Thursday, December 1, 2011

Keep On Doing What Works

determinationIn Ripped Game Pants and the School Improvement Dance from Cool Cat Teacher Blog , Vicki Davis writes,

“We need to focus on fixing what is wrong about our individual schools and leave what is right. Just help improve what is right.”

She gives great examples of ways that the school changes things that are already working and messes things up. Rather than fixing anything that is broken, it is creating more broken things.

This had me thinking about my own experiences in school.

In my classroom, I had a token economy system that was extremely effective and I used it for over 20 years. It never got old or outdated and worked at every school and every age student that I worked with. I’m glad that no one ever tried to get me to change this. No one told me that “they don’t do this anymore” or maybe they did and I didn’t listen. I did make changes to the system so that they met the needs of the students but the basic program was the same every year. Students earned a “salary” for the work they did in their job as a student. With their “money,” they could buy things that were meaningful to them. Yet like in real life, there were deductions in pay for certain negative behaviors and there were also bonuses for positive behaviors. The students saw the how this related to the future and responded well to it.

I individualized math and reading lessons for my students according to their needs. I still met the standards that were required by the state but the students were able to work at their own pace and accomplish so much more. Many times I would teach a group lesson but the individual activities and assessments were geared to each student. Other teachers wanted to know how I was so successful in my classroom so they would come observe me. After seeing all that I do, they would walk away stating that it was too much work. Then some teachers started to come up to me privately asking me to stop what I was doing because I was “making them look bad!” Boy, was I shocked! No way was I going to stop doing what was working in my classroom. Luckily no administration at any school tried to stop me either.

Next door to me was another teacher who could not control her classroom. She would change her behavior plan practically every two weeks. At the end of the day, she would come to my class and tell me that her plan wasn’t working and the next thing I would know, it was changed. She never let the plan go on long enough to let the students get used to it. Without having consistency, the students never knew what to expect so the result was constant chaos.

Sometimes I feel that this is what is happening in schools. We would have a big meeting and told that we would be doing a new program schoolwide. Then it was never implemented or followed through so it fell to the wayside. If we had a program that was implemented, it never lasted more than a year. This happened so many times that when we were called to a faculty meeting to discuss a new program, we would roll our eyes and guess how long it would last. It became a constant joke and no one took new programs too seriously. The problem is that maybe one of them might have been effective but we would never know.

Then if we did get a program that everyone liked and was effective, along the powers that be come along and introduce something new to replace what we had. It was truly frustrating so everyone was afraid to invest too much time and energy into any one program.

So I want to encourage you to stand up for things that work. Don’t let them fall to the wayside. If something is working, then we need to stand up for them and insist that we keep on doing what works. Many times I hear teachers say that no one is listening to them. Then we need to make them listen. We need to keep talking and make ourselves be heard. Maybe no one is listening because we give up too easily.

What things have you tried that works but was told to change? What were you told to change but kept doing it because it worked? Please share!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Image: 'Determination'

1 comment:

Ian Anderson said...

This is only my second year teaching, and I haven't had anyone tell me to stop or start anything I didn't want to. However, I do run an independent reading program that is challenging to my students, and I think other reading teachers are skeptical of it (they haven't expressed it, but I see it in their eyes). I'm thankful I've been able to keep doing what is working for me!