As I've said, I think any classroom where a teacher is consistently signaling CCP — Care, Competence, and Passion — to each student is a classroom where the teacher will be increasingly credible. And please note: consistently doesn't mean the same thing as perfectly. I'm a very imperfect teacher but also a very credible one, and it's because I've internalized CCP and am daily signaling that I'm a good teacher. (And note again: good ≠ best!)
In the coming weeks I'll write brief treatments for many of the following strategies, and I'll link to all of those articles below as they publish. Make sure you're subscribed to get updates! And be the cool colleague who tells your friends to subscribe, too! 😉
Five ideas for signaling passion
- For ten days straight, start a sentence with your students like this: “Isn't it neat that ____________?” Fill in the blank with something you appreciate about education, your discipline, or the work of learning. (Here's an explainer video.)
- End a lesson with a mini-sermon. Decorated New York educator Brian Sztabnik taught me this sermonizing routine. For the last 2-3 minutes of class, he takes a swing at explaining to students why today's lesson matters. (Here's a video example of a world history class, and here's a [much worse] one for math.)
- When your students do something you taught them to do (or something you didn't but that is cool from a learning perspective), make a 30-second show of nerding out about it. “Woah, check out that em dash! That is dope!” Or, “Dang, look at this — MLA format on a homework assignment! So crisp!” Or, “Y'all, did you see how Michael included a specific historical example with his warm-up response on Canvas? Ohhhhh, I love that.”
- Just say sometimes, “Nope — you probably won't use this someday. In fact, I'd be shocked if you did. BUT it's still so awesome! I'm so glad we get to learn about it together!” Be relentless (video) with this kind of thinking.
- Just say sometimes, “It's just a good feeling to be here with you students.” And when you say it, smile. In other words, channel Fred.
Part of passion is urgency
One problem with using “Passion” in CCP is that passion is a pretty linguistically extended word — meaning it means too many things to too many people, and so communicatively, it's dangerous because when saying it, you can mean one thing but your listeners can hear all kinds of other things.
This is why I'm starting to emphasize in my PDs that a big part of the passion I'm talking about is urgency.
Let's look at a few simple methods we can use to send ***non-stressful*** signals of urgency to our students — signals that say, “What we do here is important! There's no time to waste! It's just too good!”
Five ideas for signaling gentle urgency
- Post a countdown. Whether it's the end of a unit, a semester, or a school year, countdowns are simple, physical signals that our time is not infinite. We're not counting down because we want to be done — at least, most of the time we're not! We're counting down to recognize the reality that our lives are finite and there's much to be made of them. (Here's a bit more on this strategy.)
- For ten days straight, make a note to yourself to say to your students, “This work is important because ______.” I notice in myself that sometimes I need to talk like this to my students to rekindle the flame in my own heart. And with that flame rekindled, I'm better able to teach from a place of gentle urgency.
- Reteaching and reinforcing class start procedure. Have you got some procedures out of tune — say, how students enter class, how students begin class, how students work with one another, or how students end class? Take three minutes to reteach and practice with students what you want these things to look like. And when you do it, smile — you're not trying to coerce mindless behavior, you're trying to teach the kind of behaviors that make cooperation natural and smooth in your classroom. (Here's more on procedures.)
- Practice explaining a concept or skill clearly and quickly. One of the best things to do for this is to show an example and a non-example.
- Practice your authoritative presence. It's a learnable thing! Here's more on the topic.
Five ideas for signaling care
- Don't trust yourself to regularly create moments of genuine connection with students. Instead, print off all the names of your students and put them on a clipboard. Let the clipboard keep you honest! Print the doggone paper! 🙂
- This week, connect with your most standoffish students first. Most folks (including me) can find that we instinctively do the opposite.
- For the next ten days, before you leave work send a daily positive parent message. I learned this one from our colleague in Doral, FL — Jason Schultz. I even made a video about it.
- For the next five kids you connect with one-on-one, speak to them only about their progress as a learner. It's easy for lots of us (me included) to mostly connect with students on a personal level. But credible teachers make clear to each student that that student's growth as a learner matters to them.
- Smile big. So good. Try to make the smile reach right into your eyes.
Five ideas for signaling competence
- Return feedback on a set of student work the day after it's turned in — particularly an assessment, project, or essay. When you do it, tell students you did this quickly because you want them to learn as much as they can from it. (For help on quicker feedback, see here.)
- Respond to a concerned parent or student with an offer to meet after school. I find this to be so much quicker and more effective than sending a long email response.
- John Woodenize an essential learning behavior. Teach it right down to the smallest detail.
- Follow through on something simple but important. Follow through is the hardest thing for me — even with small things, like a Skull and Crossbones list. But man, what a game-changer. What an effort saver.
- Watch people that are good at their jobs. If you hear something good about a colleague, ask them if you can watch them teach for a few minutes during your next prep. Bonus: You'll likely encourage them way more than you know! Here's what I learned doing this recently.
Everything on this list will help. You don't need to do it all. And whatever you try, please do it playfully.
This work is fun — at its core, that's what it is. This work is good and powerful — strip it all the way down, and that's all that you'll find.
More to come,