In October 2014 I had the opportunity to attend a two-day work training event led by Doug Lemov, Colleen Driggs and Erica Woolway. This event had been in my diary for months and was a highlight of my CPD in 2014. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn from Doug and the TLaC team themselves, but also to work with different teachers/leaders from both the UK and the USA. Everyone there was keen to develop their own practice, irrespective of their current role in school, to enable them to return to their schools equipped with resources that would allow them to lead on TLaC.
As an introduction Doug talked us through the identification of the TLaC techniques. He used data from the findings of his research from across a large number of schools to identify where students are achieving the highest grades despite being in the lowest socio-economic groups. Doug doesn’t profess to have a finite list of the answers and indeed states that with regard to TLaC: “at least some of it is wrong.” Considering he can only highlight what he has been able to see (so far), he admits he may have missed or misunderstood a technique, for example.
The new Teach Like a Champion 2.0 book that has just been released has 62 identified techniques compared to the 49 from the first edition. Doug was honest in explaining that not all of the techniques made the cut from the first to the second book, that some of them are new or slightly different. I personally like the fact that these techniques are evolving and adapting to suit the teachers and their students in the classrooms they are taught in.
The structure of the two days was relatively straight forward in that we looked at a number of techniques and practised using them ourselves and giving feedback in terms of:
“I liked it when…………….”
“Next time try……………..”
Perfect practice makes perfect
The key to success is centred on the practice of the techniques. Here is where we meet a hurdle, as there are a few major misconceptions around what practice is, who it is for, and the benefits. In Practice Perfect, Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi when asked about the importance of practice replied:
• When we practice we should focus on practising strengths as we will get stronger results this way.
• We should not stop practising when we achieve competence. What marks champions is their excellence at something. They may have weaknesses, but their strengths are honed and polished to the level of brilliance. The value of practice begins at mastery!
• Although practice certainly has a reputation for being a bleak necessity. It is in fact, fun, exciting, and ideal for adults.
All of us, if we give it some thought, practice something in our professional and/or personal lives. What Doug and TLaC are suggesting is that we should also practice techniques to use in the classroom.
I am not one for role play, however I have to admit to enjoying the opportunity over the two training days to practice the techniques before using them when leading the TLaC group back at school and in my classroom. You can read more about how I turned the training into PPD practice in my school, and how much our staff have enjoyed the opportunity to work together on these techniques here and in Part 3.
Over the two days I found the opportunity to look at the video clips of champion techniques and discuss what we could see extremely valuable. It gave us an opportunity to focus on the teaching – not so that we could emulate the style or method, but to critique and identify aspects that were good. We were not attending the training to become ‘TLaC clones’ nor to take back to our schools a set of rules for using the techniques to be copied. Indeed the practice is intended to avoid us doing this as we practice through a range of techniques and develop them in our own style. We had the opportunity to look at the importance of the stages of the techniques, the research and science behind the method and to consider the essential underlying principles. The delivery style may well change depending on the target audience – only the classroom teacher will know what method will work best for their students. It is however important that we share with our students our expectations and the reasons behind using some of the techniques.
The opportunity to observe Doug, Colleen and Erica practice the rollout speech and receive feedback from each other and the delegates and the workshop was particularly useful. In our classrooms this rollout speech is an opportunity to say: “This is my classroom and this is how it works in my classroom.” It’s like sharing the success criteria and “what good looks like” for the students’ participation and expected engagement, taking ownership of the classroom back.
What did I take away from the training, to share back at my school with the TLaC group?
• A renewed enthusiasm to take back to my classroom, my department and my colleagues.
• A toolkit of resources to use to elicit change, remembering that change is hard and new habits will require repeated practice if they are to become embedded into teaching practice.
• The classroom will be what YOU make it, take ownership do fewer things but do them better
• The classroom will mirror the teacher – if you set your expectations at 100% and accept nothing less, then that is what you will get.
• That buy in will be an outcome of the sessions, not a pre requisite.
• That the best teachers check for understanding all lesson long, they recognise when students do not understand and change. They are constantly gathering data and acting on it.
TLaC is not just a book or set of techniques that you might read about and use in the classroom having understood the concept and method. TLaC is a commitment to ensure that you are the best you can be in all aspects of your teaching. It’s about recognising what works and perfecting what you do through collaborative work and feedback. It is not a definitive list nor is it designed to be used to the exclusion of all other techniques or methodologies.
• You can read Doug Lemov’s blog reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice here
• Do read Harry Fletcher-Wood’s blogs here and here about his visit to Uncommon Schools in New York.
• Do read Michael Slavinsky’s blog here about his views on the TLaC programme and here about his trip to the Train the Trainer workshop.