Culturally responsive teaching isn’t hot sauce
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Questions to consider in the instructional core include how to help confused students and how to encourage the use of new skills.
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Read the Transcript here.
Zaretta Hammond Transcript
Thanks for the hidden play. If you love exploring how to do school differently so you can make a legendary impact on your campus, then you’re in the right place. I’m Danny Bauer, and this is the better leaders, better Schools podcast, the original Ruckus makers show for visionary leaders, innovators, and rebels in education. Thanks to Ruckus makers just like you, this podcast ranks in the top .5% of over 3 million worldwide shows. In today’s conversation, I spoke with Zaretta Hammond. We cover topics like how to turn critics into cheerleaders, what cognitive redlining is and what to do about it, the stages of change, and how to manage change within the school, and so much more. So once again, thanks for listening, and we’ll be right back after a few quick messages from our show sponsors. Hey, Ruckus Maker, I’ll make this quick.
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It’s a plan on how to optimize the five fundamentals found in the Ruckus Maker mindset tool. This simple tool will help you consider where you are now and where you want to be in the next 90 days. For each area, you can complete the tool in five minutes or less. Download it for [email protected]/MindsetIXL takes the guesswork out of lesson planning for teachers IXL’s ready made lesson plans are aligned to your textbooks and state standards so teachers can turn to IXL for the exact content they need to help their students get started [email protected]/Leaders that’s ixl.com/leaders. Even the most highly effective ruckus maker can’t be in all classrooms, offering incredible.
feedback all the time.
So what if teachers could gather their own feedback without relying on you? And not only their own feedback, but meaningful feedback that would improve their instruction. Well, check out the TeachFX app by visiting forward slash betterleaders and you can pilot their program today. Go to forward slash betterleaders to see how executive functions for every classroom isn’t just theory, it’s a practical guide that will show every teacher you lead how to create a predictable and engaging learning routine, empowering your students to become more independent learners. Head over to organizedbinder.com/book to get your copy of executive functions for every classroom today. That’s organizedbinder.com/book. Welcome to the show Zaretta.
Thank you for having me. Looking forward to the conversation.
Oh, I am thrilled. I am over the moon, super excited to have a conversation with you. And I promise not to turn this into a marvel or Lord of the Rings podcast, but it’s very tempting to do so. But let’s go to East Bay and this is a story of change and you’re kind of set up. I’m sort know giving away a bit of the punchline. But this is a great story where a superintendent brought you in and wanted you to work with some leaders, right? And so can you just bring us to that moment, set the scene, let us know who you’re working with and how. Was it a set up?
Yeah, I have done a lot of work, starting with teachers. I was a writing instructor when I was in the classroom. I taught composition at the high school, community college level, and I got asked to come out of the classroom to work with teacher leaders. And slowly over the years and decades that has evolved into working with leaders. And so in this case, foundation had funded a group of leaders to come together. The operating superintendent at the time had reached out and says,Zaretta, could you come and be part of this facilitation? I said, sure. I’d done facilitation for a long time and really helping people kind of get closer to their vision and not just get a vision, but how are we going to actualize and operationalize it? And she assigned people to facilitators to different groups.
She says, I’m going to give you to the orange group. And I’m like, oh, this is great.
Yes, that’s what I think, too. And so we all went off and we had the better part of the day. So maybe two, three and a half hours to really craft a vision. And with an equity focus, I pushed them a little harder because a vision without a theory of change, which is different than theory of action, like a theory of change, is around strategy. And there was a little resistance, and my facilitator chops were in full flex, so they made me work for it. But I got them to a place where they were ready for their presentation to their colleagues. There were probably, like, four other teams. I had to leave early because I was actually in the south Bay and had to drive back up to the east Bay.
And if you know anything about traffic in the Bay Area and San Francisco Bay area, it’s just crazy. So I said to my team. I knew they had it and cheered them on touch bases with the superintendent. And she says, oh, my goodness, if you could have seen the presentation that they gave. And of course, they were a little resistant, and why are we doing this? And I said, well, I had no doubt they would rise to the occasion. She says, but you don’t know. I gave you the hardest, most resistant leaders I had in the district. And I’m like, okay.
I felt good that I was able to get them to make breakthroughs, but I do think that is one of the things that distinguishes the way that I approach doing equity work with teachers, teacher leaders and coaches, instructional coaches, as well as all the way down into that instructional core with teachers themselves who are in front of students, is really thinking about the instruction, the science of learning. Instructional equity, not just diversity, inclusion, and the relational stuff that is really important. And that is why I started to bring the social and cognitive neuroscience into my work. I was talking about cognitive neuroscience when nobody was talking about it, and they were kind of looking at me like I had a third eye, like, what are you talking about? Amygdalas and whatnot. And now everybody’s talking about it, which is great.
This is a science of learning, and we all should know it. And unfortunately, teachers and leaders don’t get enough of that important grounding. So, yeah, that little story always stuck with me in terms of not just the power of me to hold a group so that they can do their best thinking, but they actually had answers. Like, when we press beyond the status quo, they were able to actually say, oh, yeah, and to give themselves permission to do it. Their superintendent was actually opening the door and saying, no, I really want you to do this. Yeah, that was a nice call to get from her, to hear that they really had stepped up and maintained that and could articulate it and won over their colleagues in terms of the vision that they had put forth.
What a testament to your expertise and leadership, working with that team. And that’s the essence of being a ruckus maker, right? Challenging the status quo, figuring out how to do school different. And I don’t know if you could bring us back to that moment, too. You’re talking about them being able to have breakthroughs and this idea of challenging the status quo, and you were pushing them. Do you remember some of the ways that they needed to be pushed in that moment?
Yeah, I do remember because I see it a lot. That was many moons ago, and it is still the thing I encounter when I’m working with leaders. Number one, they want to see change real fast and don’t really have an understanding of how change happens. Like, let’s just start doing that. The other is a disbelief that you could do something different enough to actually make a change. It feels like, oh, to make that kind of change, it has to be overwhelming. We have to change everything at once, and we just can’t do that. So they can’t even get themselves started right. And so what I had to help them do was to really understand a little bit about how change happens. So a couple of things I always lift up at the time good to great was out with Jim Collins.
Clay Christensen was talking about disruptive innovation. So I like to bring in ideas that are adjacent to education. That these things are how startups actually break through. And things that we take for granted is every day iPhones and back in the day, the ipod. Nobody knew they needed 300 songs in their pocket until someone created a different reality. Disruptive innovation is one that I bring in. So we talked about change. What’s one small but high leverage thing you can do that will start a domino effect? And then we also talked about, how do you get early adopters in the early majority, using Rogers diffusion of innovation. So again, what it did was it broke down the wall that they think they had to do all the change right now. But I can do we move and we pull it forward.
The other was the Navy Seals have the saying, how does it go smooth as slow and. No, smoothest fast and fastest slow or something. I’m going to get it right before we end, or we’ll come back around and I’ll make sure I get the phrasing right. But in essence, what the phrase means, and I put it in kind of educators language, which is go slow to go fast.
Yeah, exactly. Go slow to go fast. And I think just to get your back on this, slow is smooth is fast. It’s not because Danny knows it. It’s because while you’re talking, Danny looked it up on Google, but I’ve heard that before. It’s. There’s a lot of wisdom there. I don’t know if it’s, like, inexperienced with change or unrealistic expectations that sometimes are put on us by central office. But we know research talks about changing a school a little bit less time in an elementary, more in the middle, more in a high school. We’re talking five, seven years. But if a principal is hired and fired in two, they’re not given any kind of Runway. So those are conditions. But it sounds like they were in ideal situation.
If I reflect back to you, had a superintendent saying, do the work, challenge the status quo, present a plan, because we want to see you bring it. And my favorite part of this story, and I want you to weigh in on this, is that the toughest group sort of outperformed everybody else. And I think there’s a leadership lesson there because we often write off people and they can’t contribute or there’s all this stuff and stories we tell. So I think it was a blessing in disguise that you didn’t know this was the toughest group, but they were the best performing, like, whoa, what’s going on there? Right. So, actually, that’s my question to you. What’s going on there?
I think, number one, to trust in your people that they want the best for children. If they’re leaders, they want the best for teachers. And sometimes the cynicism we see, or when you think of Rogers diffusion of innovations, he talks about 16% out of every hundred people are. I call them the resistant minority. He calls them laggard. In reality, they’re cynics who have really been idealist, who have just gotten disappointed. And it’s like, how do you help them find their spark again and allow them a way avenue in versus just writing them off and kind of cutting them out of the process. So I think that, to me, know, how do you create that opportunity now? I happen to have had the benefit of cutting my teeth with the Bay Area coalition for equitable. The reality there is their focus was leadership.
They’re now national equity project. But the reality to me was, even though I wasn’t doing leadership coaching, everything we talked about was, how do we create the conditions so that people can actually think about something that can be different for them. And the ability to actually make that change. And this is what I say, one small change. Right. If you think about the compound effect and when they start to understand how change management goes. And this is why we need that strategic information. Right. Ferrari calls it conceptual understanding at the forefront of praxis. Right. We want to go into the informed action, let’s just take action. And we don’t really understand what we’re taking action around, so we don’t want to spend all our time there.
But it was really important for me to help them see and understand and use that for strategic creation of a theory of change. And then out of that came a plan versus let’s just start planning. And then everybody’s like, we’re going to start doing that and we’re rolling stuff out on initiative on top of initiative. You wonder why teachers are burned out and get jaded after a while. There’s no way you make that much change on nine initiatives. So, yeah, I feel like it’s a really important thing.
I’m writing about this right now, too, and just being able to start to think about what that means for me in terms of leading educators, teacher leaders, as well as leaders down that path, in terms of being able to really understand how change happens, particularly when you have that equity or racial equity lens on it. So that we don’t repeat some of what I call cognitive redlining that happens in the classroom because nobody’s coming to school to do that. It’s just embedded in our public education system. It’s just the dna that we can change.
I’m familiar with redlining when it comes to real estate, banking loans, color of law is a good resource for ruckus makers to check out. But this idea of cognitive redlining, can you unpack that for us?
Yeah. Again, building on the notion of real estate or housing. Right. Physical redlining where, depending on who was living in an area, a bank would sanction the underdevelopment, economically of that area. Right. And literally, physically, they put the red line. We know in education a similar thing happened, and it started with literacy. Particular schools, depending on who the children were that were going to the school were under resourced. Not only were they under resourced, but to maintain whatever this sorting was along class and racial lines, we underdeveloped their cognitive capacity. So you can literally go into schools now and see who’s in AP and honors classes. Usually it’s white and Asian students. When you’re talking about where are the other students? Black, brown, poor, white students, immigrant students who have not mastered English as their second language yet, where are they?
They’re sorted somewhere else. We knew that segregation within schools was happening. And folks have tried to address that with detracking and other things, but the cognitive capacity that’s been underdeveloped is never rectified. So that is that notion of the same kind of sectioning off. What divestment are you making when you start to talk about instructional decision making or the most powerful teachers getting placed with the neediest students? We don’t do that in education. We reward a good teacher by actually putting them with more gifted students or independent students, which no other profession does.
Why do you think that is?
Well, because of cognitive redlining. So this is the thing I think is really challenging, right? And we talk about equity, we talk about the history of public education, and I do think because we’ve spent so much time talking about the issue of equity investing money, but the change has not trickled down to the decisions that are made by leaders, by teacher leaders, instructional decision making by teachers when they’re in front of students so that it still is at a very performative level. Joel Mehta and Sarah Fine write about this in their book in search of deeper learning. But they don’t necessarily talk about it as cognitive redlining. They’re like, where’s all this deep learning? We’re doing something different. Kids are using their hands and their brains.
It’s maker spaces, all these wonderful things that a good ruckus maker would want to be bringing into a school. But that is not the experience that most students that are living in low income areas or are being bust in to upper or middle class environment that is majority white. And folks don’t know how to undo that and they don’t really understand what the mechanisms are. Right? It’s more of an adaptive change than a technical one. So this is why that cognitive redlining, I think the science of learning is going to be a wonderful addition because it’s not just talking about implicit bias. That’s where I think people and leaders in particular take the wrong turn. If we just have everyone having courageous conversations, if everybody checks their implicit bias and we’re doing that kind of diversity training, then it’s all going to be rectified.
But the reality is, how are you building the students learning muscles? Right? How are you building the students cognitive capacity to work independently to process information? That’s what’s been underdeveloped. And so because we haven’t really centered the science of learning in teachers repertoire, they don’t actually know how to do that. We say do that. The teacher is like, okay. And then they just put cognitive in front of something right. Or executive function. And it still is the same when I go observe. In classrooms, teachers are not doing instructional decision making. And this is Defore’s third question. Right. Defore and father of PLCs talks about the four core questions. Some people have six, but I think they’re always the four. What do we want students to know and be able to do? How will we know when they’ve learned it? Or successful?
Third question is, what will we do when they haven’t learned that? And what will we do for students who are ready for more? So that third question, when we’re in that instructional core, can be thought of, what will we do when the student comes to us confused? And this is where Lee Schulman back in the day used to talk about this idea of instructional decision making. Now I see the student. What will I say? What will I do? And a lot of teachers revert to over scaffolding. I just need to help you get through this lesson versus the apprenticeship. Cognitive apprenticeship. What will I say to do to get you to use a skill you haven’t used yet, or to remember? Oh, remember that tool I gave you? Ron Rickard talks about it as being metastrategic right out of project zero at Harvard.
His book, making thinking visible. This is what he talks about, like, okay, how are you helping the student be metastrategic? And metastrategic is different than metacognitive. Right. Metacognitive is just, I am aware of my thinking, but just being metacognitive doesn’t tell you how to improve your learning moves. But metastrategic does, because now I’m aware the next level is, what would I change? What will I do differently when I come to that juncture again, where did I understand? Where did I stop? Understanding got confused. So not building student capacity to have tools when they’re confused. Managing the emotions next to cognition, like all of these are fine grained skills to actually disrupt cognitive redlining. But just me saying the words cognitive redlining or culturally responsive teaching, that’s what we have now, folks. Shaking that stuff on everything like it’s hot sauce.
And the reality is you’re just repeating the words, this is not charm class at Hogwarts. It’s not an incantation. And that’s what everybody treats it like we’re saying it. I go look into classrooms.
That’s not what I’m seeing it.
I see teachers carrying way too much of the cognitive load over scaffolding to get the students through the lesson, only to come up to the summative assessment.
They lost. Don’t know what to do.
Our kids are still not hitting the mark, right. They’re not having to build any muscle. And you can’t just give them a 50 pound weight. You don’t go to the gym and start day one with a 50 pound weight. But a coach, a personal trainer would know. To gradually build that, teachers have to be the personal trainer of students cognitive development. That’s the differentiator. And they don’t necessarily know how to do that. There’s not something, a body of knowledge or a process that leaders are given. So they’re just kind of calling in consultants, and somebody says, we do culture. So it’s a hodgepodge of frankensteining of.
Back to, I like the metaphor, the muscle, how it relates to cognition. And the other piece that, from what you’re saying that I’m really resonating with, is this idea that we talk about the change, right, and the things we expect to see happen, but that’s where it ends like we want it. And, okay, so how do you close the gap? And that’s such a crucial piece. Maybe we could talk about that after the break, right? Time with you flies by, and I really enjoy our conversations. We’ll get a few messages in from our sponsors, and when we come back, maybe we could talk about closing that gap a little bit. What makes an assessment effective? I would argue giving teachers access to quick, reliable, and useful results that inform the next best steps for teaching. And that’s where IXl really stands out.
Teachers get powerful insights into student performance on a daily basis so they can address issues the moment they arise. Imagine that, ingesting instruction in real time before it’s too late. Your teachers have a tool that helps them to be more effective and your students continue to grow. Check it out for [email protected]/Leaders. That’s ixl.com/leaders. What do you see in your classrooms and how did you see it? As a principal, you can’t be everywhere at once, so how can you help support every teacher in the building? With TeachFX, teachers can gather their own feedback without relying on classroom observations. The TeachFX instructional coaching app is like giving every teacher their own instructional coach whenever they want it. Ruckus makers can pilot teachfx with their teachers. Visit teachfx.com/betterleaders to learn how. That’s teachfx.com/betterleaders.
If you’re a leader who’s passionate about making a difference in the lives of every teacher and student on your campus, you need to read executive functions for every classroom many teachers find themselves spending more time managing student behaviors, relationships, and needs than actually teaching. But executive functions for every classroom offers a solution. It provides you with the tools and strategies to help your students develop the critical executive functioning skills they need to succeed. You’ll see the impact in their engagement, focus, and overall success. Ready to make real change on your campus? Visit organizebinder.com book and click on the link to order a copy for everybody on your staff. Grab executive functions for every classroom today. Go to organizebinder.com/book. All right. And we’re back with Zaretta Hammond.
And were talking earlier about this idea of how a leader might know we want these shifts to happen in our school. Or like you were saying, culturally responsive isn’t hot sauce. Right. Or in my house, my wife loves old bay. She’ll throw that on a lot of stuff. Okay. And so it’s not seasoning, it’s not hot sauce. You can’t just pop it on and all of a sudden everything is different. But if this is sort of a trend in our industry that we just kind of talk about the shifts, it is important. Yeah. And we’re going to change our languaging around everything, but we don’t actually change our behavior. And then thinking about theory of change and the next tiny step. Right. So we can see that change actually take root. Yeah.
Do you have any sort of pointers for the ruckus maker listening on how to make it real, not just talk?
So we could talk about this very thing for its own episode. But I do think it’s a really juicy place for leaders to live. Right. And the way I say it is, information isn’t transformation. Right. And this means basically that talking is not going to translate it into change. And I see a lot of schools doing book studies, like now you have the information. And what we know is that’s not going to be enough, right. That they really going to need to now have spaces. This is why the PLC structure can be so powerful, to actually take an inquiry stance. An inquiry, meaning that they’re going to have to get in those classrooms and muck around. Meaning they’re going to have to create a hypothesis, pick a group of children and try to change the children’s learning behavior, not force them to learn.
But can you actually stimulate their intellectual curiosity? Right. Because a couple of things will happen for the students that are not engaged. Our brain, once it has that curiosity, you couldn’t look away if you wanted to. It’s why we look at a crash on the other side of the highway, only to clog up our own flow of traffic, and you think, oh, thing has happened ahead of me. And when the reality is nothing’s happened ahead of you, it was on the other side going the opposite direction. But our brain must look. So how do we bring, again, science of learning into classrooms to kind of leverage that so being able to actually understand that, understand the gap between the knowing and the doing. So there’s a messy middle in there. All right? And this is what James Nottingham talks about as the learning pit.
Productive struggle is at the bottom of the learning pit. And a lot of folks want to distance themselves from any kind of struggle, but our brain grows dendrites through struggle, right? The conflict, trying to resolve that, we actually get smarter, more gray matter. So the same thing happens with our muscles physically. It happens with deliberate practice in the classroom. So leaders have to create the space. If teachers think there’s a pacing guide, and I can’t stop to put in new talk structures where my kids can actually grapple. Not going to do that. So it gets really fine grain in terms of structures, routines, the teacher’s ability to do that, instructional decision making to entice the student through intellectual curiosity to get into the learning pit for productive struggle, to feel psychologically safe. So just using the words again, belonging. That’s the new one.
New buzword. We’re all about belonging, but there’s no effort to do that close to our learning. I talk about, how do you bridge from building community in your classrooms to building a community of learners? Because now kids join together and they’re up to something. Right? There’s collective intellectual curiosity that you can leverage. So I do think it’s these small things. When you start to understand, what does it mean to close the knowing doing gap? How do we transition from just information to transformative practices? Not a whole lot, but the few that we’re going to keep coming around to and institutionalizing in our classrooms. So I do think that’s a really big challenge. And leaders being able to walk people through, being that point person for moving through the messy middle. Because I talk about it as the first pancake, right?
Everybody knows what the first pancake is. If you’ve ever made pancakes on a griddle, that first one is just messed up. It’s going to be crunchy and burnt one side, beige and gooey on the other. But nobody shuts the kitchen down. Nobody gets penalized, right? The cook says, oh, some adjustment is necessary. The folks waiting for the food say, hey, okay, we’ll just keep talking and having a good time. Maybe the baby, the dog, the garbage gets that first one and those adjustments are made and the good ones are going to start coming off well. That’s why an inquiry stance I think is so important when you’re going into this work. Right. John Hattie talks about collective efficacy being one of the strongest indicators as to whether or not you’re actually going to be able to make these changes.
But again, those conditions are really important. If teachers can’t make the changes necessary and agree to what they are collectively, this is not just closing a door and freestyle. This is using the science of learning to say, here are our instructional norms. We know that this is what’s going to generate productive struggle. We know this is what’s going to lead to the aha. We know students have to talk about what they’re thinking and doing and grapple with it and not put grades on everything. Right. How do we reimagine what grading looks like? So there are a few moving parts. I tell folks if you undertake this work, you’re looking at 18 to 24 months before you see shifts that feel like this is regular years.
Minimum. And that’s hard for some people. And to your point, if the turnover for superintendents, let alone office folks, and then now principals, it’s a tough gig out there right now, post pandemic for principals to hold space for teachers and to get kids back in school. And it’s a lot. But if we don’t make space for us to make the changes, then we’re being unrealistic and we’re going to find ourselves always kicked back to square one. Yeah.
And reinventing the wheel or just add in. Now we have ten initiatives instead of nine.
Now we have ten.
But I just don’t get why our industry is like that. Because common sense would, I think, tell us that change is always hard and it takes time, even like body composition. If I want to cut weight or put on muscle, it doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t even happen in weeks. It’s like months, right? Like my sort of workout plan. They’re in eight week chunks and then you do another eight weeks. So it’s at least two months. It doesn’t happen overnight in companies. And I don’t know, I think maybe partly the overnight success mythology where you don’t see the better leaders, better schools. I mean, I can’t believe it. Surrey, we’re in year number nine, right? Whoa. How did that happen? If you see the success.
It’s because I’ve been planting seeds and putting in the reps and I heard you use a word, deliberate practice. Nine years of it. Right. And so that’s why some of the things that I’m enjoying in 2024 is because of the nine years of work.
It’s what I would say to that. I think this is where having the equity lens is really important. Not just to be talking about this as kind of a performative act for a leader, but to really understand the history in your own context. You can go back and look at were there housing covenants in this area? When did we start to see the shift in demographics? And what was the response? All you have to do is look at Boston. That response was public about just the idea of equitable education, starting with integration. Those parents came out, those white parents came out of their house and literally wanted to turn over buses and began to turn over buses that children in. So they lost their minds. So when you act like it doesn’t make sense, it’s not rational. It’s because racism is not rational.
The effort to maintain whatever that structure was that does that sorting is not rational and inequity is resistant to change. This is what Michelle Alexander wrote about in the new Jim Crow. The biggest danger I see is leaders think there has to be an imminent racist threat. Someone has called me the n word or made some other overt and then they jump into response. But the slow burn of cognitive redlining, the slow and invisible ways in which these things, these processes, because they don’t look racialized on the surface, are tolerated and integrated, or at least not pulled up like a pesky weed out of our systems. They’re just able to stay in and create these racialized outcomes. I do think that is part and parcel of it.
And then you see the ripple effect even in schools where you do have a majority and not a large number of students of color. So you can go into schools where it’s predominantly white. And the idea that students have such a fixed mindset, they’re wetted to grades. People want keep it the same, right? This idea that the variable could be that I would fail or I may not get the grades that would look attractive to people who are making decisions at Ivy leagues. All of these things are irrational when we start to think about it. Otherwise we wouldn’t do know thing of investing heavily and at the same time not changing at the core. Michael Fullen has talked about this for years. There are other leaders out there who have talked about this in terms of what we can do.
And it takes a brave leader who is truly a ruckus maker. Not in the sense like I’m going to be. We can see that coming. But a good ruckus maker is on the down low. Like, hey, let’s try that. This disruptive innovation. And it’s not the disruptive part, it’s the innovation. I support innovation. So to me, that’s the path forward. Not talking about in this performative way, equity and inclusion. And those are just words.
As I’m getting clear on what it means to make a ruckus and do school different. It’s this idea of, like, making shifts, right? And they can be small, they can be big, but I think that’s what you’re talking about. And it definitely takes a savvier ruckus maker to do it in a way that people. It’s like, I guess, getting people to eat vegetables with a little bit of cheese on top and so they get the greens that they need as a kid. But here you are now eating a little bit healthier. So I have two more questions and then the questions I ask all my guests. But I know you’re big into instructional coaches and you consider them linchpins. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Yeah, I think this is where we go back to closing the knowing doing gap, really understanding. What does it mean to move through the stages of change? The stages of change are for unconscious incompetence. I don’t know what. I don’t know. I’m just going about my business and then there’s conscious incompetence. Right. This is the hero’s journey wake up call. Like, I do not know what to do. And then that is a segue into conscious competence, meaning this is where Mr. Miyagi and Daniel are getting in the pit and in the dojo. And they’re getting better. Right. You have a long path to start to move past that conscious competence to unconscious competence. Meaning I can do this with my eyes closed. Bring me any child, I can make sure they’re a reader by the time they leave my care.
And what we know is there’s not equal space between those. And the linchpin is the instructional coach who is with that teacher to move them through that conscious competence as they get better, as their skills get better. Right? Wax on, wax off. And it’s, again, giving them the professional learning opportunities beyond the sit and get beyond the session to say, how am I going to actually make shifts in my classroom? Because there’s pedagogical legacy. There’s our default setting. We’ll go back to that so quickly because this is hard or I’m afraid my principal is going to walk in, is going to look a little chaotic because I’m trying this only in this, the first week of trying this new thing and I’m going to get dinged. So the instructional coach has a foot between that leadership team and the teacher team.
If they have built their relationships well, they have the trust of the teacher, but they also have the ear of the leader. They’re not just in an administrative role that they really have strategic pedagogical content knowledge, but they are not there to be prescriptive. They’re there to help teachers unleash that and actually kind of let go of one thing so they can grasp to this other stronger instructional decision making that we know is going to be more powerful to meet the goals that the school has put up, usually in their school improvement plan. So I think how we train coaches is a bit underdeveloped. So we train them a lot in coaching. Right. A lot of questioning, but what are you questioning about? You still have to know the science of learning. You still have to understand how to close that knowing doing gap.
You still have to understand how change happens. And there’s so much the coach has to breathe together and to do that where they are helping the teacher kind of rise up into their own knowing. Meaning it’s not the Vulcan mind milled. They’re not going to get it in a minute. And you don’t have to be prescriptive as a coach, but you do have to present them with a closed ecosystem of information. This isn’t go to the Internet because we’re going to do inquiry. What do you think would be the best way? I’m going to go look it up on the Internet. Teachers should have no business trying to look stuff up on the Internet. If I had a doctor who said let me go look it up on the Internet, just going to put my clothes on and back out.
I might just leave in that little gown.
Depend on the question they’re searching. Right.
Thank you. Go do that in your office or go get some other doctor buddies. But that’s not the first thing you say and this has just become normal. So I do think coaches, when we start to build their understanding of the body of knowledge that they want to introduce teachers to, it doesn’t mean teachers choice and voice. But you should say here are six things we know of that six. Pick two. That’s choice for teachers. But the coach is still offering because they understand based on what your situation is, these should be the six things you’re looking into.
I appreciate it. It’s like a menu approach almost.
And I wouldn’t even say a menu approach because it’s not just pick one. This is not strategies. This is what’s the body of knowledge you need. And sometimes a body of knowledge isn’t a menu. It’s a direction. It’s a path. Because again, if there’s an inquiry happening, you’re going to have some delightful discoveries. You’re going to say, oh, there’s some stuff I need to stop doing. Right. I talk about it as keep stop, start before you start doing something. What do you need to let go of? Right? So if you’re assessing current reality in your classroom, depending on your direction, there’s certain things you’re going to tune your eye to. And this is why just saying it’s a menu, I think might give someone a different because erroneous idea. We are too wet it to strategies.
I’m going to bring a strategy to your classroom. And now the teacher is focused on the strategy, not the student. And it’s about implementation fidelity, not can I get this student to change their learning moves and level up and building.
That learning muscle again. Yeah, I think, Zuri, you have a gift. An ignite guide about bridging community, building and becoming a community of learners. You can get [email protected]. Ruckus and the four is the number four. But do you want to say anything about that ignite guide and why a ruckus maker might want to grab it?
Yeah, you actually get the ignite guide and you’ll get a link to a free masterclass I did for my community. Ready for rigor community that talks about some of the things I’ve mentioned in this interview and that idea of how do you start to build students as a community of learners so that you can get them thinking and ready to get into that pit. Right. Where is the joy in the deliberate practice and productive struggle? Right? And this is really what we’re talking about. So the ignite guide, I try to put all these ideas so teachers can come back to them and the video of that master class, they can watch and kind of see how we talk about it. So that was a master class in which there were other educators, teachers, leaders and coaches.
And toward the end, we use a little time for light on the spot coaching. Bring your dilemma, your problem of practice, and we’ll start to use the ideas that were introduced in the master class to help them do some problem solving. So I think it’ll be a wonderful extension of this conversation to help them start to think about kind of what’s going on in their own context. If any of these ideas have struck them as interesting. And they’ll be added to the newsletters so they’ll hear from me. And I try to make sure I provide teachers with resources and leaders with other bodies of knowledge to grow their skill and will and capacity to really kind of create these conditions and to be that ruckus maker, right? That little disruptive innovation that will make change.
And sometimes we have to stand on a tabletop to do it. And sometimes it’s know the quiet conversations we have at the water cooler.
That’s right. So go to readyfor.com slash ruckus to grab that ignite guide. So, Zaretta, if you could put one message on all school marquees around the world for a single day, what would your message be?
Chase, your intellectual curiosity. Neuroscience is so cool, and it is so clear that our brain is a learning machine. And if you give it something it is curious about, it just won’t let it go. And we talk about engagement. How do we get kids to do this? How do we get teachers to lean in? Where is that intellectual curiosity? Because once that gets fired, you can’t stop even if you want to. So I think that should be something like today. Chase, your intellectual curiosity. What’s got you wondering or curious or a little miffed at something that’s going on? Because even that controversy is a type of intellectual curiosity. How do we change that? How do we avoid that? But it can have a positive effect in terms of kind of guiding us deeper into that learning pit, into deeper learning as well.
I’m curious how you build your dream school. And especially if you weren’t limited by any types of resources, your only constraint was your ability to imagine what would be the three guiding principles building this school.
I would have to lead with intellectual curiosity. We build it around notion that your brain wants to learn and paying attention to what you’re curious about. How do we get better? Right? 1%, 2% better? So, deliberate practice and productive struggle are kind of the core things that would help drive the intellectual curiosity to some kind of outcome, not because there’s a grade, but because we built a go cart or we built a computer together or whatever it is. In my case, when I was growing up, it was sewing. I made garments. Like, look, I could actually wear that on the street and no one would laugh because I learned tailoring techniques. So this idea of productive struggle, which actually doesn’t always feel good, but how do we learn to love it?
How do we learn to find the joy, just like we do when we’re exercising and we know we need to push ourselves a little more because we want to run a marathon in three months. But we can only run 3.5 miles now, right? There’s a day where you like, okay, I got to go that extra mile. It’s not going to feel good, but in a week, I’m just going to be breezing past that. And how do we hold each other in community to do that? Right. And I think the last is the idea of go fast to go slow. Right. That part of building that we have to build the dojo for students. Like, if those things are true, then where’s the dojo? Martial artists go into a dojo that’s padded, that’s prepared for them to engage in a type of grappling and struggle.
In this case, it’s the cottage. You’re going to throw somebody, you’re going to push somebody, you’re going to be resisting, and folks are going to be flailing and falling, but the environment is prepared for that. And how do we prepare the environment for this kind of intellectual curiosity, this kind of grappling in a good way? How do we put up structure so kids can talk while they’re doing that? This is not about being quiet, but again, helping each other. Like, oh, what draws your attention? Maria Montessori was onto something because she actually understood cognitive mediation, and this is what she talks about in a prepared environment. So I think bringing something like that and understanding that, it takes time, but it doesn’t mean that we just, oh, we’re just going to waltz in it. We’re going to be deliberate in our pace, right.
But not try to be too fast.
We covered a lot of ground in today’s conversation, of everything we discussed. What’s the one thing you want a ruckus maker to remember?
Disruptive innovation. That even when we talk about equity, it doesn’t always mean you have to be talking about race. You have to have an understanding of how inequity actually presents itself in your environment and therefore know where to place those disruptive innovations, how to get those people that are the resistant minority to be part of the crew, part of the effort to make shifts. How do we reignite their idealism and move them into it? I think it’s a small thing. Again, invite them to follow their intellectual curiosity. Right. And then let’s say, hey, let’s run some experiments. One small change. Let’s track that. Let’s talk to students. Let’s have students pay attention to it. Change is slow, but change is steady.
Whether it’s humans evolving landscapes, changing with the seasons, there’s so much that we can learn about natural ways to integrate change so it doesn’t feel painful.
Thanks for listening to the better Leaders Better Schools podcast Ruckus Maker how would you like to lead with confidence, swap exhaustion for energy, turn your critics into cheerleaders, and so much more? The Ruckus Maker Mastermind is a world class leadership program designed for growth minded school leaders just like you. Go to betterleadersbetterschools.com Slash Mastermind learn more about our program and fill out the application. We’ll be in touch within 48 hours to talk how we can help you be even more effective. And by the way, we have cohorts that are diverse and mixed up. We also have cohorts just for women in leadership and a BIPOC only cohort as well. When you’re ready to level up, go to betterleadersbetterschools.com mastermind and fill out the application. Thanks again for listening to the show. Bye for now and go make a ruckus.
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