Friday, March 5, 2010

Teach Like a Champion

I read an excellent article this morning that had been recommended on Twitter by @thecleversheep. I had never heard of Doug Lemov or of Uncommon Schools. His ideas, though, I think are really important to explore especially when we are about to experience a huge shift in education with Race to the Top. My state, Tennessee, was named as a finalist yesterday for RTTT funds. This is no surprise. We have been projected from the beginning to be one of the states that will ultimately receive the funds. All teachers in my county are now up in arms thinking immediately that their jobs are on the line. I have watched the progression of this and have slowly tried to develop an opinion on how things are headed. I'm not one to jump on bandwagons one way or the other. The painful truth is that there are teachers who don't really perform up to par. Do I think the answer is to fire each and every one of them? Absolutely not!

I do believe that some people are just born to be teachers. They seem to have an innate ability to teach and lead a class. I do not believe, however, that it is realistic to think that those are the only people who are going to enter the teaching profession and come to work in my school. Doug Lemov believes that we have to improve upon what we have. I agree 100%. I think that we can take many if not most of the teachers that we currently have in the profession and tap into whatever inspired them to become a teacher in the first place. We need good administration in place to identify the needs of those teacher and then offer training to them based on their needs.

Mr. Lemov's book Teach Like a Champion outlines 49 Techniques for teachers to improve performance in the classroom. The description is as follows:

Easy-to-apply ideas for becoming an outstanding teacher

How to Teach Like a Champion is filled with proven teaching techniques that are designed to help teachers, especially those in their first few years, become champions in the classroom. These powerful techniques are concrete, specific, and are easy to put into action the very next day. Includes techniques and tips in the following areas

* Setting high academic and behavioral expectations
* Structuring and delivering excellent lessons
* Engaging students in your lessons
* Creating a strong classroom culture
* Building character and trust
* Improving the pace of your classroom
* Helping students improve their reading skills

You can also view short videos of a few of the techniques here and here. For some of us, this comes naturally. But for some, I think these small instructions can help change a classroom. The book has not yet been released but I can promise you that when it does, I'll be one of the first in line to buy it.


  1. Thanks Tamra, I'm adding it to my reading list now. CO was named a finalist too, it has been interesting to sit back and note how different people react to the news.

  2. I'm reading it and really love it so far.

  3. Hi Tamra,

    Thanks for introducing me to these ideas! Like you, I had not heard of Doug Lemov or Uncommon Schools before but when I came across your post last night I read the whole (long) NY Times article and watched all the videos. How inspiring!

    Here in Australia we have the same issues with trying to lift the education system. Our government is supposedly trialling performance pay (although there are many objectors) and we even have a scheme in place now to remove underperforming teachers. What does Race to the Top involve??

    I also believe some people are natural teachers and I see this each time I have a student teacher however it is great that people like Doug Lemov are clearly documenting what makes a good teacher. I think clearly is the key word because we have a few versions of documents over here that define good teaching practices however they are all wordy and unspecific as a lot of education jargon is!

    I have already found a few strategies that I want to work on more with my teaching and I think I may even buy the book!

    Keep up your great work,
    Kathleen McGeady

  4. I agree with you 100% that there are natural born teachers. But, that doesn't mean that a teacher who doesn't have a "natural" talent for it is a bad one. That's one of the problems that I have with RTTT.
    Race is a grant set aside by our president for states to compete for. Total amount was roughly 4 billion. In order to compete, states had to change certain laws. Any state competing had to agree to intensify teacher training and staff development and also evaluate teachers based on test scores. Performance based pay is also one of the guidelines. Almost every state rushed to get these laws in place even though they knew only a handful would receive the funds.
    So teacher reform has been put in motion all over the country. The first round of competition is over and my state (Tennessee) and Delaware were the only two awarded funds so far. TN will receive $500 million with only half of that going straight to the districts.
    My small school district will only receive a little over $400,000. Not much when you consider the changes that really need to be made. This law really has teachers up in arms about their performance being judged by standardized tests which I completely understand.
    I'm not sure what the answer is. Unfortunately, there are bad teachers out there. There are also teachers that just need a little help to improve. This is all so new and none of us are really sure how it's going to all turn out.
    I'm so glad that you are interested in the book. I'm getting it myself next week when I know I'll really have time to sit down and read it:) I can't wait to see more of his ideas in print!

  5. Hi Tamra,

    That sounds very interesting and a bit of a worry!! Australia seems to sometimes have a tendency to follow what US or UK governments are doing so I better watch out!!! I agree with you that there are many teachers who aren't "natural" but are willing and able to learn. Shame the gov isn't putting funding into training teachers in quality strategies like those Lemov suggested (for all teachers) rather than the complex RTTT.

    I bought the book on Amazon and it was so much cheaper than buying through an Australian site even with the international postage. Can't wait to read it when it arrives although today is the last day of school hols so hope I find the time!


  6. I'm on my first teaching practice and i'm eager to embrace all the support that i can get:-)this book sounds every bit worth it. can't wait to get my hands on it.
    It's also important to note that you can learn a lot from great teachers.My mentor is fantastic. Her classes are warm and supportive; her children are happy learners. She is firm yet very gentle. I like the phrases and techniques she uses.
    Angela Lang'at. Nairobi, Kenya

  7. Angela, Congratulations on your first year of practice! It is wonderful to see teachers new to the profession who are going out in search of their own development. How lucky you are to have such a wonderful mentor! I am honored that you read my post. And all the way from Kenya! I have just started the book myself. I really enjoyed the videos and articles that I read prior to buying the book. Kathleen McGeady from the Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom blog has some interesting thoughts on the book that you might want to check out. I hope to have more thoughts myself after I finish it. Good luck to you!!

  8. Thanks Tamra, will check out the site and also be on the look out for your thoughts on Lemov's book.God bless:-):-)