Is it just me did the end of the school year creep up and surprise us all? How is it I can live a whole life on a Monday morning before 10:00 AM, but somehow I blink and the school year is over? No matter how it happened, congratulations! Here’s to another year in the books.
The 2021-22 school year taught us all a lot of lessons in patience, persistence, and the power of community. Right now, we have the opportunity to reflect on those lessons and identify the bits we’ll carry with us in our work from now on. Not only is it a good time to look back on it all, it turns out reflection is also a process that improves our practices. Don’t worry; we found the research to back that up.
A group of researchers wondered which would have the greater influence on a person’s work: committing additional time for practicing a skill or using that time for reflection. After conducting three separate studies with more than 800 participants, they found the people who took the time to reflect on their work tested higher, felt more capable in their abilities, and understood their tasks better than the folks who spent their time practicing more1. Essentially, these studies show that reflecting after completing a task “can powerfully enhance the learning process, and it does so more than the accumulation of additional experience on the same task.”
And yet, we rarely take the time to do it. The pause is worth it, so let’s do it now.
Since August, we’ve shared 10 Teach by Design articles highlighting research and delivering practical strategies you can implement in your building right away. We thought we’d take a look back at each one and reflect on the lessons learned along the way.
Make It Radical: Ideas for Your Most Welcoming Classroom Ever
The beginning of the school year should be an optimistic time. So, in our August article we focused on strategies to help you create a welcoming classroom. These ideas come directly from teachers and cost you zero dollars to implement.
The Lesson Learned: Research proves your presence makes a big difference in the way your students feel when they’re at school. Taking the time to deliberately welcome students to your classroom will pay off in the long term.
Listen to the accompanying podcast episode: Creating a Welcoming Classroom with guest, Saki Malose
10 Strategies to Combat Stress in the Classroom
That beginning-of-the-year optimism often comes with a side of stress as you reacquaint yourself and your students with the rhythm of the school year. In our September article, we learned how chronic stress makes it more difficult for students to engage at school. We offered 10 strategies you can implement immediately to address every fight, flight, and freeze response you see.
The Lesson Learned: The school-wide practices you’ve put in place serve as a critical foundation for maintaining a classroom that feels consistent and safe every time you walk through the door. Lean into those practices whenever the stress continues to build.
Listen to the accompanying podcast episode: Effects of Stress in the Classroom with guest, Dr. Geovanna Rodriguez
4 Ways to Widen Your Problem-Solving Perspective
This October’s article introduced the WRAP process from brothers Chip and Dan Heath. We focused on the "W", which stands for "Widen Your Options", and highlighted four strategies to help your team engage with your data rather than jump immediately into solutions.
The Lesson Learned: Instead of going with our first reaction, it’s important to consider the multidimensional nature of a problem before we implement a solution.
Listen to the accompanying podcast episode: The Who, Why, & How of Tier 2 Decision-Making with guests Dr. Erin Chaparro and Dr. Ginny Joseph
Building System-level Solutions to School-wide Stress
November’s article shared how to use the Rule of 10 – 10 people or 10% - to identify system-wide issues. We also finished exploring how to use the WRAP process to come up with solutions addressing those school-wide needs.
The Lesson Learned: “You cannot ‘individual behavior’ your way out of structural problems.” Sometimes a problem can be solved with self-care, and sometimes a problem require us to consider and fix what isn’t working within the larger system. If we’re all feeling the effects of an issue, it’s time to look for a bigger solution.
Listen to the accompanying podcast episode: Relieving Staff Stress with System-level Solutions with guests Dr. Susan Barrett and Dr. Kimberly Yanek
Our Favorite Things 2021
We do it every year. It’s Our Favorite Things for 2021. This year, we rounded up 28 favorites we knew y’all would love, too. From the Instagram accounts everyone should follow, to stamps with your face on them, this year’s list is stellar.
The Lesson Learned: Traditions can be fun and doing fun things matters, too.
Check out Our Favorite Things on Facebook Live with Diertra Lomeli, Katie Schulz, and Megan Cave!
7 Ways to Partner with Students and Level Up Your Implementation
Our January article offered up seven strategies to recruit student perspectives in the decisions you make. From the simple practice of conducting student climate surveys all the way up to implementing more substantial practices like student-led conferences and student advisory groups, there is something we all can do.
The Lesson Learned: When we ignore their voices, students disengage from school entirely and when they disengage, students have lower self-esteem, lower academic achievement, and higher dropout rates2. Your students have great perspectives and there are lots of ways to get them involved.
Listen to the accompanying podcast episode: Uplifting Student Voices in Implementation with guests Dr. Felicia Singleton and Marcus Jackson
Microaggressions: What’s the Big Deal and What Do I Do About Them?
Microaggressions are the daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental slights that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups3. Our February article explored the history of the term and shared how you can use “microinterventions” to combat the microaggressions happening in your building as soon as they happen.
The Lesson Learned: Allowing microaggressions to go unchecked is counterproductive to the work you do to create a positive school climate. The easiest way to address them is to practice your response ahead of time so you’re ready to step in when you see them happening.
Listen to the accompanying podcast episode: Adding Student Voice to Leadership Teams with guest Zachary Patterson
Proven Ways to Make School-wide Feedback Work
In our March article you’ll find a 4-step process for using your School Climate Survey results to inform the decisions you make as a team. Guess what? These steps work with any dataset you’re trying to incorporate into your decision-making process.
The Lesson(s) Learned: Tell people why you’re asking them to fill out a survey and let them know what you’re going to do with the results. Then, when you’re dealing with a large dataset, start with the big picture and work your way into the specifics.
Listen to the accompanying podcast episode: How to Create an Action Plan with guests Hannah Anderson and Luke Anderson
Decisions, Decisions: 5 Keys to Creating a Data-driven School
Our April article outlines five factors that can take your team’s data-driven decision making to the next level. This is one of those articles you’re going to want to bookmark and revisit at the beginning of each school year.
The Lesson Learned: Making efficient, data-driven decisions requires an investment in people, systems, and processes. Without the proper time, accessibility, capacity, or tools, your team’s decisions will always feel a little like guesses.
Listen to the accompanying podcast episode: The Fundamentals of Data-driven Decisions with guests Dr. Jessica Swain-Bradway and Dr. Billie Jo Rodriguez
Mental Health Matters: 12 Things I Learned From an International PBIS Conference
Our May article showcased our favorite 12 tips and strategies we learned from the Association for Positive Behavior Supports’ (APBS) International Conference. We watched every session related to social emotional learning, supporting mental health in schools, and building communities of care and pulled out the best tips from each presentation.
The Lesson Learned: Being around a community of educators, all together, in one place, sharing their best ideas, you will learn at least a dozen new ways to connect with your students.
Listen to the accompanying podcast episode: Post-conference Wrap-up 2022 with guests Robin Spoerl, Jessica Daily, Katie Schulz, and Megan Cave
Which brings us to today. The power of a reflective process is two-fold. The first is emotional; looking back on what you’ve accomplished feels good. Reflecting on the hard work you put in – knowing it paid off – makes you feel more capable of doing it again in the future. The second is cognitive; we review the steps that got us an outcome which instills a better understanding of the task itself. When I look back over these articles, none of the practices we shared are theoretical. Every practice, every strategy was implemented by real educators in real schools and they made a real difference in the way students felt when they came to class. If you tried any of these strategies in your school, I hope your reflection leads you to feel more capable, more confident, and more prepared to continue doing this work in the future.
As we think about the upcoming school year, we want to know which topics you’d like us to talk about in this Teach by Design space. Sure, we have some ideas of our own, but these articles work best when we’re covering the topics that matter the most to you. Now’s a great time to give us your opinion!