The 7 Principles of Effective Instruction Part 2


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 240

Hey builders. Before we begin, I have a quick question for you. Are We Connected on social media? The reason I'm asking is because as much as I love giving you the podcast episode every single week, I'd love to take our relationship deeper. So if we're not connected on on social media, let's connect. I'm on LinkedIn at Robyn, underscore mind steps. I'm on Twitter at Robyn underscore mind step someone's on Facebook and Robyn Jackson, please, let's connect so we can keep the conversation going. Now on with the show. You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 239?

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Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. 

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson. And today we're doing part two of a series that we started last time around the principles of effective instruction. Now before I dive into the last four principles, today, I'm going to do two things. First, I'm going to just remind you about why we're talking about the principles of effective instruction. And then I'll do a brief recap of the first three. But if you really want to hear a detailed explanations of the first three principles, then you want to go to school leadership 239. Alright, so let's talk about why are we talking about this? You know, a lot of times when we say we want to improve instruction in our school, we want to make things better, we do so sincerely. But we don't really know how to improve instruction.

And we end up making it way more complicated than it has to be, we go to this strategy or this tactic, or we follow this guru or that Guru, when in reality, no matter what is going on in education at the moment, no matter what the trend is, there are some principles of effective instruction that are timeless, they have been always been true, they were true 50 years ago, they will be true 50 years into the future. So rather than running around looking for the latest research based strategies, or the latest tactics or the latest program, if you anchor in the seven principles, you can help any teacher become a master teacher. And so the goal of this series is to simplify things so that you can actually see improvement and instruction this school year with the teachers that you have already. So the first three principles were start where your students are, which you have to do if you're if you're going to teach kids, you need to understand who they are what they bring with them into the classroom, you have to understand who they are socially, emotionally, you have to understand who they are, psychologically, you have to understand who they are academically, before you can really find ways to reach every single kid. Now, that may sound like a big task. But in the last episode, I talked about some very simple ways that you can do that quickly and easily and meet students where they are. The next one is know where your students are going. Right. So you start with understanding where they are, the next step is you have to understand where you're trying to take them. What does success look like? And I am astonished at how many teachers and administrators really don't have a good handle on where kids are going. 

Yes, they can repeat the standards. Yes, they can underline the nouns and verbs and the standards. But they don't really understand what the standard is actually demanding of students what that thinking looks like. And so if you don't know where kids are going, you can't get them there. And then the third one is that you have to expect that you will help them get there. And so this one is really about turning the concept of high expectations on his ear. It's not that you look at a kid and see the potential in a kid. It's really that you understand the potential that you have, that you realize that there's no kid that you can't help and so you keep working and figuring it out until you find a way to help every single kid. Those are the first three. So we're going to dive in right now to the last four principles, which support the first three. The other thing I need to remind you of is this The seven principles are not something you can cherry pick, I liked this principle saw a practice was this one or I don't like that principle. So I'm gonna ignore that one. They work together. And they're pretty sequential, they lay out the roadmap. So if I were working with a struggling teacher, the first thing I would do is say, Does this teacher start where kids are? Does a teacher have a teacher sense as a teacher understand the kids in front of them? Then the next thing is does the teacher know where the kids are going? Does the teacher understand what it is they're expected to teach? So I would work through each of the principles in sequential order. And that's how you can build master teachers. So let's dive into the next four principles. So principle number four is support them along the way. Now, we all know that we need to support kids, but what we normally do is we wait until kids fail, and then they get the intervention, then they get the support of the things that we call supports are actually creating more work for kids. 

In many cases, we're pulling them out of classrooms. 

And not that I've listened, I don't want to get into the debate about the pullout versus pushing models. I'm just saying that a lot of things that we do to support students actually makes it worse. Why? Because we're trying to backfill what they've already failed at, rather than setting kids up to never fail in the first place. When I first learned this, as a teacher, it transformed everything. And it was the reason that I was able to get to the point where I didn't have any students failing my class. It's, it's simply the idea that you don't wait for kids to fail, you anticipate where they might struggle, you put supports in place ahead of time, so they never struggle in the first place. That makes so much sense to me that I am just baffled by why so many schools are too busy trying to backfill rather than, you know, taking care of the struggle on the front end. I remember observing a classroom once as an administrator, and the teacher had given the students homework, and the next day they were going over the homework. And the teacher said, Now, you probably made this mistake, right? And the kids grown. And they said, and then do you probably did this, and that's wrong. And the kids groaned. And I thought, if you knew that the kids are going to do that, make that mistake. misunderstand something. Why didn't you? Why did you give them both? Simon? Why didn't you clear that up beforehand? Why didn't you have a conversation one day earlier, so that the students could successfully complete the homework assignment, I just don't get it. But we do that on an institutional level all the time, we we, we wait for kids to fail, we are not proactive in our support. So support them along the way, that principle is designed to prevent failures. It's designed to make sure that the moment students start note, not the moment they start, before they start a new unit, you start by accelerating them, and you start by giving them the background knowledge, the prerequisite skills, they're going to need to be successful in that unit. And then throughout the unit, you're always looking for early warning signals that a kid is headed for destructive struggle, and you have interventions already in place to get that student quickly back on track before they get into a freefall of failure. And if you do that, not just at the classroom level, but you do that school wide, you can prevent kids from failing in the first place. 

So support them along the way is really about looking at where are the points of failure for students? Where are the inflection points in your in classrooms and in schools? And then what can you do to prevent students from ever hitting those points of failure? What can you do early in the process to get them on the right path? And that goes for not just academic work that goes for attendance that goes for discipline that goes for everything that happens in your school? Is your school designed to set kids up for success? Or is your school design to try to get kids back on track once they fail? And just that simple shift in perspective, can prevent a lot of issues that are happening in our schools right now. So That's principle number four, support them along the way. Principle number five is to use feedback to help you both get better. One of the things that I am troubled by in conversations about grades and whether the grade should do this or whether we should calculate grades this way or that way, or should we have grades at all? Is this idea that grades are somehow inherently bad or good when all grades are our feedback? If you think about grades is just feedback, then it changes how you look at grades. When you give a grade is that grade giving students meaningful feedback that they can use to improve and is that grade giving you this All teachers meaningful feedback on where you need to improve so that you can serve kids better. If your grades aren't doing that, why are you giving grades? And so the idea is that you're not thinking about grades or number of grades or how you're calculating grades, you're thinking about how can we give students the best feedback possible so that they can grow and improve and understand where they need to focus their efforts and help them understand how they're doing. And then how can we take that same feedback we're giving to students and use it to help us get better at serving them. 

If you think about the work that you do with students, that way, it transforms the way that you interact with kids, the way that you deal with grades, the way that you are providing kids with cues around behaviors in school, you're you're constantly thinking about is this giving students the right feedback, then it changes not just grades, it changes your discipline policy, right? If your discipline policy, it's not giving students feedback about the kinds of behaviors that work in your environment, and the kinds of behaviors that are not going to work then and how and giving kids feedback about how they can handle situations better. If he if your discipline system is not giving you feedback about how you what behaviors, you're reinforcing how you are supporting kids, then your discipline system is not going to work. We have to go into schools every single day and really pay attention to what feedback we're giving students about who they are about how they're doing about what their potential is. And we also need to pay more attention to the feedback our kids are giving us about how we're doing, about who we are to them about about our ability to actually impact their lives. And so when you shift from looking at things kind of in silos or looking at things as just policies and practices and start paying attention to the feedback that you are receiving from your students, and the feedback you are giving to your students, it changes how you do your work. 

So use feedback to help you both get better. 

Okay? Now, the next principle, principle six is focused on quality versus quantity. Now, you might hear that principle and say, the DA Yeah, we need to focus on quality versus quantity. But do we, I mean, when we look at the work that we're doing every single day, how much of that work is a literal waste of time? How much of that work, if you stop tomorrow, nobody would even notice you did, you weren't doing it anymore. If you go into a classroom, how much time is spent on meaningful engagement of students minds, and how much time is spent on, you know, having students perform learning but not actually learn. And so if you have that lens of quality versus quantity, then you stop wasting time and energy on things that don't matter to your students, to your teachers, to your vision. 

One of the things that I love about what builders do is by having 100% vision, you very, very quickly begin to realize what is the work we should be focusing on and what work isn't serving us. You have a you have a filter for that from from now until you achieve your vision. And that filter is simply will this move the vision forward? If not, we're not doing it? If it's if we can't turn this thing into something that moves the vision forward. Why are we doing it? And then the second filter, okay, yes, it will move the vision for it. But is it? What will move the vision for it in a way that aligns with our mission? Is this work if we move the vision for it this way? Will it take us off mission? If it does, we're not doing it? If it if it if it doesn't take us off mission if it's still aligned with our mission. All right, then we can move to question number three. Question number three does moving the work forward in this way violate violate any of our non negotiables if it does, we're not doing it. If it doesn't violate our non negotiables then it's passed the litmus test and this is the right work for us to be focused on right now.

Hey, Robyn here and I just want to break in real quick to ask you a huge favor. You see, I want to get the word out to everybody about builder ship and I could use your help. If you're really enjoying this episode. Would you mind just going to your podcast platform and leaving a quick review? You see the reviews get the word out they tell other people this is a great show other people who have never heard of school leadership reimagined before can hear about it, and you'd be sharing the word about builder ships. So would you mind just leaving a quick review? It would mean the world to me. Okay, now back to the show.

Do you see how simple that is? We overcomplicate things way too much. 

When you have the filter of the vision, mission and core values, it helps you make decisions very quickly. And it helps you feel confident in your decisions because your decisions are in line with where you're trying to go, how you're trying to get there, and the non negotiables that you have to honor along the way. So what does that mean, when you're working with a teacher with instruction, while the same thing is this learning experience going to move students closer to the the learning outcomes, that that you said that they you said that you wanted to achieve? If it is we do it, if it isn't, then we find something else. And then you have the additional filter, is the way of is this way of moving students to those learning outcomes in alignment with our vision and our mission and our core values. And with that kind of filter, you can trust your teachers, if your teachers are truly using that filter to to guide their work, you can trust that the work they're doing is quality, not just let me fill the day, I saw something recently that said most students are engaged in busy work. And that aligns with what I see in a lot of classrooms where you see kids performing, but not actually learning. And It troubles me because we are setting students up to not think just do. And so when you focus on quality versus quantity, you you have to distill learning down to what truly matters. And then make sure that every learning experience is focused on helping students acquire what truly matters. And if you do that, then you don't have to worry about whether or not you're going to achieve your vision. Because you have time and energy and focus on the right work and you're not wasting time on the wrong work. We have a finite amount of attention time and energy every single day. So shouldn't we be spending our time energy and attention on things that actually matter things that move us towards our vision. And if you could help teachers see that and give teachers a filter for doing that, then you become a more efficient organization. And it helps you achieve your 100% vision. 

Now, the last principle is everybody's favorite. Never Work harder than your students. Problem is people don't get what that means. They are just tired of working really hard and seeing their kids not do anything. And then I can't let the kids do it for a while. That's not what it's about. Never Work harder than your students means that you are not stepping in and doing the cognitive heavy lifting that your kids should be doing. It's about true ownership. Now, ownership is a word that we throw around a lot, right? We want students to be owners of their own learning, but we don't ever create the space for kids to truly be owners of their own learning. We are really, I'm just gonna say this. I think as a profession, we're terrified of letting kids own their own learning. And as administrators trained in a leadership paradigm, we're terrified of letting teachers own their own classrooms. Yeah, I said it. But it's true. Look at the way that we treat teachers, we say, We want teachers to take ownership over over results for their kids. But we don't give them ownership over how they achieve those results. We micromanage teachers down to you know, what they're teaching on what day how much time they're spending, we oversee script units and lessons so that teachers don't have to do any thinking. We want to teach her proof teaching. 

But then we want teachers to take ownership over their own results. How does that work? And then teachers do the same things for their kids. We want kids to be owners of their own learning. We want kids to take responsibility for doing the work. But we script out every aspect of the learning experience. And we don't leave room for students to express their own voice to make choices around what they want to do. Or even when we give them choices. They are so prescribed. It's like Do you want a or do you want B which is really a in a different color. Like we don't ever give children meaningful choices. We don't teach them how to be owners. And the reason we don't do that is because we think oh, this is the only way to get the result and anyone who deviates from here we're not going to get the result we want. So we're terrified to help kids take ownership. And we're terrified to allow teachers true ownership over what happens in their classrooms. And again, this is why I love builder shout because when you are a builder, you can you can allow teachers to take more ownership you can let go of all the control. And because you can trust your teachers, as long as what they're doing is in alignment with the vision mission and core values. And the process that we teach you inside of bu creates a vision, mission and core values that people truly own. They truly own it. And so once they do that people don't tear down what they helped build. And so they can be owners of it, they can be, they can be, they can tend the vision, mission and core values and protect it, because they own it. And because of that, you can trust them. 

Well, the same thing is true in the classroom. 

If you are engaging students and showing students how to make choices about their learning how to make choices about how they learn how to make choices about what they learn, then you can do that. And you know, the easiest way to do that goes back to one of the earlier principles, if you know where students are going, if you truly understood what the standard was asking of students, then how they get there, almost as a matter. And so if you if you looked at a standard and and understood that a standard is asking students to think in a certain way, then you can allow students multiple opportunities and multiple choices to help them think in the way of the standard. And that creates more ownership. And the more you teach students how to think for themselves, the more they can be trusted to think for themselves, and still be able to achieve some of the things that they need to achieve in school because of the standards. So never work harder than your students is really a byproduct of the other six principles you can't get there. People see that and they're like, that's the one I want to work on first. But if you don't start where students are, how are you going to not work harder than they if you don't know where they're going work harder doing? What if you don't have expectations of yourself? To help you that you know that you can get kids there, then how do you feel safe enough to let students take ownership? If you're not providing supports along the way? How do your students ever become good owners of their own learning? If you are not using feedback to help you both get better? How do students grow into that ownership? How do they begin to take on the work for themselves, and do it in a way that moves them forward, if you are focused on quantity versus quality, then it's overwhelming for students. And then that's how you get to the point, if you do those first six things that you can get to the point where you are allowing students to do the cognitive heavy lifting in a classroom. 

So those are the seven principles, right there principles, you know, one through seven. And if you understand those principles, and you begin to help teachers practice those principles, then it makes your school failure proof. If you just did those seven things, if you just simplified your work to those seven things, and that was your focus instead of on all the myriad other things that were focused on, then you can create a school where 100% of your kids are successful. Not only that, the more that your teachers began to practice these principles, the more your teachers begin to approach mastery. And rather than every single year coming up with Okay, now we're going to do this. Now we're going to do that now we're going to do this, if you just stayed focused on those seven principles, if your feedback and support and accountability and culture was built around those seven principles, imagine what your school could become. Though.

If you want to achieve your 100% vision, if you if you truly believe in that 100% vision, you can't do it without your teachers, you can't do it without shifting instruction in your school. And a lot of times people are saying, Okay, I've got my vision, but how am I going to get there, and B you those of you and B you you know, the way you do that is you map out the one plan. And the one plan works through the seven principles and identifies what you're going to be doing and focusing on in each of these seven principles as a school in order to build the kind of school and instructional experience for students that helps you achieve that vision. When you see that the reason we call it a one plan. It's a one page. It's very simple. If you just did the seven things you can achieve your vision, it takes 100% success and it makes it doable. It makes it tangible. It makes the work that you're going to do over the next three years to achieve your vision. Simple and doable. And you can see real progress. You see a lot of us are waiting for a staff full of unicorn teachers who are so amazing that we don't have to give them any feedback or any support, they just come in, do a job and, and they, they they get the kids where they need to be.

What we don't understand is that unicorn teacher is just a teacher who practices the seven principles and has mastered the seven principles. 

And if you understood that, then then you would know that any teacher can become that unicorn teacher, if that teacher practices the seven principles. It's not, you know, becoming a master teacher. It's not some form of sainthood, that you're anointed by God as a master teacher, becoming a master teacher is really just a matter of consistently practicing and mastering the seven principles. Well, if you know that, then you can take a look at a teacher right now who is struggling. And you can help them start from the very beginning, and start mastering the seven principles. And every time they grow in the seven principles, they become better at teaching. And you keep working with them, helping them master the seven principles until they become master teachers, what's a master teacher, a person who's mastered the seven principles. That's it. And that's it, then it means that the better we get at helping teachers master these principles, the better we get at building master teachers, that's what being a builder is all about. That's how you build a school, where 100% Success is the norm. You do that by building, not just the organization, but building the people in the school. And when you do that, you can achieve your vision, because you went about the process of doing it not by chasing fads and strategies, but really understanding the key principles that make instruction happen at the level where every child can be successful. You do that by continuing to nurture the teachers in your building and helping them grow. Because every time your teachers grow, they are able to reach more students. And you do that until every teacher is able to reach 100% of your students. That's how you achieve your vision. Like a builder. 

I'll talk to you next time.

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Thanks so much, and I'll see you next time.

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