The boy was two, maybe three years old. He was holding his mother’s hand while they stood at the curb. He was eager to cross, but she, of course, stood fast. Through the window of the deli I could not hear her words, but understood her intention. She lowered her self to his level. She pointed to the curb. Looked left. Looked right. Spoke to him and shook her head. Looked left again. She then stood up and gestured to her left, right, and left. His eyes followed. He leaned as he looked. She looked at him. He nodded and together they crossed.
In just a few seconds, the mother utilized the most ancient form of pedagogy, I-We-You. First she explained the process of ensuring a safe crossing. Then she looked for traffic with him. Finally, she waited for him to make the call as to whether or not it was safe. I do. We do. You do.
Now shift gears and think about the adults in your school. Is your professional development designed with the I-We-You progression in mind? Do you use pre-assessments to determine which stage your teachers are at? Are they ready to go at it alone with a new concept? Do they need a mentor to guide them? Should they observe the concept in practice?
I-We-You. Something to consider.
We think of a group of people who look different from one another are diverse. And that is true. They are. However, the importance of that difference to the making of decisions does not lie solely in the group members’ outward appearance or life experiences. It is the knowledge base each person brings from their life experiences that matters most. The purpose of this post is to make you consider the importance of diversity of thought in-group decision-making.
James Suroweicki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds, wrote, “cognitive diversity is essential to good decision making.”  Each member of the group brings their own kernel of knowledge to the table. Irving Janis coined the term “groupthink” in describing the potential of a group to regulate and restrict possible solutions to a problem because of their similar-mindedness. They all have similar life experiences. They all came from similar neighborhoods, with similar parents, and similar culture. Which led to them all thinking the same way with a similar knowledge base to draw from. So, it is the diversity of thought that separates an argument, an exchange of ignorance, from a discussion, an exchange of ideas. James Suroweicki said it best when writing, “the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.” 
A group is better able to generate an effective decision when it is made up of people that are diverse in terms of their life experiences, worldly perspective, cultural bias, and, most importantly, varied areas of expertise.
 Surowiecki, J. 2005. The Wisdom of Crowds. Anchor Books: New York, NY.
They, the preverbal ‘they’, say 90 some percent of all learning is visual. So, do your teachers have a clear vision of where they are going in their professional development? Do you, as their principal, coach, or mentor, know if they are on the right track toward their desired professional goals? Well, worry no more, the contents of this post will guide you to know that which you currently…don’t!
School improvement coach Tim Westerberg, in his post Five Principles for Formative Assessments That Fuel Feedback, stated, “Formative assessments provide the feedback on student learning that guides teacher and student adjustments during learning.”  In this post I will translate Westerberg’s work for use with teachers. Let’s begin with restating his . . . um, statement. For the purpose of this post, we will understand formative assessments as a means to provide feedback on teacher learning that guides principal and coaching adjustments during professional learning.
Westerberg does a nice job outlining five principles that inform the feedback for students. Here they are in relation to supporting teacher growth.
1. Target key subskills and bodies of enabling knowledge (building blocks) in the learning progression. 
What are the necessary subskills a techer needs to meet the objective mastery. For example, a teacher is struggling with the transition of the class from desks to lining up to go to a sepacialist, let’s say PE. So, the objective is to master whole-class transitions. The coach suggests developing a transition routine that can be replicated every time the class must move from desks to lining up. However, the teacher may not have learned the necessary task analysis subskill to determine the precise words to provide clear and concise directions for the studetns. The sequencing of the directions is also of concern.
2. Target those concepts and skills with which students typically experience difficulty or harbor misconceptions about. 
Let’s continue with the transition example from #1. It may be that the teacher struggles with transition of all types throughout the school day. It could be a result of a lakc of task analysis skills resulting in long winded directions that are ambiguous and, thus, conufing to the students. Targeting transisiton language skills during observations would be an effective formative assessment of the teacher’s effecitiveness. Timing the transitions interms of directions fgiven and execution by studnets would also help the teacher understand if they are moving toward mastery of transions.
3. Align with the content provided in related classroom and common summative assessments.
4. Align with the levels of cognitive rigor featured in summative assessments.
5. Mirror the item formats included in summative assessments. 
Westerberg’s focus on summative assessment guiding formative measures constitute #3 content, #4 rigor, #5 format. These last three will be addressed together. The state of Minnesota has license renewal criteria requiring specific areas of growth be addressed and documented.  on of the requirements is training in Positive Behavioral Intervention Strategies. You can read more at How to Motivate the Un-Motivatable. Formative feedback for teachers should be aligned with atainable objectives that serve summative measures such as relicensure requiremetns. Consider aligning all professional development activities to meet the needs of all mandated teacher evaluations while, of course, placing the greatest considerations on the needs of the individual educator.
Principals, coaches, and mentors should provide relevant, specific formative feedback to teachers in relation to the summative measures such as mandated evaluation systems and re-licensure requirements.
Please excuse the alliterative title. Its use was positively promoted primarily through teachers teeming with functional feedback from several sources. Annoying isn’t it. My older brother rues the day I discovered alliteration’s annoying properties. You can picture the scene – a long car ride with nothing else to do but enrage your big brother enough to punch you so he gets in trouble with mom and dad. Yea, that’s where I honed my skills in verse while my brother provided me with ample feedback in the form of massive charlie-horses to my left thigh.
Feedback can come in many forms (not just a fist) from many sources (not just a brother) in an attempt to serve varying functions in the growth process. This post will address feedback in the form of critical questions from peers functioning as a catalyst for growth.
“When information on progress is timely, specific, accurate, and focused on improvement, it has the greatest chance to positively affect the learner’s end performance.”  Of course the ability to provide effective feedback is not found in a professional development catalog or two hour take-n-bake workshop. The most important aspect of feedback is the critical question. Asking critical questions is a learned skill. “Spending the time early in the year to walk students [,or in our case, teachers,] through the process, provide them with specific examples, and highlight good instances of peer feedback is key.” 
Feedback may come from a teachers’s principal, coach, mentor, or peers. When students were asked who they preferred provide them with instructional feedback, a majority stated their peers. “Some of the most powerful feedback that students receive can come from peer-to-peer interactions.”  What of teachers? We are evaluated by our principals, instructed by our coaches, and persuaded by our mentors. Our peers may also provide similar types of feedback, yet they can do so with minimal power dynamics. A peer, such a grade-level teammate, does not make hiring decisions like a principal, judge against curricular outcomes like a coach, compare us to a rubric as a mentor might. A peer simply tells it like it is, but with the ability to empathize with our plights regarding both curriculum and the developmental level of our students. Our peers “get it” cause they are right there along side us.
What is the purpose of providing feedback to a teacher? Robyn Jackson stresses the importance of recognizing the type of needs a teacher has when determining the purpose of feedback. Jackson differentiates between skill and will when diagnosing need. The end game, according to Jackson, is to generate growth. “To move your school forward, you must move the people in it.”  Barbara Dill-Varga and Adam Roubitchek call this type of feedback”feeding forward”.  The key is to differentiate the feedback for each teacher.
“It is accepted as common knowledge that we have to adjust our instructional practice to meet the needs of all the learns in the classroom. But, when it comes to instructional leadership, oir appraoch is often one-size-fits-all.” 
To provide effective feedback, it first must be determined if the needs of the teacher are greatest in terms of motivation (will) or method/content knowledge (skill).
Feedback specific to pedagogy or motivation form a trusted peer can help a teacher move forward in their professional competencies. The feedback must be relevant and timely with a specific and actionable focus.
So, now I must leave you with one last annoying alliterative annotation.
The form and function of feedback from a friend is found to be fantastic!
 Never Underestimate Your Teachers: Instructional Leadership for Excellence in Every Classroom by Robyn Jackson
 The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers by Robyn Jackson
Educational reform is ripe with “distractors” and in need of more “collaboration”, so says John Hattie, chair of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, deputy director of the Science of Learning Research Centre, and director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne. In recent reports summarized by freelance educational writer Dian Schaffhauser, Hattie calls into question the significant educational reform initiatives of the past several decades.  Hattie classified school choice, class size debates, high-stakes testing, and pay-for-performance models as distractors to effective reform. Hattie placed a emphasis on collaboration regarding a shared responsibility among all stakeholders for the academic growth a students, not just teachers.
In a recent blog post, Sharhonda Bossier, vice president, advocacy and engagement, at Education Cities, a nonprofit working to dramatically increase the number of great public schools across the country, described the collaborative community effort lead by New York Mayor de Blasio.  Regarding the change-leaders, Bossier wrote, they “must develop authentic relationships with all groups to sustain progress”.  Bossier recounted community leaders meeting face-to-face with parents to engage them in the educational change process.
National School Reform Faculty (NSRF) focus on the actions of reform that stem from within the school building, specifically promoting and providing resources for the creation of Critical Friends Groups (CFGs). 
“CFGs are about collaboration—colleagues working together to improve their work and that of their students, continually striving for excellence through shared goals, norms, and values.” 
The best intentions of reform can be derailed by misguided agendas or supported through the works of the many. Collaboration can counter the distractions as long as the collaborators come from within the schools and throughout the community.
Why do you need to self-reflect?
Well, in asking that question, you’ve begun the process of self-reflecting! Congrats.
You need to include self-reflection as a professional development process because 1) like your mother always said of eating the stuffed, green peppers, its good for you, and 2) its becoming a job requirement. Along with many other state across the nation, the Minnesota Department of Education provides districts with a template to address the recent teacher evaluation requirements. The mandate requires teachers to participate “in on-going professional development activities and [collaborate] with colleagues and families to advance learning for teachers and students.” 
Four domains are presented in the program with Professionalism being the one on which I will focus for this post. The State of MN presents the following outline for the Professionalism domain:
DOMAIN 4: PROFESSIONALISM Indicator A: Reflects on teaching practice
i. Uses self-reflection to improve instruction
ii. Uses feedback to improve instruction
iii. Plans for professional growth
In this post, I will address the first sub-domain of self-reflection, why it should be done, what it is, and how it can be done.
Why should I self-reflect?
As we reflect on the reasons we do what we do, we get a sense of ourselves in the process. When you have abetter sense of your personal motivations you better set yourself with the best environment to help you succeed. Associate professor of education, Lynn Zimmerman, described the results of self-reflection as a “transformation” that influences how we perceive our self. 
Professionals who regularly reflect experience an increased sense of confidence, control, and passion.  The way our colleagues see us also changes as reflective practices allow us to more readily and accurately articulate our professional vision and mission. Our teammates will perceive us as driven, focused, and competent.
So what does it mean to “self-reflect”?
On the self-reflection rubric, an exemplary teacher is described by the state of MN as a teacher who “continuously and accurately assesses his or her own effectiveness using lesson artifacts and student data to identify areas of strength and areas for growth.” 
As I mentioned in my post How to Motivate the Un-Motivatable, understanding the “why” behind the “what” is of utmost importance to promoting growth in others, and in the case professional reflection, yourself.
Reflection should allow a teacher to easily explain the reasons they do what they do beyond the typical “I do it for the children schtick.”.
Crystal Holyn Holdefer defined self-reflection like this: “Self-reflection in its simplest form is asking yourself thought-provoking questions so that you can develop a deeper level of understanding about yourself.” 
Use these questions from Vivian Beck to guide your reflective activities, to figure out the “why” behind “what” you do each day. 
10 Professional Reflections Questions
1. Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
2. How will continue making an impact in our changing world?
3. Do you have a desire to become an instructional leader outside of the classroom?
4. Are you drawn to curriculum development?
5. What areas of specific areas of instruction are your strength?
6. Are there areas of teacher performance that could use some attention?
7. How strong are the relationships you build with your students?
8. Do you involve parents in student learning?
9. What is your ultimate goal for each student?
10. If you could change one thing in the way you do “business” now, what would it be?
As teacher evaluation mandates are adopted, an understanding of the how and why of self-reflection will be necessary for teachers to meet with new demands of professional development. Self-reflection helps teacher understand the reasons for their actions. reflection increases an individual’s sense of confidence and passion. Self-reflection allows those who practice it, to speak of their professional goals with clarity and precision. The use of guiding questions will facilitate the self-reflection process and help teachers to realize its benefits.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go examine my motivations for writing this post.
Teachers have to deal with other people’s problems all day long. Teachers must mediate the effects of the societal and parental exposures their students experience. The National Education Association wrote, “Mental health conditions affect one in five adults in the United States every year.”  Nearly 50% of U.S. teachers polled in a recent Gallop survey reported high doses of daily stress. 
We are not alone.
Mental illness is not just an American educator issue. In a recent poll of nearly a thousand teachers in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, 38% reported seeing a “rise in mental health issues among colleagues in the past two years.”  Teachers self-reported an increase in disrupted sleep due to “being in a high pressured profession, being on the public stage.”  Yet, 68% of respondents claimed they told no one of their anxieties due to the social stigma associated with mental illness. Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in 2014, said, “”Those working in education need to be supported better.” 
So how can schools support the mental health needs of teachers?
Mary Cathryn Ricker is executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers. recounted a powerful story of a colleague who was struggling emotionally, struggling alone in a self-prescribed shell. Ricker stated, “The stakes are too high when we do that, too high for the consequences that come when mental health is ignored, too high for our colleagues who feel powerless to support us, and most clearly, too high for our students, who we got in this business to teach in the first place.” 
Provide conscious leadership
Principals are a significant factor in, first, recognizing that something of concern is happening with a teacher. It is vital that the principal seeks to understand the “why” behind the “what” when addressing any unusual or inappropriate behavior by a teacher. Read more about how to find the “why” in my post How to Motivate the Un-Motivatable.
Be a concerned colleague
Ricker described her colleague as believing personal pressures should take a back seat tot eh needs of students. This sense of self-defeating altruism is common among teachers. Colleagues can help by getting to know their grade-level teammates well enough to see any changes in typical demeanor or disposition. The depth of the professional relationship is in direct proportion to the ability of the colleague to notice things and the comfort level of the ailing teacher to request help.
I have to call my mother weekly just to “check-in”. My mother just wants to know how things are going. That way when things aren’t going as usual, she will have a sense of it and can offer assistance and support. Colleagues can establish routine check-ins. Make it a habit of walking by your teammates’ classrooms, leaning in through the doorway and asking, “How’s it going?” Take note of their response. Be genuinely curious about their well-being. Step into the room if you sense something is “off”. Be engaged. Be aware.
Organize for awareness
The NEA recommends several ways schools can organize a mental health campaign on their campus. 
Health and Safety Committees – Health and safety committees are the most important tool NEA members have to correct work related problems or issues at your school. The committee focuses on health and safety issues to ensure that they are being identified, prevented or resolved.
Health and Hazard Surveys – While human nature tells us when something is making us sick, and common sense can help identify hazards, gathering evidence that will convince school management that the problems are real is almost always necessary. The best way to collect information is surveys, interviews and formal observations.
School Walkthrough – Conducting school walkthroughs will help you assess and pinpoint areas where building conditions and hazards might be causing adverse health effects or comfort issues. Like administering health and hazard surveys, this strategy will assist you in gathering the data that is needed to convince school management that problems exist.
Become the Educated Advocate – Becoming the educated advocate is an important organizing strategy when trying to identify, prevent or resolve health and safety issues. It is important that the local association health and safety committee, joint labor-management committee, or other health or wellness committee explore legal options and remedies, and arm themselves with information that may already exist.
Recommend Solutions – Once health and safety issues are identified, it is important that the local association health and safety committee or the joint labor-management committee assess the findings, prioritize concerns and recommend solutions and preventative measures to the school district.
Teachers have stressors. Teachers suffer from mental illness. Teachers often suppress their own needs for those of their students. IT is up to principals, colleagues, and organized systems within a school to recognize and support the emotional needs of the teachers.
As part of re-licensure requirements for the state of Minnesota, teachers must submit 125 clock hours of documented trainings. The 125 hours must address six different areas of professional content. One of which is entitled, “Accommodation, Modification, and Adaptation of Curriculum, Materials, and Instruction”.  The aim of this requirement is to encourage teachers to differentiate instruction for their students.
The Minnesota Department of Education explains the intent of the objective this way – “applicants must include in their professional development activities which address accommodation, modification, and adaptation of curriculum, materials, and instruction to appropriately meet the needs of varied students in achieving graduation standards (i.e., differentiated instruction.)”  Along with the a new re-licensure requirements, teachers have been bombarded with Common Core curriculum demands, high-stakes testing preparation, and new forms of technology.
As the State of Minnesota has considered the unique needs of every student in the re-licensure requirements in an attempt to help students meet the new expectations, I am suggesting we consider the unique needs of every teacher while designing our professional development (PD) offerings, so that teachers, like the students, can successfully navigate the recent increases in responsibility and performance expectation.
How can we individualize our PD?
When a considering the individualization of a student’s learning experience, many teachers think about making accommodations or modifications to various aspects. 
Pacing – Teachers often provide students with breaks or change the timing of activities to support individual success. PD offerings could be accommodated to provide teachers with varying schedules and uncommon prep times with unique pacing so they may still participate.
Environment – Students may complete an activity outside the classroom, in a private area, or utilize an office space. Providing students with a different environment is intended to support the student’s focus and ultimate success. If modifications are considered for PD offerings, teacher may be able to engage in development activities with their grade-level in a classroom, as an individual at home, or while in the traditional library staff meeting environment. As the content of the PD is considered, so too should hte various environments in which the teachers could engage.
Presentation of Material – Teachers often create similar content presentations using varied medium. A book may be offered in print and audio formats, for example. When PD offerings are developed, consider offering the content in electronic print, video, and audio formats. Can the information be presented as a stand-alone webinar? Can the presentation from an outside provider be recorded for viewing by absentees or reviewed by grade-level teams during a future team meeting? Consider the methods by which your PD is presented to your teachers, just as teachers do for students.
Reinforcement and Follow-through – Students are often asked to share what they’ve learned through verbal explanations or paper-pencil assessments. Teachers may not need such formal follow-ups, but PD should include an element of post-experience reflection. Teachers may submit a statement of how they will be utilizing the content in practice via email or an anonymous electronic survey. Consider gathering information about the effectiveness, of not only the content, but the method and pacing of material.
Teachers are being asked to accommodate and modify the learning experience design to meet the unique needs of students. Changes to the pace of instruction, learning environment, method of presentation, and supportive follow-through help to ensure student engagement and success. The goal of this blog was to help those who design and implement PD offerings to teachers.
Consider accommodating to the logistical needs of your teachers. Consider where your teachers may engage in the PD experience. Consider utilizing various modes of delivery. Consider encouraging reflective follow-through and program evaluations. Most importantly, consider the individual teacher in the design and implementation of PD experiences.
Chris made group work nearly impossible. Chris was never prepared. Didn’t participate. Talked incessantly about nothing in particular moving everyone else off-task. Chris’ choices made learning difficult for everyone. Chris’ behavior was challenging.
Enter the theoretical approach of PBS – Positive Behavioral Support. “Positive behavioral support (PBS) is a broad term that describes a comprehensive, research based,
proactive approach to behavioral support aimed at producing comprehensive change for students with challenging behavior. ” 
PBS is different than traditional consequence and reward models of behavior management programming. Those using PBS are “determining not only what, where, when and how challenging behavior occurs, but also why.” 
Chris spent too much time talking to others in the hallway and was always late for class. Rarely organized, Chris’ desk was a mess and important work was often lost or damaged. Chris’ behavior was misaligned with expectations in the classroom and hallway, in small groups and whole class discussions, before class and during. We know what Chris is doing (or not doing). We know the where, the when, and the how of Chris’ behavior. Yet, no one has ever bothered to figured out WHY Chris, a 15 year veteran teacher, behaves in these ways, in these locations.
Like the assumption you made that Chris was a student, most of us assume we know why our colleagues or employees behave as they do. But what if, like effective teachers supporting a student, what if we as peers, as administrators, chose to use the concepts outlined in the PBS approach? What if we approached teacher support from the perspective of, well support, not assumed judgment?
Positive Behavior Support for Educators, I define as, a deliberate and collaborative proactive plan of support aimed at encouraging and facilitating positive professional change for teachers. Now I am not looking to coin a new theory here and run across the country forcing, yet another theoretical construct down your educational-jargon filled throats. I am simply asking you to consider a different perspective. The perspective of the “why behind the what”. There is always a “why” behind every “what”. The key to effective support is for educational leadership and peers to figure out why a colleague is so resistant to engaging in the assumed norms of a school or grade-level culture. What has Chris experienced in past roles? Gaining an understanding of Chris’ past will help rationalize the present and inform the path to growth in the future.
Why is Chris, a veteran teacher, disengaged?
Let’s go back to what we do for students and see if it applies to Chris’, our mythical grown-up, teacher person. Here are six potential reasons a student may lack motivation to engage. 
Motivation Deficit 1: The student is unmotivated because he or she cannot do the assigned work.
Could it be that Chris lacks the skills to do the work? Expectations and curriculum have changed considerably in the past 15 years. Maybe Chris has a skill deficit. Something to consider.
Motivation Deficit 2: The student is unmotivated because the ‘response effort’ needed to complete the assigned work seems too great.
Have you heard Chris, “Yea, I’ve seen this all before just with a different name. This will pass like everything else.” Chris’ past experiences can significantly influence the desire to engage in a new initiative because they’ve been burned in the past. Chris invested and then everything went back to the way it was. Maybe Chris isn’t lazy, or unable, just unwilling because they’ve been jaded by past experiences. Something to consider.
Motivation Deficit 3: The student is unmotivated because classroom instruction does not engage.
Irrelevant professional development offerings. Enough said. Something to consider.
Motivation Deficit 4: The student is unmotivated because he or she fails to see an adequate pay-off to doing the assigned work.
This may align with deficit #2 and the whole jaded from the past thing. It also addresses the experience inherent in the descriptor “veteran”. Chris, the seemingly unmotivated veteran teacher, may not be engaging because, in their professional opinion (which is based on years of experience) the new initiatives are simply ineffective or incomplete. Maybe tapping into Chris’ expertise regarding the design of the new initiative might inspire motivation. Something to consider.
Motivation Deficit 5: The student is unmotivated because of low self efficacy—lack of confidence that he or she can do the assigned work.
Chris may feel incapable. This differs from #1. Some teachers may not have the skill, but only because they haven’t had a chance to learn how. Teachers qualifying for the #5 deficit do not have the skill and do not believe they are capable of learning to do it even if they had a training opportunity. Maybe if Chris had a mentor to guide them through the emotional and technical hurdles associated with the new initiative they would both believe and achieve. Something to consider.
Motivation Deficit 6: The student is unmotivated because he or she lacks a positive relationship with the teacher.
Chris may feel the department chair or grade-level lead or principal doesn’t like them. A personal issue stemming form a past professional disagreement, may be inferring with the current level motivation. It would take a deliberate and candid sequence of conversations, but the air needs to be clear before the sun cane shine. Moving beyond the cheesy metaphor, maybe if leadership modeled the initiative to engage in a professional dialogue with Chris, the personal issues could be resolved and the professional relationship enhanced. Something to consider.
Positive behavior support for students examines the “why” behind the child’s behavior.I asked you to consider doing the same for your colleagues, for your teachers, for your “Chris”. Let me know how it went. Comment below. Be sure to subscribe and engage in future conversations. Oh, for those of you who were concerned, no “Chris”es were harmed in the making of this blog post. Something to consider.