Sunday, November 24, 2013

What Great Teachers Do Differently -- Thoughts on Whitaker's Book

So I just finished reading Todd Whitaker's book What Great Teachers Do Differently (here is a link to a  document with some of the book ideas).  It was a pleasant book to read, it was kind of a gathering of ideas that supported the basic idea that great teachers care about kids; they form a relationships, they do what is best for kids, etc.

But I took away a couple of things for me, that I did not find "common."  First, the idea that great teachers don't make rules based on one to two students or parents.  This meaning deal with trouble directly, not with the entire class but those who need the attention, which I already did.  But more importantly ask yourself what would my best students think - that is a great phrase because that is what the world does with employees too.  If my best students/parents find a note that comes home about a rule insulting - don't send it!   Deal with the 2 of 30 students who are causing an issue.

I already did not have a lot of rules and I preach "fair-ness over equal-ness," meaning each person is treated fairly - that does mean people are treated slightly differently depending on the situation and needs of the student. And that is okay, that is how the world works.  If one student needs attention for behavior, I deal with that one student.  If one student has an issue and cannot do homework for a couple of days, I excuse that student.  The teacher must make the decision and must do his or her best to be fair (NOT EQUAL).

The second thing I took from the book was the reminder that I only control me.  I am the variable in the classroom that I can control.  The teacher can really only change his or her performance!   It is my job to reach out, prod and push these students - to make sure they are doing math each day in my room at least.  And if we (the student and I) can get 45 minutes per day of effort on math - then we can almost always progress through the math requirements for a HS diploma.  Cause that diploma is the ticket to nearly everything in the workplace.  And we don't let 15 year olds make life alternating decisions without pushing them hard, at a minimum, in a positive direction.

Again it is nice read, short -- and makes you reflect on what you are doing in your classroom.