Excellent Teaching On Demand

By Jen Keyte, Teaching and Learning Labs, Instructional Director, KIPP Foundation

I often ask veteran KIPP teachers about their advice for teachers who are new to the KIPP Team and Family. Their answers almost always sound something like that of KIPP New Orleans fifth-grade math teacher, and nine-year KIPP veteran, Sally Winchester: “Get in other teachers’ classrooms. Figure it out. It’s all things you can do, little pieces you can bite off and start tomorrow. Spend as much time in other teachers’ classes as you possibly can.”

As we say at KIPP, “If there is a better way, we find it.” Over the last few years, we have been capturing video of KIPP teachers, providing others a virtual glimpse into the classrooms of some of their most effective KIPP colleagues around the country. Unlike live observations, teachers can watch these videos on their own time, making it easier for them to embrace the commitment we share to continuous learning.

Similar to the Reality TV Video Library produced by DC Public Schools, the focus of an article published last week in the New York Times, our clips include classroom footage of observable teacher behaviors and snippets of interviews. The subjects of our most recently produced videos are ten highly-effective “Featured Teachers” from within the KIPP network, who were carefully selected based on the results consistently demonstrated by their students. The clips are all aligned to the KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching (KFET), so that teachers can use the clips to hone in on specific competencies and behaviors they might be working to develop.

KFET equips us with a common language that allows us to collectively talk about what we’re seeing, aided by the “sticky labels” (or memory clues) you see in ALL CAPS and parentheses after many of the teaching behaviors. Teachers might choose to do this alone on their own time, or they might watch clips with an instructional coach so they can engage in a discussion about what they see and can apply to their own classrooms.

School leaders and coaches also use the clips as part of the on-site professional development (PD) that they are responsible for planning and leading. Last Monday at SPARK Academy in Newark, for example, Special Education Coordinator Kerry Boccher showed the clip below of Featured Teacher Shauna Mulligan from KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate during a PD session for staff called “We are all Special Education Teachers.” (This is in reference to the behavior in KFET that says: “An excellent teacher knows what to expect and how to support our students with special needs – *EVERYONE’S A SPED TEACHER).

Kerry explained, “It was an intro to our vision for special education at SPARK Academy – and we talked about how we work to serve ALL of our kids.  Because we are based on an inclusion model, we all need to have the confidence to stick with the kids who need it the most. This clip did an amazing job of tying together the idea that we are all special education teachers to our larger vision as a school. We talk a lot at SPARK Academy about the idea of sending students the messages of ‘This is important and I will help you’ as a way to motivate both ourselves and our kiddos and we think Shauna really showed that in the clip.”

This clip of Shauna is less than five minutes long, yet the impact is powerful. Analyzing Shauna’s behaviors using KFET, teachers at SPARK Academy might have been focused on the way Shauna’s words and actions communicated high expectations (*KEY MESSAGES) for all students, while others might hone in on the way that Shauna determined which individual student needed intervention (*CFUs), and the way she immediately intervened (*YOU DON’T NEED AN INTERVENTION TIME TO INTERVENE). Someone else might pick up on the way she asked him questions to discern where his understanding had broken down (*QUESTIONING), all the while maintaining a tone that communicates what excellence looks like, and demanding it (*WARM & DEMANDING).

And all of this in just five minutes. What a strong example of how complex the art and science of teaching truly is.

Recently, our current Teacher Leader Cohort watched a five-minute clip of Featured Teacher Mary Gardner from KIPP Harmony in Baltimore while gathered at our 10th annual KIPP School Summit in Orlando. With KFET in hand, teachers challenged themselves to practice using KFET’s “sticky labels” as they excitedly analyzed and discussed the multiple behaviors Mary exhibited while teaching her first graders to count coins.

What do you see Mary doing to ensure all of her first graders are mastering this objective? Click here to watch Mary’s clip and leave a comment.

We look forward to sharing more clips of KIPP teachers throughout the school year. We invite you to download KFET and join the conversation so you can experience the joy of watching and discussing excellent teaching right along with us! Stay tuned for more this September.

*To learn more about KFET and professional development at KIPP, click here. >