A Teacher's Day

The day in the life of an inner city large urban school district teacher after the high stakes testing ends and there is still three more months left before summer vacation.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

I have taught school for over thirty years always in the inner city and for the most part always upper grade students. I have two children and I have been married for twenty years.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Positive Coaching Alliance

Dear Positive Coaching Alliance and Nike/Go,

Just so you know: I hate professional development. Much of it is just old things with a new name. A lot of it is presented by boring speakers and people who insomniacs should hire so they can get a good night’s rest. Even the exciting research we need to know if we are to become better educators is presented in such a way you have to bring personal business with you just to get through the hours and hours of—well, you get the point.

Not so with the Positive Coaching Alliance sponsored by Nike/Go. I was asked to coordinate the After School All Stars and one of the programs I was asked to go to was a Nike/Go professional development. I signed up, but I did not want to go.

Let me tell you—I usually look at the clock every thirty seconds (time moves that slow in professional development land), but I did not turn around once to see the time at the Nike/Go presentation. In fact, when the presenter said it’s time and she’s sorry she went over by a little bit, I thought: What? Time? No, I need more. I want more.

So I was very excited when I was given the chance to invite the Positive Coaching Alliance to my school. NIKE/GO had given the Chicago Public Schools a grant and I applied and the next thing I knew, we were going to be offered professional development for a segment of our professional community.

OK. OK. So you think all they wanted to talk about was sports and coaching. Sure they did. But that wasn’t all. The three individuals who came to my school for the two workshops (Molly Hellerman, Brendan Eitz, and Joe Terrasi) offered viable alternatives to a lot of the problems any urban school has. Fights on the playground. Cursing in the halls. They gave us actual how-to examples to change the climate of the school. Issues in the lunchroom. Conflict after school. They offered us so much—well, you get the point.

Mike Steele from the Chicago office set this up. I want to thank him.

Because of this program, here is how my life as a teacher will change next year:

My classroom will use the Notre Dame motivational method: I will have a sign affixed permanently to my door. It will say: “Today we will take another risk in learning because we are brilliant.” As the children come into the class, they will high five it—just like the college players at Notre Dame.

My classroom letter to all of the parents will also be placed on index cards. If you have been reading this blog, you know by now I still go out and help in the playground. I will take from my larger letter and develop a card for any and all adults who come onto the playground for whatever reason so they will have an understanding of what we at my school expect. I will also make sure this card is distributed to adults before all of our games. No more crazy soccer mom’s for me.

I will use the ELM model: effort, learning and rebounding from mistakes.

I will fill my student’s emotional tank.

I will teach my students to honor the classroom and become the best they can be through mastery, risk taking and fair play.

When a child makes a mistake and he/she is embarrassed, I will make the flushing down the toilet gesture to let them know it's OK to make a mistake. We've flushed it down the toilet. Now let's move on. Making mistakes is one of the ways we learn.

I will offer the following criticism when I have to correct misbehavior: “This is not how we do things at this school. How should we correct this problem?”

I have sat through two professional developments offered by the Professional Coaching Alliance. They are not just for sports and coaches. They are for all of us in education. What they share is valuable for every teacher who wants to develop a classroom of learners, a community of thinkers, a foundation of positive self-esteem and character development, and a solid core of individuals who value education.

Thank you.

Michael H. Brownstein


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