29 November, 2009

The One Minute Teacher By Constance Johnson

Book Description

This invaluable book shows how teachers, despite the many difficulties they face in today's school systems, can make an important contribution to their students' lives and educations. Johnson and Johnson describe how the use of Goal Setting, Praising, and Recovery reinforces self-esteem and creates a new kind of learning process that will become lifelong. The One Minute Teacher reveals simple, positive ways to

* Discover and instill the love of learning
* Foster success and achievement
* Feel more confident and happy
* Bring out the best in ourselves and others

Practical, wise, and useful in dozens of everyday situations, The One Minute Teacher is essential reading for anyone who teaches and anyone who learns.

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25 November, 2009

When Giants Stumble: Classic Business Blunders and How to Avoid Them by Robert Sobel

If learning from failure is key to success, Robert Sobel’s classic When Giants Stumble is essential reading.

It’s pretty easy to pick a few successful companies or people and pick out a few reasons why the boys (or boy) done good. Slap the words down, knock the pages between covers, point out a salutary lesson for business school speed-readers and, with a modicum of luck, you’ll be a guru on a neverending lecture tour.

I exaggerate of course, but it’s certainly more unusual to read a book that attempts to anatomise failure than one that claims to help replicate spectacular jackpot wins. This scarcity of books about non-success is puzzling in a way as business winners often point to their failures as providing the biggest lessons learned. A success story is nice, but a flop, a disaster even, is the gift that keeps on giving.

Robert Sobel had a 30-year career as humongously prolific author and university business historian when he wrote this book, published in the year of his death, 1999. Here, he takes a solid, no-frills approach to his theme and there’s a certain schadenfreude in this examination of contenders who ultimately failed to maintain their rise to stardom.

Not all the 15 subjects are well known these days, but you might remember Schlitz beer, stricken airline Pan-Am or personal computer pioneer Osborne. It doesn’t matter too much if you don’t know them as Sobel does a brilliant job in describing and inspecting the causes of their implosions.

It’s also a rattling good narrative as it follows the classic riches-to-rags reversed arc. As Sobel writes, “If there is any single moral to the tales it is that for all but one of these entities, failure was preceded by great success.”

So why do good companies go bad? Common threads include hiring, underfunding, overexpansion, service, market change, rules and regulations and, of course, bone-headed leadership. The last provides some painful examples with human fallibility and hubris never far from the boardroom.

Some critics argue that Sobel never really knocks off the “how to avoid them” part of his title but that criticism seems shrill. The reasons these companies failed are carefully set out; you avoid their fates by not doing the same things.

One of the attractions of this book is that Sobel is not blowing his own trumpet and coming up with some media-friendly formula of homilies or capsule pieces of advice. A bit like unhappy families in Anna Karenina, you could say that companies that fail tend to do so in their own several ways.

Sobel’s characteristic style, taking a meditative look back on the evidence in retrospect might have had something to do with his skills as a chess player; as a boy he was good enough to beat future world champion Bobby Fischer. But he was also one of the great popularisers and his books were aimed at a general audience keen to understand complex phenomena such as stock markets and the rise of computer companies, marketing and media tycoons.

As ever with bestselling writers, some have been keen to dismiss him as just another formulaic hit machine but Sobel had already mocked the academic community in For Want Of A Nail, his brilliant imagining of an alternative US history. His books might have been popular but they took the common reader deep into understanding the modern industrial age. All of his books are worth exploring, but When Giants Stumble is a fine read for those of you who have scaled Everest – and a reminder that it’s all downhill from there.

To buy online: When Giants Stumble: Classic Business Blunders and How to Avoid Them

Read, Learn and Flourish!

For your Success and Glory!

How to move from Good School to Great School?

This article is extracted from From Good Schools to Great Schools: What Their Principals Do Well’, by Susan Penny Gray and William A. Streshly, published by Corwin Press.

In 2001, when Jim Collins went to identify what great CEOs do that others don’t (for his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don’t), he began by asking, “Why?” Why were these companies great and how did they get that way? As we started our research, we became convinced that we could use the same approach Collins used in order to gain insight into the characteristics and behaviors of our very best principals. We discovered that outstanding principals represent a wide range of personalities, and at the same time exhibit a solid core of leadership qualities and characteristics that coalesce to create startling success in their schools.

1. First, Build Relationships

In the private sector, where making a profit is the goal, leaders are not normally required to exert extraordinary effort building relationships because they usually have the luxury of getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.

Unfortunately, public education leaders do not have that luxury and must often work with a staff that they did not personally select. Student learning is the goal and people are the mechanisms for producing and sustaining student achievement. For this reason, a key prescription for principal leadership is the ability to work with people and build relationships with teachers, students, parents, and the community.

Focusing on relationships is not a gimmick for improving student test scores, but rather a means of laying the foundation for sustaining improvement over the long run. The principal’s efforts to motivate and invigorate estranged teachers and to build relationships among otherwise disengaged teachers can have a profound effect on the overall climate of the school.

2. Exercise Professional Will, But Stay Humble

While on the surface the great CEOs in Collins’s study seemed quiet and reserved, hidden within each of them was intensity, a dedication to making anything they touched the best it could possibly be.

We found evidence of this duality in every one of our highly successful principals. For example, one principal spoke very quietly. But his shy and unassuming nature was not a sign of weakness. When asked about reasons for the success of his school, he was adamant about the efforts he made. “I would hope people know that I did everything possible to support teachers in making sure students were successful at our school,” he said. “That was my Number One priority.”

Other principals exuded energetic, enthusiastic, and unreserved personalities. Still, they shared stories that revealed their humility. “The first year we created a vision and mission statement,” said one bold principal. “I had already spent a year working on my own vision. I had my rose-colored glasses on. I quickly realized we needed to spend time developing a collective school vision.”

3. Credit Others, Accept the Blame

Successful business executives talk about their companies and the contributions of others, but avoid discussion about the part they personally played. When things go well, they give credit to others; when things go badly, they accept the blame.

Similarly, highly successful principals consistently give credit to the work of teachers at their schools and take blame for decisions or programs that failed. For example, one principal we interviewed shared that some of the teachers at her school grumbled about having to implement guided reading every day. “I was pushing them too fast,” she said. “So I backed off.”

Another principal observed, “I don’t think of myself as the leader of the school. I think of myself as just one of the leaders at this school. It’s really them, not me. If they were not doing the work, the work would not be done. They are the ones in the trenches.”

4. Be Ambitious for the School’s Success First

The transformation from good to great in the private sector comes about by a snowballing process—step by step, action by action, decision by decision—until the company reaches greatness. Collins referred to this process as the “flywheel.” All of the characteristics and behaviors discussed thus far are the necessary ingredients that make up the flywheel pattern.

This process occurs in the schools of highly successful principals as well. In our interviews with these leaders, when asked what factors contributed to the success of their schools, they would reveal that success wasn’t due to a single program or event but instead was a process that evolved over time. Often the media covers the success of a school after it has made its breakthrough, giving the impression that the transformation occurred overnight. In reality, the transformative process of getting there was probably slow.

5. Resolve to Do What Needs Doing ... Then Do It!

Successful leaders identified in Collins’s study were determined to get what they wanted, when they wanted it. They adopted what Collins described as a “workmanlike diligence—more plow horse than show horse ... fanatically driven, infested with an incurable need to produce results.”

We found it easy to understand why CEOs in the private sector would be fanatically driven to produce profits, but we wondered just how school leaders would be so driven. As it turns out, all the highly successful principals in our study displayed an enduring resolve to meet the challenges of improving student learning at their schools.

For example, one principal was adamant that there be no barriers to incorporating guided reading strategies every day: “A couple of the teachers said it was a good idea but that it required too much preparation. I prepared all of the materials for them, so they had no excuse. If a teacher said, ‘This program isn’t working for me,’ I’d say, ‘Can I come in and teach it?’ I was obstinate. I just would not let them not do it.”

6. Get the Right People on board

CEOs do not need to ask permission to personally fire, demote, or reassign personnel who are not right for the organization. They just do it.

School principals do not have the same luxury, but our highly successful principals showed persistence in getting who they wanted on their staff, and in getting those teachers who did not work with their program to transfer or leave teaching. Once initial changes in staff were made, their teaching staff was very stable, with few teachers ever leaving the school. When these principals did need to hire staff, they were aggressive at finessing, politicking, and persuading to get the teachers they wanted.

7. Confront the Brutal Facts

Great leaders maintain unwavering faith that the company can and will prevail, regardless of present difficulties, and at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of the company’s current reality. Great leaders do not fool themselves or try to sugarcoat problems.

This is also true of great school leaders. The list of challenges facing schools today is long. Some of those we read about regularly in newspapers and journals across the country include accountability and the No Child Left Behind act, the achievement gap among diverse student populations, language barriers, issues with unions and contracts, student discipline, grade inflation, and the shortage of highly qualified teachers. Teachers and principals in schools everywhere can be heard commiserating about students not doing their homework, or parents not being involved in their children’s education.

However, there is hope. Mike Schmoker, in his book Results Now (2006), encouraged readers to see the brutal facts as opportunities to “blow the lid off school attainment, dramatically and swiftly reduce the achievement gap, and enhance the ‘life chances’ of all children, regardless of their social or economic circumstances.” Principals and teachers in some schools are coming together as a collaborative team to face these challenges and do something about them.

8. Be Passionate About Your Educational Engine

There’s an ancient Greek parable that says, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Collins found that the great CEOs “know what their company can do the best, what their economic engine is, and what their passion is all combined into one crystalline concept.”

For school principals, the hedgehog concept consists of knowing what teachers are best at (e.g., skill and determination), determining what drives the educational engine of the school (e.g., increasing time spent teaching reading), and then being a fanatic about driving that engine.

For example, one principal we interviewed saw his school as rich with raw material—the skill and determination of the teaching staff necessary to realize the potential of all students to be successful academically.

This principal knew what drove the educational engine of his school. He named two related factors—increasing the time teachers spend teaching reading skills, and providing more time for students to read during the school day. His staff spent more time in the school day teaching reading and giving students an opportunity to read on their own. They encouraged bright students in addition to helping students who were at risk. “We started with a school where half of the kids fell below the 20th percentile in reading,” this principal says. “Within a few years, very few scored below the 20th percentile.”

9. Build a Culture of Discipline

Most will agree that the idea of a “culture of discipline” is not new. Leadership literature is rich with support for the presence of an organizational culture that includes disciplined people and disciplined actions. Indeed, a culture of discipline encompasses all the attributes that we have examined thus far. On the one hand, a highly successful principal gives teachers the freedom to determine the best path for achieving their objectives. On the other hand, these principals say “No” to teacher proposals that fall outside of the hedgehog concept. All highly successful principals maintain a vision of improving student achievement. They are able to gather together disciplined people who are engaged in disciplined thought and who then take disciplined action to support the principal’s vision.

In business, profits are the economic engine. It is all about making money. In education, it is not as clear because we are talking about educating children, not selling a product. It would be a mistake to directly apply every insight gained from fields outside education to school leadership issues. Nonetheless, it is helpful to consider business leadership successes.

To buy online: From Good Schools to Great Schools

Read, Learn and Flourish!

For your Success and Glory!

20 November, 2009

Threat or sanction?

Below are two classic examples of adults not meaning what they say, and thus demonstrating to students (and/or their own children!) that they are not quite in control of the situation. Using threats, even if unintended, will generally have a negative effect on behaviour, and in some circumstances will increase or escalate the unwanted behaviour.
Example one (at home):
‘Right, that’s just not acceptable; I don’t know what you were thinking! You’re grounded for the week!’
After a few minutes of reflection on what you have actually said to your child, the thought begins to form: ‘Who am I punishing here?’ Realising that to ground your child for a week could mean the possibility of seven long days and evenings of him or her being in the house nonstop, unhappy, away from friends and generally making a nuisance of him/herself. At that point you begin to think about what you have said, realise the consequences and decide to relent: ‘OK then, you’re grounded for the day, but if you do it again then…!’ There you go, here comes another threat!
Example two (at school):
‘Right, that’s it, I’m not wasting my time continually asking you to get on with your work! Come and see me at breaktime. Got it? Staffroom, break, and don’t forget!’
Breaktime comes and there is a knock on the staff room door: ‘Yes? Well, I’m having my break now so I haven’t got time to see you!’
The message you have given to the pupil is you are not prepared to back up what you say. He or she learns that in spite of whatever has happened, there is no consequence.
It is not always easy to recognise or even hear yourself using threats. Perhaps this is something you could evaluate with your pupils. Try to work out how often you use comments such as:
‘I don’t want to get angry!’
• ‘I’m going to have to let Mr/Mrs... know about this!’
• ‘We’ll see what your mother/father thinks about that!’
• ‘See me at the end of the lesson!’
How many of the above comments do you actually follow up? How many comments do you really intend to follow up and how many do you really believe will actually make a positive change to their behaviour?
To eliminate threats from your verbal comments when managing challenging behaviour means not simply being aware of the words you are using, but also being fully prepared and planned in your styles of approach. There is far more chance of you using threats (comments you are not prepared to back up) when you are unplanned, flustered or facing a challenge to your management style and authority.
A top tip to help you eliminate the use of verbal threats is: when faced with a serious challenge or a difficult situation, say nothing at first. In fact, your initial response may well appear to be nothing in either word or action. Tip two is clearly: in such a situation, don’t do nothing for long!
Use the first few moments of such a situation to make an assessment of the following:
a) Calm yourself. Remember, the first person who needs to calm down in a challenging situation is you! (Deep breath, self-talk, calm stance, personal space etc.)
b) Go over in your mind your planned response, focusing on both verbal and non-verbal language.
c) Assess the particular situation: who is the student involved and what is your knowledge of/relationship with them? Who else is watching/listening? What is the appropriate next stage in your agreed hierarchy of school/class behaviour policy? What is the likely outcome of your chosen response? Are you prepared to carry out what you are going to say?
The three points above may seem, on first reading, an impossible list of preparatory thoughts/comments, but with practice and reminders it is possible to do it mentally within those couple of seconds of doing nothing before you make any comment to the student in question. Focusing on the three points will stop you being immediately drawn into a conversation or confrontation with the student in which you may well use a threat as a means of attempting to control the situation.
Any form of behaviour management is dependent on consistency, appropriate practical use and, by no means least, the inevitability of your responses. Students need to know you will always be consistently fair, that you will demonstrate calmness and self-control and that you really do mean what you say. Verbal threats will have a totally negative effect on all these areas and will simply encourage students to further test your styles of response and your own self-control.

15 November, 2009

Do What You Do Best; Delegate the Rest

There is a strong likelihood that the things you do best are those for which you would pay another person your hourly rate. Another way of stating this is, "delegate any tasks that can be performed by a person earning less than your hourly rate—or your desired hourly rate."

Delegate to a Person with Demonstrated Competence
Having determined what to delegate, the next step is to select the person to whom you will delegate the task. If you delegate an important task to a person who is incapable of performing adequately, you are setting that individual up for failure while inviting disappointment and frustration on your part. This is not to say the person has to be as capable as you. But he must have sufficient skills and experience to effectively perform the delegated task. Choose carefully. It is in the best interest of the person to whom you are delegating and of course, in your own best interest as well.

Define the Task Clearly
Be clear as to your intended outcome. What is the end result you want to achieve when the delegated task has been completed? Make every effort to describe this clearly to the person to whom you are delegating the task. Then ask her to repeat her understanding of the assigned task. If her description is not an accurate summary of what you want to accomplish, explain the differences in detail and ask her to again feed back to you her understanding of the assignment. If the two of you do not start out on the same page, there is little likelihood of success.

Set a Deadline
Set a clear deadline for completion of the delegated task. Do not be vague. An ambiguous target such as "sometime next week," or "as soon as you can get it done" will not serve either of you well. Without a clearly defined completion date, there will be no sense of urgency, and the job may very well drag on ad infinitum, frustrating you both.

Establish Benchmarks
It will be important for both of you to be able to gauge the progress being made as the delegated task is carried out. Specifically, how will you measure this progress? Reach agreement on the yardstick by which you will make such judgments.

Agree on Consequences
What will be the consequences of the person successfully completing the delegated task? Are these consequences known by the person charged with the responsibility of carrying them out? Are they important to him? Will they serve to motivate him? The consequences do not have to be enormous, but they should be meaningful to him. Otherwise they will have little effect. Their emotional import is what will have the greatest affect.

Put it in Writing
Before the delegated assignment is launched, there is one additional important step. Have the entire process described to this point documented in a written agreement. Then, have each of you sign it. Psychologically, this final step transforms your mutual understanding into a commitment.

12 November, 2009

Using points systems in behaviour management

It should be made clear from the start that points systems as discussed here are for those systems used in the school environment which are directly linked to behaviour management. They are not the points systems which may be in place to record academic or sporting achievement. It is important to make that clarification to students when using such systems. Effectiveness and results can be distorted if there is no clarity of focus. High-achieving students may, for example, score highly in a generic or mixed points system, while their overall behaviour is totally unacceptable.

The concept of a reward system that uses points is framed around not simply positive recognition for acceptable behaviour and giving immediate feedback to the student, but also centres on:
• improving self-esteem
• motivation and engagement
• contribution to the group
• reinforcement of boundaries to target student and others within the teaching environment
• positive recognition
• choice and responsibility based on positive rather than negative behaviour.

There will be many variants of points systems already in place within schools and classrooms, which may take the form of:
• house points
• stickers
• 'marbles in the jar'
• commendations
• certificates
• raffle tickets
• 'pure' points.

All of the above systems should focus on the positive attributes of behaviour and emphasis should be placed on 'earning' points which cannot then be taken away due to subsequent unacceptable behaviour. There is a significant danger when using points systems to focus on negative behaviour, resulting in hard-earned points being lost. Better to start the day or week on zero points and then to earn recognition through positive behaviour, rather than being allocated a number of points as a starter and then having points removed when things go wrong. It is all too easy to de-motivate students when they realise that by the end of the day or week they could actually be in an ‘overdraft’ situation, or simply feel that they are incapable of achieving the necessary set targets to gain the linked reward.

In a positive earning system the focus of behaviour choice is shared between student and teacher/adult. The student understands what is required and can make good choices about their behaviour. The teacher/adult focuses on how they can help the student achieve and make good choices. You are in fact looking for the positives and rewarding/motivating, rather than hoping that negative reminders and attention will help to change behaviour.

Before embarking on a points system, whether it is schoolwide or for a group or individual, it is important to involve all the stakeholders at the planning stage. There needs to be a sense of ownership and responsibility. Linked to that clear understanding, there should also be an emphasis on effectiveness. There is no benefit in introducing a points system in which students do not understand how they will earn the points, no will there be any effectiveness to the system when students do not value the concept of the points. That is not to say points should be linked to concrete rewards, which are difficult to provide, but in the best scenario, they are linked to simple, effective rewards suggested jointly by staff and students. At this stage there is the start of a token economy system. This can be developed as you see fit.

The planning stages should involve the following discussions and agreements:
• How are points earned? Ensure there is a thorough understanding that points are linked to good behaviour choices and not academic achievement.
• Who can issue points? This will also include when points can be earned, ie before school or during registration, lessons, breaktimes including lunchtime and so on.
• How are they recorded? The system must be perceived as fair.
• What do points mean? This can introduce small, easy to implement rewards as well as larger, long-term activities.
• How are the points exchanged? Keep records of all points earned as well as running totals showing points left at the end of each day/week.

There are clearly logistical issues about organisation, time, appropriate rewards and fairness, but the benefits outweigh the negatives. A well-run, consistent and fair points system can not only change the behaviour of students, but will also encourage both staff and students to focus on the positive aspects of school life, rather than being weighed down by negative thoughts and challenging behaviours. Develop a culture in your school or classroom that encourages everyone to focus on the positive.

Courtesy: www.teachingexpertise.com

07 November, 2009

How To Use Internet Teaching Resources

In the olden times, chalk and blackboard were the only means for teaching. Now with the advancement in technology, anything is possible even online learning. Since the youth today are adapting to the fast paced environment brought to us by technology, so too are the educational institutions. Teachers are now using the Internet as their major teaching resources. Educational institutions even include Internet teaching in the curriculum resources for the academic school year. The Internet is a good place for students to learn because it provides interactive teaching and learning that other school resources cannot provide.

Below are some useful Internet teaching resources and their benefits:

1. Major search engines. Internet resources are popular among students and teachers as you can already find answers to your questions with just one click. Using different search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN, students find their way in getting the information they need. Search engines and different websites are very useful especially when doing researches since it can give you tons of sources you may need to finish your work. Its ability to respond fast is also a major advantage over going to the library and looking for the right books. However, one should be cautious in doing research on the Internet. Since anyone can contribute information, most websites provide inaccurate data or sometimes false information about the topic you are researching on. Nevertheless, the Internet is still one convenient way to find answers to your questions.

2. Internet based software. Some schools make use of Internet based software in teaching their students. These learning software provide activities resources for students to have fun while learning their lessons. Most Internet based software are geared toward subjects like mathematics and science. They offer online lectures and activities. The activities are usually interactive fun. This enables students to expand their knowledge on the subject matter at the same time, enhancing their social skills. The software itself has instructions on how to install and how to use the program so teachers just have to read, understand, and follow directions.

3. Group emails. This gives teachers an opportunity to monitor students even from home. By using group emails, teachers can give students additional work if they feel the necessity to do so. This advantage is mostly felt when there are no classes due to a holiday or emergencies. Students can easily pass their assignments on time to their teachers through email even if they cannot make it to school to meet a deadline. Teachers can communicate to students using email to give feedbacks on their work and they don’t even have to exert much effort in meeting personally to discuss the things they can talk about online.

4. Forums. Lastly, teachers can now create forums online for the students to visit and have a discussion. It is also used for clarifying things about the lesson or assignments that weren’t properly explained in the classroom. This way, they can extend the learning hours provided in school.

Those were the different teaching resources provided on the Internet. It only goes to show that learning does not happen in a classroom setting alone. Anyone who has Internet connection can learn, discuss and research on different topics of interest.

Read, Learn & Flourish!

How To Develop Your Skills, Succeed, and Be Noticed

Success in just about anything you do requires just one thing – perseverance. Yet persevering in a highly competitive world would be impossible without these 5 skills. With these steps, you can improve your people skills and professionalism, and you’re sure to never waste any ‘opportunity to shine' moment. Show your ideas and abilities.

1. Reputation. If you have an unpleasant image, who else will listen to you and your ideas no matter how great they are? Develop a character that is free from flaws –and gossip. As the saying goes, “Take care of your character, and your reputation will take care of you.”

2. Smarts. Note: I used the word ‘smarts’, not ‘intelligence.’ Not all intelligent people use, or know how to use, their intelligence – they’re not ‘smart.’ Part of being smart is going out there and being involved. To do this you must be well-informed – not just about all the information in your field or specialty. You must also know what’s on the front pages of the newspaper. Stay updated. People will judge how intelligent you are (in general) depending on how informed you are. Simply put, if you know more, then you get to go to more ‘other’ places.

3. Communication. The level of your vocabulary, your choice of words, and the way you speak along well-organized thoughts will gain you favorable attention and make you stand-out. Every time you speak, people will listen. Talk in a friendly, yet business-like manner. Be firm yet pleasant when you talk. Confidence in your manner of speaking also assures your audience that you know what you’re talking about, which will soon earn you their respect and trust.

There are a lot of ways to improve your communication skills. You can read some books or use the internet for some research. Also take some time observing and emulating people who are great speakers.

4. Attitude. Employers and managers hire and promote individuals based on their credentials – but only if they also like the person in the first place. Your professional expertise will all go to waste if you don’t have the right personality to excel in your job or any kind of activity. You especially have to be able to work well with others. It does help being a little more jovial, curious, interested, patient, and overall pleasant. While certain abilities and general work skills could be easily taught and learned in the work place, it takes a good while and habit to develop these said traits, hence making them more valuable.

5. Excellence. This means constantly doing things well or the best you could – always. You just never know when you’re going to meet someone important and get that opportunity to get noticed. Always perform a step better than others.

Having all of these values is sure to grab you a seat to success.

Read, Learn & Flourish!