Chemistry Lessons and the KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching

There is a wealth of knowledge about what works in great classrooms. There are inspiring frameworks—Saphier’s
pyramid to Lemov’s taxonomy, Teach For America’s TAL rubric, Hunter’s lesson plan—that describe great teaching. We
drew from all of these amazing resources to develop this Framework.    The Framework helps our teachers access this knowledge and expresses our values.

• A commitment to long-term transformative outcomes for kids. We know the ultimate measure of our success is the lives our kids are able to lead.
• Teaching is not an individual endeavor. We teach as part of a team.
• Joy. We are lucky enough to do the hardest, most fun work imaginable. People should have their noses pressed up against the glass, begging for our jobs. Our students and their parents should know that we absolutely love what we do. More important, our students should revel in the joy of learning, struggling, and growing every day.

Beliefs and character (the beautiful blue band) are the bonds that unite the four elements to create a truly powerful compound of student growth and achievement.  Three of the four essential beliefs in the Framework come directly from the research of  Jon Saphier in the Skillful Teacher.  Excellent teachers send the following messages constantly:

1.  This is important.

2.  You can do it.

3.  I won’t give up on you, even if you give up on yourself.

To these three we added one belief that exists in every transformational classroom and school culture across KIPP.

4.  We will help each other.

The seven character strengths in the Framework come from the voluminous research of Martin Seligman: Grit, Zest, Love, Social Intelligence, Gratitude, Hope, Self Control, and Humor.  Across our network people may propose or adopt alternate character strengths but the central idea is intentional character development (ours and our kids) is essential to our mission.

If we screen for beliefs and character the rest of the behaviors in the Framework can be taught.  A new teacher with the right beliefs can learn to check for understanding, lesson plan, and have challenging conversations with colleagues that lead to better results for kids; a skilled teacher without these beliefs or willingness to develop these character strengths will not ultimately help students towards transformative outcomes.

I’ll confess chemistry was where my lifelong dreams of being a scientist officially fell off the map.  However after sitting in the back of a rollicking seventh grade science class for most of the year I may have just enough content knowledge to pull this analogy off.  Character and beliefs are the covalent bonds that allow intentional classroom culture to combine with knowledge, teaching cycle, and self & others to create and sustain transformative teaching.

Next Post: The four elements of Excellent KIPP Teaching

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One Response to “Chemistry Lessons and the KIPP Framework for Excellent Teaching”

  1. jsmith6 Says:

    After spending more time reading through the framework I have many initial thoughts. The first of which is related to joy.

    I LOVE that joy is a big part of the framework. The next thing I’d be curious about is how we transition that to the high school level. What does joy look like in the high school classroom as opposed to the middle school classroom? Now that I’m teaching at a high school, I notice there is noticeably less focus on the j-factor, in an attempt to create a more college-like learning environment. I don’t believe it’s that high school teachers (or students) like joy any less, but part of it is an uncertainty about what is appropriate joy for an 18 year-old. It’s no longer math chants, end-of-year trips, or ticket systems. So where and how are we building in just as much joy in high school, that students feel is age appropriate and makes them love learning?

    Dolan, I know you and I talked about this briefly this past weekend, but I’m curious if other teachers have thoughts based off of their own experience teaching high school (or middle school), or even from their own high school experiences.

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