April 2, 2016

Ten Minute Inservice Part 5: What Makes a Great Teacher?

by Todd Whitaker and Annette Breaux
Are you familiar with educator/administrator/author/presenter Todd Whitaker? He is one of THE BEST professional development presenters/authors that I've had the good fortune to experience. If not, here's your chance! I've joined five wonderful bloggers in a month long book study series of inservices designed to improve teaching effectiveness in just 40 ten minute sessions.

Here's what Amazon.com has to say about the book...
Quick, easy, specific steps that make a difference in teaching and learning. Busy school leaders need an easy-to-apply resource to increase teacher effectiveness quickly and efficiently. This book shows principals and staff developers how to improve teaching school-wide through high-impact inservices lasting only ten minutes incorporated easily into weekly staff meetings. Written by popular education consultants Todd Whitaker and Annette Breaux, this important book offers 40 teacher-tested, mini-workshops that can improve teaching in every classroom. The book covers a range of topics, from behavior challenges and parent engagement to motivating students and making lessons meaningful.  
*Offers school leaders a proven plan to help every teacher improve on a weekly basis by conducting simple 10-minute inservice workshops  
*Offers staff developers, new teacher induction coordinators, mentors, and Professional Learning Communities ideas for effective training sessions  
*Each of the 40 mini-training sessions offered include tips on how to introduce the topic, sample scripts to follow, and implementation activities to ensure lasting learning  

There are five parts to our book study. If you haven't had the pleasure of reading the blog posts about the first four parts from this fantastic resource, you can catch up with the previous posts:

Part 1A: Classroom Management... Kovescence of the Mind
Part 1B: Classroom Management part B... Tried and True Teaching Tools
Part 2: Teaching Practices... Mrs. Third Grade
Part 3: Improving School Climate... Lessons with Coffee
Part 4: Learning from Others... Teaching High School Math

Part 5: What Makes a GREAT Teacher?

Within this section of the book can be found ten inservices:

Inservice 31: Making Student-Based Decisions
Since we are in the business of education for our students, every decision we make should be based on what is best for our students. However, for whatever reason(s), we teachers often lose focus of this fact. The activity in this section asks teachers to refocus their attention on students by providing several scenarios and posing the question "What is best for your students?" Teachers are asked to supply their own scenarios as well. To implement this strategy, administrators are encouraged to simply remind teachers that although it is easier to make decisions based on personal choices, it is imperative that teachers make their choices based on student needs.

Inservice 32: Because I Like You
Don't you tend to do things for people who appreciate you? Or like you? Or you like? Our students are no different. This inservice reminds teachers that in order to get the most out of their students, a teacher needs to be seen as likable by their students. Tips for improving teacher-student relationships are provided.
  • Smile often.
  • Get to know your students.
  • Express belief in your students.
  • Be encouraging.
  • Be understanding.
  • Be the most pleasant person you know.
  • et al. 

Inservice 33: Professionalism Is as Professionalism Does
This inservice begins with a testimony from a disgruntled teacher and a reminder that true professionals act professionally all of the time.  During the inservice teachers are divided into two teams to play a game; the winning team will earn a treat. What the teachers don't know is that the game will result in a tie. The game consists of answering questions that require teachers to  select the best way to handle a classroom/school environment situation. Even though all teachers do not always behave professionally, they do know the correct way to behave. The administrator conducting the inservice has the opportunity to praise the teacher participants for their knowledge of professional behavior and providing encouragement for always behaving professionally.

Inservice 34: Shifting Your Focus
Are you a half-full or half-empty type person? This inservice asks teachers to try to be positive at all times since what we focus on becomes our reality. If we are focusing on the negative things in our environment we begin to see our students in a negative light. To help counter this frame of mind, teachers are asked to compile a list of "Twenty-five Reasons I am Proud of My Students" and post the list outside their doorway for all to see.

Inservice 35: The Miracle of Smiling
Hearkening back to the previous inservice, this section  poses the question, "How is it possible to a motivator and influence others positively if you are not motivated and positive?" During the actual inservice, teachers are asked to discuss and answer the question. Teachers are reminded that students need and deserve to have happy adults in their lives. Smiling is promoted as a solution... students respond more favorably to positive teachers than to negative teachers; smiling sends the message that you care, and smiles are free but their results are priceless.

Inservice 36: Are You All Right?
This inservice shares a simple technique for dealing with inappropriate student behavior. Take the student to the side, ask the question,"Are you all right?" When the students responds, "Yes," simply say, "The reason I am asking is that the way you were behaving was inappropriate and not at all like you (you might be stretching the truth a bit). I knew that for you to be acting that way, something had to be bothering you. I'm here if you'ld like to talk about it." Simple, easy to implement, effective!

Inservice 37: Your Favorite Teacher
During this ten minute inservice, teachers are asked to recall their favorite teacher and his/her characteristics and encouraged to make a list of these to keep in their plan books or on their desks in frequent view. They are then challenged with these questions: Are these the same characteristics that your students would list about you? Would your students list you as their favorite teacher? If not, why not?

Inservice 38: Your Least Favorite Teacher
This is simply the converse of the previous inservice. Participants are asked to think of their least favorite teacher and compile a list of characteristics they possessed. They are then challenged with the same kind of questions and encouraged to copy ten of these characteristics to avoid.

Inservice 39: The Psychology of Apology
This section offers practical advice for repairing student/teacher, parent/teacher, or teacher/teacher relationships. Teachers are asked to share situations wherein they were not as patient with a student as they could've been. They are asked to brainstorm alternative ways of handling the situation. Regardless of how any situation unfolds, teachers are encouraged to end any confrontation with a student, parent, or other teacher with "I am sorry that happened." No blame is placed or accepted and feelings can be repaired.

Inservice 40: A Teacher's Creed
This last inservice is designed to make teachers more aware of the IDEAL teacher by simply brainstorming as many responses as possible... 
The ideal teacher would _________________________.
The ideal teacher would not ______________________. 
Teachers  are asked to combine these lists and turn them into a Teacher's Creed that is to be displayed in every classroom in the building to serve as a motivator for teacher behavior.

While I have provided a brief synopsis of the content of each of the ten inservices in section five of the book, I have only touched on the depth of the material. Grab a copy of this professional book and use it... by yourself... or better yet, share it with your Professional Learning Community. Even the best teachers and faculties will find practical advice for becoming an even better educator!

Thanks to Sarah from Kovescence of the Mind for organizing this professional book discussion series!


  1. I have shared this post with so many people! Each point is a buzzer-beater!

  2. These are great pieces of advice/reminders. My favorite one is "The Miracle of Smiling". It is amazing how something so simple can have such a big impact. I also love the advice of asking students, "Are you all right?" I will definitely have to try that out. Thank you!

    Elementary Engagement


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