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What Great

Teachers Do
Differently

Todd Whitaker
Indiana State University
(812) 237-2904
www.ToddWhitaker.com
T-Whitaker@indstate.edu
Twitter: @ToddWhitaker
Teaching Is
The Profession
That Makes
All Other
Professions
Possible
What Great Teachers Do Differently

Why Look at Great?

Its People Not Programs

10 Days Out of 10

Dont Have To Repair Always Do Repair -

High Expectations For Students?


Make Every Decision Based On Our Best People

Revenge v. Prevention

Have A Great Ability To Ignore

Roll Of The Dice?

Great Teachers Make It Cool To Care

Understand Who Is The Variable -


Accept Responsibility

Understand They Are The Filter

Focus On Behavior, Then Focus On Beliefs

In Every Situation Ask Who Is Most Comfortable


and Who Is Least Comfortable -
What Is The Purpose?

Will This
Actually Accomplish
The Purpose?

How Will
The Most Positive And
Productive People
Feel About This?
Raise
The
Praise

Minimize
The
Criticize
5 Things That
Help Praise Work

Authentic

Specific

Immediate

Clean

Private
PASSING THE BUCK DOWN THE LINE
Adapted by Todd Whitaker

Said the college professor,


Such rawness in the student is a shame,
Lack of preparation in high school
Is to blame.

Said the high school teacher,


Good heavens, that boys a fool.
The fault, of course, is with the
Junior High School.

The junior high teacher noted,


Its so hopeless and sad
Thanks to those elementary clowns,
They cant subtract or add.

The grammar school teacher said,


From such stupidity
May I be spared.
They sent him up to me so unprepared.

The primary teacher huffed,


Kindergarten blockheads all.
They call that preparation?
Why, its worse than none at all.

The kindergarten teacher said,


Such lack of training never did I see.
What kind of parents
must those kids parents be?

This responsibility to teach


is something that we all share,
but somehow the grass is
always greener over there.

So rather than hand down


these grumbles and groans,
Lets remember about glass houses,
and the throwing of stones.

The answer of course,


It is not chance or luck
but what we do in our own classes,
so lets not pass the buck.

Dr. Todd Whitaker


Indiana State University
(812) 237-2904
www.ToddWhitaker.com
Twitter: @ToddWhitaker
Setting the Tone
Todd Whitaker
Reprinted from Leadership magazine, January/February 2004

Great principals treat all people with respect every day. They also understand that its
not possible to give too much praise, as long as the praise is authentic.
One of the hallmarks of Now some of you may be something, I have not added to
effective principals is how they thinking that you could never his worries. But, if I respond to
treat people. Like effective lie. That is interesting. So, when "How is your day going?" by
teachers, effective principals the developmentally disabled saying, "Oh, I just dealt with
treat people with respect. Now, second grader asks if you think that whacko parent, Mrs. Smith.
it's not difficult to treat some she drew a good picture, what Man, she has some temper! I
people with respect, or even to do you tell her? It is always up hope I never have to meet with
treat most people with respect. to us to determine what gets her again. Yikes!"
It's even possible to treat all through our filters and what
people with respect quite a bit does not. Each of us has to Now, what have I
of the time. The real challenge decide, but the most effective accomplished? Well, I have
is to treat everyone with respect principals are well aware that made that teacher terrified of
every day--and great principals they are the filter that will set Mrs. Smith. And, pretty soon, if
do. the tone for many things in their I tell enough people about Mrs.
school. Smith, every teacher in the
How is your day going? school will have some degree of
As principals we get asked the The angry parent concern about potentially
question, "How is your day Here are two ways to filter the meeting with this evil demon.
going?" many times a day. Our same scenario. Let's examine And, to varying degrees, many
response can determine not only what happens under each. When teachers will be less confident
how others view us, but can also I was a principal, every once in about potentially working with
impact the frame of mind of the a while I would deal with irate all students whose last name is
person who asked us this. parents in my office behind Smith just in case that demon
closed doors. And, like so often happens to be their mom.
If a teacher says, "How's it happens, they are really irate at
going?" you bare many choices the world--I just happened to be I have shifted the teachers' time
in how to respond. If you say, the one sitting there at the time and energy to unproductive
"Things are great! How about of their venting. Once the irate worrying and away from
with you?" you have given her a parent has left and I walk out of confidently approaching their
positive perception of the the office, I have some filtering students. Additionally, my
school. choices that I have to make. teachers will now be hesitant to
contact parents (especially
If you respond, "That Jimmy If a teacher says innocently, named Smith) because I have
Wallace is getting on my "How is your day going?" I can raised their level of concern.
nerves!" you have sent a choose which filter to kick in. If
completely different message. I say, "Things are great, how My response as a filter impacts
All of a sudden Jimmy Wallace about with you?" that teacher the school one way or the other.
is getting on that teacher's feels good about the world and By protecting others from
nerves too, and she does not moves on to face his students. unnecessary bad news, we can
even know who Jimmy Wallace Even if he is concerned about create a much more productive
is. environment. Not only does this
apply to working with people

Leadership January/February
2004
outside of the school district, the Why People Dont Praise More
same thing applies to filtering When I work with educators I often ask them why we as people do not
those within. praise more. After all, we determine how much we praise, and every
time we praise someone, at least two people feel better--and one of
Unpleasant memories them is us. With this in mind, why is it principals and teachers are so
All of us can remember at least hesitant to praise? Here are some of the most common responses I get
one occasion in our professional from principals and teachers.
lives where we were treated
inappropriately by someone in a Reason: If I praise someone, he or she will stop working.
leadership role. And, no matter Response: If a student says how much she enjoys your class, do you
how long ago it was or how automatically show a video the next day? No, you try even harder. If
often that person has treated us you have just finished mowing your lawn and a neighbor compliments
well, we remember. you on how nice it looks, do you mow it less carefully next time?
The same thing is true of Quite the opposite. Next time you might even trim! If you question
everyone in our school The one whether praise works, why don't you come over to my house and look
day a month or year we choose at my neighbor's lawn.
to be sarcastic or cutting to a What is it that keeps you on a diet more? Is it when people mention
student or staff member will be how good you look, or is it when people say, "It's about time."
etched in stone in their memory As long as it is authentic, praise is a very powerful reinforcer and
bank. Though they may pretend motivator.
to have forgotten, they never
will. And if this happened in Reason: If I praise people, I might miss someone and hurt their
any kind of a public setting, it feelings.
probably will not slip out of the Response: I guess it is better to never praise anyone. That way you
memories of others who miss everyone and you can make sure you hurt their feelings--and
witnessed it. everyone else's, while you're at it. Ironically, it might not be their
feelings we are worried about. It could easily be that we don't want to
feel bad because we miss someone or because we might be afraid of
Take a positive approach each their response so we don't take a chance on any type of
day acknowledgement.
One of the most critical
responsibilities of an effective The biggest reason people resent others being praised is because they
leader is to consistently and do not feel valued themselves. The solution to this is not to praise less,
continually take a positive but to be much more inclusive and effusive in your efforts to recognize
approach each day of the year. and praise others.
There are so many things that
potentially bring teachers down. Reason: I don't have the time.
It can be an upset parent, a Response: After all, we barely have time to get in all the griping,
troubled student, or working whining and complaining we need to do, don't we? Name the three
with not enough resources. teachers in your school that you praise the most. Now, name the three
These are facts of the job and of best teachers in your school. Is there any overlap there?
life. Our role as leaders is to By setting a positive tone, the principal can help direct the interactions
continually take a positive of everyone in the school. Making sure we do this, even when we least
approach. Understanding the feel like it, is essential.
impact and power of praise is The other thing to keep in mind is that it is fun to praise and very
essential. rejuvenating. By focusing on all of the positive things in our schools,
and there are many, we can have more drive and energy to help get us
through some of the less positive times. If we do not set this tone, it is
very unlikely that it will get set. And, maybe even more importantly, if
this productive focus does not become intrinsic in the school, then the
voices of the nay-sayers are likely to become even more dominant.
-- Todd Whitaker

Leadership January/February
2004
Techniques for effective they face. And the pressures As principals, consistently
praising continue to grow. We need modeling the expectations that
In books, I have outlined some special education, alternative we have for how people should
of the techniques used in education, drug-free education, be treated is a valuable gift we
effective praising (Whitaker, sex education, and--oh my--we can give our school. And in a
Whitaker and Lumpa, 2000). cannot forget the new state short period of time we will find
One concept that is essential to standards. All of these things that it is a gift that everyone in
praise is the fact that praise have some effect on our schools the school will also give each
must be authentic. It is also and an impact on our other.
important to understand that the responsibilities. Each of these
If everyone in your school is
word is "authentic"--not world- may even be essential. Whether
treated with respect and dignity,
record. It just has to be true, that we have enough of one or too
you may still have nothing
is all. much of another is an endless
special. However, if everyone in
debate. But there is one thing
None of us mind hearing praise. your school is not treated with
that I am sure about. We never
As a matter of fact, if we praise respect and dignity, you will
have too much nice.
correctly it is impossible to never have anything special. Of
praise too much. And if you Effective principals always have that, I am sure.
question this, ask yourself, to understand that the most Todd Whitaker is a professor
"Have I ever been praised too important thing teachers can do at Indiana State University.
much?" Of course not. You may is model appropriate ways to He has written several
have been falsely flattered by interact with students. And with books, including "What Great
someone you knew was not all of the challenges we face in Teachers Do Differently, "
genuine, but if it was authentic school and so many of us face at "What Great Principals Do
then you could not be praised home, nice may seem trivial. Differently, " "Dealing With
too much. Yet, if our schools and Difficult Teachers" and
classrooms can have that as a "Motivating & Inspiring
Too much nice? Teachers. " He may be
foundation, many of the other
I know that everyone reading contacted at
things can be accomplished with t-whitaker@indstate.edu.
this has a multitude of demands
much less resistance. Order his books at
www.eyeoneducation.com or
call (888) 299-5350.

Leadership January/February
2004
SHARPENING YOUR PEOPLE SKILLS
TEMPERAMENT SURVEY

DIRECTIONS:

1. Circle one word in each row that you feel describes you best. This is a forced-choice
inventory.
2. When completed, circle the letter in each row on page 2 that corresponds to the
letter of the word you circled on the inventory.
3. Total the number of circled letters in each column on page 2. Record the total at the
bottom of each column.

# A B C D
1 Restrained Forceful Careful Expressive
2 Pioneering Correct Emotional Satisfied
3 Willing Animated Bold Precise
4 Stubborn Bashful Indecisive Unpredictable
5 Respectful Outgoing Patient Determined
6 Persuasive Self-reliant Cooperative Gentle
7 Cautious Even-tempered Decisive Life-of-the-party
8 Popular Assertive Perfectionist Generous
9 Unpredictable Bashful Indecisive Argumentative
10 Agreeable Optimistic Persistent Accomodating
11 Positive Humble Neighborly Talkative
12 Friendly Obliging Playful Strong-willed
13 Charming Adventurous Disciplined Consistent
14 Soft-spoken Dry-Humor Aggressive Attractive
15 Enthusiastic Analytical Sympathetic Determined
16 Bossy Inconsistent Slow Critical
17 Sensitive Force-of- Spirited Laid-back
character
18 Influential Kind Independent Orderly
19 Idealistic Popular Cheerful Out-spoken
20 Impatient Mood Aimless Show-off
21 Competitive Spontaneous Loyal Thoughtful
22 Self-sacrificing Considerate Convincing Courageous
23 Fearful Changeable Pessimistic Tactless
24 Tolerant Conventional Stimulating Resourceful
SCORING SHEET

#
1 B D A C
2 A C D B
3 C B A D
4 A D C B
5 D B C A
6 B A D C
7 C D B A
8 B A D C
9 D A C B
10 C B D A
11 A D C B
12 D C A B
13 B A D C
14 C D B A
15 D A C B
16 A B C D
17 B C D A
18 C A B D
19 D B C A
20 A D C B
21 A B C D
22 D C B A
23 D B A C
24 D C A B
THE DOER
Strengths

Tendencies include: The ideal environment includes:


____ Getting immediate results ____ Many new and varied activities
____ Making quick decisions ____ Opportunity to get things done
____ Persistence ____ Continual Challenges
____ Solving problems ____ Difficult assignment
____ Taking change ____ Freedom to act
____ Self-reliance ____ Control over situations

Weaknesses

Tendencies may include: Need others to provide:


____ Insensitivity to others ____ Sensitivity to needs of others
____ Impatience ____ Caution
____ Overlooks risks and cautions ____ Details and facts
____ Inflexibility and unyielding
____ Taking on too much Life Development areas:
____ Being inattentive to detail ____ Greater patience
____ Resenting restrictions ____ Sensitivity to the needs of others
____ Being too demanding of others ____ Being more flexible
THE INFLUENCER
Strengths

Tendencies include: The ideal environment includes:


____ Optimism ____ A friendly atmosphere
____ Enthusiasm ____ Freedom from control and detail
____ Being Personable ____ Opportunity to influence others
____ Making a good impression ____ Public recognition of ability
____ Being verbally articulate ____ Opportunity to verbalize
____ A desire to help others ____ Positive reinforcement and praise
____ Creating an entertaining climate ____ Enthusiastic responses to ideas

Weaknesses

Tendencies may include: Need others to provide:


____ Lack of follow-through ____ Follow-through on detail
____ Overselling ____ A logical approach
____ Overestimating anticipated ____ Concentration on the task
results
____ Misjudging capabilities
____ Talking too much Life Development areas:
____ Acting impulsively ____ Better control of time
____ Jumping to conclusions ____ Objectivity in decision making
____ Over-committing ____ Pausing before acting
THE RELATER
Strengths

Tendencies include: The ideal environment includes:


____ Being Supportive ____ Sincere appreciation
____ Being agreeable ____ Minimal conflict
____ Loyalty ____ Security
____ Self-control ____ Acknowledgement of work
____ Consistency ____ Limited territory
____ Being a good listener ____ Traditional way of doing things
____ Performing established work patterns ____ Opportunity to develop relationships

Weaknesses

Tendencies may include: Need others to provide:


____ Resisting change ____ Stretch toward new challenges
____ Trouble meeting deadlines ____ Help in solving difficult problems
____ Being overly lenient ____ Initiative and change
____ Procrastinating
____ Being indecisive Life Development areas:
____ Holding a grudge ____ Facing confrontation
____ Being overly possessive ____ Initiating more
____ Lack of initiative ____ Increasing pace
THE THINKER
Strengths

Tendencies include: The ideal environment includes:


____ Orderliness ____ Being able to concentrate on detail
____ Conscientiousness ____ Opportunities to critique
____ Discipline ____ Stable surrounding
____ Preciseness ____ An exact job description
____ Thoroughness ____ Opportunities for careful planning
____ Being diplomatic with people ____ Time to do things right
____ Being analytical

Weaknesses

Tendencies may include: Need others to provide:


____ Indecisiveness ____ Quick decision making
____ Getting bogged down in detail ____ Reassurance
____ Rigidness on the how-tos ____ Stretching of capabilities
____ Avoiding controversy
____ Low self-esteem Life Development areas:
____ Being hesitant to try new things ____ Being more open
____ Sensitivity to criticism ____ Developing self-confidence
____ Pessimism ____ Being more optimistic
Predicting the Future of Education
Todd Whitaker
Reprinted from Principal Leadership magazine, March 2005

Preview: Despite constant search for reform solutions, the future of school improvement
depends on people, not programs. Schools must hire excellent teachers and strive to make all
teachers as good as the best teacher in the school. Outstanding principals know that their
primary role is to teach teachers how to provide a high-quality education for students.
ecently, I was asked to our best teachers. In my is bad basically because
speak on the topic of mind, that is what we need to someone told us that it is.
futurism at an upcoming have a great school. What Realistically, every teacher in
leadership conference. do you think? Would it a school uses lecture some
When I asked for some improve your school if all of of the time. It is just that
specifics about what they your teachers were as good some of them are effective
wanted me to do, I was told as your very best staff with it and others are not.
to talk about what is needed members? If so, how can we However, instead of
to be successful in education do it? understanding and
for upcoming generations. acknowledging those
My first response was "I So when are we differences in effectiveness,
don't know anything about going metric? we tend to latch onto the
the future." Then, after issue being the instructional
hesitating only briefly, I practice rather than
It's People, Not Programs
added, "Well, on second the person.
When I speak to teachers
thought, the only thing that I
and principals, I often ask
know for sure about the The issue with ineffective
whether anyone has ever
future I learned in teachers is almost always
been in a poor-lecturer's
elementary school many the person, not the practice
class room. Routinely, every
years ago. I learned that any or program. I was working
hand in the audience is
day now we are going metric with a principal recently who
raised. Then I ask the group,
and we have to be prepared. was struggling with one of
"Which of those three words
Other than that, I do not his least effective teachers.
is the problem: poor,
know anything for sure about He was concerned about the
lecturer's, or classroom?"
the future." teacher's professional
And to help out, I always
appearance. I acknowledged
The fate of the metric system eliminate door number three:
that professional appearance
in the U.S., despite my classroom. So basically, I
is something that was quite
teacher's promises in fourth ask what the real problem
important to me, but that it
grade, makes me hesitant to with a poor-lecturer's
seldom was the cause of a
make predictions, but I did classroom is, and the answer
person's effectiveness or
begin to reflect seriously is consistently a resounding
lack thereof. I asked the
about our ability to have "lecture"! Although the
principal, If this teacher
schools that can develop overwhelming response is
started dressing better,
students for the 21st century lecture, it is also
would that change the
and I think having good overwhelmingly wrong. The
dynamic in the classroom?
teachers is the key. answer is poor! Have you
The principal reflected for a
ever been in a good lecturer's
moment and then answered
Teaching Skills for the classroom? Of
sadly, No. If he wore a
21st Century course, we all have. That
tuxedo to class every day, he
We do not need all of our should tell us that the answer
still would not be able to
teachers to reach some is not lecture. Yet, we all
engage the students.
mystical level. We just need repeat the chant that lecture
Exactly. There is no reason
all of our teachers to be like
to focus on something that is
Principal Leadership 1 March 2005
a peripheral issue when the ways to improve our schools. school is to add teachers
heart of the issue is the Hire better teachers or improve the who are better than the ones
ineffectiveness of a ones we have. that left. Although all
staff member. These are the only two principals have occasion to
Another principal shared a things we can do. There employ new staff members,
concern about a teacher who have never been other the kind of staff members
arrived late to school on a solutions, nor will there ever that great principals hire and
regular basis. When I asked be. Effective principals are the way and diligence by
him what the problem was, quite aware of these being which they do it are what
he responded that the the key elements to school make our most effective
teacher was arriving late improvement, and we cannot peers different in the
to school. choose one or the other. To employer arena.
be a great school we have to
So, I asked more specifically: do both. By nurturing the talents of
Is the problem that other newcomers and increasing
teachers are upset? Is the We need all of our the skills of veteran staff
problem that promptness is members, a principal has the
teachers to be like
important to you? Is the recipe to continually make
problem that a parent our best teachers. their school better. Without
complained? What is the real having a clear focus on
There is no question that the
problem? The principal then these elements, other areas
most important people in the
answered, "The problem is of attempted improvement
school are the students.
that students are left will continue to be limited in
Obviously, they are the focus
unsupervised." I said, "That their effectiveness.
of everything that takes
is the problem! If you get her
place in a school. However, What Is The Future?
to school on time but she
one thing that truly Now that we have put aside
lingers too long in the
outstanding principals are our meter sticks because the
teachers lounge, you have
aware of is that their primary revolution may not be quite
addressed a problem, but
role is to teach the teachers. so near after all, what do we
not the problem."
As a principal, the best way do? The first thing we must
Many times we think that to have an exceptional do is realize the power we
programs are the problem or learning environment for students have to affect our schools by
that programs are the is to have outstanding improving our teachers.
solution. That is one reason teachers working with them Within every school's walls,
we are so quick to jump on in the classroom. It is not the there are role models who
new ideas open students who are the primary can help everyone be more
classrooms, whole language, focus of outstanding effective. Rather than feel
block scheduling, etc. None principals. It is the teachers. the need to reinvent the
of these ideas are wrong, wheel, let's work on refining
An opening in his or her
and none of them are right. It the ones we have. If the goal
teaching staff is the single
all depends on the is to help all teachers be as
most precious commodity a
effectiveness of the staff good as our best teachers, a
principal can ever have, and
members who are logical place to start is by
the quickest way to improve
implementing them. The only giving everyone a chance to
your school is to hire great
reason to implement a observe and learn from
teachers every time you get
program is to refine or quality. Use the positive role
an opening. Just as the only
enhance the skills of our staff models you have to help
way to improve your average
members. The program itself others maximize their
grade in a class is to have
is never the solution or talents. Many people have
your grade on your next
the problem. never seen great teaching,
assignment be better then
and they may not even know
Two Ways to Improve your average grade, the
what it looks like or that it
Our Schools most significant way to have
even exists. There is little
Although we look at myriad rapid improvement in a
chance to reach a new level
changes, there are only two if you cannot visualize what it
Principal Leadership 2 March 2005
would look like if you how good your best teacher have to put your mules in
got there. is or how poor your worst horse races so at least they
might be. There is no chance can see how fast four legged
One of the great joys of that two ineffective teachers creatures can run." I guess
being a principal is observing can help a new staff member this is true whether or not
your best teachers. Expand be effective. If they knew they are running kilometers.
the wealth throughout your how, they would be effective PL
school by having everyone themselves. However, when
participate. You will raise the we do have an opportunity to Todd Whitaker,
level of respect that other infuse new talent into our twhitaker@indstate.edu, a
staff members have for your schools by adding a new former middle level and high
very best teachers. teacher, one of the best school principal and middle
things we can do is give level coordinator, is a
If teachers do not have a them a chance to regularly professor of educational
chance to regularly observe interact with and observe our leadership at Indiana State
in the classrooms of peers, current top staff members. A University in Terre Haute.
they may not have any idea wise man once told me, "You

Principal Leadership 3 March 2005


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