by Harry and Rosemary Wong
Even Superintendents Do It
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 2002 column. (Hyperlink to January 2002).
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!
Past Gazette Articles by Harry & Rosemary Wong:
If you spot a link that appears to be out-of-date, please alert us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
- A Grateful Goodbye After 15 Years (Jun 2015)
- Love, Marriage, and Babies, Oh My! (May 2015)
- Retention Rate Is 100 Percent (Apr 2015)
- Teacher Effectiveness and Human Capital (Mar 2015)
- Training Teachers to Be Effective (Feb 2015)
- Making Deals Is Ineffective (Dec 2014 / Jan 2015)
- Retrieving and Carrying Electronic Devices (Nov 2014)
- Sharing to Succeed (Oct 2014)
- How a University Prepares Its Students (Sep 2014)
- Effective Teaching (Aug 2014)
- Your Future Is in Your Hands (June/July 2014)
- The Classroom Management Book (May 2014)
- When Students Succeed; Teachers Succeed (April 2014)
- Teaching New Teachers How to Succeed (March 2014)
- Execute and Praise (February 2014)
- Shaping a Solid Foundation (Dec 2013 / Jan 2014)
- The Most Misunderstood Word (November 2013)
- How to Start Class Every Day (October 2013)
- Prevention: The Key to Solving Discipline Problems (September 2013)
- Planning, Planning, Planning (August 2013)
- Are You THE One? (June / July 2013)
- Practical Examples That Work (May 2013)
- A Disability Is Not a Handicap (Apr 2013)
- Totally Inexcusable (Mar 2013)
- Be Proud of Public Education (Feb 2013)
- Structure Will Motivate Students (Dec 2012 / Jan2013)
- Orchestrating the Classroom (Nov 2012)
- The Lasting Impact of Instructional Coaching (Oct 2012)
- Learning, Laughing, and Leaving a Legacy (Sep 2012)
- Twenty-two, First Year, and Legit (Aug 2012)
- A Master Teacher of Teachers (June/July 2012)
- Where Going to School Means Success (May 2012)
- A Nationally Celebrated High School (Apr 2012)
- The Highest Rated School in New York City, Part 2 (Mar 2012)
- The Highest Rated School in New York City, Part 1 (Feb 2012)
- The Importance of Culture (Dec 2011 / Jan 2012)
- You Can Teach Classroom Management (Nov 2011)
- Seamless, Transparent, and Consistent (Oct 2011)
- Coaching Teachers to Be Effective Instructors (Sep 2011)
- How a Principal Creates a Culture of Consistency (Aug 2011)
- Graduation Begins in Your Classroom (June/July 2011)
- The Inspiration of a Mother (May 2011)
- How to Be an Effective Leader (Apr 2011)
- Learning Objectives: The Heart of Every Lesson (Mar 2011)
- Even Shakespeare Had Structure (Feb 2011)
- Effectiveness Defined: It's Not a Mystery (Dec 2010 / Jan 2011)
- Surviving Without a Principal (Nov 2010)
- Achieving Greatness: Locke Elementary School, Part 2 (Oct 2010)
- Teaching Greatness: Locke Elementary School, Part 1 (Sep 2010)
- Effective from the Start (Aug 2010)
- Ten Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2010 (June/July 2010)
- The Success of a Culture of Consistency (May 2010)
- Training Teachers to Be Effective (Apr 2010)
- Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn (Mar 2010)
- Turning Teaching Dreams into Reality (Feb 2010)
- Dreams and Wishes Can Come True (Dec 2009 / Jan 2010)
- Success in a State Controlled School (Nov 2009)
- Inner City Is Not An Excuse (Oct 2009)
- Exceeding All Expectations (Sep 2009)
- Teachers Are the Difference (Aug 2009)
- Nine Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2009 (Jun/Jul 2009)
- Teachers Are the Greatest Assets (May 2009)
- The Tools for Success (Apr 2009)
- Assessing for Student Learning (Mar 2009)
- To Be an Effective Teacher Simply Copy and Paste (Feb 2009)
- The Sounds of Students Learning and Performing (Dec 2008)
- A School That Achieves Greatness (Nov 2008)
- Boaz City Schools: Professional Learning Teams (Oct 2008)
- It Was Something Close to a Miracle (Sep 2008)
- A Computer Teacher Shows the Way (Aug 2008)
- Eight Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2008 (Jun/Jul 2008)
- An Amazing Kindergarten Teacher (May 2008)
- Schools That Beat the Academic Odds (Apr 2008)
- Academic Coaching Produces More Effective Teachers (Mar 2008)
- Coaches Are More Effective than Mentors (Feb 2008)
- Wrapping the Year with Rap! (Dec 2007/Jan 2008)
- The Floating Teacher (Nov 2007)
- Taking the Bite Out of Assessment—Using Scoring Guides (Oct 2007)
- Ten Timely Tools for Success on the First Days of School (Sep 2007)
- First Day of School Script - in Spanish, Too! (Aug 2007)
- Seven Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2007 (Jun 2007)
- Effective Teachers End the Year Successfully (May 2007)
- Training Gen Y Teachers for Maximum Effectiveness (Apr 2007)
- Classroom Management Applies to All Teachers (Mar 2007)
- Students Want a Sense of Direction (Feb 2007)
- Rubrics in Two College Classes (Dec 2006/Jan 2007)
- How to Write a Rubric (Nov 2006)
- Assessing Student Progress with a Rubric (Oct 2006)
- A 92 Percent Homework Turn-in Rate (Sep 2006)
- Effective Teachers Are Proactive (Aug 2006)
- Five Year Summary of Articles (Jun 2006)
- Hitting the Bulls Eye as a Beginning Teacher (May 2006)
- They're Eager to Do the Assignments (Apr 2006)
- The Success of Special Ed Teachers (Mar 2006)
- What Teachers Have Accomplished (Feb 2006)
- Fifty Years Ago, The Legacy (Dec 2005/Jan 2006)
- The Emergency Teacher (Nov 2005)
- Classroom Management Is Not Discipline (Oct 2005)
- A Successful First Day Is No Secret (Sep 2005)
- The Most Important Factor (Aug 2005)
- Four Year Summary of Articles (Jul 2005)
- Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple (Part 2) (Jun 2005)
- Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple (Part 1) (May 2005)
- Never Cease to Learn (Apr 2005)
- His Classroom Is a Real Life Office (Mar 2005)
- The Power of Procedures (Feb 2005)
- The First Ten Days of School (Jan 2005)
- PowerPoint Procedures (Nov/Dec 2004)
- The Saints of Education (Oct 2004)
- How Procedures Saved a Teacher's Life (Sep 2004)
- How to Help Students with Their Assignments (Aug 2004)
- Three Year Summary of Articles (Jun/Jul 2004)
- His Students are All Certified (May 2004)
- What to Do When They Complain (Apr 2004)
- A Well-Oiled Learning Machine (Mar 2004)
- The Effective Teacher Adapts (Feb 2004)
- How to Start a Lesson Plan (Aug 2003)
- Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market - Part 2 (Jun/Jul 2003)
- Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market (May 2003)
- The Effective Substitute Teacher (Apr 2003)
- A First Day of School Script (Mar 2003)
- How to Retain New Teachers (Feb 2003)
- No Problem With Hurricane Lili (Dec 2002)
- A Class Size of 500 (Nov 2002)
- Effective Practices Apply to All Teachers (Oct 2002)
- Dispensing Materials in Fifteen Seconds (Sept 2002)
- How To Start School Successfully (Aug 2002)
- Teaching Procedures Is Teaching Expectations (June - July 2002)
- $50,000 to Replace Each Teacher (May 2002)
- Even Superintendents Do It (Apr 2002)
- Impossible, No Job Openings? (Mar 2002)
- A Stress Free Teacher (Feb 2002)
- A Most Effective School (Jan 2002)
- Van Gogh in Nine Hours (Dec 2001)
- The Effective Teacher Thinks (Nov 2001)
- How a Good University Can Help You (Sep 2001)
- How to Motivate Your Students (May 2001)
- How to Recognize Where You Want to Be (Apr 2001)
- What Successful New Teachers Are Taught (Mar 2001)
- A Journey of the Heart (Feb 2001)
- The Miracle of Teachers (Jan 2001)
- It's Not the Students. It's the Teacher. (Dec 2000)
- The First Five Minutes Are Critical (Nov 2000)
- How to Start a Class Effectively (Oct 2000)
- The Problem Is Not Discipline (Sep 2000)
- There Is Only One First Day of School (Aug 2000)
- Applying for Your First Job (Jul 2000)
- Your First Day (Jun 2000)
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