What Is Teacher Efficacy? It’s About Believing in Kids
Great teachers have two things in common: high expectations and encouragement.
A good example would be my science teacher. He assigned my class to write an essay on biomes. It had to be 1,000 words, not counting any words less than four letters. It was really hard. I finished it, but some kids didn’t.
That’s where encouragement comes in. Teacher efficacy is about rooting for kids. When I only get a couple of answers right on a test, or come up a few words short on an essay, a great teacher doesn’t say I should’ve done better. He or she congratulates me on what she got right and helps me focus on how to improve next time.
We sometimes lose sight of the fact that parents and teachers have the same end goal. It can be very intimidating when we are faced by a passionate parent who wants you do everything for their child perhaps with the expectation that this will be at the expense of others in the class. Building a strong partnership through positive communication is important for all students not to mention better for your mental health. None of us are immune to that sick feeling when we are faced with a meeting with a parent we normally have very little communication with but we know they are upset about a decision you have made with good intention. Regular positive communication is the key to build that relationship and minimise surprises during parent/teacher meetings. I know feedback from our last parent/teacher interviews and my experience in other schools was positive when teachers were able to clearly outline where their child was at, what they needed to work on next and where they are heading. I can tell you that no parent looks forward to a meeting with a teacher where they have to hear about the problems their child is having academically or behaviourally. Trust me they will already know. What they want to know is how they can work on that and your are their best resource and ally. There are always exceptions to this rule but if you maintain the positive constructive relationship you can work through these times.
Surprise a Parent
Parents are not accustomed to hearing unsolicited positive comments from teachers about their children, especially in a phone call from the school. Imagine how you would feel, as a parent, if you were contacted by a teacher or the school principal and told that your son or daughter was doing well in school, or that your child had overcome a learning or behavior problem. When you make calls to share positive information with parents, be prepared for them to sound surprised-pleasantly surprised.
Research shows that school-home communication is greatly increased through personalized positive telephone contact between teachers and parents. Remember, when a phone call from school conveys good news, the atmosphere between home and school improves. When you have good news to share, why wait? Make the call and start a positive relationship with a parent.
Trust is about reliability and doing the right thing. It’s also a big factor that will determine success in your job and your career — especially in a rough business climate where your value as an employee is closely watched.
Do your colleagues, subordinates or superiors perceive you as trustworthy and honest? How do you perceive them? Trust is a characteristic that builds respect and loyalty, as well as a supportive and safe work environment. Distrust increases tension and negative “on guard” behavior, which can erode the spirit of the team and ultimately productivity.
Below are six steps to build trust in the workplace.
1. Be Honest
The first step in building trust is to be honest.
Tell the truth. Even small lies and twisted truths are still lies.
Share honest information, even if it’s to your disadvantage.
Don’t steal — on expense reports, from the supply cabinet or your colleagues.
2. Use Good Judgment
The second step is to know what information to share, when to share it and when not to share it.
Protect employee’s personal information and company or competitors’ proprietary information as if it were your own.
Think twice before sharing a blunt, unsolicited judgment. Extreme honesty may hurt the recipient, ironically destroying trust and the safe environment.
Don’t expect apologies to erase your wrongdoings. Apologies might earn a forgive, but perhaps not a forget.
Avoid “just between us” secret conversations unless necessary to the benefit of the company.
3. Be Consistent
The third step is to be consistent in words and behaviors. It’s not enough to be trustworthy only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Show up — every day and on time — and stay at least the required hours.
Do the work; meet or exceed the job description and company standards.
Do what you say you will do. Fulfill your promises.
4. Be Honest in Nonverbal Communications
Body language experts tell us that more than half of communications’ impact is in nonverbal communications. To increase trust through body language:
Look others in the eye with comfortable and direct eye contact.
Exhibit open body language with: 1) open arms versus closed across the chest or hands clasped together, 2) hands kept in sight (not behind you or in your pockets) and open (not in a fist), and 3) legs uncrossed with feet flat on the floor, while seated.
5. Have a Mutually Beneficial Attitude
Blatant self-serving agendas may cast doubt on one’s trustworthiness. In reality, everyone has self-serving agendas, but it is the level of harm to others that determines the level of trust in that person. To increase trust:
Avoid me, me, me. Genuinely care about others and promote we, we, we.
Nurture mutually beneficial relationships with open communications.
Willingly accept information and constructive critique.
6. For the Leaders
Trusted leaders are sorely needed. Leaders should be able to:
Ask the hard questions to build and protect the company.
Listen and consider others’ ideas with an open mind.
Focus on issues and solutions rather than personalities.
Set the example, by being responsible and accountable.
Every time I have a speaking engagement or consult, I hope the people that I serve have very high expectations of what I do. Not only do I want them to have high expectations of my work, I want to exceed their expectations. Having extremely high expectations of yourself, can be numbing and discouraging, as you tend to look at little details with a higher significance. One of my favourite quotes that I have heard recently was from former NBA basketball player Jalen Rose;
Happiness is a function of expectations.
Simply put, the higher our expectations are for ourselves, the harder it is to be happy with a job simply well done. It has to be better than that.
But there are very few positions in any organization, where the success of an individual isn’t tied to the work of the team. Some people seemingly get more glory than others (which can be frustrating), but for any one thing to be successful, there are always several components behind the scenes that others don’t see. These small details in the hands of others, are crucial to success.
I thought of this last night when I was stuck on a plane on the tarmac for an hour, just waiting to pull up to the gate. I do my best to not be frustrated by travel, or else I would be frustrated all of the time. What struck me though was as we were sitting on the airplane, the pilots apologized for the delay and said, “Just to let you know, this is not due to a mistake of the airline, but of the ground crew.” As we got off the plane, one person complained to the ground crew, and their response? It was the airline’s fault.
It is so much easier to place blame than to take responsibility.
As I was listening to people blame one another for the poor service, I was thinking of Bill Belichick’s ‘ mantra, (head coach of one of the most successful NFL franchises, the New England Patriots) “Do Your Job”.
In education, the magic that happens in a classroom is not only because of the teacher. The principal, the custodian, the secretary, the IT department, transportation department, and a plethora of other groups are crucial to create an experience for students that will not only be amazing and unforgettable, but of great value. The thing that is frustrating for many teachers that work directly with students is that a lot of the “magic” is out of their control and the responsibility of someone else. When we all don’t “do our job”, we have to understand that we all look bad, not just the teacher in the classroom.
Education is a team sport. Let’s make sure that we each do our part and exceed the expectations of those that we serve. Every detail and job counts.
So 4 kids in a motorhome…whose crazy idea was that 🙂
Well it has certainly been an “adventure”…a word we began to mistrust every time we heard it discussed as part of the next element of our holiday…
I thought I would take an opportunity to share a couple of stories about some places we visited and the lessons that they taught me and I hope have had an impact on my children. After all it is our children who may have the opportunity to right some wrongs and promote the positive messages we heard or saw along the way. Plus share a couple of photos…
I wanted to talk about a couple of places we visited and some impressions of the things we saw, the people we spoke to and also the sense of the history of the place. For the point of this article I will just talk about Woomera and Coober Pedy in South Australia and Katherine Gorge and Kakadu in the Northern Territory.
Not a lot to say about this place…really just a spot on a map that is famous for it’s missile and rocket testing. Mostly by the British and later the Americans. The town has a park and a museum filled with rockets and missiles. Only military staff and families work in this town. Huge parts on the map around Woomera listed as no access zones around the town. Lots of talk in the museums about all the great work of the various military forces and scientists etc…what was missing…not a lot of talk about the local indigenous population, nuclear testing or the effects of the environment and the traditional owners of the land. It was sad to see but I guess a lesson to be learned.
Like this piece of junk from a movie set (Pitch Black with Vin Diesel) the town is littered with lots of broken bits of old cars, mining equipment and other random junk. The whole area is made up of holes in the ground where many people come to make their fortune mining for opals. It is a little sad what we do to our country in some places in search of wealth. Though the locals seem to love it…definitely a quirky place. We heard lots of other stories in our “adventures” about some of the crazy things early settlers did in some places in order to make their wealth. One story of an early sheep farmer who brought 120000 sheep to Wilpena Pound (Flinders Ranges SA) and in two years turned it from a lush landscape into a desert. It was good to see that it is now on the mend as a National Park.
I taught in Katherine 20 years ago in my second year of teaching. It was like the wild west to a young man from Brisbane even after doing a year in Alice Springs. I like many city kids could not believe the state of behaviour and conditions of and for indigenous Australians and though as a child witnessing a lot of that casual racism within my own family and being ashamed of it at the time it was easy to fall into thinking about these stereotypes and feeling they were justified.
20 years on there are still big problems with alcoholism and racism in our country and it is on show in central Australia, however, we did have an opportunity to listen to a number of indigenous and non-indigenous tour guides and park rangers who gave me hope for the future of this country.
One young man who was our tour guide for the Katherine Gorge was indigenous but not from the Katherine area (he was from the Whitsundays). He decided as it was his last week running the tour that he would alter his tour information. He spoke of the local traditional owners and the great things that they were doing in the area to manage this beautiful place. He told of their struggles and the history of the place. One fact that had an impact was that it only became illegal to kill and Aboriginal person in 1960. He talked of the destruction of the area and the effect on the local people in a little over a 90 year period (NT history of “colonisation” was a lot later than other parts of Australia). He talked of the impact that a decision made in another part of the country depicted in the Paul Kelly song:
had a positive impact in Katherine and the traditional owners were able to fight for their land back. In one of the greatest acts of forgiveness I have heard about the traditional owners decided to share their lands, despite everything that had happened to them, and openly encourage non-indigenous Australians and others to visit and share their culture. Like a number of other indigenous Australian speakers I heard on this holiday he spoke with a pride and a confidence that I had not seen previously in this part of Australia and in other parts of Queensland that I have visited.
Lots of crocodiles (salt water crocodiles)…don’t put your hand out of the boat…ever…
a very beautiful part of the country…despite the crocs
Again stories from tour guides and park rangers spoke of the skills of the traditional owners in managing the land. Lots of information that puts some of our curriculum into perspective when it comes to learning about indigenous culture. A culture that managed the land for tens of thousands of years and of a people who speak often 4 or more languages. Their languages are part of their culture and the words tell a story about the objects they are describing that teach you about how to survive and the laws of their people. It was fascinating.
All in all it was great trip…I am glad to be back though and I will end this post by sharing some photos that show how beautiful our country is and we should all be proud of it.
I understand that our jobs are all a balancing act. We juggle expectations from ourselves, our own lives and families, our students, our parent community, the school and our department. I don’t think we have the balance right yet and it is something we are constantly working towards by reviewing systems and trying to filter down to what is important. I can only speak for school and will not begin to try and review how everyone manages their busy lives. I wanted to take the time in this blog to clarify my expectations and where they come from and also to see how my personal belief in Teacher autonomy can still work in this current era of high expectations, accountability and departmental overarching guidelines. I don’t have all the answers and that’s why I ask everyone to work in teams to try and get to the core of our business.
Without motivation we find our jobs very difficult and we see on a daily basis that motivation can drive our students to achieve or the lack of it hold them back. I have shared the work of Dan Pink with respect to “Drive” in the past.
This along with other work looks at why we are motivated to do our work. And we are all motivated by different things. As a Teacher (or Principal) you are motivated by:
Autonomy – you want to get on with your job as you see fit. You want to have a say and control over how you teach and implement the other elements of your profession. Sometimes the guidelines and expectations restrict your own creativity. Prescribed curriculum and pacing can be frustrating.
Mastery – you seek novelty and challenge and may become bored easily without that challenge. You seek feedback and you look for innovation. Readily try new strategies, techniques and resources. Can be frustrated when things don’t work out the way you had envisaged or hoped.
Purpose – You need to understand the vision and mission in order to be motivated. You need to understand an initiative in order to accept and move forward. You have high expectations for your students and you are interested in what is best for them. You prefer big picture conversations and can be frustrated by conversations about minutia.
Belonging – You seek feedback, interaction and engagement. You are interesting in forging relationships and work well in teams. You are able to reach even the most difficult of students. Your instructional decisions are based on “who” rather than “what” or “why”. You share resources and ideas with your colleagues though can be a little socially awkward.
We’re a complex bunch 🙂
It is probably not as cut and dry as that and we are a combination of all of these. However, we tend to have a go to behaviour. The complexity is bringing that all together as a team, complying with expectations and working towards a common goal. Sometimes I find my job is a case of filtering out the “rubbish” and getting on with what works for our kids. If it was only that easy. So where do my expectations come from how do we make that work for everyone.
Research & Data
Feedback is one of the top 10 influences on student achievement.
It is also linked to a number of targets for literacy and numeracy. This is where the accountability comes from and this is what my Lead Principal will always talk to me about. And this is the struggle for those of us who like our autonomy.
Data that drives our agenda
This is the data that gives the region the most drama…while our ICSEA is 92 and in the light green category of Upper Quartile expectation (compared to similar schools). We are performing in the mid upper quartile or mid lower quartile across the board in year 3 and 5. We all know there are a number of contributing factors and trust me it is not something I lay awake at night thinking about :). It is just something to be mindful of when you question some of the decisions we make around our programs and our planning and coaching strategies.
Planning, Teaching, Assessment and Professional Learning
Our Teaching & Learning Cycle outlines our process and embeds our other priorities. My expectation would be that we use this opportunity to plan together and discuss the individual needs of our students as an important part of our professional learning. It is a way for us to maintain some consistency around expectations though I would hope that this process has enough flexibility to meet your needs. The autonomy can come in the way you deliver your program but remember those involved are using their experience, expertise and research in helping you to deliver a program that meets the needs of all your students. I would hope that you all would readily engage in this process as it also shapes our other resourcing including teacher aide time and extra staffing.
When I came to Payne Road I made a decision that we would use the C2C resources particularly the assessment tasks. I know this is not popular because it can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to the quality of those tasks and the time it takes to deliver that assessment. My belief is that it is important that we deliver the rigor of the Australian Curriculum and at the moment the C2C resources are there to help us do that. From some interesting conversations at the Data Literacy day for Metropolitan Band 7 School Leadership teams we reviewed elements of the Australian Curriculum and the intent of those standards as a “C” standard. If we had the time it would be good to develop some new assessment tasks but at the moment we are all very busy and we will work with what we have.
Reading to Learn and Learning to Read are our current strategies for English and we are still refining. This is our attempt to balance our program (recommendation from the Full School Review) without throwing out everything we have invested in to this point.
Mathematics will probably become part of our review work in 2017 and beyond.
One final word
It is my intention that we approach this work as a team. I will continue to seek your feedback but you must remember we can’t approach all the work within your personal style or motivation (or mine) as the key approach. There will be challenges and we won’t always agree on the processes in place but I would hope that we can discuss these as professionals. Remember the ultimate goal is to improve student learning and in the process build our own capacity to meet these needs.
Thanks for your efforts and I hope your day is not too much of this: