With every budget crunch, the school board must choose between cutting personnel or cutting programs. In the short term, cutting personnel is more disruptive than putting a program on hold. Consequently, programs get the axe.
During decades of teacher training, we have become masters of keeping our program alive and well in the face of budget cuts. This requires training that can be done on a shoestring. And it requires support and follow-through that costs nothing.
Teachers who first encounter Tools for Teaching often say, "It's so specific. It tells us exactly what to do." Tools for Teaching is intended to be a guide to classroom implementation. But it is only the beginning of implementation. As soon as the book was written, we began work on the Study Group Activity Guide -- our "ace in the hole" for keeping our program growing when the money dries up.
Successful staff development is a multi-year effort. It takes time to train coaches. It takes more time for coaches to train faculty and build a professional learning community (PLC) in which trainees grow toward mastery of new skills.
Successful staff development is best accomplished when each school site has its own team of coaches. When trainees experience difficulty, they need a friend down the hall to talk to right away, or the new skill will be dumped. And follow-through requires that coaches take a quick look at their trainees' classrooms from time to time and provide feedback that is non-threatening.
Along with Tools for Teaching, the Study Group Activity Guide gives you all the support you need to develop strong coaches and meaningful follow-through. Many school districts have conducted highly successful staff development with the book and the Study Guide alone. To understand how that's possible, let's take a look at the resources contained in the Study Group Activity Guide.
The first 45 pages of the Study Guide structure twelve 45-minute after-school meetings, during which teachers study and discuss Tools for Teaching. Many schools use the reading assignments and focus questions contained in these sessions as the basis for book study.
If you want staff development after school to really come alive, get people on their feet and practice new skills. Keep discussion to a minimum and practice to a maximum.
The next 40 pages of the Study Guide contain protocols for practice exercises for each of the major skills contained in Tools for Teaching. These protocols are complete. They contain introductory remarks and prompts for each step of each new skill, along with the clarifying remarks that I would make during a workshop. I have seen district coaches reproduce my entire workshop beautifully with the advantage that training is spread out over enough time so that each new skill can be learned and implemented before the next one is introduced.
In addition to skill-building exercises, the Study Guide contains more complex role-playing exercises that allow teachers to practice new skills in a wide range of true-to-life classroom situations. Those exercises utilize brainstorming so coaches and teachers can use the experience of colleagues to solve difficult management problems.
Building a Professional Learning Community
The Study Group Activity Guide structures the building of a professional learning community in several ways. At the very beginning of the program, there is an organizational meeting in which participants become familiar with guidelines for running a successful study group. That section contains lessons about successful PLCs gleaned from decades of teacher training, along with "dos and don'ts" for maintaining a healthy group process.
More importantly, the Study Guide contains a Group Problem Solving Process that protects and supports participants when they bring a problem of implementation to the group. Typically, colleagues deal with this situation by giving advice. Advice is deadly.
Those giving advice assume the expert role while making the person seeking help feel defensive. A clinically savvy problem-solving process always places the person with the problem in the expert role while using group members as a resource for brainstorming. Once the study group has become familiar with Tools for Teaching, more time will be spent using the Group Problem Solving Process, as teachers begin to deal with their more difficult challenges.
Over time, however, discipline management gradually becomes second nature. The agenda that keeps some study groups going for well over a decade is Say, See, Do Teaching. "How do I replace talk with activity?" "What do I want the students to do with this information?" "How can we have some fun with this lesson?"
Our Web site (www.fredjones.com) contains additional resources to help coaches and teachers implement Tools for Teaching. Those resources include:
While many school districts succeed beautifully with the resources listed above, many purchase the Video Toolbox in order to bring Dr. Jones' workshop to their trainees. The Video Toolbox has a half-hour segment for each of the twelve after-school meetings to provide the rationale and anticipatory set for that week's skill building.
In addition, the Video Toolbox contains a coaching DVD so coaches can see exactly how Dr. Jones formats the training for each new skill. This is particularly helpful for trainers who have not been able to attend one of Dr. Jones' workshops.
School districts that are using Tools for Teaching in the classroom have requested help with parent training to meet Title One and Title Two requirements. The Tools for Teaching Parent Edition provides parents with the basics of managing children's behavior while teaching values. The three-DVD set in English and Spanish is clear and self-explanatory, enabling many parent-teacher organizations to provide training. Other parents, however, simply use it on their own.
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