of Humor

Ha Ha!  True!

Just a Few Minutes

After a whirlwind week, I would like you to reflect on a blog that Pernille Ripp, a 5th grade teacher posted, from Wisconsin.  This is a wonderful pick-me up and I told her that I was sharing this.  Follow Pernille’s blog here.  She is doing some awesome things with her 5th graders.  Enjoy it!  Vic

Take a Moment to Celebrate

He sat down next to me, book bin in hand, ready for his conference.

“So what has been going on in your head as you read?” I ask, pen poised and ready to jot.

“Well…” he clears his throat “I just finished this book.”

And that’s when it hits me.  This kid finished a book!  And not just one book but almost 10 books this year.  This kid who at the beginning completely had given up on chapter books, who only read magazines if forced.  This kid is reading.  And not just reading, he is sharing his thoughts, writing ideas down, thinking of what to read next.

So I put my pen down, I only write “Celebration” in my notes.  Instead we spend several minutes discussing his accomplishments, discussing his growth.  I urge him to be proud, to notice what he has done.  A few minutes is all it is, but monumental none the less.

When was the last time I took a few minutes to celebrate a child’s growth with them privately?  I am great with the whole class praise, but often forget the one to one.  Not any more.  Instead of a reading mini-lesson I will be celebrating.  Instead of  giving them something new to try, we will instead spend a few minutes cherishing what they have accomplished, what they have already done.

In a week we can go back to the new, but for now we will cherish the old.  After all, a small celebration can indeed go a long way.

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” can be pre-bought now from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.


Other News

  • Bus Duty for April 7 – April 25  Team 5:  Kathy Buell,  Kate Spriggs, Megan Weldonl.  Upcoming bus duty:  April 28 – May 9 Team 6: Connie Tubbs, Kelly Ayen, Bev Phelps
  • Next week is a busy week with scoring and report cards.  Hang in there!!
  • Don’t forget we have a staff meeting Monday, April 7th. I promise I will not keep you long.
  • 1st grade and 5th grade will be switching special times on Friday April 11th for the Jumprope for Heart Assembly.
  • Please make the timelines for report cards.  I know you are doing your best!  (NOT good timing.!)
  • I attended a FANTASTIC workshop this past Saturday in Long Island to represent #NYEDChat.  It was  Edcamp style, and so much to share and so many new people to meet.  The new thing, using Google Hangout’s for Mystery Locations with your kiddos.  I love Google Hangout’s.  Some best quotes: Tom Whitby:  “The smartest person in the room is the room itself!”   Starr Sackstein:  “If we are boring, kids will be bored!”  Tom Whitby:  “Technology is an attraction, not a distraction. ”  Tony Sinanis:  “What is your school story?  Have your kids tell it.”  Adam Bellow:  “Don’t limit the ability to engage kids due to their age limits.  Kids have great ideas!”
Things in the blogosphere
  • Diane Ravitch blogs about what educators are saying about the CC tests, especially in NYS.
  • Jennifer Serravalio guest blogs on Peter DeWitt’s blog about reading assessments.  It’s a great read, something we should be doing with reading assessments.
  • Here is a great blog by Pernille Ripp on how to start blogging with your kiddos.  
  • Are you a member of EdWeb yet?  You should be.  Free stuff on Flipped Learning, Tech Tools for the Classroom, Blended Learning, you name it.  Join – it’s free!!  Get free professional development and log your hours!
  • Lucy Calkins weighs in on NYS testing here.
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!
Other Items of Interest
  • Here are some ideas for teaching writing at the elementary level that are supported with research from the What Works Clearinghouse. There are printed and video resources. 
  • This report finds that New York’s schools are the most segregated in the nation.
  • Continuing on a recent theme, Tom Gusky uses class rank to help us reconsider the purpose of school. Do schools exist to develop students or to sort them?
  • Dayna Laur wrote this blog about PBL and Authentic Learning. She explains how to connect projects with the community around the school.
  • Ron Berger describes the power of active student participation in their learning – actively thinking about their learning rather than passively receiving knowledge dispensed by teachers. 
  • This video explains (scientifically) the power of teamwork. It’s hormonal!
  • Many of the maps in the Google Map Gallery are great for use in schools. 
  • Coaching is the key to successful implementation of just about everything. 
  • A recent ASCD Policy Priorities issue addresses teacher leadership.  
  • This edition of Just ASK’s Making the Common Core Come Alive! is about Mathematical Practice 1 (make sense of problems and persevering  in solving them). It includes some examples as well as a description.
  • This tool integrates Backward Design with the four questions of PLCs. Of course!
  • Here are Just ASK’s April mentoring resources. The calendar is there, plus some videos, too. 
  • Compare the list of top jobs in the US with their pay. Yikes!
A Touch of Humor
What EXACTLY do they WANT? Standardized or Well-Rounded??