Start Your Momentum Engines!

Written By smcneely

On February 26, 2010

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Early in the week I had an interesting conversation about momentum. Not in a physics lab, but in a principal’s office. The very next day, with a group of administrators, university partners, and literacy coaches, the topic emerged again. And now today, guess what subject managed to make its way into my coaching conversation…momentum…What keeps it going? What kills it? How do you restart it? Everybody’s talking about it. And I can’t stop thinking about it.

Around here, the snow days have nearly sucked the life out of the school calendar and the dreary weather has left everyone feeling out of sync. One of my literacy coaches described the feeling like she was waiting in line; lots of stopping and starting but no real rhythm to the movement. It’s an odd dilemma because we all know that if we can just get one wave started, momentum grows quickly and soon enough everyone is back in the swing of things. So, I’ve spent a significant amount of time this week asking folks to consider how they might pull focus back to priority issues and drive new energy into the work at hand. One thing we all agreed on was that when teachers feel affirmed and empowered, they are more easily motivated. So we brainstormed, asked questions, and made plans for spotlighting and celebrating outstanding practice in hopes we could restart the momentum engine. I’ve included here some of our best ideas.

  • Allow time for commercial breaks in faculty meeting for teachers to share a successful strategy, sample of student work, testimonial of an academic risk that paid off, or think-aloud of how a successful lesson plan came to be
  • Use technology applications like animoto, voicethread, or moviemaker to show off digital images and video of exemplary work
  • Invite teachers to take a school walk (tour the halls and peep into classrooms) as if they were new to the building. What does a quick spin through the building reveal about the school’s values or emphasis?
  • Shake up the traditional faculty meeting schedule by sending critical whole-school information in an email and allow teachers to meet by departments or grade-level teams to share (and capture in print) what’s working.
  • Invite a student to share (in a department, team or faculty meeting) a brief story about an engaging assignment or classroom experience that had a lasting impact
  • Identify a core group of teachers to start a wave of sharing by asking them to pass on an invaluable tip, inspirational quote, valued resource, or piece of text in relation to the school’s focus. Recipients, in turn, “pass it on” by sharing something new with someone else.
  • Leave a sticky note compliment when you visit a classroom. Find something to celebrate!