No Teacher Left Behind

Session notes from "No Teacher Left Behind," presented by Jonathan Wennstrom.

What was the speaker’s main message?

If I really believe every student can learn, why would I not believe every teacher can improve? When you believe any teacher can become a master teacher, you can transform your school.

What was the speaker’s best quote?

“I don’t want my teachers to just be excited and enthusiastic, I want them to fall in love with teaching again.”

What were the top ideas from the session?

Drawing on the true meaning of No Child Left Behind, Jonathan Wennstrom challenged principals to apply the same philosophy to their teachers. If all means all for our students, shouldn’t we believe in every teacher every day? So, let’s ask three questions about our teachers:

  1. What do we want teachers to know?
  2. How will I know if they have learned it?
  3. What are we going to do if they haven’t?

With a focus on question three, Wennstrom looked at the different teachers you will meet along the way and, more importantly, how to reach them to make sure No Teacher is Left Behind.

  • The Clueless Teacher: “Kindergarten is kind of like the ocean, you don’t want to turn your back on it.” –Kindergarten Cop
  • The Boring Teacher: “Beuller, Beuller?” –Ferris Beuller’s Day Off
  • The Authoritarian Teacher: “Why are you continuously late for this class, Mr. Spicoli? Why do you shamelessly waste my time like this?” –Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • The Unmotivated Teacher: “We’re watching a movie on the first day?” –Bad Teacher

Wennstrom shared a variety of ways to help and support some of those teachers “left behind,” much in the same way we’d support our students:

  • Positive Behavior Intervention Support
  • Behavior Intervention Plan
  • Targeted Intervention
  • Progress Monitoring
  • Data Reviews/Goal Setting
  • Professional Improvement Plan
  • Continued Support (as long as needed)

If we change our language, we can change our thinking. Some thoughts on how we look at teachers and teaching:

  • Get the Right People on the Bus: As principals we don’t always get to pick our “passengers;” it’s not so much about getting them on the on or off the bus, it is about getting them excited for the journey and the destination.
  • Coach ‘em Up, or Coach ‘em Out: How about we just coach them up?
  • Plow Around the Stumps and Don’t Water the Rocks: We won’t create the schools we want if we ignore the problems (stumps) and don’t give attention to where support is needed (watering the rocks), so let’s tackle the problems and coach for growth.

Remember the Butterfly Effect: Every inspired teacher impacts thousands of students.

Notes by Todd L. Brist, Watertown Middle School, Watertown, South Dakota