"No Excuses" moves...in Jordan

A former MATCH Corps named Torin is teaching 5th graders via Peace Corps in Jordan.

Some things have held and worked well consistently with the 5th graders, from doing a silent "Do-Now" activity to get the kids focused and thinking from the first minute of class, to a "strike" system where there is an instant and tangible consequence if a student comes to class unprepared, is inattentive, etc. A timer has also become my new best friend in the classroom...seriously. :-)

These ideas I have taken from my work at the MATCH School and tried to adapt them to this new environment, and thus far I have been happy with their success. That being said, I am still working, and will be working throughout my time here, to improve these adapted methods.

For instance, kids at MATCH had easy ways to find out how many demerits they had every week, plus the larger consequences for getting demerits were clear and functioning for them on a daily basis, like detention, Academic Violations, etc. In other words, there were systems in place, and so I am working to figure out a way to implement similar systems here as well, which will take time and support from many different parties. Again though, I have good support from my mudeer (principal), counterpart, and others, so I am hopeful.

And of course, other things have not gone as well as I had hoped, mainly because I realize afterwards that I have not given the kids the proper training to do what I'm asking of them (when it is something completely new, like activities involving stations around the room, which I tried and wasn't too happy with this past Wednesday), and when they haven't had any training of the sort in the past (any type of group work is very new for my kids).

So, it will be a matter of reflecting, revising, and trying again. As my dad puts it very well, I am "in the lab..."

If you do not know of Doug Lemov's "Taxonomy of Effective Teaching Practices", I highly suggest you take a look at it, especially if you are working in a school. I was first introduced to it about a year and a half ago at the MATCH School, and I am trying to adapt and apply its practices to what I am doing here.

Again, some things I have tried and they have worked, and others I need to work on in light of culture- and language-related challenges, and just my own training and experience as an educator. I hope to have it translated into Arabic eventually for the other teachers.

(MG note: I think Torin has an early draft of Doug's book, and given its success since publication here in USA, I wonder if it'll get translated and published in other languages).

But overall, the taxonomy has helped me see, regarding education on an international scale, that there is a LOT of cross-over with what can and should be done and felt in education. The taxonomy was adopted from specific teaching practices in American charter schools, which are culturally quite different than many other schools in the world and even in America, for sure.

BUT, the basic tenets and beliefs behind the practices, effective principles like taking a "no-excuses" approach with students, or always seeing the best in your students, or having really high expectations for student/teachers/parents/etc., are (or should be) universal, and therefore CAN applied universally if enough effort and faith is put into them.

Of course, I have much more to experiment with and see what specific practices really stick for me and what doesn't over two years, but it's pretty cool stuff.

Late breaking punchline: we hear that the Queen Rania herself emailed Doug Lemov recently to ask about a translation of his book. Love it.