There are roughly 2,300 days of school throughout our K-12 education.2,300! We all can think of at least one moment that was extraordinary in our schooling experience. That chemistry project where you built an ecstasy molecule with toothpicks and foam balls. Your field trip to Lake Tahoe. And, the teacher who told you that you were ‘destined for greatness’. And, the crew of friends that made you feel invincible. Or, that plaque you got in summer camp, back in 1993.
These are moments that matter, that stand out, and we will never forget them. The problem is that there are not enough of these moments, during our 2300 days of school. And our students are slowly being pushed out, checking out, and dropping out of school. But, it is possible to create these moments for our students and staff.
But how do we engineer them?
We need to break the rut
It is easy for school to start feeling like groundhog day, a bad song on repeat, where you do the same thing every day and nothing is remarkable. Teachers sign in and fight the copy machine. The bells ring, students go to class. Kids sleep on desks and check their snap chat in their bags. Then, teachers review Lesson 12A and heat up Trader Joe’s frozen food in the staff lounge.
The grading period ends, we input letters to represent students’ societal value. Then we go and sit in pointless meeting after boring training (unless you do this). Finally, the bells ring. Kids leave.
Rinse and repeat. (ahhhhhh!)
It’s time to wake up!
That is exactly what I hated about school and the opposite of why I got my teaching credential and studied for that damn CSET. I came into this thing, to make a difference.
Something must be done if we are to fully take advantage of our learning time. Our students of color, living in urban and rural areas, and our immigrant youth deserve moments that truly matter. Education must be enjoyable, engaging, and impactful. And our staff needs to feel valued, respected and supported, to this very challenging work.
Book Summary – The Power of Moments
The Power of Moments is all about creating events, space, and moments that matter. The Heath Brothers (I have featured them before) describe various vignettes and studies from the fields of education, business, and nonprofit work. They argue that there are scientific reasons that we remember some moments and forget others. Also, they encourage us to do what matters. They categorize these moments into 4 types of moments:
There are so many anecdotes and stories in their book:
software engineer supervisors are that try to use their product and then decide to revamp everything
a school that uses home visits to skyrocket their performance
a hotel that has a popsicle hotline phone by the pool, making them one of the most popular but cheap hotels in LA
a researcher uses 36 questions to bring people closer together.
But the question is how do we take these theories and stories and bring them to our school, for the benefit of our most underserved students, to actually raise outcomes?
leaders for teachers
Create Insight for Teachers
No one wants to hear that you have all the answers. I used to think they did if my answer was solid, but they don’t.
You should have a vision and but you should create space and conditions for your staff to discover and wrestle new ideas. Heath writes “discovery makes the need for action obvious,” and that you should create, “a situation where they can replicate” your own discovery. (pg. 104-105)
You can do this by doing some reading and discussion. Also, you can organize instructional rounds, created and led by your Instructional Leadership Team. Finally, you can set up learning journies for your staff to see an exemplary practice or program at another school. Or go to a conference together. Here are 7 you can check out.
Fill the Recognition Gap with Staff – Pride
Heath writes, “More than 80 percent of supervisors claim they frequently express appreciation to their subordinates, while less than 20 percent of employees report that their supervisors express appreciation more than occasionally.” Something aint adding up. This is the recognition gap. Also, that “recognition should be personal, not programmatic.” Finally, “The recognition should be spontaneous-not part of a scheduled feedback session-and it is targeted at particular behavior.”(pg. 146-148)
This makes me remember that I need to spend more 1 on 1 time with my staff and let them know that I appreciate them for their work and effort. We all want to be seen and so does your team. You have to let them know, frequently, and evaluations don’t hold the same weight.
The same can be applied to students.
Create moments of elevation for students
In the opening chapter, the Heath brothers describe a Houston charter school that created a college signing day, where the community turns out to hear which colleges graduating seniors will attend in the Fall. This is a huge celebration. “Senior Signing Day became the most important annual event for the YES Prep school network.” It was a moment of celebration for seniors and an inspiration for those in attendance. (pg. 2-3)
Later, the authors describe a mock trial exhibition, where students work on an English/History cross-curricular project, which culminates in a trip to a courtroom and costumes. Students were engaged, staying after school, and never asked how many points it was worth. They were hooked. (pg. 45 -53)
I saw seniors at my previous school, Envision Academy, give a 45-minute presentation, highlighting their favorite projects over the course of 4 years and try to convince an audience that they had mastered all necessary competencies to graduate. De la Soul would definitely say “Stakes is high.” This was a moment of elevation.
To create these moments of elevation, you must, “boost sensory appeal, raise the stakes and break the script.” We are trying to create spaces that are as social as a party, as celebratory as an Olympic medal ceremony, and as entertaining as watching your favorite music video. That’s what school should be like.
I’m going to keep it real. There is so much in this book, and I am glad I picked it up. The Heath brothers never disappoint. I might have to come back to this book in a future post. To be honest, it is hard to make every single moment powerful, but we can ensure that more make an impact. It does take time. In order to do it, we need to break away from the norm. Teachers need time, resources, and support to really do things like PBL. Leaders need to break the routine and get creative. It’s ok to do something crazy once or twice in a while.
The authors write that it is no one’s job to create these momentous moments, but it should be. I think it is your job. Create a culture of powerful moments. If you do that for your staff, they will do it for the students, and students will do it for the world. Boom. And that is how change occurs. If we capture lightning in a bottle, we can do release it and light up the globe.