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Recognizing—and harnessing—the power of practice

2013 October 31
by HISD Communications

Revere MS Principal Hafedh Azaiez (right) plays the part of a disinterested student at a recent training exercise to let teachers practice techniques they have learned through Practice Perfect.

Most people have engaged in practice at some point in their lives. Maybe they were learning how to play the violin or how to throw a curve ball. But then, at some point, the practice disappeared.

Dan Heath, coauthor of Made to Stick and Switch, argues that the need to practice never disappears; instead, pride, fear, and complacency—all enemies of practice—whisper to us that we are good enough.

In his new book, Practice Perfect, author and educator Doug Lemov explores the principles of practice and details “42 rules for getting better at getting better.” For HISD schools in the Teach Like a Champion (TLAC) pilot program, these rules have improved how they approach professional development and the implementation of TLAC techniques campuswide.

Professional development for teachers used to consist of reading, learning, and sometimes reflecting about a new idea or concept. But Lemov found that for teachers to get over the “get it/do it” gap, professional development had to involve more.

The TLAC schools use a model that includes technique review, video analysis, planning, practice, and feedback components. Teachers at these schools have the opportunity to practice new techniques in a safe, fun environment before “going live” in front of their students.

At first, teachers thought that if they were asked to practice something, it was because they were doing something wrong. Lemov said this “reveals our collective prejudice that practice is only for the novice or the struggling practitioner.” But by using rules from Practice Perfect, teacher leaders were able to overcome this initial resistance and get teachers practicing.

The schools in the TLAC Pilot Program, in partnership with HISD’s Professional Support and Development Department and Doug Lemov, are working to spread the message, “To practice isn’t to declare I’m bad. To practice is to declare, I can be better.”

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