Find out what is not exemplary.
This article assumes you have read the Rocket Math Teacher Directions yourself, so you know how things should run. They are at the link, or in the virtual Rocket Math Worksheet filing cabinet. You’ll also need to have done observations using our observation form and checklist. You know what things need to change–this is about how to make that happen.
How to make change happen.
These are recommendations as to how to get an implementation of Rocket Math® running smoothly, correctly, and effectively—without unduly annoying your teachers. How can you get every teacher in your building to abide by all the critical features of Rocket Math®? If teachers feel criticized, they will begin to resent the program and you. On the other hand, teachers (especially good teachers) are highly self-critical and, if they understand what should be happening, will enthusiastically self-correct a lot of details without you having to point out their errors. So here are seven steps to getting more of the enthusiasm and less of the resentment.
1. Choose one procedure to change at a time.
There may be several things not being implemented the way you would like (or as is outlined in the Teacher Directions). The temptation is to assign everyone to read the Teacher Directions and then follow them. Ask them to read the directions, yes, but they will need help to actually improve. To begin, just pick one concrete procedure that you want everyone to be sure to do the right way. Pick the most important one—as best as you can.
2. Talk about it first.
Always talk about needed details or techniques in a staff meeting before “noticing” the problem in any particular teacher’s room. If you see a problem in one or more classrooms, don’t ask those teachers to change as your first response. Instead, talk about what should be happening, in a staff meeting, without saying anything about those who weren’t doing it right. Describe clearly what you want teachers to do. Consider writing it down and passing it out as you talk about it. You may even need to have teachers practice it in a role-play scenario in small groups. This can be done for just a few minutes.
3. Give the rationale.
Whenever you talk about a feature or a technique you want teachers to do, explain WHY it is important. Explain it in terms of student learning. (Don’t worry: We’ll give you those in this manual. They are in the Teacher Directions also.) Teachers want their students to succeed, so if you explain why it is important for the kids, the teachers will see the reason for doing it the right way. Have some discussion with the staff to make sure everyone knows both what you want and why it is important to learning. Note: If you have a staff that doesn’t readily discuss, give them the questions you would ask, break them into groups to come up with an answer for each question, and have the groups report out.
4. Give a “heads up.”
At the end of talking in the staff meeting about the change you want to see, let everyone know that you will be visiting classrooms during Rocket Math® to see how things are going. If the change that you are looking for requires preparation, give a week’s notice. If it is just a way of doing things that can be changed immediately, start observing in the next day or two.
5. Follow through with praise first.
After observations where you see people doing what you wanted to see, be sure to tell them personally how impressed you are with their ability to implement a new idea so quickly or so well or with such enthusiasm. At the next staff meeting, after the end of the first observations, praise the people who are doing things well. If more than ¾ of your staff is doing it correctly, you can move on to observing for something new. If less than ¾ of your staff is doing the one specific thing correctly, then revisit the change and let your staff know that you will be visiting again within the next few days. Be sure to follow through with your visits.
6. Follow through with individual help.
Once you are down to a small number of staff members who are NOT implementing the change you want to see, it is time to offer more help to each of them. Once you see for the second or third time that a teacher is not implementing what is expected, tell them what you saw instead, and ask what you can do to help.
Be genuine. More often than not, teachers do not implement correctly because they don’t exactly know how, but were afraid to ask. Ferreting out what the stumbling block is, finding out what’s getting in the way of a good implementation, is the best use of your time. Sometimes, just role-playing what to say or do is needed. Sometimes resources are missing or haven’t been requested. Sometimes a method of organizing better is the key. Often, another teacher will have the key as to how to implement something—so don’t hesitate to use peers to support one another.
You should know that Rocket Math® done correctly will work. If you can get a teacher to do this well, they will be reinforced by the results. Students will end up being more successful, and that is very rewarding to any teacher who really cares. Staying with a teacher until the details are right will end up being worth the time—for you, for the teacher, and, most importantly, for the students.
7. Celebrate 100% implementation.
Keep track of the new things you’ve asked to be changed. Keep track of how many teachers are implementing. Keep praising those who are coming on board. Finally, celebrate when everyone “gets it.” Find a memorable way to celebrate the victory. Some people even create a “bragging list” of all the new procedures that were implemented to mastery by all the teachers in the school.