Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

03.23.13Giving the Gator


Not bragging, just saying- that’s me and that’s the Grady Gator. He’s big.

Did I mention that one of the reasons for the positive mojo over at Grady Middle School is definitely the Gator?  (With whom, I am a little proud to say, I had my pic taken today.)

Every week one designated member of the staff “has the gator.”  He or she observes throughout the school and then sends out a note ot the staff, highlighting some of the bright spots they saw in their journeys.

The. Gator.

Ms. James and the Gator. I think he likes her better.

For example, here’s what one teacher wrote: “I had the opportunity this week to observe several classrooms looking for TLAC strategies. Needless to say I was very impressed with all of the teachers who allowed me to observe their best practices. What I observed throughout all of the classes was TLAC strategies such as “Stretch it”, Systems and Routines, Threshold, Strong Voice, Right is Right, 100%, Positive Framing, and No Opt Out. We have some really great teachers at Grady and just visiting each class for five or ten minutes reminds me, teaches me, and motivates me to apply the many best practices I see happening in other classrooms. What I see at Grady are teachers just doing what they do, being natural and authentic to their own teaching styles, bringing a variety of expectations and learning experiences to our student body.

Or this one:  “As I walked around and did my observations, I was amazed at how many teachers were easily using multiple TLAC strategies. I got to witness No Opt Out, Cold Call, Positive Framing, Smooth Transition, and Check for Understanding. I was getting more engaged in the lesson because I was amazed that the TLAC strategies pull you into the lesson. By witnessing the teachers in action, I gain a better understanding and an eager attitude to use more TLAC strategies in my everyday lesson. What I see at Grady are teachers just doing what they do, being natural and authentic to their own teaching styles, bringing a variety of expectations and learning experiences to our student body.”

It’s worth noting that the esprit de corps is crazy high at Grady.  And is there any wonder why? They’re constantly building a culture that honors each other’s work and opening their doors and being transparent about what they do–read: trustung each other.

Anyway after the group praise, the Gator for that week singles out one person for special props. That person gets the Gator for next week and does the observation and the awarding next time around.  Here are the kinds of things that they say about one another when givin’ the Gator:

 “I loved walking around campus and seeing all of the TLAC-ing going on! This week I popped in many of your classrooms and saw a collection of Cold Calling, numerous No Opt Outs, hundreds of 100%’s, and a sampling of Strong Voice! One terrific teacher, or as she prefers to be called la profesora perfecta, really stood out. Congrats to this week’s TLACer, Señorita Hodgins for the tremendous amount of techniques I saw while observing her class!  When I entered the room, students were diligently working on copying their new vocabulary words into their notebooks so that they could study for their upcoming quiz. Once the class was done, she asked for 100% of the eyes to be on her. She waited for one naughty kid in the back to get himself together—and then she briefly reviewed the procedure for the game they were going to play. While giving instructions she used tools to Check for Understanding—like “shake your head yes or no,” “fist to five,” and “hands in the air if you know what to do.” They then started their game of Quiz, Quiz, Trade—which you could tell was a System and Routine for reviewing vocab words, as they knew exactly what to do. All of the kids were actively engaged—and Ms. Hodgins and I even joined in the fun.” 

Or this: “This week the Grady TLAC Gator will be rooming with Mr. Jackson, 7th grade LA.  During my short visit I observed the “Do it Again”, “What to Do”, and “Stretch it”  strategy. Mr. Jackson specifically utilized the Right is Right strategy and Stretch it strategy. When a student answered a question the student was required to answer in a complete sentence rephrasing the answer into a sentence, no doubt serving to reinforce for  every student the concept being taught. Like Jeopardy, there should be a proper way to verbally respond to questions. Mr. Jackson has instilled those expectations in his students already in the early days of our school year.”

I mean, who doesn’t want to work at a place that’s all about 1) getting better 2) honoring your peers 3) taking your picture with a large metallic gator, right.


Leave a Reply