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Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

07.31.14Wait Time and Post-Its

Erica, Colleen, and I are halfway through a two-day workshop for Uncommon teachers from Boston, Rochester and Troy–two days talking about the best job in the world with great people and hopefully help get them better at it. Hard to beat.

The other ‘best thing’ about the work we do is getting to be part of a team with Colleen and Erica.  They’re great teachers (me, not so much), and it’s fun and gratifying to give each other feedback and notice little ways to improve.

One of the things I’ve been working on is my Wait Time.  I tend to call on a participant far too quickly instead of scanning the room and giving lots of people time to raise a hand. Today I sat down at my computer after leading the discussion of a video and found that Colleen had left me this note:

Post It from DriggsHard to describe how powerful Colleen’s note was–not so much because it made me feel good (though it did) but because it helped make me better.  Here’s what I mean:  I had actually been working on my Wait Time for a while and knowing that slowing down made a difference and that Colleen noticed that difference was huge. If the results of my efforts were that noticeable, I knew I would be more likely to replicate them.  How do I know I would be more likely to replicate them? Because at the last workshop we ran,  Erica also noticed my Wait Time when I was working on it and had mentioned it to me. I was so excited that I had decided to keep doing what I’d done at that workshop and do more of it.  In other words, Colleen saw me using my Wait Time more successfully because Erica had seen it a few weeks before and called it out. The fact that Erica had noticed ensured that I did it again at the next workshop.

I’d been thinking anyway about the power of positive feedback because one participant at the workshop, Sarah Lefeber of Roxbury Prep, gave this feedback to her teammate: “That was so clutch. Your pace in walking over to the student was perfect!”  Think of how useful it is to know you got it right. Think of how many times you have gotten something right and not known it and therefore failed to replicate it.  Clear feedback of the “Boom! That’s it!” variety is one of the most useful things you can do… not so much because it makes people feel good, but because it makes them better.

One Response to “Wait Time and Post-Its”

  1. Amy Sponsler
    August 2, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    I had an amazing time in Albany with my new Uncommon family! Thank you, Doug, Erica, and Colleen!

    Amy (the sloucher from day 1)

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