More Earbud

Re-read this for background. I was at a conference last Tuesday, and heard it straight from the source. Lee Canter. Peppy, zippy, irreverent. Great storyteller.

Goes like this. The guy sells his vast catalog of teacher prep/coaching books. He chairs the Teach For America board in LA. They ask him to help out. He agrees.


I needed to simplify my behavior management system. It's just 3 damn steps.

1. Give clear directions 2. Recognize who is on task, narrate compliance (actually I think he now calls it narrate the positive) 3. Calmly and firmly correct off-task students.

I trained those TFAers. We role played. They had it down. They passed the test. And once they got in front of the kids....

...the teachers didn't actually do it.

The crowd cracks up. About 30 folks from various teacher prep programs, Ed Schools, et al. We've been there. More Lee:

Well I'm working with one young lady. Frantically wrote down everything I saw in the classroom. Notes and notes. I met with her, a few hours later. We reviewed. There were tears. But then we had a plan. Next day, nothing changes.

I got a camera. Videotaped. A few hours later, I'd show her. Nothing! Still no change.

Okay. Now I'll try anything. I stand in the back of the room. I tell this woman: "When I raise 1 finger, give directions. When I raise 2 fingers, find students, especially the tough kids, and narrate. When I raise 3, boom, give the consequence.

It works! It was one of the biggest revelations I'd had in my career. And that's when I thought: real-time coaching. That's what we need. That's a breakthrough.

So on Saturday, we meet up with our Cohort 1 at the pub. These are the folks we trained last year. Now they're in March of rookie year.

And I run into Mike R. He teaches in Brooklyn now, even has a tiny bit of style to go with his absentminded professor mojo. Achievement First school. And wouldn't you know it, Mike R tells me he found himself on the receiving end of coaching from Lee Canter, just a day after I'd seen him speak.

Did it work?

Mike smiled. "Unbelievable. I knew it, I knew all that stuff, I learned it all last year. But somehow it never clicked like it did when Lee was telling me what to do, right in front of the kids. Totally worked."

I invited Lee to come visit our program and show us his stuff.

Of course right after I emailed him our email server crashed. So I have no idea if he's up for it.