• Common Core State Standards, Factors Influencing Student Achievement, Responsive Coaching, Teacher Evaluation, Autism

  • JP brings together several critical factors in the development of an effective school.

  • JP partners with schools and districts across the country to provide intensive professional development for scientifically-based programs.

  • JP Associates offers our sites grant writing assistance. Take advantage of our experience writing successful grant requests.

  • JP works with schools providing training on how to ameliorate teacher weaknesses brought to light through the process of teacher evaluation.
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Multi-Tasking is a Lie

Have you ever been in a meeting or on a phone call and the other person is working on something else, while they are talking to you? They usually say to you. “I am a bit busy, so I am multitasking. Don’t worry I am listening.”  Well, they may be listening, but they are not focusing. They are not concentrating.

In a 2014 article, we learn from Dr. Napier:

“Much recent neuroscience research tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly. Each time we move from hearing music to writing a text or talking to someone, there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain.”

That start/stop/start process is rough on us: rather than saving time, it costs time (even very small micro seconds), it’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time it can be energy sapping.”


In addition, if you are multi-tasking when someone is talking to you about something of importance to them, how does that make them feel or what does that say about what you think about their issue?

As educators, how do we like to be treated? We expect our students (and our staff during meeting and presentations) to have eyes on us, take notes and ask questions—in other words to focus on the matter at hand.

Of course, for years we have been presented with the “successful” person who is whipping through an office dealing with a plethora of details and decisions.  We are lead to believe that is what successful leaders do. Wrong.  This MAY be the result of good leadership, and if it is, it is preceded by thoughtful, deep consideration and reflection.

Still think you can multi-task? In her article, Dr. Napier provides a simple test. Click here to take it.https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creativity-without-borders/201405/the-myth-multitasking

If you want to efficiently and effectively address an issue, then focus.  Use all of your faculties to deeply explore the question and reflect on the potential answers.  You will save time, your decisions will be better and you will build stronger relationships with the people you lead.

Tell Me What you Did Wrong

You are working on a problem, let’s say it is a math problem, and you keep coming up with an incorrect answer.  Whether you are an adult or a child, one of the most frustrating things someone can ask you is, “Tell me what you did wrong.”  The thing is we don’t know what we don’t know! If we did, we wouldn’t be doing it. We’d be doing it right!

Depending on your coping skills, you either find a way to let the person know the problem you are having or you just shut down.

Now imagine this happening in a classroom and the effect it as on teacher and student alike.

Teaching Most or Teaching All of your Students

The difference between a teacher who can teach most of her/his children successfully and a teacher who can teach ALL of his/her students successfully in large part depends on a teacher’s ability to correct effectively and efficiently.  Errors provide an opportunity for learning (for both teacher and student), but only when they are corrected effectively. The teacher’s response can correct the error in a way that maintains the student’s dignity or can respond in a way that is shaming or threatening.  In Charlotte Danielson’s Rubric, the teacher whose skills are unsatisfactory conveys to students that, when they have difficulty learning, it is their fault.  This only makes the problem worse.   We know that stress impedes learning and can cause resentment toward school and learning.

So what IS the teacher to do?

The job of the teacher is to uncover the error on the part of the student and provide correction procedures that will move the student on the appropriate road towards being correct and achieving mastery. The effective teacher looks at student’s mistakes as opportunities to truly analyze what caused that error to happen, and adjust instruction the next time they teach a similar concept.  They also need to decide on an appropriate intervention for the current situation.

Here is the model that JP recommends and uses when we coach in the classroom:

  • Model:  When a student errs, interrupt the error by saying, “My turn.” This lets students know they have erred before they have a chance to think the wrong answer is actually the right response.  After interrupting the error, the teacher goes on to model or tell the correct answer.
  • Lead: The next step is to practice the correct answer with the student or students. This is called the lead or guided practice step. At this point the teacher says, “Say it with me”.  This step can be practiced as many times as necessary until there is reasonable certainty that the student “has it”.
  • Test:  When mastery is likely, the teacher says, “Your turn” and the student repeats the correct answer. This step is called a “test”.
  • Starting Over:  The last step of every effective correction is starting over. This provides a delayed test of the item and provides students another repetition of the correct response. It also assures the teacher that the student now “gets it”.

What Not to Do

Never say, “Try again”.  Students give you the best answer they have the first time.  If they “try again” they are likely to give you the same wrong answer or another wrong answer. If that happens, they have practiced and actually gotten better at making errors!

If you choose to go on to another student, always go back to the student who erred and re-ask the question. This demonstrates that you WILL hold the original student accountable. Be cautious about going on to other students because if they do not know the correct answer, all of your students will be exposed to multiple wrong answers!

Once an error has occurred, it will take three times as many repetitions for the student to internalize the correct answer.

10,000 Hours of Practice

Another way to think of repetitions is Practice. In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. How does Gladwell arrive at this conclusion? And, if the conclusion is true, how can we leverage this idea to achieve greatness in our students?

Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success.  One of the examples he shares in the book dates from the early 1990s.  A team of psychologists in Berlin, Germany studied violin students. Specifically, they studied their practice habits in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. All of the subjects were asked this question: “Over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?”

All of the violinists had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age twenty, the elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice. The elite had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers.

Natural Talent was Not Important

One fascinating point of the study: No “naturally gifted” performers emerged. If natural talent had played a role, we would expect some of the “naturals” to float to the top of the elite level with fewer practice hours than everyone else. But the data showed otherwise. The psychologists found a direct statistical relationship between hours of practice and achievement. No shortcuts. No naturals.

How Many Repetitions does it take?

Classrooms are made up of students at various levels of mastery and at different skill levels.  The number of repetitions needed to learn new material is different for each group.  Below is the number of repetition different groups of students need to learn new material to a level that they have internalized it.

High Achievers: 10-12 repetitions

Average Students: 25-35 repetitions

Naïve Students: 1400 or more repetitions

This is good news.  There is no implication that some children cannot learn. Some just need more practice than others. Practice that teachers can, and need, to provide.


Errors provide opportunities for learning both for the teacher and the student.

The teacher can collect data on the kind of errors that are happening and why and then adjust their instruction to avoid that kind of error.  The more teachers can reduce the incidence of errors, the more instructional time they have for practice and new material.

Students see that learning is a process and they shouldn’t be ashamed of errors, but embrace them as a way to learn. No shame. Just learning. 

Three Daily Questions for Leaders

Society can put too much emphasis on leadership.  In books and movies, it is the leader that seems to make the difference. That is true in real life as well, but with out followers leaders are just "a voice in the desert."  We can't all be leaders and it would be a pretty confusing world if we were. 

It is a bit of pet peeve that such emphasis is placed on leadership.  I have a friend who served 20 years as a New York police officer. He retired as an officer. People would ask him, "What happened? Why did you never get promoted?" 

His answer?  "I liked being a patrol officer. I got to meet people and build relationships, not just between me and them, but between them and the department. It is where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do."

He had a vision and mission and he pursued it and stood by it.  Now he is a nurse still helping people and building relationship. 

The Three Questions

Here are three questions leaders should ask themselves regularly:

  • Why am I a leader?
  • What does being a leader mean to me? 
  • Am I fulfilling my responsibilities to the people I lead?

Leadership isn't a title-it is a way of living.

Friday Reflection: School Mission

The end of the week is a good time for sharing an idea/thought for reflection.

Effective schools share several traits. One of them is there is a clearly stated mission and a shared understanding of that mission among leadership, staff and families.

  • If you asked your staff to state the mission of your school could they?
  • And if they did, would they all have the same understanding?
  • Yes? Great, move forward and make that mission a reality.
  • No? You need to do some work.


You can’t achieve a goal, unless it is effectively shared, discussed and agreed upon.

Leadership Kaleidoscope

Remember kaleidoscopes? Not sure if they are around or as popular as they used to be, but I remember getting one when I was a kid.  A kaleidoscope is an optical instrument, typically a cylinder with mirrors containing loose, colored objects such as beads or pebbles and bits of glass. As the viewer looks into one end,light entering the other end creates a colorful pattern, due to repeated reflections in the mirrors. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

Here is the beauty of the kaleidoscope:  each of those pebbles or beads or bits of glass have a beauty of their own individually, but when blended they provide a more intricate and unique beauty.

6 Styles of Leadership

It is the same with leadership.  It is a blend of traits, qualities and styles. There are some qualities like consistency, fairness and honesty that are mainstays—they are part of who we are not just as leaders, but as people. Often it is these qualities that attract people.

Then there are styles of leadership.  Michael Fullan in “Leading During Change” identifies 6 leadership styles:

  • Coercive: demands compliance (Do what I tell you)
  • Authoritative: mobilizes people toward a vision (Come with me)
  • Affiliative: creates harmony and builds emotional bonds (People come first)
  • Democratic: forges consensus through participation (What do you think)
  • Pacesetting: sets high standards for performance (Do as I do, now)
  • Coaching: develops people for the future (Try this)

Fullan tell us that, “Two of the six styles negatively affected climate and, in turn, performance.  These were the coercive style (people resist and resent) and the pacesetting style (people get overwhelmed and burnout).  All four of the other styles had a significant positive impact on climate and performance.” 

Leadership isn’t one Faceted

Back to the kaleidoscope —if we never turned the tube, we would always see the same image. The full function of the kaleidoscope would not be realized.  Utilizing only one style can hinder the leader’s influence.  Effective leadership is multi-faceted –just like the challenges they face are multi-faceted. 

Here is a ridiculous example to make a point.  If the school was on fire, you would not use a democratic style.

“Hey, what do you think we should do?”

You would jump into authoritative style: “Come with me”

What kind of leader are you?

Most of us have one style that is dominant.  I don’t believe the majority of leaders (there are always exceptions and outliers) wake up and say, “I am going to be coercive and force people to my will.”  More than likely they believe that they know what is best and people need to follow them for their own good. They don’t realize they are losing people or creating resentment and resistance.

Leaders should self-reflect on their leadership style and determine what it is and if it is working. Is its impact on the people you lead, positive?  Are you getting the results and responses you want? Are you losing ground?  What is its effect on you?

In addition to self-reflection, reach out to staff you respect and with whom you have a relationship. Reach out to people you know disagree with you. Reach out to your peers. Reach out to your supervisors. Ask them about your leadership style.  Ask them how people perceive you.  What is working and what is not.  Let them know you want honesty—that there will be no fallout.  This calls for courage, but not any less the courage leaders ask of their staff when they give feedback.  

Then armed with this data/information apply what you have learned.  Keep documenting, reflecting and tweaking. Leadership like school improvement is a continuous journey.  

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