A partner school has been using a book called Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov (a leader at Uncommon Schools) in their school-wide professional learning. Different teams were responsible for different sections, they read together, observed and videotaped each other’s classes as they put the book’s advice into practice, and shared out learnings as a whole staff.
The advice of the book is highly practical and centered on creating a learning environment. From the Amazon book page:
- Simplicity is underrated. A simple idea well-implemented is an incredibly powerful thing.
- You know your classroom best. Always keep in mind that what’s good is what works in your classroom.
- Excellent teaching is hard work. Excellent teachers continually strive to learn and to master their craft. No matter how good a teacher is it’s always possible to be better.
- Every teacher must be a reading teacher. Reading is the skill our students need.
- Teaching is the most important job in the world. And it’s also the most difficult.
In includes a long list of specific techniques – e.g., “Technique #38: No Warnings. If you’re angry with your students, it usually means you should be angry with yourself. This technique shows how to effectively address misbehaviors in your classroom.” The book also includes a DVD of video clips of teachers demonstrating the techniques in classrooms.
This work was new and more intense than anything the teachers at this school had done in terms of collaboration, opening their classrooms to each other, focusing on instructional change, breaking it down into steps, etc. And it was embedded in a new resolve in the school, coming from district leadership initially, to do something about longstanding disparities in student academic performance by race and class.
There was some uneasiness on the leadership team about rolling out this ‘equity initiative’ to the staff. The principal wanted a specific plan for getting results. Our coach developed a plan that was focused on creating conditions in the school for every staff member to take initiative, raise their expectations about what poor, black and brown students in their class can achieve, and make significant changes to their own classroom practice. This would support and inflect the work teachers were already doing with the Champion book.
Our coach’s goals were to build trust among the staff, lay the ground for deeper conversations, build their knowledge of the causes of literacy and related achievement gaps, and develop their facilitation skills so they are prepared to lead productive and even transformative staff discussions.
The school formed the mandated equity team, which held a retreat and participated in our three-day Leading for Equity institute, where they talked a lot about themselves and their students, the different resources and opportunities they bring to school, how to bring every child into the sphere of success, and over time the principal agreed – a deliberately slow process was critical for developing full team ownership and passion for the initiative, and for crafting a plan that will be deeply implemented.
The Teach Like a Champion work dovetailed with the “equity work,” which is a shorthand we and others use to refer to ‘inclusive efforts to develop commitment and leadership across the organization to doing whatever it takes to improve outcomes for historically underserved students.’