“You can’t tell where you’re going without a chart of where you’ve been.”—Chris Biffle
When I began using Whole Brain Teaching back in 2007, I remember the feeling I would get at the end of the day when things just didn’t seem to go right. I must admit, back in the day, when WBT was called Power Teaching, there were not a lot of resources online to help me tweak and polish my WBT skills. The video library on YouTube consisted of one kindergarten video from my friend and mentor Andrea Schindler (Co-Founder of WBT) and a few videos from the man himself, Chris Biffle (Founder) using WBT in his college classroom. Needless to say, I felt like a stranger at night in someone else’s home feeling my way around in the dark to eventually find the elusive light switch that would make everything make sense.
After attending my first national conference things started to make a bit more sense, but again, I am a visual person so I need to SEE IT in action! Chris Biffle (or Coach as we know him) brought to life the idea of charting our progress to be able to see, in data, how WBT was transforming our classrooms, even when from day to day it didn’t seem to be working.
To see the improvement in your teaching and in the functionality of your students within your classroom, one must chart your progress. You may be thinking, “GREAT MORE PAPERWORK” but I urge you to truly embrace the power of the data this can provide for you and your students.
This week we are going to focus on charting the progress we and our students are making with Whole Brain Teaching. I’m not talking reading speeds, or fluency, or math facts…I am simply talking about our progress using the strategies and our students progress in becoming functioning members of our classroom family.
First, let’s look at the teacher. According to Coach B, our fearless leader, “You cannot manage student behavior if you can not manage your own behavior.” Seems simple enough, however when we are in the heat of the moment with a child that is disrupting our attempts to teach what we are sure is the most crucial and fabulous lesson of our entire teaching career, it’s not so simple! So how do we control our own behavior?
Meet Mrs. Maestra, a fabulous teacher, who by all accounts should be teacher of the year because she is just so darn perfect. Or is she? Mrs. Maestra represents each and every one of us who teaches. She has good days, bad days, and days that she just wishes she could go back in time and erase. However, one thing Mrs. Maestra has done is realize that by controlling her own behavior, she could totally alter the way her challenging students behave. She knows that she can’t manage their behavior if she can’t manage her own.
Using a simple chart to rate herself on a weekly basis, Mrs. Maestar was able to see that her behavior was changing. What once was a frustrated, shoot from the hip, say things perhaps she didn’t mean to, and gut reaction teacher, was turning into a calm, collected, in control LEADER! Every week Mrs. Maestra rated herself from 1-10 in two areas, self control and classroom management consistency. Did she keep her cool in a situation? Did she let that beloved rascal frustrate her to the point of throwing in the towel? Did she use the Scoreboard (we will talk in depth about that in a later chapter) consistently? Did she practice the rules when she should? Did she use the micro-lecture and mirrors with fidelity? What was the correlation between the fidelity with which she used the WBT techniques and her own self control? Her focus wasn’t on managing her students as her primary goal, it was controlling her own behavior. Truth be told…we are often our own worst enemy in the classroom.
Next, Mrs. Maestra charted her student’s progress. She assigned her students numbers according to where they were on a spectrum. Alphas-4, Go-Alongs-3, Fence Sitters-2, Challenging Students-1. The descriptions of each of these in is the chapter! Once assigned she totaled their numbers up to get the CLASSROOM AVERAGE for the week! Each week, she would re-evaluate them, blindly, making sure to not look at the previous weeks scores. After finding the new weekly average she would then compare them to the previous week to see if there had been any improvement. What Mrs. Maestra discovered was that although small, her students were beginning to change. They were actually beginning to move in the right direction and she now had data to show that. Often we rely on our ability to be objective and evaluate just by observation, but we all know that depending on whether your coffee spilt all over you that morning or your principal piled another task on your to-do list, that observation is all BUT objective.
Now her challenge was how to move her tiny humans along. As teachers we often go for the most difficult students first. Why? Are we total gluttons for punishment? Why not fix the easy problems first! Let’s start with our Alpha’s. Turn them into Leaders and you have a team that will have your back and be a tremendous resource in your classroom. Next work on your Go-Alongs…move them to Alphas…even Leaders if you can. You get the idea. Your goal by the END OF THE YEAR should be that every student has moved up one level! Only one…not challenging students all the way to leaders, although that would be fabulous…but let’s just work on making them not-so challenging.
Baby steps my friends. You will find that if you focus on baby steps, you have a high but reachable goal. You will also find yourself evaluating how you contributed to a situation and perhaps even polish up your WBT skills along the way. WBT can transform your classroom, it really can, overnight. But for most, the change is much more gradual. It’s a shift in our thinking, not just another tool in the belt…it’s the whole stinking TOOL BELT!
Your first year with WBT will be challenging. Sometimes you don’t think it is working but this is due to the fact that the methods we support are so different than traditional teaching and require you to teach outside your box. When you feel like WBT isn’t working or you just can’t get the hang of it, the CEA gives you a tool to show you that it IS working…even if ever so small…your classroom is changing and in no time the changes will begin to be seen.
Beginning Whole Brain Teaching can be overwhelming at first. Teachers often start with class/yes, use some gestures and maybe mirrors, but that is about as far as they go. That’s a great start and I applaud those of you that took the plunge and started! But now it’s time to ramp it up! Having a way to chart your progress as well as your student’s progress is the perfect way to ramp up your WBT skills!
Now what would a blog post be without a surprise! During this book study, if you are working on certification through WBT, you can earn 25 points for writing a college level summary of each chapter. Here are the things you need to include: Introduction to the topic, Rationale behind the strategy, Personal experience, and conclusion. Easy Peasy-Lemon Squeezy! Send your summary to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will shoot you over a little medallion that you can put in to your certification folder.
Over on my Classroom Facebook page we will be having on-going discussions about each chapter. Come join in and ask your questions! We will break it down to grade level and hopefully encourage each other along the way!
So for today’s discussion? How do you currently chart your progress or reflect on your own behavior in the classroom? Share your stories below! I can’t wait to read them!