Last night I had the tremendous honor of being named our Lebanon High School Mens Basketball Honorary Coach. This was huge for me because it was the players’ idea and Coach Albert Hendrix agreed. The players are are biggest reason for my being excited about this opportunity. I have all but two in class, and since I am a systems thinker those two are my students too, since they go to Lebanon. Our Tigers are now 16-2, and I have been to all the games but but two (I was out of state for both). I have blogged about my personal mission of using Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships to facilitate high student achievement. Today’s post really goes to the Relationship component. Because of basketball a bond between myself and these students has been forged that is unbelievable. But really all of this is not the theme of this post.
Last fall during a leadership workshop we were conducting for our students one player/student, Ray Solomon, made a comment that has forever changed me and shaped many of my discussions with this team. When asked by the workshop facilitator “What are major distractions to to your being successful?” Ray wrote down “Expectations.” I asked Ray about this because normally we think of high expectations being a key to attaining success. Here’s where the student set the teacher straight; Ray said, “But Mr. Ernest you don’t understand, in basketball everyone has their own idea of what the expectations of the basketball team should be. They want us to all be straight A students, go to the college they went to, win a state championship (even though many making that statement never coached a state championship team, were on one, or even a good basketball player), never get into trouble, and the list goes on and on. Every one of them also wants to tell us exactly what me need to do better, and many times the next piece of advice contradicts the one before. It’s just too much to handle.” This statement from Ray really struck me and caused me to think. I really believe most of this is not coming out of love for the student athletes but out of these people’s own selfish desires to attach themselves in some way to the team. Much of it becomes not providing expectations, but DISTRACTIONS.
Coach Hendrix and I have developed a great relationship as well (in fact he uses my room and SMARTboards for film practice) and we have discussed these distractions. Amazingly, he gets the same thing – many who think they can coach the team better. My thought – even if they can (pretty sure they can’t) they are not the coach, period. Let me assure you after being on the bench with Coach Hendrix last evening there are few better at adjusting to what is happening in the game than him. He is a tremendous game coach. I have always said one of the best things we could do would be to take down all the banners in the gym and not live in the past but live for the here and now. Right now is this teams time. It doesn’t matter what has happened in the past or who came before. What matters is the expectations this team has for themselves right now. It has to become personal.
My suggestion to Ray and all the other players is quite simply “Own your own expectations!” Don’t worry about everyone else’s expectations. I want them to quite simply make it personal. In fact, I personally tweeted that message to each player yesterday before the game and reinforced it in the locker room during the game. As Coach Hendrix said in his pregame, “you now have the opportunity to do something that very few get to do, it has to become personal, you have to want it more than anyone else, the stretch to a state championship begins right here, right now!” We won last night, by the way!
Last night it was such an incredible honor to be honorary coach for the game. I did everything that a coach would do – locker room pregame, on the floor for warm ups, sat on the bench with the players, halftime locker room adjustments, and post-game talks. What an experience! Words cannot describe the love I have for this team. Everyone of them is a great student, and more importantly, person. I will never forget the experience of the feeling of being asked to be the Honorary Coach. It means so much because it was this team – it was their own EXPECTATION of me. Guess what – I owned that expectation, too!
So for the readers of this post please remember that high expectations are important, but also remember as I tweeted: “No more DISTRACTIONS. Tonight it becomes personal. Don’t worry about everyone else’s expectations. Own your own Expectations!”
This past week I defended my research proposal (successfully I might add) as part of my Doctoral journey. At the end I was asked if I had any comments I would like to make about the journey. Well of course I did. For one of my comments I used the term “frustrated.” After saying that I quickly tried to correct, and said “I’m sorry, frustrated is not the correct term, I didn’t mean to sound so negative.” My doctoral committee chair quickly jumped in and said “Byron, it is o.k. to feel frustration – it’s part of the process.”
Let me tell you, as a card carrying “Positive/Possibility Thinker” it frustrated me to think I had been frustrated. So in reflecting I thought, “How can we turn frustration into a positive emotion?” Off to Dictionary.com I went. Here’s what the website had to say: Frustration – The condition that results when an action is thwarted by an external or internal force. The blocking or thwarting of an impulse, purpose, or action (who the heck uses the word thwarted anyway?). Also, it is ironic that one of John Maxwell’s Minute with Maxwell videos was on the work frustration this week as well. Click here to watch his video and hear his thoughts on “frustration”
So here’s what I learned: When I get frustrated I need to use the impulse to evaluate my purpose and create actions that will eliminate the frustration. Really, frustration is a gauge pointing us to the next action necessary to carry out our purpose. Frustration happens to you and it happens to me so let’s harness it’s effects for positive action.
Back on December 9, 2011 my post was about action research we are doing at my school on student engagement. I wrote about the four themes that our students developed about what great teachers needed to do to keep them engaged in the learning process. To read the post click here. Here are the themes from the student responses as to how students are best engaged: 1. Students learn best from Passionate and Energetic teachers; 2. Students learn best from teachers that are Prepared and Creative; Students learn best when the material is Relevant to them; and 4. Students learn best when they best when they believe the teacher genuinely Cares about them.
This past week we took two student LAB times (time each day I spend with the same group of students) to discuss the students’ role in being engaged learners. The discussion revolved around the answers the students gave to the question: What can students do to improve engagement?
Here are the themes and every related comment made by the students:
Come to class well rested, Decent amount of sleep, Get more sleep, Get enough sleep, Get more sleep at home not in class, Get more sleep, Sleep more – go to bed earlier, Get enough sleep, Get a good night’s sleep, Go to bed earlier, Get enough sleep, Get enough sleep, Get more sleep, Proper rest, Get plenty of sleep, More Sleep, More Sleep, Get proper amounts of sleep, More sleep (not in class), Get more sleep, Get more sleep – try to have a specific time by which to go to bed, Get more sleep by putting away electronic devices, managing time better, going to bed earlier, and cutting off sugar and caffeine at an earlier time, Get Enough Sleep (at “home”), Get more sleep, Get enough sleep, Get more sleep at home, Get sleep, Reasonable bedtime
Eat a nutritious breakfast, Eat breakfast, Breakfast in the morning, Eat Breakfast, Eat a good breakfast, Eat breakfast – set up night before, eat the right foods, and bring a healthy snack, Eat healthy, especially breakfast, Eat breakfast, Eat breakfast, Eat a good breakfast, Eat breakfast, Eat breakfast, Breakfast, Eat breakfast, Follow proper diet (nutrition/meals), Eat breakfast, Eat Breakfast, Eat correct meals, Eat breakfast, Eat breakfast
Positive Attitude and Motivation
Positive outlook, and motivation and guidance, Be a more positive student, Have a positive attitude, Self motivation, Be self-motivated to reach your future goals, More self-motivation, Positive outlook, Motivate yourself, Have a more positive attitude, Students need to work towards having a positive attitude every day they come to school, Positive attitude, Be positive – care about yourself – care about your classmates – care about your education – maintain a positive outlook, Get motivated, Positive Attitude, Have a positive attitude towards classmates, teachers, and schoolwork, More Positive Attitude (This one was brought up the most), Have a positive outlook each day, Self Motivation, Motivate others by encouraging them, Care about your grades, Care about grades, Keep Motivated, Change your attitude about school: don’t be a “Debbie owner” and cooperate, Students should be setting clear-cut, obtainable goals
Students need to care and respect others students and teachers, Meet teachers halfway/show respect, Be less disruptive, Don’t join in on bullying or picking on others, Don’t derail lectures during class – cooperate more, Have respect/Less drama, Students need to have an equal amount of respect for themselves and their peers, Respect, Respect Students and Teachers/Don’t judge others, Students can be more cooperative (not disruptive, kind, courteous, respectful), Be more respectful to both fellow classmates as well as teachers, Teamwork – help classmates if they need help, Be willing to help others, Get to know your classmates (it helps your comfort level in classes.)
Responsibility and Work Ethic
Do not procrastinate, Be responsible, Don’t procrastinate, Don’t procrastinate, Use time wisely and apply yourself when in class, Be responsible for my actions – do assignments- get excited to learn – take notes – put homework in agenda book, Don’t procrastinate-Use student handbook – use class time wisely when teachers give homework time – set a schedule while doing homework (ex: after I do 10 problems THEN I can check Facebook) – make a too do list to check off, Take advantage of time/don’t procrastinate, Be responsible for actually doing the work, Students need to be proactive in class and avoid procrastination, Take responsibility, Stop procrastinating – set priorities, Don’t procrastinate, Don’t Procrastinate, Take more responsibility, Don’t procrastinate, Be responsible – be on time to class – be prepared – don’t procrastinate, Don’t procrastinate, Don’t procrastinate, Don’t Procrastinate, Don’t procrastinate, Don’t Procrastinate, Don’t Procrastinate, Be responsible for yourself: take notes – do assignments – pay attention in class
Take notes, Do your homework completely, Be engaged in class activities; don’t work on homework for other classes, Be prepared for class (complete homework/reading, be well rested), Take good notes, Take Notes, Stay Focused and take “active” notes, Come to school prepared- supplies, Actually do homework at home not during other classes, Apply yourself/do your homework, Take good notes, Take good notes in class, Study to be prepared for homework, tests, and class discussions, Do the homework, Do the homework, Do The Work, Bring the necessary supplies (book, pencil, paper,etc), Take good notes, Do your homework, Do your homework, Learn how to take notes, Self-preparation, Turn in all homework even if it is not completed – do all homework the night it is assigned and while it is fresh, Keep on top of my homework, Students can do homework/ come prepared for class, Make an effort – even if you don’t like it, suck it up and do it, Do Homework and use agendas to record assignments, Turning in homework – Studying for tests
Ask questions in class and get help outside of class if necessary, Ask questions, Ask questions and participate in class and school activities, Asking questions – focus on listening and taking, notes, Ask questions, See more teachers and ask questions when needed-students should not be afraid to ask teachers questions – If they are shy or do not feel comfortable wait until after class or email their question to the teacher, Participate more in classroom activities, Ask questions, Ask for help, Apply Yourself More Often, Ask questions, Ask questions in class, Participate – ask questions – get help after school – take notes – don’t sleep in class, Be active participants in class (do homework/study, ask questions, focus, be prepared with supplies, use your class time wisely), Participate/ask questions in class, Pay attention – ask for help, Focus in Class, Students will be active participants in class by cooperating with teachers, avoiding procrastination and doing their work, asking questions, and taking notes, Students can participate in class/ ask questions, Pay attention in classes, Be more engaged in learning…ie. Pay attention – Ask Questions – Be here, Ask more questions in class, Apply yourself to each subject to the best of your ability, Ask questions and support classmates when they ask questions, Participate by volunteering on a regular basis, Ask questions whether it be in class or outside of class if that is more comfortable. Don’t be scared to say something silly, Ask good questions when not understanding, Ask Questions
To complete this exercise the students wrote down three areas on an index card that they personally were going to commit to for improved engagement. We as teachers are committing to: 1. Students learn best from Passionate and Energetic teachers; 2. Students learn best from teachers that are Prepared and Creative; Students learn best when the material is Relevant to them; and 4. Students learn best when they best when they believe the teacher genuinely Cares about them. The students are also taking ownership by having identified their own areas of commitment.
Yesterday, I was asked to provide my thoughts on whether teacher salaries should be based on student achievement. The idea of teacher pay being linked to student achievement is certainly at the forefront of education reform. I am proud that Indiana has taken a lead in this arena with the legislative reforms of 2011. First of all I want to frame my thoughts through the lens of Brill (2011) who recognized that teaching is hard work, very hard work. Brill (2011) called it “grueling work” (p.2). He went on to say, “It required more talent, more preparation, more daily reevaluation and retooling, more hours in the class day, and just plain more perseverance than many teacher, and most teachers’ union contracts were willing or able to provide” (p. 2) Many took this statement as a dig toward teaching and unions. I took it as a huge compliment to my profession – teaching. Notice I said profession. To me Brill’s (2011) statement recognizes me as a highly effective professional who needs to be evaluated and compensated as such. Therefore I do believe in a compensation model that uses student achievement as part of the compensation metric.
Thank goodness most professions have not taken a “these kids” or “can’t do much approach.” Can you imagine if professionals in the medical field took the attitude: “not much we can do for this cancer” or “can’t do much for diabetes.” Many of our friends and relatives would not be with us today. I for one want my profession, teaching, to be thought of as the “can do” and “all kids can learn” profession. As a professional teacher I am glad that Indiana has new legislation that recognizes me such and evaluates me as a professional teacher leader. Call it what you want, merit pay, bonus pay, or whatever, but the bottom line it really comes down to what Pink (2009 ) described as “base-line rewards.” In Indiana a portion of the compensation will now be based on student achievement and performance. The system is still based on a base-line rewards system where I am truly paid as a professional. This was a crucial step in getting our profession where it needs to be. Many have pointed to whether this system becomes a “carrot-stick” type of compensation that some research says doesn’t work. I look to it as be the adequate and equitable reward that Pink (2009) subscribed to when he said, “If someone’s baseline rewards aren’t adequate or equitable, her focus will be on the unfairness of her situation and the anxiety of her circumstance. You’ll get neither the predictability of extrinsic motivation nor the weirdness of intrinsic motivation. You’ll get very little motivation at all” (p. 55). I am excited we are going to a model where I am paid to be a highly effective teacher leader.
This past week further evidence as to just how important the teacher really is was released. Lowry (2012) reported that Harvard researchers Chetty and Friedman and Columbia researcher Rockoff reported that an effective teacher has a high economic value. Lowry (2012) reported “Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000, the economists estimate. Multiply that by a career’s worth of classrooms.” To read the full article click here. To me this speaks volumes to my value as a professional.
Finally, my last thought on a compensation model that bases a portion of the salary on student achievement and performance – We cannot afford not to do it that way because it is what is in the best interest of our students. This should be how we frame every education decision – What is best for our students!
Brill, S. (2011). Class warfare: Inside the fight to fix America’s schools New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Lowry, A. (2012). Big study links good teachers to lasting gain. New York Times. Retrieved on January 6, 2012: from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01
Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.