After the summer break, I was always filled with good ideas and good intentions. Inspired by workshops and readings about teaching language arts, I was ready to try new strategies. I’d set goals like:
And then the grading and planning would pile up, a crisis would distract me, or students would respond to my nifty new grammar plans with yawns and rolled eyes. About December it would hit: I was not going to achieve my goals.
I know now that I set myself up for failure. Those goals were so big, they quickly became overwhelming (by about the 17th postcard). Research shows that to actually follow through on goals, we need to break them down into specific, concrete steps that are time-specific. Psychologists call these implementation intentions, but I prefer the term when/then statements, because it helps me remember to keep them focused.
When I first learned about when/then statements, I was skeptical about how well they worked, so I decided to try them out in my yoga class. I set my intention—when I’m between poses, then I’ll do a sit-up—and went to class. At first, I just caught myself not doing a sit-up. But within just a few days, I was regularly doing sit-ups between poses, and after a few weeks, it became routine. Now, I don’t even have to think about doing them; I just find myself doing them. The when/then statement helped me first notice what I was doing (or not doing!) and then—finally—to change the behavior.
Take my big goal of providing positive communications. By breaking it down into the behavior I wanted to achieve (send postcards to all students) and adding the how and when I could achieve it, I could actually be successful. Here’s what it would look like:
When: At the end of each day,
Then: I will write two postcards to students and their families about their achievements
That’s much less formidable than the idea of writing 125 postcards!
We believe in the power of when/then statements to help change behaviors—and we’ve made them a part of our new online program, Instructional Support Strategies for Teachers. Your small steps can add up to big improvements in your Instructional Support interactions.
Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in September 2014, but has since been revised to keep the content relevant and accurate.
Exciting news! Teacher materials are now available in Spanish for Infant/Toddler and Pre-K CLASS Group Coaching. Both videos below discuss what is included, when cohorts can begin, and the process behind preparing and translating these materials. The first video is in English and features Campbell Buie and Richard Aguilar. The second video is in Spanish and features Sofia Rodriguez and Richard Aguilar.
So, it’s June and you have just wrapped up the year with your students. They have made tremendous progress over the course of the year. The routine of the day flows naturally, the expectations about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior is fairly clear to all of them (and to you), and you leave the school year feeling confident that they are ready for the new challenges that lie ahead. You go into the summer months looking forward to a much needed break, but also looking forward to your new group of students in the fall.
As a Certified CLASS Affiliate Trainer, I enjoy reading the discussion posts and responses in the CLASS Learning Community. It gives me further insight into the areas that teachers have questions about, and the responses and techniques that members of the community are sharing with others. Usually I just sit back, read along, and take it all in.
Then recently someone posted, “I'd love some great examples of what Quality of Feedback looks like when you're working with less verbal children. For instance... creating an effective feedback loop off of what a child does more so than what he or she says.”