Retrospective: The ‘Champion’ field guide for Teachers…

In 2011, I read a few reviews for a “revolutionary” book on pedagogy, by Doug Lemov, ‘Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College‘, (2011, Jossey-Bass), which greatly influenced, positively, and shifted, surprisingly easily, many of my instructional practices in the classroom.  There was such a flurry of press activity around this book that I was too curious not to get a hold of a copy for myself.  It emerged to the surface, among some much pedagogical theory that is churned out for publication, because, in fact, it was controversial in the wake of the neo-revolution of Charter Schools and, more importantly, that it’s efficacy was based on data driven inquiry and observation.  Not ideology, not research, but data.

How to Really Teach Like a Champion‘, Sam Chaltain,(Huffington Post, January 25,2011)  :  http://www.samchaltain.com/how-to-really-teach-like-a-champion

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“…a ground breaking and controversial cataloging of 49 techniques…the book is the most concrete, specific, and immediately actionable set of recommendations I’ve ever encountered as an educator. Those recommendations are also, often, shockingly simple and unglamorous-“(Chaltain).

And another review from the New York Journal of Books, Dave Moyer, http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/teach-champion-49-techniques-put-students-path-college

This initial post is a simply a retrospective look at the the first edition of this text, the guide principles and organizations behind the practices, and introspection as to how ‘TLAC’ impacted the nature of my classroom instruction.  Initial criticism of Lemov’s research and the resulting publication, decried the QUANTITY of techniques (49!) delineated in the book.  Prior to read the text, I felt very suspicious of the quantitative scope of the (49!) techniques, (over ambitious?), and of the amount of attention in the press the book was generating…

 

As I began to read, ‘Teach Like a Champion‘, it struck me how unremarkable, actually mundane some of these techniques appeared; many, were simply instructions on how to move or not move as a teacher in the classroom, recommendations of posture, standing still.  Concrete, actionable, bodily directives.  For example: “When you want students to follow your directions, stand still.  The simply logic, Lemov communicates is, “…If you’re waling around passing out papers, it looks like the directions are no more important than all of the other things you’re doing.  Show that your directions matter. Stand still.”¹ (p.8).   ‘Teach Like a Champion‘ reshaped the other critical points of instruction in my classroom such as student accountability as listeners, raised my awareness & expectations for participation, and restructured concept and practices of grouping students, simply but implementing Popsicle sticks as part of my daily practice.  Likewise, the consistent and frequent use of stopwatch.  All of these seemingly minor reforms in classroom management ultimately equaled large gains towards maximizing time in the classroom with students.  Again, 49 techniques is a tall order; how is that manageable in the real world of a 45 minute class period.  As a reader and a learner, trying to implement new technique and theory into a classroom routine, the benefit lies in identifying individual techniques, formulating smaller units of inquiry toward improvement.  On a pedagogical level, personally I’ve never thought it realistic to completely reform or redesign some thing that is already functioning.  It’s not practical to swallow the entire approach or buy into everything, blindly; especially a pedagogical approach that is/was relatively new to the scene.

tlacHence, I am professionally thrilled to review, assess, and implement Doug Lemov’s revised edition, ‘Teach Like a Champion 2.0‘.  Lemov is a huge supporter of data driven guidance, extracted from ideology & research driven, but more importantly, gleaned from direct observation in actual classrooms conducted by individuals who are actually in classrooms every day.  As Lemov states, “Over the past four years, I have learned as much from watching great teachers in action as in the time it took me to write the original version of the book, if not more.”¹  (p.5).

In this inspirational and comprehensive article ‘The revolution that could change the way your child is taught’, The Guardian, (11, March 2015), Ian Leslie, investigates the author and educator behind the TLAC movement and Lemov’s quest to eradicate the “achievement gap” in education.

Doug Lemov’s involvement and career with Uncommon Schools, a non-profit network, whose mission is to manage or start outstanding urban public schools that narrow the achievement gap and prepare low-income students towards a college preparatory path.  Personally, I’ve always been intrigued and laudatory toward charter schools, the need to engage and hire teachers that are passionate about teaching and not driven by contracts, tenure and union binding job security, and the impact of poverty on achievement.  Although “urban” settings and schools districts are not the landscape of most northern New England communities, I do believe that rural poverty is as detrimental to academic achievement.

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