‘Teach Like A Champion’ Author Gains Insight from HISD Middle Schools

As students enter the classroom of Edison Middle School teacher Mical Roy, he and his students go through a daily ritual called “threshold.” It may sound like a wrestling move, but it’s simply the act of Roy greeting his students at the door and inquiring about their day. It’s a little gesture that starts everyone off on the right foot, and establishes a warm, friendly environment.

“It’s amazing how just letting a student know that you are interested in their day can make a difference,” said Roy who has been a teacher for seven years.

Threshold is one of several techniques Roy uses to manage his classroom and it’s also one of 49 in the best-selling book “Teach Like A Champion” by Doug Lemov. Lemov recently visited with Roy and other HISD middle school teachers for insight on how they are using the techniques from his book to improve discipline and academic achievement on their campuses.

A former teacher himself, Lemov is the Managing Director of Uncommon Schools, a network of 32 charter schools across Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. Lemov and Uncommon Schools have partered with HISD for a pilot program at seven middle school campuses. It’s the first time the charter school founder and principal has collaborated with a public school district on such a large scale and Lemov commends HISD and Superintendent Terry Grier for their unwavering comittment to the project.

“The great majority of students in this country are educated in a public school setting, so the more we can learn about making a difference in these schools and for these children then the better off we’ll all be,” said Lemov.

This is the second year for the pilot program at Edison, Fleming, Grady, Hartman, McReynolds, Pin Oak, and Revere middle schools. While the first year concentrated on classroom management techniques, this year the focus has been on rigor and increasing academic achievement. Watch a video about Doug’s visit to Edison below.

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“It’s been really beneficial to implement these techniques in my classroom and to see how they are working in a positive way,” said Roy, who admits to reading Lemov’s book in graduate school but feels he was never given the support and guidance he needed to implement them in his classroom until he joined HISD this school year. “It’s been a really amazing experience.”

In addition to the book, HISD schools involved in the pilot program have received personal training from Lemov and his colleagues as well as regular workshops and feedback from lead teachers assigned at each campus.

“Incorporating opportunities for teachers to practice together with their colleagues is an important piece of why our pilot has been so successful,” says HISD Professional Support and Development Academic Program Manager Pasha Goodman. “It’s not just research and talk about the techniques, but let’s get in there and practice before we go live in front of the kids.”

The teachers also videotape themselves using the techniques and then critique each other. So far results from the program have been promising with campuses reporting less behavior and discipline problems among students as well as increased test scores.

HISD hopes to expand the program next school year to include more campuses and offer workshops for all teachers. The opportunity to continue working with HISD excites Lemov.

“Knowing that teachers are using these techniques to improve and grow makes me very optimistic,” Lemov says with a grin. “I can’t wait to take what I have learned back to my geeky little teaching shop.”

Lemov also visited Grady Middle School during his recent visit to Houston. You can read his thoughts on the visit in his blog. Watch a video about the program below.

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