Jennifer Abrams -Consultancy that informs, inspires, and empowers VOICE
October 2008

Hello!  The school year has started.  Teachers have been helping students with proper headers on papers, appropriate discussion techniques, organization of notebooks, etc.  New teacher coaches have been discussing back to school night protocols, effective seating arrangements, and all the management techniques that make a class run smoothly.  Now that everyone is finding their ‘sea legs’ in the classroom, supervisors are starting their more formal observations, doing walk throughs, and readying evidence for the first evaluation.  

Coming out of their credential programs, new teachers are keenly aware of what the state teaching standards are, and, hopefully, your veteran teachers are ‘in the know’ about the district’s evaluation forms.  BUT, have the teachers in your schools been asked to really self-assess in relation with specific behaviors expected from them in their work? This month’s newsletter will focus on strategically assisting teachers to focus on the key behaviors behind the teaching standards.  

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at I look forward to hearing from you!

Articulating Professional Teaching Behaviors

Spell It Out

In the Palo Alto Unified School District, the Professional Development Office has put out not only the evaluation standards, but also a list of key, visible behaviors that connect to each standard.  For example, if the standard states that ‘the teacher will be able to manage instruction in a group setting” the district has provided a series of specific questions to make that standard concrete. “Does the teacher have the agenda and a warm up on the board when students walk in the room?” “Does the teacher have a procedure for how to pick up the papers for the day?  Where are they located? Is it easily accessible to get to them from the door as not to disrupt others?”  For those who need to make the standard clear and visual, spelling out specific behaviors gives everyone a picture.  You can get a copy of PAUSD’s professional teaching behaviors by checking the ‘Resource' section of my web site at

Toot Your Horn

Before the supervisors do their first formal observation, they ask for the teacher to ‘toot their horn’ when it comes to how he or she is teaching in alignment with the standard.  Teachers take time to write up in bullet points or paragraphs what they feel they are doing well in terms of meeting the standard. New teachers work with their coaches on this self-assessment, celebrating and giving voice to what he or she is doing well and setting up a next step list of where she wants to grow.  For example, what would you write down to describe how the teacher ‘uses a variety of strategies’?  Using the list of professional teaching behaviors, and possible support from the coach, teachers make what might seem invisible visible.

What We Say Can’t Be ‘Seen’

Often times I hear that all of these behaviors I mentioned above are just the science of teaching –that it is too difficult to describe on paper the ‘art’ or the ‘heart’ of teaching.  I agree that there are nuances, layers, and complexities in classroom teaching that are difficult to capture in a list, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't try to articulate them just the same. We need to see soulful, engaging, caring teaching modeled in real life classrooms or made visible in dialogues one can have with colleagues.  If you are a coach, spend time with a new teacher in a veteran teacher’s classroom.  Go with them – notice ‘moments,' the student-oriented, caring choices or comments that a teacher made.  If you are a new teacher, take time to go and observe others.  Pay attention to when you feel safe, when you feel engaged, when you feel positively challenged.  What is going on?  What has the teacher said?  What are students saying? What delights the students?  When do you hear laughter?  Abraham Maslow spoke about how one is either stepping back into safety or forward into growth.  How does a teacher create those conditions of growth?  By being mindful of behaviors that embody both the science and the heart of teaching.

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Cool Resources

On the topic of professional teaching behaviors…check out:

  • Check out The Continuum of Teacher Development, put out by the New Teacher Center.  Organized around professional teaching standards, the Continuum provides a common language for setting and discussing goals for professional development within an environment of collegial support. It is meant as a guide for self-reflection, assessment, and conversation among beginning teachers, mentors and site administrators.

Upcoming Events

Each month I will share with you information about a few of my upcoming trainings.
If I am going to be in your area, contact me so we can say hello, hopefully in person!

Oct. 2
Having Hard Conversations

ACSA Region 8 Delegate Assembly
Santa Clara County Office of Education
San Jose, CA

Oct. 11
Being Generationally Savvy

Mentor Teacher Institute
Knox County Public Schools
Knoxville, TN

Oct. 14
Conversations That Invent Us: Women and Leadership

ACSA Region 8 - Women’s Leadership Network
Santa Clara County Office of Education
San Jose, CA

For additional upcoming events, please visit my Web site.

Until next time,


Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleague. You may reprint this newsletter in whole or quote with attribution to Jennifer Abrams and a link to

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© 2008 Jennifer Abrams | Email Jennifer | 4290 Wilkie Way #L, Palo Alto, CA 94306 |  (650) 858-0699


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