Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Focus on Celebration

"Study after study of what workers want in their jobs offer the same conclusion: they want to feel appreciated." (Kouzes & Posner, 1999)

I don't know of an employee or a leader, for that matter, that wouldn't agree with this statement. Everyone who pours their passion, energy, talent, and time into their craft wants others to recognize their efforts. Most don't need a standing ovation filled with loud sustained applause, but most do need a nod of appreciation that reaffirms their efforts. They like knowing that others value their time and talent.

As I was reading, Learning by Doing, I came across a section of the text on Celebration. The four pages focused on the importance of frequent celebration as a powerful tool within an organization not only to applaud the efforts of faculty but also to communicate the learning communities priorities and promote initiates. The authors claim that what is celebrated is also what is valued. And I easily see their point.

If you applaud a teacher publicly, like this:

As part of our Vertical Demonstration Day on co-teaching and small group instruction, Ashley Russell and Melissa Ross hosted 20 CCE colleagues. The observers were extremely impressed with the fast paced EDC instruction, the students' accountability as they each wrote their answers on a lap size whiteboard, and the organization of the EDC corner. The co-taught MI lesson was equally as impressive, and their small group instruction, both in EDC, and during MI Work Session, were focused on maximizing student achievement. If you want to see a classroom environment that is organized and purposeful, and instruction that is well planned and extends student learning, you must visit their room. Melissa and Ashley are truly an inspiration! (To read about or watch the lesson visit

You are saying thank you to the teachers for opening their classroom to colleagues; You are valuing the time and attention they are putting forth to plan meaningful instruction; You are announcing to others that you value mathematics instruction that extends student learning; You are guiding others who want to learn and grow in this area toward getting advice from Ashley and Melissa.

I connected deeply with this excerpt on Celebrations, because I feel like it is something we do extremely well at Chets Creek. We make every effort to value and appreciate teachers. Every agenda starts with celebrations, each faculty gathering begins with celebrations, and each week in our faculty Memo there are Grammys which give accolades to teachers' efforts. But, regardless of how well I think we celebrate, I wondered if everyone in our organization feels the same way. In addition, I wondered what we are communicating about what we value, and I wondered if our Grammys are specific enough for others to emulate.

I decided this would be an excellent topic for our next Curriculum Leadership Council. I asked the Council members to read the four page article before our meeting day, and we began, like we always do with celebrations. Next, we discussed the reading assignment. Ideas flowed easily. Though most of the comments were positive and focused on our constant celebration, someone voiced their concern that maybe some teacher's efforts were overlooked, or that certain things, like culture, were celebrated more often than curricular items.

I introduced the next task. The CLC members, armed with a roster, The Memo's Grammys from this year, and the School Improvement Plan, would split into their respective Councils. The six teacher leaders in each group, representing Kindergarten through 5th Grade, would note which Grammys were written in their academic area and which teachers received the accolades. Furthermore, they were asked to note whether the accolades were specific enough to be emulated by others, and were challenged to figure out if the celebrations were aligned with the School Improvement Plan goals we had established.

The task took approximately 50 minutes to complete and debrief, and the CLC had many ah ha's. By far, the Reading Council wrote more Grammys than the Math or Science Councils, but overall the group felt like the Grammys were written at a superficial level and teachers could not emulate the accolades based on the Grammy. And, none of the Grammys mentioned lessons on main idea or comparisons, the two goals written into the SIP that we said we would focus on this year. The Math Council, by far, had the fewest Grammys, however several of their Grammys focused on the SIP goal of measurement, and were written specifically enough to be emulated. The Science Council had a good balance of Grammys across each grade level and some were written specifically enough to be copied. Many focused on the SIP but the team felt that could be attributed to the broadness of the Science SIP goals. Each team's reflections left them recommitting to noticing and valuing the work of their grade level colleagues in each content area.

In summary, I believe the CLC valued this exercise as an examination of our Celebrations. We conversed about successes and things we would continue to do, and we discussed areas we could improve upon. As we move forward, I'm excited to see how this exercise spills into, or changes, our practice. I would recommend this reading to other coaches and encourage them to reflect on their school's practices. After all, I think we would all agree that every teacher wants to feel valued and appreciated for their continued efforts, talents, and time.

1 comment:

Dee Dee Tamburrino said...

Suzanne, your blog is a wealth of information from a completely different perspective and I learned a great deal from your most recent post. I had no idea what went on in Council Meetings as I am covering those teachers' classes at that time. What a great way to take a step back and "see the forest for the trees!"

From my vantage point, someone has been popping into my classroom this year without my even realizing it! I've had more Grammys than ever and I can honestly say that it feels really good to be valued and appreciated and to have my work shared with other colleagues in the building.

My corner of the building can be rather isolating and lonely as I am the only 5-day teacher in the building certified to teach general music. I am the only 5-day teacher in the building that touches all 1300 students in my content area. I have no one in the building to whom I can go for additional training or help in my content area.

Our classroom teachers are so blessed to have an instructional coach that cares about them and will do whatever she can to help them grow as educators. I stand in awe of your work with them. I wish I had a Suzanne Shall in my content area!!

As president of Duval Elementary Music Teachers, I hear the same things from my colleagues who are scattered in schools across the district. Some of the comments I frequently hear are, "No one seems to care anything about what I do." "In their opinion, I am simply a glorified baby-sitter." "Why must I fight so hard for every inch of ground gained in the eyes of my colleagues?" "Why can't administrators see the value in my work with these students; I am not trained for FCAT safety-netting." etc. etc.

Thank you for taking the time to analyze the data and provide an opportunity for discussion with the leadership council at CCE. It sounds like their eyes were opened to some inconsistencies in our midst that could easily be addressed.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for encouraging me to bring an intern from the university into my classroom this year. I was scared to death, but it was an invaluable learning experience for me and I am extremely grateful. Had you not nudged me in that direction, I never would have done it and I have gained a lifelong friend and colleague because of it.

Thanks, Mrs. Shall!!