The 1 Thing You Must Do In Every Job Interview

Following is a Guest Post from Dave Kerpen.  Dave Kerpen loves interviewing great candidates for his companies. Dave is the founder and CEO of Likeable Local. He is also the cofounder and Chairman of Likeable Media, and the New York Times bestselling author of Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business.

The original article found here resulted in over 1,100 comments both pro and con and 526,000 views.  What do you think?

I recently interviewed an excellent candidate for a position at our growing startup,Likeable Local. The woman had an incredible resume, an infectious personality, and, seemingly, a great work ethic. She was dressed for success, with a style fitting our culture. She answered all of my questions well, and seemed like a potential excellent fit for our company. Yet, despite all of this, she didn’t receive another interview, and I absolutely couldn’t seriously consider hiring her. What went wrong?

P question

When I asked her what questions she had for me, the job candidate replied, “None, really. I’ve been following you guys online for awhile and feel like I know everything already.”

That was a fatal error, of course. By not asking questions, she told me she wasn’t truly interested in learning more, in creating value, and in our company. I couldn’t hire an otherwise very-well-qualified candidate because, in her lack of questions, she displayed a lack of passion for, interest in, and curiosity about our company and the position.

The most important thing you must do in every interview is to ask great questions.

The key is to ask great questions- not to ask questions that you should know the answers to already (“What does the position entail?) or questions that make it all about you (“What is your vacation policy?”)

Here are 9 great questions you can use or make your own on your next job interview. Obviously they’re generic and should be tailored based on circumstances:

1) Who would make the ideal candidate for this position?

2) How will the work I’ll be doing contribute to the organization’s mission?

3) What were the best things about the last person who held this position?

4) What are three ways I can contribute to the company beyond the job description?

5) How can I best contribute to the department’s goals?

6) How do you see me best contributing to the corporate culture and morale?

7) What do you see as the biggest challenges of working here and how can I overcome those challenges?

8) What is your vision for where the company or department will be in one year? In 3-5 years?

9) How can I best help you and the team succeed?

Of course, the more research you do in advance, the more you can ask specific questions about the company’s recent news, blog posts, product launches, plans, etc. But here’s the bottom line:

Ask questions that demonstrate genuine interest in the organization and how you can fit in to their success.

Remember, also, job interviewing is a two-way-street! By asking questions, you can get a much better sense of the organization you’re interviewing at, and the extent to which you’d even want to work there.

An interview is just like a date. A date is a two way street– where both parties are seeing if tis a right fit. The dater who talks and talks, even if they’re a good match, seems disinterested in the other person. It’s the same with interviewing. Show that you are invested and interested in the person, by asking questions.

When job seekers come in to Likeable not only with great answers, but with great questions, I get excited about the prospects of hiring them. And hopefully, they can get some great answers from us, and get excited about the prospects of working there as well.


Now it’s my turn to ask you some questions. What questions have you asked in job interviews? If you’re a manager, a recruiter, or in human resources, what questions doyou recommend that job seekers ask? What questions shouldn’t you ask in interviews? Let me know your answers in the Comments section below, and please do share this article with your network if you think it’s helpful.

For a FREE collection of Dave’s best stories on inspiration, marketing and more clickhere.

If you liked this article, you will like:

How to Dress for Success Today

7 Simple Steps to Reinventing You

College Grads: Master These 15 Simple Skills

Dave Kerpen loves interviewing great candidates for his companies. Dave is the founder and CEO of Likeable Local. He is also the cofounder and Chairman of Likeable Media, and the New York Times bestselling author of Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business.


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The Power of Goal Setting in Elementary Classrooms

Influenced by the work of John Hattie in his book Visible Learning, this year we moved our work on student goal setting forward.  The Calgary Board of Education was piloting their new IRIS platform in which we participated.  IRIS is a web-hosted platform where each student has their own page called “Understanding Myself as a Learner.”  Teachers were expected to work with students to support them in developing Learning Goals, Learning Strategies and Artifacts of Learning.  Through this work our goal was for students to understand themselves as a learner, own their learning, develop agency, and develop clarity about what they needed to learn, how they were going to learn it, and what it was going to look like when they learned it.

On April 8, 2013 a group of 9 students ranging from grade 3 to grade 6 gathered over lunch to share their experiences around work with Iris. Although we had a few questions in mind, the conversation was generative as students responded to each other.


Students articulated that the process of working in Iris helps them to see clearly what they could accomplish, and how they could accomplish their learning goals. Many students testified that Iris helps them to ‘remember (their) goals and keep working on them,’ and ‘set goals and then set next goals.’ Consistency of student voice around the way in which the organization of space not only supported initial goal writing, but also consistent re-thinking and adjusting of present goals to form ‘next’ goals was evident. While students were initially unsure as to whether they engaged in the goal setting/strategy thinking/understanding myself as a learner process prior to Iris, they realized they had been engaging in this work previously; however, Iris made it ‘easier’, ‘more simple’, ‘not too hard’ and ‘not messy.’ ‘It is easy to pull up and you don’t have to look through paper.’ The ‘layout is more organised’ and ‘helps us to progress’ and ‘see our timeline for achievement.’ Students were sure they were engaging in this work in the Iris space. Teacher support and presence in the work was consistently spoken of. When asked why they set goals, students responded with such comments as, ‘so you can accomplish them,’ ‘so you know what to do,’ so you don’t forget’ and ‘so things don’t get lost.’

IRIS When discussing artifacts, most students said they use them to show ‘how (they) are as learners’ and ‘what strengths and weaknesses’ they have.  ‘Say, if I show a Math test, it shows I am interested in Math and proud of my high marks.’ Some students didn’t feel they would/should show work they were not proud of, and one student believed it was not an artifact if it didn’t show you were ‘good at something.’ Further, student voice suggested that the artifact should be something that was important to a particular student and something the student was ‘proud of.’ Some students responded by saying that they might show an artifact that is ‘not good, but doing well in’ so that a teacher could help them. Students felt it was important to comment on why they chose particular artifacts, and how these particular artifacts connected to their goals, strategies and understanding of themselves as learners. Since students normally connect goals to strategies, one student suggested that a tab might be helpful to link the strategies to goals and avoid closing goals each time you want to add a strategy. On whether it might be valuable to group artifacts, some students shook their heads while others said maybe this would be a good idea to show work you were good at and work that you were not so good at, or to show a series of artifacts about the same topic as this might be helpful for a teacher. An album with several photos was suggested. Students wondered about the possibility of sharing artifacts that showed their ‘own stuff’ – photographs and videos from out of school activities. These artifacts could be separate – on the right hand side of the page. A conversation ensued around why students might share certain artifacts to illustrate who they are as learners.

IRISDuring our discussion on sharing, most students felt it was natural to share their learning plans with teachers since ‘they’ know how to ‘help you get better,’ and this sharing would only help them further. Teachers could see what you were struggling with and think of better ways to teach you. Students suggested that teachers should let students ‘think first,’ and one young man said that sharing the work with teachers could be difficult as teachers could move you away from a goal you were focusing on. This might ‘distract’ you – ‘flipping mind’ was a term used by one of the students. This space is ‘private’ to you. Most students thought it would be a good idea to share their work with their parents so that parents would know what they were doing in school. A number of students shook their heads quite profusely when the topic of sharing plans with friends came up, although one student thought it might be helpful as you would want to make it better if this was the case, and that friends could also help with strategies. Subsequently, a couple of students began to acknowledge this might be a good idea. However, parents would be more ‘trustable.’ Students said that they could just sit next to friends and parents if they chose to share work with them. A tab to enable the possibility of sharing particular items, or whole pages was discussed, and many students thought this would be a good idea to limit the sharing.

A couple of more technical questions/concerns were raised near the end of the conversation.  There had been some audio file ‘troubles’ with Garage Band, and students thought better instructions were needed for audio uploading. Some artifacts had disappeared, and there was a problem with the page moving up when students clicked the space bar. Students felt that 150 characters were too few to write what they needed to say and 450 might be more reasonable, and the capability of sizing photographs would be helpful. A couple of students said that occasionally a window pops up to say that iris can’t open at this time.’

Students were positive and excited about their work, and eager to share their learning before we left.

Authored by: Mandy Hambidge, Calgary Board of Education



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The 2 Most Important Skills Every Teacher Needs

Over the past nine years I have had the pleasure of hiring (and the displeasure of firing) new hires into their teaching careers.  In watching teachers come into the profession some just “have it.”  Some seem to be innately programmed to be teachers.  For others, it is a much more difficult road to travel.  Additionally, there has been much awareness brought up about “teacher burn-out” and teachers not being able to survive this profession.

It has taken nine years of watching, listening, and observing to come to understand that there are two distinct differences between teachers that excel and love the profession, and those that do not excel and are prone to burn-out.

1.  Reflective Practice

The power of a reflective teacher is unstoppable.  What I have noticed about reflective teachers is through their abilities to analyze, clarify, pinpoint and adjust their practice they move into a distinct zone of improvement.  The improvement becomes noticeable each week.

The reflective teacher knows how to:

  • Create lessons designed for specific purposes and to meet specific outcomes;
  • Adjust these lessons to the needs of different students;
  • Observe students;
  • Talk about and share successful and unsuccessful features of the lesson;
  • Create a better lesson based on this information;

When a teacher is able to get into this reflective flow, they become intellectually engaged and oriented to supporting the learning of their students.  With this engagement their practice becomes energizing, goal oriented, and challenging.

2.  Coachability

Hand in hand with reflective practice is coachability.  Coachability speaks to the teachers capacity to:

  • hear feedback;
  • analyze and understand the feedback;
  • implement the feedback into their teaching.

Without this, it is unlikely a teacher will be successful in growing and learning themselves. They become closed and rigid to ideas and suggestions and feel there is no other way to do things; what they do now is good because they have always done it.  Unfortunately, a teacher who is not reflective or coachable has difficulty adjusting their practice to the needs of different learners.  This leads to frustration with their students, and often a mindset of changing others rather than changing themselves.  We all know changing others is a futile task, and here comes teacher burn-out.

English: A teacher and young pupils at The Bri...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What can I do now?

The good part is it can be easy to develop the skills of reflectiveness and coachability if you don’t already have them.

  • Be open-minded; you need to learn something new everyday;
  • Listen;
  • Take notes; what are you doing and what are others doing that is successful or unsuccessful (we learn from our mistakes);
  • Work with colleagues; in all ways – open up your practice;
  • Ask questions.

We know that teaching is a demanding, busy, spontaneous profession.  Thriving in it is possible when we understand that those who thrive are reflective and coachable.

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Be a Principal With No Regrets

…On losing a student

When I decided to start a blog I never ever thought I would be compelled to write a post about the death of a student.  However, this week six year old Astha who is in grade one at our school died.

It has been a complicated week emotionally.  So many questions, who will go to the funeral, how will the school honor Astha, how will we tell the students and other parents, how will we support her grade 4 sister when she returns, what do we do with her file and student records, how long do we keep her desk in the classroom…. all sorts of things.

Its my nature to go into efficient mode when faced with a traumatic event.  Make decisions, get things done, keep busy, keep out of my head and although I did do that to some degree, as the hours went by I found there was only one thing I really needed to do,

Be there to listen to any staff or students who needed me.

Don’t make decisions now, deal with what is most important now; the feelings, and emotions of those affected.

People have asked me, “What are we going to do for Astha?” and I just keep replying, “I’m not sure yet.” I just feel like we need time to grieve, process and understand the intense loss our school has suffered.

I am most thankful that I knew Astha well.  Last year when she was in kindergarten I got to know her, I saw her most everyday and said “hi” to her.  She was scared and timid at the beginning of kindergarten so her and I went for a few walks around the school.  We would go and visit her sister.  This year in grade 1, i continued to say “hi” to Astha, I would greet her at the door in the mornings when she came to school.  It made me think about my role at school and one of the most important things I do and can do more of:

Get to know every student, be visible, be friendly.

How horrible would it have been if Astha had died and as principal I had never taken the time to say hi to her or get to know her a little bit?

Although Astha has not even been gone a week, and although she was only six years old, she has taught me a powerful lesson…. we are here for each other, the relationship the principal has with staff, students, and families is crucial and critical and needs to be attended to every day.

I will never forget Astha.  For such a little girl, she has left a big mark on our hearts.

Be A Better Principal Through Collegiality

Who Was Your Teacher Today? Teachers Learning From Teachers.

I recently shared a TwitPic I had found online.  To my surprise (sort of) the picture resulted in about 40 retweets and 30 new followers.  For me, this amount of response is unusually high so the picture obviously struck a chord.notes

As you can see, the picture depicts what looks like high school students taking pictures of information on the screen.  It is titled Note Taking in 2012 which leads us to believe and imply that students are using their own devices (BRING YOUR OWN DEVICE BYOD) to take pictures of notes rather than using the paper pencil method.

The twitter post resulted in some interesting comments:

@lorilynnecullen No BYOD policy & no phones in class in my district. Post notes on my website & use remind101 for my 6th graders & families.

I only have one response to this, “WHY?”  When students use their own devices to communicate, find information, and store information what  we are essentially telling them in schools that ban BYOD is, “We are not going to be efficient and current and engage you in ways of thinking and learning that you automatically and intuitively use outside of the classroom.”  Schools are supposed to be current, relevant and engaging so why are you banning BYOD?  I’m glad @ChristinaMLuce is making the best of it and doing what she can.

@lorilynnecullen any other form of note taking is a complete waste of time.

I like this.  Life is too short for long hand.  We can gather and store static information in an instant.  What are you using your classroom time for?

Stephen Turner ‏@SteveT_AU @lorilynnecullen Great, but even quicker would just be getting digital copy straight to device. Taking pic of board is pretty analogue…

@SteveT_AU should work for the district that has banned BYOD.  He obviously has a strong understanding of efficiency and using  classroom time as efficiently as possible.

R.T. Chidiac ‏@RChids@lorilynnecullen one more way to differentiate instruction also builds capacity for the ethical use of technology #edchat #edtech


I love twitter most for this reason; educators analyzing, understanding and describing authentic practice.  I would love to see this picture as the answer to “Show me one way you differentiate for students who struggle with written output.”  Also, @R.T.Chidiac could influence the No BYOD district with his point here about ethical use.
Michael Dushel ‏@MichaelDushel@lorilynnecullen Better would be for the teacher to email it or EVEN better would be to build the notes together in shared electronic form
Shelly Vee ‏@raspberryberet3 @MichaelDushel @lorilynnecullen this is awesome butI agree Michael; more effective if build notes together to #constructknowledge

I love how @MichaelDushel replied to the picture and as he was replying took his understanding of constructing knowledge together even one step further.  He makes a great point, that if this is a picture of a teacher writing or delivering information to students who listen, surely we can do better by constructing and creating understanding together.

The above are examples of critical dialogue amongst teachers that improves practice.  As Michael Fullan states:

For teachers to improve their practice they learn best from other teachers provided that these teachers are also working on improvement. These exchanges are thus purposeful, and based on evidence.

Thank you to my colleagues for creating purposeful dialogue and exchanges designed to improve our thinking and our practice.  Where would we be without each other?

Maximize Your Impact as a School Principal

So many things happen at school around Christmas time.  We are busy with concerts, activities, food drives, helping families with gift baskets and gift cards, making presents for parents and learning Christmas traditions.  We get all wound up with all this business and typically its a race against the clock to get everything done.

This year, a Christmas card showed up in mailbox.  It was from a grade 5 student who had come to our school last year from a different city.  He had had a rocky school history, battling with behavioral and attentional issues.  There had been good days and bad, but here is what the card said,

Dear Mrs. Cullen,

Thank you for taking care of our school and helping this school to be an awesome place.  I think you run this school really good.  Thank you for helping me when I am angry and supporting me and encouraging me to do awesome.  Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

After I read the card a few times, I really started thinking about his message and the things he had taken the time to mention.  I want all students in the school this way so maybe if I focus on:

  • “this school”  –  having a whole school presence. Being around the school and visible every day and in all aspects of school life.  Dropping in to classrooms, clubs, and intramurals.  Being visible during entry and exit both inside and out.
  • “helping me when I am angry” – let’s face it, I’m here to help.  In the good times and the bad.  When students are having a bad moment, when they are angry, or frustrated, or mad I am here to help students cope with those emotions, not punish them for having these emotions.  The best part about each new day is that it is a new day.  Everyone gets to start over without yesterday hanging over them.
  • “supporting and encouraging me to do awesome” – all kids, all the time.  What can I do to create the conditions where children are successful?  HIMG-20121220-00008ow can I manipulate or change the conditions or routines to support children?


Ending the year with this message that reminded me of my true work as a school principal was a delightful gift.  Funny how our students are able to identify what is important to them and for school leaders.




How to Hire the Perfect Teacher; Interview Like a Pro

For the past several years, springtime has brought about the opportunity to interview teachers for the upcoming school year.  Interviewing is a skill and an art that I was never taught,  In fact, my only experience with it before I became a principal, was the experiences I had myself when I was interviewed for a job,  This in no way made me an expert, or even slightly qualified for that matter.

As usual, whenever it was time to interview a candidate, I would go to the Internet to google possible interview questions.  Sometimes I would sit together with other teachers from the school and think about our current practices and what types of things we would want new hires to be versed on.

Often times the questions looked something like this:

  • What types of assessments do you use to determine the reading proficiency of your students?
  • Tell me what a typical science lesson would look like in your classroom.
  • You have a student who speaks very little English, how would you support that student?
  • How do you work with team members?
  • You notice two students fighting during a soccer game at recess, what would you do?

Although good, these types of questions never really seemed to get down to what I really wanted to know.  In fact, all these questions really demonstrated was the interviewees ability to answer the questions.  It reminded me of taking a written test to see how good of a driver you are.  Really, I knew nothing about how effective the teacher was following these types of interviews.  What it would come down to was who answered the questions in the way I thought they should be answered.  It was simply a chance for a teacher to show what they had memorized or what they knew; not what they did.

This year, I wanted to do better.  Somehow I had to get better at choosing the best candidate for the job!  As I was discussing this on twitter one day, Todd Whitaker pointed me towards his book Six Types of Teachers.  In chapters 9 and 10 of the book, Todd brought up some great points and got me thinking.

How can a teacher demonstrate their teaching skills, during an interview?

With this in mind, my trusted colleague and I set about constructing a different type of interview question.  In the end, we came up with the following three questions:

  1. How would you impact the academic achievement of your students?
  2. How would you impact the community and belonging in your classroom?
  3. How would you impact the culture and climate of the whole school?

Being very open-ended we were very curious to see how interviewees would respond to these questions.  We deliberately used the word “would” as in “How would you…” because we wanted to see if the interviewee could put themselves in a classroom in our school.  Had they taken the time to find out about this place, our students, our goals and how they would fit in here.  We didn’t necessarily want to know “How do you….” we want to know “How would you…”

In order to fully answer the questions, candidates were notified of the questions before the interview.  They were asked to bring to the interview an artifact or evidence showing how they would make the impacts we identified.

English: Children and their teacher at the Mou...

English: Children and their teacher at the Mount Nathan State School, ca. 1913 Several schoolchildren standing beside a timber one-room school in the Gold Coast hinterland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the interview, we had a very specific and purposeful job of probing or asking more questions.  We wanted to get down to the nitty gritty.  Once a candidate explained for example, how they would impact the academic achievement we would ask three main questions:

  • What is the purpose?…. the purpose behind the task, of doing it in this way etc.
  • What are you teaching (by doing this big project or unit)?
  • What did your students learn?  How did you know they learning it? What did you do if they didn’t learn it?

Following the interview, we were able to have a very rich discussion about the artifacts and examples the candidates brought forward.  None of the questions we asked led them into our way of being, and none of the questions gave right or wrong answers.  Presumably the candidates showcased their very best which gave us the opportunity to visualize their fit at our school.  We knew that if a teacher featured differentiation, personalization, engaging students in different ways or assessment it was a part of who they are and what they do.  If they didn’t even bring it up, probably it does not mean much to them.

For now we are going to stay with these three interview questions and work on honing our skills of listening and visioning.  I am most interested to hear about interviews you are conducting.  How do you find the just right teacher?

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Be A Pro-Active Principal With Student Behaviours

Over the years I have come to understand that pure school “discipline” does nothing to support a student in changing undesirable behaviours.  Discipline takes a tedious amount of time, energy and unpleasantness and in many cases does nothing to support the student.  Additionally, discipline is reactionary.  Wait until something goes wrong and everyone is in an uproar, then do something about it.  After my first couple of years as an Assistant Principal dealing with the discipline end of things, I wondered if there was a different way, a better way.


Around the time I was searching for a different and better way there was a grade 3 student in our school that had been diagnosed with a severe emotional/behavioural disability.  Needless to say, he found it difficult to cope in a classroom.  I don’t really know how it started but we decided to have one of our Education Assistants take him out of class for a short while and just talk to him.  See what was up.  To our surprise, he enjoyed it!  So, we did it again the next day and the next day and the next.  I would see them together at times walking around the school, out in the garden having a chat, sitting in the hall just being together.  Before we knew it, the student started to demonstrate a noticeable decrease in behavioural incidences.



After some period of time, I was reading an article and came across some information that went something like this:

The single most important factor in a child’s success is their relationship with a caring adult.

Kyrgyz student

Kyrgyz student (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this case, a caring adult at school provides a sense of worth, belonging, importance, priority, and friendship.  That is why it works.  When children have a strong sense of these traits, their self-esteem, self-image and confidence goes up allowing them to make more positive choices and decisions.  Because the caring adult is part of the school community, behaviours improve at school.

This work is pro-active not re-active.  If we are going to take the time to talk to a student one-on-one each day, why not make it productive, interesting, student selected conversation?


  • The Touchstone (caring adult) cannot be a teacher, principal or other person of authority.  It works best to have someone that does not work in the class with other students.  The key is to find a person just to be with the identified student.
  • The Touchstone just talks; with the child, to the child and about the child.
  • The Touchstone just listens: to the child and about the child.
  • The Touchstone is genuinely caring.
  • The Touchstone sees the student for about 10 minutes each and everyday.
  • The student is a priority, the Touchstone gives the student their full attention.
  • The Touchstone believes in the worth and potential of the student and genuinely conveys that message.
  • The Touchstone carries an attitude and message of hope and great things to come.

We continue to have amazing results with our Touchstone program.  Over the years, without fail, our students with the most severe behaviour and emotional issues are able to effectively operate in the regular classroom.  This is not exclusively because of the Touchstone, however, it is a mandatory component of a successful behaviour support program.

Be a Motivating Principal: Key Tips to Increase TEACHER Engagement

Be A Motivating Principal: Key Tips to Increase TEACHER Engagement is featured on the Canadian Education Association Website


It is certainly no secret that one of the keys to student success is academic engagement.  If we can just hook students into deeply thinking, analyzing, enjoying and applying new information, they will increase their learning.  So, as teachers spend much of their days pondering the idea of student engagement, I too, spend much of my days pondering the same, with one difference.  How do we engage teachers? If engagement is good for students, engagement is good for teachers.  If teachers are engaged, students are engaged.  Teachers need to be engaged, the question is, “How does teacher engagement happen?” To answer this question, let’s take a look at what engagement is.  Dr. George Kuh defines engagement as:

“The engagement premise is straightforward and easily understood: the more students study a subject, the more they know about it, and the more students practice and get feedback from faculty and staff members on their writing and collaborative problem solving, the deeper they come to understand what they are learning and the more adept they become at managing complexity, tolerating ambiguity, and working with people from different backgrounds or with different views.1”

One of the challenges we face as educators and administrators is taking the “what” and knowing the “how.”  Dr. Kuh gives us what engagement is, but how do we do that? How do we increase teacher engagement?  In analyzing the definition, possible answers arise:

  1. ” …the more students study a subject, the more they know about it…”
    From my point of view, and in substituting the word “students” for “teachers” this speaks to professional development; increasing the study of the subject of teaching.  To work on this, we get our staff together for weekly professional development.  Often times teachers are asked to read an article or view a video before we get together but with this weekly professional development we have committed to time set aside each week to learn more.   Additionally teachers are encouraged to attend face to face or web-based learning opportunities.  The administrative team currently participates in weekly professional development webinars.

2. ” …the more students practice and get feedback from faculty and staff members on their writing and collaborative problem solving…”
We began this work with our staff in Professional Learning Community discussions.  Each week, teachers would meet to discuss teaching and learning.  The role of their team partners was to provide feedback.  This year we have been able to kick it up a notch.  Teachers observing teachers has become part of our daily practice.  Every day, you will find a teacher in a colleague’s classroom observing for task design and student engagement.  Following these observations we meet together for “feedback.”  Work is analyzed, questions are answered and problems are solved.   The key component of this work is the discussion following the observation.

3.  “… the deeper they come to understand what they are learning and the more adept they become at managing complexity, tolerating ambiguity, and working with people from different backgrounds or with different views…”
In supporting teachers in deepening their understanding we look for demonstration of  their new learning.  When we go from the discussion to the practice or doing stage, we know teachers are managing, tolerating and working with.  More than that, we know teachers are finding success.

Exciting new ways of demonstrating this understanding have become evident.

  • Teachers are advertising and asking for other teachers to come into their classrooms, “Come and observe me when I am doing this, then you will see how I am doing it.”
  • Teachers are blogging.  Sharing, analyzing and drawing connections to their classroom practices.
  • Teachers are video-taping their work with students to use during our professional development sessions.
  • Teachers are connecting during their out-of school time, either face to face or virtual networks to search for answers to their questions.
    As we continue further into this work, more teacher engagement is becoming more evident.  The outcomes of this work are absolutely rewarding!  Student engagement has increased significantly; less office referrals, more project-based learning, and more collaborative learning opportunities.  Energy and involvement from teachers has also increased.  There has become a purpose and a sense of achievement.  As I was talking to our International Teacher who is here for one year on an exchange his words were like music, “This school is different, teachers talk to each other.  This place has a great  atmosphere.”
  1. George D. Kuh, “The National Survey of Student Engagement: Conceptual and Empirical Foundations,” New Directions for Institutional Research, vol. 2009, no. 141 (March 9, 2009), pp. 5–20.


Six Key Principles to Changing Difficult Student Behaviour

Academic learning and behavioural development go hand in hand in schools.  Both areas are attended to and everyone knows that it is very tricky to have one without the other.  Teachers spend much of their own educations and time at school focusing on academic learning.  That is what school is for!  However, behavioural learning is something we cannot ignore.  Navigating the social world and developing skills and understandings about appropriate behavioural choices is often more difficult than learning how to read.  And, although teachers may prefer that students come to school already proficient with social and behavioural skills, many do not.  In this case, we must teach them!

The teaching of social skills and appropriate behaviours can become quite a mystery for many educators.  Just how do we teach them to behave?  For many years we used punishment and rewards and this method still goes on today and can be appropriate in some situations.  However, what about those behaviours that really need to change, that we really want to change.  We often try using consequences for months and years and seem surprised that children have not learned new behaviours.  They have not learned new behaviours, because we have not taught them…. yet!

There are many forms and variations of behaviour modification programs.  Hopefully, each one is tailored for each specific child and each specific target behaviour.  That’s a lot of work!  So if we are going to do the work, if we are going to do the teaching, if we are going to give the problem our attention, why not make sure you incorporate these Six Key Principles to Changing Behaviour?


The simple act of writing down information about old and new behaviours will result in improvement.  It makes the data visible and supports the student in self monitoring.  In most cases, the student is able to write it down themselves.  Keeping track for themselves and recording their own information is most valuable.  A simple tallying chart or check mark system works best as it is quick and easy.  Being quick and easy is the best way to make sure the system is used and maintained.

A student keeps track of his own behaviour.


This is a key component.  When working on changing challenging behaviours, parents especially and any other significant people ie. teacher, relative etc should hold the student accountable.  What is great about “Write It Down” is that it can then be as simple as “take it home”.  Once at home, I find that parents reinforcing the positive behaviour is what is needed.  Sometimes it can be attached to a reward like staying up later, or 15 extra minutes of TV as we all know that being acknowledged for our hard work is always nice.

A student takes this home each day to show his parents the strategies he used.


in most cases inappropriate behaviours occur when a child is attempting to meet one of their basic needs.  A student who is always up wandering around the class talking to friends is demonstrating a need for friendship and belonging.  A child that is constantly interrupting and shouting answers may have a need for approval.  A student who makes silly faces and noises during class often has the need for fun and freedom.  Find out what need the student is trying to meet with their behaviours then find other ways to have the need met.



In most cases of inappropriate behaviour we can scare children into abstaining from the behaviour for awhile but this will not result in truly changing the behaviour.  Stopping the behaviour does not stop the need.  In this case we must find other ways to meet needs.  Students who seek friendship and belonging could have a designated time in the day to work with or talk to a friend, they could join school clubs, they could be given the opportunity to introduce each student to a new member of the class.  The ways of meeting needs are endless, but if we don’t give students a way, they will simply take a way which will most likely be an inappropriate way.


As we grow and come to understand ourselves we develop positive coping skills.  We can support children in also developing these coping skills.  Adults have a broad range of skills such as deep breathing, taking a short walk, self-talk, reading a book, removing themselves from the area, squeezing a stress ball and countless others.  In order to change inappropriate behaviour, we have to recognize the feelings associated with the behaviours (ex: I feel mad, my ears are hot, my neck is stiff).

Seek to Inderstand and Use Coping Strategies

Once these feelings are identified, then we need to cope!  Go for a walk, get a drink of water, read a book – whatever works for us.  If we don’t cope, chances are the feelings will grow until we hit or tantrum or express ourselves in some inappropriate way.  The key here is to work with the student to identify feelings and coping strategies.


It is important that anyone who tries to change their behaviours has a support system.  In school we find it is important that friends and classmates are aware that a child is working hard to learn new things.  It is also helpful when classmates can be supportive of these behaviour changes.  During morning meetings students can express the changes they are making and the goals they have set.  In classrooms where all children have goals; setting, working towards, and being supportive of simply becomes part of the culture.


When looking at changing student behaviours we have definitely found that being able to use ALL of these strategies produces the greatest results.  In the case that all cannot be used, some is better than none.  We have found that these strategies truly constitute teaching children appropriate behaviours and life long awareness of self.  We have found that if we are going to take the time to do this work, why not do it the right way?  The way that gets us the results we are looking for.

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