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<p>A Leader's Guide to Excellence in Every Classroom</p>

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To ensure learning for all students, schools must first build support systems that guarantee excellence for all teachers. This resource examines the Hierarchy of Instructional Excellence, which prioritizes the order of teacher development for ultimate success. Each chapter begins with a teacher narrative and ends with a reflection tool, which challenges readers to apply chapter content to their work as education leaders.

Benefits

  • Learn why teachers need to know their students as deeply as they know the lessons they share with these students if they want to maximize learning.
  • Study research that proves we need excellent teachers for students to experience significant growth in learning.
  • Consult schoolwide, team, and individualized support systems and interventions, which strengthen teachers at every level of need and experience.
  • Learn how the author’s Hierarchy of Instructional Excellence relates to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in order to address specific areas for teacher improvement and growth.

Contents

Introduction

1 Every Teacher Counts

2 Leading for Excellence—Learning Resources

3 Leading for Excellence—Classroom Routines and Procedures

4 Leading for Excellence—Relationships for Learning

5 Leading for Excellence—Student Engagement

6 Leading for Excellence—Rigor and Mastery

7 Leading for Excellence—Creative Strategies for Individual Students

8 Leading for Excellence—Teacher Leadership

References and Resources

Index

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8 Chapters

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Chapter 1

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CHAPTER 1

Every Teacher Counts

Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students.

—Solomon Ortiz

Teaching is maybe the noblest of all professions. No other career plays a more powerful role in shaping who we are, how we think, and what we are capable of doing as human beings. Teachers help their students become better thinkers, problem solvers, creators, and dreamers. Teachers also have the ability to help students turn their dreams into a robust reality, to inspire and equip young learners for the hard work of overcoming the many barriers they will confront in life. In short, teachers are the real game changers. If we believe that every student counts, we, as leaders, must believe that every teacher counts as well.

Today, teachers have to overcome some formidable barriers of their own. They are charged with doing more than they’ve ever done in the history of education, facing more challenging obstacles and higher standards than ever before. Many teachers are successfully adapting to the ever-changing environment of standards-based education and high-stakes testing as they ensure that students achieve. Others, however, are falling through the cracks. With an excellent teacher in the classroom, we know that most students have the best hope of making huge strides in their learning. But when a teacher struggles in his or her craft, we can expect many students to suffer gaps in their learning. Those gaps eventually fall to next year’s teacher to fill, diverting time and energy away from the curriculum. One year’s failed advancements, in other words, erode the next year’s achievements. In the introduction, I defined an excellent school as one whose mission is to guarantee that every student who walks through its doors will graduate with a firm foundation for future success at college or in a career.

 

Chapter 2

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CHAPTER 2

Leading for Excellence:

Learning Resources

Creating meaningful learning spaces for today’s students requires us to remember that the learner is the driver and the tools for learning are the accelerators.

—John Wink

The classroom is a blank canvas. The teacher is the artist, and the resources at his or her disposal are the paintbrushes. The teacher’s ability to skillfully create a vibrant learning environment is largely influenced by whether or not he or she has the appropriate resources and the skills to use them. In this chapter, we will explore how excellent teachers develop skillful use of their resources and how we, as leaders, can guide and support teachers to develop these skills.

This chapter offers a quick review of how knowledge of learning resources and their skillful use forms the foundation of the Hierarchy of Instructional Excellence. To help students gain the most benefit from learning resources, teachers must be skillful in the preparation and delivery of resource instruction. After examining the specific skills involved in those efforts, we’ll walk through some practices and tools teachers can use to reflect on and continually improve those skills.

 

Chapter 3

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CHAPTER 3

Leading for Excellence:

Classroom Routines and Procedures

Students do not learn when they are disciplined. They learn when the classroom is organized for learning and success.

—Harry Wong

Students rarely learn at high levels in a poorly managed classroom. At the same time, they can’t maximize their learning in a classroom where the teacher micromanages them. The effective use of classroom routines and procedures can help educators avoid both of these problematic conditions for learning. Effective classroom management offers students a safe and secure learning environment where they know what to expect and what is expected of them.

What defines a well-managed classroom? According to Danielson (2013), “Hallmarks of a well-managed classroom are that instructional groups are used effectively, noninstructional tasks are completed efficiently, and transitions between activities and management of materials and supplies are skillfully done in order to maintain momentum and maximize instructional time” (p. 31). Organized classroom management results in smooth routines, little to no loss of instructional time, and high levels of student involvement and ownership of procedures. Ultimately, well-designed routines and procedures enable all students to know exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, every time. In essence, highly effective routines and procedures work like a well-oiled machine.

 

Chapter 4

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CHAPTER 4

Leading for Excellence:

Relationships for Learning

In the end it is going to be the basis of the relationship that allows the student to be vulnerable enough 2 engage in learning.

—Ben Johnson

A strong command of available resources for learning and an effectively managed system of classroom routines and procedures provide teachers and students with a sound structure for learning. In order to develop a culture that promotes active and engaged learning experiences, however, teachers must develop meaningful relationships with students. Without those kinds of relationships, students can feel disconnected from learning experiences.

This chapter explores the role of teacher-student relationships in promoting learning excellence; techniques, approaches, and tools teachers use to establish and maintain meaningful relationships with their students; and the many ways we can support teachers as they pursue this goal.

Maslow (1943) placed love and belongingness as the third level within his Hierarchy of Needs. When educators and staff throughout the school system establish strong working relationships with students, they demonstrate that they care for those students and consider them to be integral to the school community. As Mark Boynton and Christine Boynton (2005) write in The Educator’s Guide to Preventing and Solving

 

Chapter 5

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CHAPTER 5

Leading for Excellence:

Student Engagement

Student engagement is the product of motivation and active learning. It is a product rather than a sum because it will not occur if either element is missing.

—Elizabeth F. Barkley

Aside from the quality and effectiveness of teachers, the greatest factor impacting student learning is student engagement. Engaged students are actively involved in the learning process and motivated to make that process successful. “Engaged students do more than attend or perform academically; they also put forth effort, persist, self-regulate their behavior toward goals, challenge themselves to exceed, and enjoy challenges and learning” (Klem & Connell, 2004b, as cited in Christenson, Reschly,

& Wylie, 2012, p. v). While a number of individual and family dynamics can influence a student’s ability and willingness to engage in learning, the teacher’s ability to make learning relevant and to transfer the responsibility for learning to students also plays a critical role in that process. The very best teachers do everything in their power to keep all students engaged in the learning process from bell to bell.

 

Chapter 6

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CHAPTER 6

Leading for Excellence:

Rigor and Mastery

If schools are to establish a truly guaranteed and viable curriculum, those who are called upon to deliver it must have both a common understanding of the curriculum and a commitment to teach it.

—Richard DuFour and Robert J. Marzano

When teachers have developed the fundamental skill sets of their profession—a command of learning resources and classroom routines and procedures and an ability to build strong learning relationships and high levels of student engagement—they can turn their focus to developing more complex and demanding skills. Among these is the ability to guide their students in rigorous learning and content mastery. In

Maslow’s (1943) Hierarchy of Needs, the need to know and understand represents the first level of a person’s growth needs. At this parallel level in the Hierarchy of

Instructional Excellence, teachers develop the skills necessary to fuel their students’ desire to go beyond surface knowledge to develop a deep understanding of the content they are learning.

 

Chapter 7

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CHAPTER 7

Leading for Excellence:

Creative Strategies for

Individual Students

Modern classrooms are teeming with students of varying interests, backgrounds, abilities and learning needs. To engage these students, learning must be every bit as diverse as they are.

—Dale E. Basye

In the preceding chapter, we examined the critically important and challenging process of bringing rigorous learning to all students in order to move them beyond merely knowing lesson content and on toward deep content understanding and mastery. Now, we look at the next natural phase of development for excellent teachers, the development of skills necessary to keep every student, no matter what his or her level of academic achievement, engaged in ongoing learning growth. I call this area of a teacher’s professional development creative strategies for individual students.

As the sixth area of professional growth in the Hierarchy of Instructional Excellence, the skills involved in identifying and implementing creative strategies for individual students rests on a firm foundation of knowledge about students, knowledge about content, and instructional expertise. Defined as individualized instruction, with this approach, “learning strategies are based on student readiness, learning styles, interests, and best practices” designed to “help each student master the skills they will need as defined by established academic standards” (Basye, 2014).

 

Chapter 8

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CHAPTER 8

Leading for Excellence:

Teacher Leadership

The need for truly effective educational leadership is great. The time for improving our schools is short. The opportunity to lead is ours.

—Robert J. Marzano

At the pinnacle of his Hierarchy of Needs, Maslow (1943) placed the human need for self-actualization. Maslow (1943) describes this need as “the desire for selffulfillment . . . the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming” (p. 383). Fulfilling that need involves an ongoing process of discovery, creativity, and reflection on our roles in life and our effects on others.

In the Hierarchy of Instructional Excellence, teacher leadership is the area of professional growth parallel to Maslow’s pinnacle of self-actualization. In my experience and observation, when teachers have advanced to the highest levels of their professional skills and expertise, they don’t suddenly lose their desire (or capability) for professional growth. Instead, they seek out ways to share their knowledge with colleagues, work to improve processes and systems beyond their classrooms, and find new avenues and understandings to explore. This chapter examines how we, as leaders, can support teachers in that form of self-actualization as they work and grow to assume a leadership role.

 

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