by Harry and Rosemary
When you walk into Wal-Mart you are usually greeted by a precious,
mother-like lady who hands you a cart and says, "Welcome to Wal-Mart."
You buy, not because the cart is large, but because the lady who
greeted you established a relationship. When Sam Walton began
Wal-Mart years ago in Arkansas, he went to his suppliers and said,
"I want to develop a partnership with you." That same philosophy
has been transferred to how Wal-Mart treats its customers and
may explain why Wal-Mart is so successful.
Ask any second-career teacher who has been in the business or sales world and that person will tell you that company meetings endlessly drilled in the importance of "relationship." Relationships hold marriages, friendships, teams, work forces, and businesses together. People buy when they believe that a relationship has been developed between the buyer and the seller.
Watch an effective teacher. They know this simple but powerful fact too. There is an assignment on the board (the shopping cart) and the teacher is standing at the door greeting every student (the lady who hands you the cart), establishing a relationship every day. Whereas, the ineffective teacher is in the room yelling at the students to "sit down," "find your seat," and "stop talking," while blaming the students (the customers) for the day's problems.
Leaders Are Seen and Are Accessible
So, it was a breath of fresh air when we received a school district newsletter recently and all it said at the top was
Effective Teachers = Quality Schools
This powerful truism came as the headline of the Newsletter from the Sunnybrook School District 171 in Lansing, Illinois, where Dr. Joseph J. Majchrowicz is the superintendent and instructional leader. He, personally, leads a 10-hour staff development training program for his staff. Before we talk more about the Sunnybrook Schools and its superintendent, let's look at some knowledge that is well known.
This we know:
- The only way to have good schools is to have a team (there's relationship again) of effective teachers who work together as a learning community. Thus, effective teachers = quality schools.
- It is what teachers know and can do that determines student achievement; it is not the program the teacher uses or the teacher's philosophy.
- A large-scale study found that every additional dollar spent on raising teacher quality netted greater student achievement gains than with buying another program.
- There is no way to create good schools without good teachers.
It is the administrator who creates a good school.
And it is the teacher who creates a good classroom.
It is unfortunate when we hear from teachers who tell us that their superintendent talks to them over a television set. Or, even worse, they have never seen the superintendent, much less met him or her.
Leaders are seen. Leaders are accessible. Leaders lead and they lead by caring enough about the success of their teachers that they will roll up their sleeves and model instructional leadership. This brings us back to Dr. Joe Majchrowicz of the Sunnybrook School District in Lansing, Illinois. He personally leads and teaches a 10-hour class on effective schools. He also chairs the 18 member District Quality Review Team that annually analyzes and evaluates staff practices in the area of effective schools research.
Sunnybrook is a district that is 25 miles south of Chicago next to the Indiana border by Hammond. Originally, it was an agricultural community of Dutch onion farmers. Today, it is a typical suburban area of primarily residential homes. The student population is about 50/50 Caucasians and African-Americans with a small percentage of other groups. Approximately 47 percent of the teachers have a master's degree and the average teaching experience is 17.5 years, so a culture of well educated, experienced teachers capable of producing excellent results is present.
In past columns we have talked about teacher leaders, staff developers, and principals who are instructional leaders. In this column, we share with you that even superintendents do it!
In the Flowing Wells Schools of Tucson, Arizona, state superintendent of the year, Dr. John Pedicone, accompanies a bus tour when the new teachers begin their induction program. He acts as a "tour guide" on a chartered bus trip throughout the school district. A Trivia Contest is part of the planned activities, which includes historical, interesting, and relevant information about the district. This activity demonstrates the culture of the district and allows the teachers to experience and become a part of the Flowing Wells community. A relationship is built with the induction program leaders, the community, and each other on this bus tour.
Dr. Kathryn Robbins, superintendent, of the Leyden High School District in Franklin Park, Illinois, personally leads the training of the new teachers in their new teacher induction program. They have created "Leyden University," which is the district's continuing staff development program.
Bridget Phillips, principal, at Goldfarb Elementary School in
Las Vegas, Nevada, is an instructional leader. She and her staff
train the student teachers for one semester and the other semester
is used to train the first year teachers. At Goldfarb there
is a community of learners who learn and grow together. The
staff agreed on a set of school-wide procedures and these are
listed in our January
Creating a New School Vision
In the spring of 2001, the Sunnybrook School District 171 formed a broad-based panel to analyze the systemic effectiveness of its schools and to define future goals for the district. The committee's work was completed and its findings reported to the Board of Education. Many goals were identified and action plans were developed that cover all aspects of education. A new vision for the district was created, which states
The welfare of children and the development of quality schools being our primary responsibility, the vision of Sunnybrook School District 171 is to create a community-based environment dedicated to the pursuit of life-long learning and the development of socially responsible citizens. In a safe learning environment, students, staff, parents and other community members will be actively involved in learning together. The curriculum will involve standards-based, real-life, multidisciplinary tasks that will include problem solving and critical thinking as well as seek to encourage cognitive and affective development.
To help implement the vision, The Effective Teacher video series was chosen as a vehicle for building the effective schools philosophy. One of the important aspects of this work states that in every classroom, and in every aspect of school life, specific procedures for behavior must be clearly defined and maintained. These procedures would then become routine practices that are necessary for a school of quality.
Dr. Joseph Majchrowicz, explains, "Our goal is to develop a quality organization where teachers will be managing systems based on routines, which will make for a more efficient system. The development of routines will increase the likelihood of Sunnybrook being successful within our curriculum and instruction framework. The effective school philosophy is a formula for long-term success that is enduring, not a short-term achievement which may not be lasting."
Throughout the district, specific procedures for behavior in common areas are now in place. These include the appropriate and expected behavior for arrival, dismissal, passing periods and hallways, playground, locker areas, assemblies, lunchroom, bus, washrooms, and even the drinking fountains. These procedures define proper behavior and tell children exactly what is expected of them in these situations. When children learn and follow these procedures---when they know what is specifically expected of them in various situations---there is less time spent on disciplinary actions and more time on education.
Student Expectations and Procedures
Working with a Quality Review Team of administrators, teachers, and parents, they finalized and implemented a set of school-wide procedures when school began this past fall. All of the teachers instructed the students on the following expectations and classroom procedures so the teachers could begin instruction.
SUNNYBROOK SCHOOL DISTRICT #171
COMMON AREA PROCEDURES
- Find seat quickly and quietly
- Remain seated at all times
- Talk quietly and appropriately
- Keep hands, feet, and belongings to self
- Arrive no earlier than 7:45 a.m. at Heritage and 7:45 a.m. at Nathan Hale
- Assemble and/or line up in assigned area quietly and appropriately
- Walk, single file, quietly and appropriately to classrooms or lockers
Passing Periods and Hallway
- Walk in lines on the right side, keeping space between self, others and walls
- Keep hands, feet and belongings to self
- Talk appropriately using inside voices
- Keep hands, feet and belongings to self
- Talk appropriately
- Use playground and equipment in a proper and safe manner
- Line up quietly and appropriately when bell rings
Drinking Fountain and Washroom
- Keep hands and feet to self
- Take turns waiting quietly and patiently
- Flush and leave washroom clean
- Wash hands with soap and water
- Respect yourself, others, and school property
- Follow intercom directions
- Follow hallway procedures
- Go directly and quickly to waiting areas, lockers, bus, car, home, or after school programs
- Use inside voices
- Talk quietly in an appropriate manner
- Keep hands, feet, and belongings to self
- Gain permission before going to locker area between classes
- Take care of your school business at your locker only and move on to your next destination---no visiting at other lockers allowed
- Enter and exit in a quiet and appropriate manner
- Sit flat in an appropriate, quiet manner on floor or bleachers until assembly is over and you are dismissed
- Follow signals given by adults
- Applaud in an appropriate way to show appreciation
- Enter and exit in an appropriate manner
- Follow signals of adult supervisors
- Speak in inside voices
- Clean your table and wait to be dismissed
- Stay seated at all times except to get milk and/or lunch. Use of washroom will be limited to last five minutes of lunch at Heritage
Effective schools can be easily identified because the people subscribe to a set of core values. When this happens you have a school culture. Culture is defined as the practice and values of a group of people.
- Practices refers to the procedures used by everyone in the group, in this case the school-wide procedures.
- Values refers to the fundamental beliefs that govern a group of people.
The key words are "a group of people." You cannot have a culture of individuals existing in isolation from each other. Thus,
- Ineffective schools are populated by a bunch of people, locked in their own rooms, doing their own thing. The teachers are there putting in time, solely for a paycheck.
- Effective schools have a learning community, a family, a team of people all subscribing to the same set of values and using the same set of uniform practices or procedures. The teachers are there to make a difference in the lives of people.
Core values give life purpose, vision, and a mission. It is the procedures that are practiced by a group that will see that the core values are reached.
So, what is your district or school's vision? If you have one, then articulate it with a structure of procedures so that people can reach the vision. If there is no vision or culture, the district or a school proceeds, year-after-year, like a rudderless boat.
Research has shown that organizations or schools that strive to achieve quality development of its people (staff and students) are able to identify and emphasize their core values.
Sunnybrook School District #171 identified four such common values that will be woven into the culture of the district. They are at the very heart of doing "What's Best for the Kids." It is expected that everyone will do their best and expect others to:
- BE POSITIVE
- BE RESPECTFUL
- BE POLITE
- BE PREPARED
Does It Work?
Richard Larkins, principal of Nathan Hale School in the Sunnybrook district, reports:
The Effective Teacher video series was the motivation behind setting up both school-wide and classroom procedures within Nathan Hale School. We have a staff (certified and non-certified) of over seventy employees, who in the first week of school all stated to a person that they could see a difference in student behavior. From the time the bell rings to enter the school, to walking to their classroom, to walking to and from lunch and to walking to the door at dismissal, there are procedures and expectations that students follow.
Teachers have said that as a result of these procedures, students come into their classrooms in a calm state of mind and ready to learn. As an example, this "ready to learn" mentality has helped 83% of our students reach their grade level quota in our Reading Incentive Program.
We have also seen a drop in school detentions and suspensions. Within the classroom, procedures are posted in every room and beginning routines are established. For instance, in a 3rd grade room there is a "good morning" greeting by students and teacher, the "give me five" phrase is spoken, the pledge is recited, a chant is recited by students, and the 4 B's are said (Be Positive, Be Polite, Be Respectful, Be Prepared). This takes only one minute to do. A reflection statement is then given to the students by the teacher to which they respond and then they all begin a bell work activity.
With our school and classroom procedures established, we have seen a marked improvement in our school climate and atmosphere.
Another principal in the Sunnybrook district, Bruce E. Christensen of Heritage Middle School, reports that
In all classrooms, we can observe all students working within one minute of the bell. We are able to get the attention of 150 students in a lunchroom by raising a hand and have silence in 10 seconds. We can ask a student, who has been sent to the office for a discipline issue, what value has been violated, and the student can respond with one of our four values.
These are all possible when standard processes, procedures, and values are implemented within a school culture. In our first year of implementation, it was time consuming, tedious, and repetitious at times, but we are now experiencing successes beyond our expectations.
The best validation of our success comes from Jacques Jones, an eighth grade student, who says,
"The use of procedures helps our brains get ready to work earlier than before."
With our implementation of school wide procedures, more class time can be devoted to instruction and student activities.
It's Really Your Choice
Since last September we have presented a series of articles showcasing effective teachers, principals, schools, staff developers, and superintendents who truly know what effective teaching is all about---the kids and their success and achievement. Repeatedly we have said
It is the teacher who makes the difference in the classroom.
You can blame and accuse everything and everyone else for why you're having a hard time, but remember; you chose to become a teacher.
It certainly wasn't the pay that lured you into the schoolyard, nor was it the promise of weekends off. You signed on the dotted line because you firmly believe you can make a difference in the life of a child and, more than ever, make this a world better place because of who you are and what you represent to your students.
Some school districts are the Lexus of learning institutions---always in the relentless pursuit of perfection, spending dollars on teachers and kids to create a vehicle that just hums on the roadway of life, out performing the competition year after year after year.
And then there are other institutions that are just that---institutions. . . .
We've given you the keys to test drive success. Review our past articles to select elements of effective teaching to implement in your classroom. It's never too late in the school year to take a victory lap with your students.
So, esteemed colleagues, it's time to Start Your Engines!
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