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March 19, 2021

What’s May Got to Do With It: Part One

I have it on good authority that three weeks ago many residents were asking themselves, what’s May got to do with it?  Fair enough, because really, how could a mere 15 days at a turnaround change what we do in our classrooms next year?

Yet, in speaking with them  about their experiences, it seemed that many residents who began their visits thinking, I’ve got this, quickly realized, No, I don’t.  For one reason or another, residents struggled (see this and this from Fuller & this from Casals) and, in effect, felt compelled to reevaluate their year-one blueprints a bit more closely. So, let’s look at some ways to make that reevaluation most productive.

From the First Two Hours to the First Twenty Days

First, here’s what I learned from my observations and conversations:

  • Those residents who learned all/most student names before their takeover had fewer management issues than those who learned only a few/none

  • Those who established classroom expectations, understood existing routines & procedures, and utilized attention signals during their first two hours had more positive classroom environments

  • Those who over-planned had more successful 2-hour leads than those who under-planned

  • Those who sought more guidance/resources from their hosts around planning had more successful lessons than those who did little collaboration

So, how do we transform lessons like these into more effective teaching next year?  

  • We build meaningful relationships

  • We practice routines & procedures

  • We set high instructional objectives

  • We collaborate with our colleagues

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be taking a look these May Visits and how the Teaching Channel can help you refine your plans for next year.

First up: Relationships & the Classroom Environment

Enter Ms. Sinclair in Caring and Control Create a Safe, Positive Classroom, her student-first approach to each day, and why it’s important:

  • Maintains high behavioral expectations during morning check-ins:  It is imperative to have non-negotiable expectations around voice levels, body positions, participation, etc..  However, rookie teachers often overlook minor behavioral infractions during community builders because they’re so focused on not being “mean” when building trust. Unfortunately, this type of approach muddies the classroom BMC and instructional objectives.  The effect?  Diminished teacher efficacy and fewer productive opportunities for students to be heard.  Instead, have a clear list of look-fors and don’t forget to enforce them.

  • Responds authentically to student share-outs:  With on-point management, Ms. Sinclair’s able to engage students with authentic responses and/or questions. She takes the time to relate to each child, gauge moods, and communicate that she cares.  Too often first-year teachers either multi-task or over-manage students when they should be fully present.  Be as engaged as you’re expecting your students to be.

  • Uses data from check-in to inform responses to behavior: First observe, then act.  Ms. Sinclair takes note of what students say and uses that information to guide how she’ll respond to them over the course of the day.  The nuance here is that accountability still matters. So, if a student is unusually tired one morning, a concerned call home is likely more appropriate than a consequence.

  • Practices routines & procedures repeatedly over the first 20 days: Yes, Ms. Sinclair’s chunked directions—“when I say ‘1’…when I say ‘2’…when I say ‘3’…”—are manageable, but she’s also transparent about having had to rehearse routines like this countless times before her students got it right.  Teachers who jump right into instruction without establishing expectations around how the classroom should look/feel/sound, end up flailing in both areas.  Remember, before good instruction can happen, seamless routines and procedures must be the priority.

  • Remains Positive:  Many residents began May with iron fists, only to have this approach backfire.  Conversely, in seven minutes, Ms. Sinclair had 10 positive statements  and no negatives ones.  If you struggled with maintaining your cool and don’t want to make the same mistake next year, start by checking out Carrie Kamm’s blog from a few weeks ago.  Then, in the weeks ahead, practice positivity in your classrooms.

Now, take some time to reflect, watch this, this, and this, share your experiences below, and I’ll be back next week to talk about instruction and collaboration.


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