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Learning is everyone's job!

The Alabama Best Practices Center (ABPC) is a place where educators can turn for assistance, inspiration and information about teaching and student achievement.

Our purpose is to help teachers and administrators develop the competence, commitment, and courage to do whatever it takes to improve student learning.

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To Truly Reach Students, Sometimes We Have To Walk in Their Shoes
November 19, 2014
by Shelley Montgomery

Recently, a friend sent me the link to a blog post from Grant Wiggins entitled “A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned” and asked me what I thought.

As an instructional coach, I have visited tons of classrooms on numerous occasions. In fact, I try to go into at least two different classrooms per day. But I had never really viewed the classrooms in my school through the eyes of the students who fill the desks.

This school year we are working towards a change in the culture of our high school. We have considered what effective instruction should look like and what engaged student learners should look like. We are also participating in a motivational book study.

We are doing everything we know how to do to make our high school an effective institution where students graduate with the skills and knowledge they will need for college and for the workplace. Everything except consider what school is like through the students’ eyes. I decided to give it a try.Read More
Book Review: Practical Ways to Spark Student Creativity in Our Classrooms
November 12, 2014
by Cathy Gassenheimer
“Wonder is a powerful word to use with students, and it is a great way to access imagination.” Thus begins one of 40 “Grab and Go Ideas” interspersed in a new ASCD book, Sparking Student Creativity: Practical Ways to Promote Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving, by Patti Drapeau.
The book can serve as a good guide for teachers who want to spur creative thinking in their classrooms and make their lessons more engaging for students. Chock-full of tools, rubrics, and the aforementioned “Grab and Go” ideas, the book can also be a valuable resource as teachers plan CCRS-aligned, student-centered lessons.

“The first step on the road to achievement is to identify the non-negotiables," Drapeau says. "The non-negotiables consist of the curricular standards, the required content, and the skills that are the target of a lesson. Then, the teacher chooses one of four roads to intentionally integrate creative instruction with content.” (p. 8)Read More
How We Can Use Quiet Leadership to Empower Others
November 4, 2014
by Cathy Gassenheimer

“Our leadership practices are not keeping up with the realities of organizational life. The result is an increasing gap between the way employees are being managed at work, and the way they want to be managed.

"Countless surveys have been done in this area, ending in headlines like ‘Six out of 10 workers are miserable’ and ’74 percent of staff not engaged at work'. Dig into these surveys and you’ll see the quality of leadership on top of the list of complaints.”
Thus begins Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work, by David Rock. Rock is the founder and CEO of NeuroLeadership Group and the author of several books. In this capacity, he serves as a leadership coach, teacher and public speaker who consults with both business and education. He also manages a Quiet Leader website that can be accessed here.
Rock takes a brain-based approach to leadership development and managing others. He believes effective leaders—whether they are positional or informal leaders—help others create new “mental maps” that guide their work and behavior.

He suggests that we often create new mental maps when “we stop speaking and start picturing concepts in (our) own mind.” (p. 5) And, he argues that leaders should help colleagues make their own connections by finding ways to advance the thinking of those they lead rather than trying to do all the thinking for them.
Rock defines quiet leaders as those who empower others unobtrusively. “They stretch people more than people stretch themselves while providing extensive positive feedback. And they know that taking time to establish good processes in any situation is a key to having the most useful conversations.” (p. 71)
Six "quiet leadership" steps
So how do quiet leaders take to empower others in this way? Rock suggests six steps:
  1. Think about Thinking
  2. Listen for Potential
  3. Speak with Intent
  4. Dance Toward Insight
  5. Create New Thinking
  6. Follow Up
Read More
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