Stopping The Bus To Get It Right


Reposted from Getting Smart:

Our faculty had decided that we would focus on improving student engagement for the month of December. The first week of this initiative was inspiring. Teachers crafted fun and fascinating lessons that engaged students like never before. During the second week, I did a morning walk-through and noticed a substantial drop in the quality of lesson engagement; teachers had clearly taken their feet off the pedal. The backward slide concerned me. So, I called an emergency meeting at lunch that day. I told my teachers that I had observed a decrease in student engagement. I took a moment to express gratitude and empathy: I appreciated their diligence and understood that “let downs” were natural. Still, we had to honor our commitment to engagement. Our students deserved better lessons. Teachers acknowledged that they had let the ball drop, and then took five minutes to brainstorm engagement tactics for their afternoon lessons.

On my afternoon walk-through, every teacher was back on fire, and kids were smiling again. The emergency meeting proved powerful. Teachers understood that engagement was something I was willing to stop for. As a result, they more consistently attended to engagement in their lesson planning, which permanently raised the baseline level of enthusiasm in our school. This was not easy for me. I adore my staff and I am constantly in awe of their hard work and commitment. It was uncomfortable for me to address them in a severe and sudden manner. But, it was absolutely worth it. “Stopping the bus” not only turned these situations around, but also strengthened my identity as a leader. My staff came to understand that I not only hold high standards, but also enforce high standards. They describe these “stop the bus” moments as times when they most came to respect and trust my leadership.

Building up the courage and will to address your team is the hardest part of “stopping the bus.” I genuinely believe it’s one of the most important and most underused tactics in school leadership. Here are a few other tips to consider when engineering a “stop the bus” moment…

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