New Orleans Coaching: David's Day

David teaches at one of the New Orleans charter schools run by Renew. Econ major, I believe, who signed up with Teach For America.

This week he is receiving coaching from Erica. Each day he writes a short note to his principal, Ron. That keeps Ron in the loop on what David is working on.

And what's that? I'd submit that there are "ed establishment acceptable" answers to what teachers "should" work on. Asking "higher-order" questions. How to "differentiate instruction." How to use data. Etc.

What about smiling? Is that a worthy topic for teacher coaching? For an Ed School course on teaching?

I submit: yes. David gave permission to share yesterday's note.

Hi Ron,

As you know, my MTC coach, Erica Winston, is observing me this week. Here is today’s Coaching Summary:

1. What will we work on this week?

This week we will be working on making sure I am consistently implementing my consequence ladder. We will make sure that I am going through the consequence ladder in the correct sequence so all students are clear about all the consequence system and where they are on the ladder.

Consistency is a big challenge for any teacher. Until they reach automaticity. One kid playfully slaps another with ruler. Teacher gives warning. Next day, different kid, same action. Teacher punishes. Kid understandably finds this unfair. Consistency is easy to understand. Hard to execute, if you've ever taught or parented.

We will also be working on bringing more positive energy to the classroom by varying my instructional tone to relay more enthusiasm and passion to students. This will help create the positive, learning driven environment so my students will make great academic strides. I will do this by varying my instructional tone when not giving directions or consequences so my enthusiasm and passion motivate my students.

Ah, the econ major. I can imagine him writing a production function in his mind, where enthusiasm creates a larger coefficient for total learning.

Anyway, often there's an improvement ladder like this. First, a teacher moves from informal (often ineffective) to urgent but overly neutral/strict. That's progress. But second, you wanna take it there to a combo urgent with the right amount of strict, plus warm/positive/excited as part of development.

David continues:

2. What did we work on today?

Today my coach and I worked on some objectives identified during MATCH PD over the summer. Specifically, we working on giving redirection and consequences with a non-emotional tone. We also worked on scanning the room frequently and using circulation to proactively manage behavior.

3. What will we work on tomorrow?

During our debrief conversation Erica and I discussed three things to work on for tomorrow. First, we created a conseuqnce tracker so I can deliver consequences more consistently and so I know where every student is on the consequence ladder. This will help me give the appropriate and sequential consequence all the time.

Second, we working on making sure that minor redirection of student behavior is not the first step on the consequence ladder. This will sound like giving short, concise reminders when moving to get 100% compliance. So, instead of saying, "Cornisha, I need you to close your binder", I will say, "Cornisha, binder closed" so that quick reminder is not a step on the
consequence ladder.

Third, tomorrow I will be working on smiling more so I can bring the positive, enthusiastic environment to my classroom so my classroom is a positive and fun place to learn. This will motivate my students to work harder, be more positive themselves, and be highly engaged in class.

I realize it's funny to read the rationale for being positive. But he's a guy pretty amped up about getting his kids to learn. Bottom line guy. Mission driven. So I suspect the utilitarian tone helps him organize it in his mind: why he would take any particular action. Me, I'd be thinking "so my classroom is a positive and fun place to WORK." I'm more selfish.

Does a forced smile help? Evidence mixed.

Does AUTHENTIC smiling matter? I think so.

So what does David do with the coaching, in order to prep for the next day?

What action steps am I taking tonight?

Tonight I am going to prepare by doing the following action steps:

1. I will print a behavior system tracker for each class to keep track of where each student is on the consequence ladder.

2. I will eliminate asking students to follow directions "now" because it sounds harsh and negative

3. I will smile more tonight so I'm in the habit tomorrow!

Ron, I thought of the TED talk you had us watch on smiling. I'm excited to consciously focus on this tomorrow.

Thanks, I look forward to updating you on how things go tomorrow.



I appreciate the order that these goals are in because if you don't have the consequence ladder down, the kids can drive you nuts. Then it is very hard to smile, even when the material is exciting because you can never feel at ease. If we aren't really sure whether forced smiles help, then why don't we work towards authentic smiles? For me, this has a lot to do with my planning. I need to really think about why I am teaching the subject matter and find parts that are really exciting for me. I need to choose texts that I actually love. I recently moved from teaching 6th grade to teaching 3rd grade. At first, I was not really excited about the material I was teaching because it was that much farther away from being intellectually challenging for me. I soon learned that I had to work that much harder to find interest. And I when I dedicated time to this, I found that I really could find something interesting about even the most mundane topics. I still needed to remind myself to express this excitement to my kids, but it was a lot easier when the excitement was genuine.

Yes, I was in the 2000 TFA corps. The chapter in our training manual that dealt with behavior said to make lessons more interesting. And that was it. Glad they changed, but I can't believe it took so long.

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