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Doug Lemov Shares His Secrets


Doug Lemov Shares His Secrets

What readers can expect from Teach Like A Champion 2.0. By Chris Borris

In Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College, the follow-up to his enormously popular first book, Doug Lemov, managing director of Uncommon Schools, provides even more techniques “champion” teachers use—all based on hours of observing and video­taping teachers in their classrooms. The result is an engaging narrative that suggests how educators everywhere can adapt these techniques.

Q | Is there a philosophy or attitude that helps someone “teach like a champion”?
A | You have to want results for your teaching to be about student outcomes. And you have to be the kind of person who likes thinking about refining your craft. That’s the mind-set of any effective teacher. But it’s important to view Teach Like a Champion as a set of tools, not a “system.” Any teacher who wants to get better should be able to find a way to use or adapt some of the tools. There’s synergy among them, but they are designed to serve teachers in becoming the best version of themselves they can be.

Q | Why should elementary teachers or principals read a book about helping to “put students on the path to college”? Is that premature? And where do schools start?
A | You might also ask if it’s too late. There’s pretty compelling evidence that the achievement gap already exists by the time kids enroll in kindergarten. In terms of vocabulary and reading and other skills, the path to college is being blazed from day one.

As to where to start, I would suggest teachers or schools choose a few things and implement them well—trying to do 10 things at once is a recipe for doing nothing well. Many are tempted to start with the behavioral techniques exclusively. There’s logic to that—you want to shape the classroom culture right away. But if you focus exclusively on behavioral aspects, it’s easy to distort what classrooms are about and to tacitly encourage people to forget the connection between classroom behavior or culture and rigor. Strong classroom culture ultimately serves academic rigor. If it doesn’t, it is an empty exercise.

Q | In the Plan for Error technique, one of the questions a teacher can ask a student is “Which of these options do you think is my favorite wrong answer?” What’s a “culture of error,” and why is it so important?
A | The most important skill of a great teacher is the ability to differentiate “They learned it” from “I taught it.” The process of understanding what students know is 10 times harder if they are trying to hide their errors. As we watched great teachers at work, we saw they were constantly socializing students to be unafraid to reveal their errors to their teachers and classmates. Good schools make it safe for teachers to reveal errors by treating them as a normal part of the growth process, and by studying unsuccessful lessons rather than punishing them.

Q | What are the hallmarks of the best professional development for teachers, and what are some PD pitfalls?
A | The best professional development addresses real challenges teachers are facing in their classrooms. It solves problems or seizes opportunities. It also draws on the knowledge of successful teachers to frame the solutions. And it involves practice and reflection. A common pitfall is trying to make PD “one and done.” We know from teaching students that it takes time to master skills. You have to study and practice and get feedback and reflect and apply your skills in new ways. You have to discuss what works and what doesn’t with others. So good PD should happen over multiple sessions and be tied to the other conversations about teaching.

Q | Do you envision a Teach Like a Champion 3.0 with, say, 120 techniques?
A | I’ve already started on 3.0. Honestly. About two days after the manuscript was final and my editors told me I could not under any circumstances make any more changes, I was watching classes and I had two or three really useful insights. So 3.0 is under way. In the meantime, I try to blog as I learn (teachlikeachampion.com/blog). But as for 120 techniques, no way. One of the big challenges is keeping the number of techniques small enough to manage. 

Image: Timothy Raab & Northern Photo

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