Wednesday, April 11, 2012

ASCD part five: Final Session with Todd Whitaker

It has been some time since I attended the 2012 ASCD conference in Philadelphia. The final session I attended was a high energy presentation by Todd Whitaker. During his session I could hardly keep up with my notes as it was a flurry of one liners and statements that rang true with me. I tried to figure out a way to articulate my thoughts in numerous drafts of a post to flesh out my thinking about various things Whitaker said. Those drafts are honestly still in progress. For now, I have a list here of a few of his statements with some of my notes that I wanted to share for starters. I anticipate I will be writing more follow-up posts going into more depth on some of these points.
  • If we don't have difficult teachers, we don't have difficult parents.
  • We have a choice when someone asks us how our day is going - it doesn't do us any good to not say "great"…even if our day is not. People feed off what others say regardless of if it is true or not.
  • The ability to know how we come across and are perceived by others is crucial.
    • We need to be able to understand how we come across...good teachers are aware of how they come across to students and other staff. Administrators need to be aware how they come across to their staff. Failure to do this by either teacher or administration leads to ultimate failure.
  • In the phrase, "Poor lecture classroom" - poor is the issue...not the lecture.
    • As with most things, we focus too much on the tool or process rather than the quality. Lecturing is not necessarily bad, but rather the way it is used.
  • Good teachers will "figure it out" on their own...poor teachers never will.
    • We need to micromanage our good teachers far less and them do their work free of restriction.
  • Some teachers sit behind their desk because they don't know what to do with the students...do we want them on the other side of the desk?
    • What does this say about us as fellow teachers that we allow these teachers to remain in our schools? What does this saw about our administrators if they allow these teachers to stay in the classroom?
  • Single best measure of principal effectiveness is teacher input.
    • As an administrator are you seeking input from your teachers?
  • Anyone can have a banner "all kids can learn" but do your actions back that up?
  • Unless you have been in the room with a good/bad teacher you don't know how good/bad they are.
    • This one really hit home with me. Beyond the Tommy Boy reference, we must be in a classroom to see if a teacher is effective rather than taking someone’s word for it.
  • There is nothing wrong with being afraid but it is wrong to act afraid.
    • Kids and staff alike can tell if a teacher is afraid and feed off of that fear. No teacher should ever show fear for a student, nor should a teacher show fear of a colleague.
  • Big difference between desire and action.
    • Great people act on their desires and “bad” people just talk about what they want to do.
  • Why are we punishing the good kids because of a few bad?
    • Why do we spend time going over the rules for the whole group when it applies to just a few? In the same way, why do we mandate things for the whole staff when it only applies to a few? We should never send an all staff email when it only applies to a few.
  • If as an administrator you don't teach your teachers between right and wrong, they won't know any better.
    • We know it is right to model for our students, should we be doing the same for teachers?
  • When you hire a new teacher you want your school to be like the new teacher...if not you have hired the wrong teacher. You don't want the new teacher to be like the school.
    • This one certainly made me think...
  • Principals say, "all my teachers are great," because then they don't have to do anything.
    • We need to admit our shortcomings and take steps towards improvement.
  • If a principal does not step into a good teacher's class - they are insulted. If a principal does not step into a poor teacher's class - they are giddy.
  • Best thing about being a teacher is what we do matters. Hard is that it matters every day


I know this is a kind of a “cheap” post in that it is essentially a bullet list of things Todd said, but I am still processing much of it. My biggest takeaway is that we all have a responsibility to do more to lift up the good teachers and not be defined by the “bad” ones.