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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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"Refuel Hour" at James Clemens High Boosts Student Freedom & Productivity
August 25, 2015
by Kristi Combs
Giving high school students a "free" hour during each day can increase their productivity, improve their emotional health, and also provide better support for clubs and other activities that promote a positive school culture.
Our school, James Clemens High in Madison City, has added a daily Refuel Hour to our schedule this year. Modeled after the Power Hour idea developed by 2015 National Principal of the Year Jayne Ellspermann at West Port HS in Ocala FL, our program releases all JCHS students from 11:20-12:20, Monday through Friday, for "refueling."
During this schoolwide break, students eat lunch, attend club meetings, participate in tutoring and study groups, meet with advisors and mentors, form student-led interest groups, and generally recharge their learning batteries. To keep an eye on things as we launch this Big Idea, we have several teachers on Refuel duty to monitor students throughout the building. Read More
Effective Coaching Often Begins with Good Questions
August 6, 2015
by Cathy Gassenheimer
Whether we like it or not, at different times we become coaches. For some people, coaching is part of the essential set of skills they bring to a job. For others, it is much more episodic and informal.
First, a caveat: Even though we’re nearing football season, I’m not talking about coaching sports, but rather coaching colleagues, friends, and families, both informally or formally. And, when I mention coaching, I draw upon thought-leaders like Parker Palmer, Edgar Schein, and Jim Knight, all of whom tell us the key to effective coaching is building a partnership with whomever is being coached.
Schein, a professor emeritus of management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, reminds us that today’s culture is a “culture of tell,” which makes it difficult for people to ask instead of tell. “What is so wrong with telling? The short answer is a sociological one. Telling puts the other person down.” (Humble Inquiry, p. 8)
So what is the alternative? According to Schein, “asking temporarily empowers the other person in the conversation and temporarily makes me vulnerable. It implies that the other person knows something that I need or want to know. It draws the other person into the situation and into the driver’s seat; it enables the other person to help or hurt me and, thereby, opens the door to building a relationship.” (p. 9)Read More
REVIEW: The Principles of Appreciative Leadership Can Strengthen Schools
July 31, 2015
by Cathy Gassenheimer

When someone recommended the book, Appreciative Leadership: Focus on What Works to Drive Winning Performance and Build a Thriving Organization, I was intrigued. I guessed, correctly, that its recommendations would be aligned with Jim Knight’s partnership principles, and, when reading it, discovered lots of useful and practical ideas.
Co-authored by three writers associated with the Corporation for Positive Change, the book, at times, seemed a bit too “touchy-feely” for me. Nonetheless, much of the material can be a valuable read to those interested in strengthening their appreciation of others, their work, and even the world in which they live.
The book suggests five core strategies that can actualize appreciative leadership. They all emerge from the idea that we want to build on strengths, not anchor ourselves to shortcomings:Read More
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