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97. Developing a Short List of High-Yield Instructional Strategies with Dr. Edward Small

by Lindsay Lyons
January 10th 2023
Having the proper instructional strategies in place for your school is essential, and today's guest episode with educa... More
My guest today is DR Edward Small. Dr Small has been an educator working with urban youth since 1999. He has held positions as a middle school teacher and principal at every level. He currently serves a medium sized school district in Delaware as an assistant superintendent during his time as an educator. His accomplishments include recognition by the Department of Education for raising student academic outcomes and being nationally recognized for his creation of and work with a high school to college academic bridge program. He likes to think of himself as a husband and father before all else. This drives his work with schools and students. I cannot wait for you to have a listen in to this conversation with Dr Ed Small. Here we go, I'm educational justice coach, lindsey Lyons and here on the time for teacher ship podcast we learn how to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice design curricula grounded in student voice and build capacity for shared leadership. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach. I'm striving to live a life full of learning, running, baking, traveling and parenting because we can be rockstar educators and be full human beings if you're a principal Assistant superintendent, curriculum director instructional coach or teacher who enjoys nursing out about co creating curriculum with students.

I made this show for you. Here we go Dr Edward Small, welcome to the time for leadership podcast. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me, Thank you so much for being here and I just read your bio at the front of the episode but I'd love to know is there anything that you want to add to that professional bio or say to us to kind of frame the conversation as we jump in today. Sure. I guess I would just say I'm a typical guy and the husband to a beautiful wife, the father of the two beautiful daughters growing up. I was the youngest in my family, grew up in philadelphia and I lived in the heart of the city. My father and my mother were both home, which is unlike many of my friends and those who I grew up with table always had clothes on my back, a roof over my head. I had to learn how to navigate my surroundings a bit differently than some of my friends. My parents had a standard of excellence for me. So I had to learn to code switch and take the psychological advantage sometimes beyond script, sometimes an off script.

Other times as you probably read in my bio, I'm now the assistant superintendent for medium sized school district in Delaware. I've been in education for over 20 years. I've been in schools of privilege and poverty and I say all of those things because they all have sort of colored my life in one way or another. Sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad, Sometimes we color inside the lines and sometimes outside of those lines. Thank you so much for that framing and I think it just reminds everyone to that like us as adults and leaders and educators and also students are very much shaped by their experiences and they're so varied, right? When they all come together into this place of school. So I think that's really a valuable frame for a conversation today. Thank you for sharing. And so I'm curious to know, I love this quote by Dr Bettina Love, which talks about the idea of freedom dreaming. She says their dreams grounded in the critique of injustice. And I just think that's so powerful. And we think about the freedom dreams that we have for our schools and education more broadly.

What's the big dream that you have specifically thinking about like curriculum and instruction and these types of things that we do in schools. So I would say that I think schools should be about helping kids to see what they want to get and how they so sort of what they want to get and how they get it through education. Um think of education as one of the three pieces of a triangle. Um whereas the community is one the Emily slash home as the other. And then the third is the the school or the the educational landscape for a particular student. And my big dream is that curriculum and instruction or the the the piece that I really matter for as an assistant superintendent would be so so novel like so provocative or so sexy if you would that or the other two areas, the community and the family when needed.

Probably a really terrible analogy, but I think of it sort of like drugs if people turn to drugs for all kinds of different reasons. If we could make the school curriculum and instruction the educational landscape similar to that feeling that a person yearns for so that they say okay, I know things are going poorly and at home where I know things are going poorly in my community, maybe my, the institutions in my world have let me down. But I know I still have school, I can still turn the corner and pivot back to the fact that I still have the learning going on in the relationship with my teachers and my school in my back pocket all the time. So that's my big dream. I want kids to think of school as they think of six flags, great adventure. That is beautiful. I love that so much. And I love the analogy for why you know, kids are turning to drugs for a sense of belonging or peace or joy or you know, something that we're not getting elsewhere.

So why not make education a place that they get all of those things. I think that's brilliant. So thank you. Thank you so much for sharing that. I'm curious to know too. I think about like all these kind of different pieces along the way to get into a dream like that consisting of Kind of the mindset for, for folks to, and educators to be like, in partnership with students wanting to amplify student voice. I see part of that being the pedagogy of just literally letting students talk and grapple inside the class on, on a daily basis, right? Also just like the things that we're having them, I love the idea of, you know, thinking of S6 flags, right? Like having them get really excited about something like a project they're doing, right? So like that kind of thing and also the curriculum, like what texts are we using? What videos are we showing? That's like, oh, I see myself in that, I see my experience in that my background in that and so I'm wondering of these kind of like pieces that I just named, is there something that either resonates with you as something like you all have done in your district or um kind of like a sticking point for folks in terms of like, oh, we do this, but not quite this piece yet.

How do you kind of see some of those elements playing out in your district. So, um in my district or in in the work that I do sort of on the side and kind of brought to my district. Um I believe it's important to have um systems in place academically, so that the instructional framework, that is student experiences is is pretty much the same from space to space now, not the same in, in the sense that it's mundane, but the same in that the student doesn't have to learn the lingo of, of the class or learn to code switch. I used in my opening that I had to learn to code switch as a kid as I grew up in my neighborhood. So I knew in certain situations, I needed to be the tougher and small or the person who voiced that he didn't care about something when I knew in the background that that wasn't true, but I needed to code switch. As a result, I don't think kids should have to code switch in class in school.

I don't think they need to need, I don't think they need to have to determine what's um meritocracy in this class or what's the merit of this particular behavior in that class or how to communicate well with this particular teacher or um anything to that extent. I think that even goes to the instructional framework, so warm up in one class should be called to warm up in every class and if you think that it should be called to do now, it should be called do now closure should be the same thing in all classes. Every school should have an agenda with uh the plan for the day on the board with the amount of time that's estimated for each of those particular things to occur. So I believe that in order to make this a reality, students should only have to grapple with the content that is trying to be taught to them by the teacher as opposed to the culture that they're learning. What I think culture is what people believe to be normal, a group of people believe to be normal, so mhm can eliminate that or at least mitigated to the extent that students don't have to grapple with it.

Then all they're grappling with is the teaching and the learning, the content that they're intending to come to school to learn, like no kid gets up in the morning and says, well I need to make sure that I learn how to behave well in this class. They just think of it as, this is what I normally do. This is how I behave. So if that's normal for every class, because of the fact that that's not the thing that students grappling with, I think we're in a better position for them to learn and grow on a regular basis. So I do that on the side and do that um in my own particular district and saying we need principles of instruction, we, we need high yield instructional strategies. It's funny that we're talking about this because I'm literally working with a partner right now to refine the instructional strategies for our district because there are, let me count them up 12345, they're like 16 of them right now and I think we need to get down to about eight or nine so that folks can um internalize them and use them on a regular basis as opposed to having to do what I just did, which is kind of look behind me to figure out how many are there in total.

And that's just the instructional strategies, that's not the SCL or the environment strategies. So we need to make it smaller. Doing less, is doing more here. Oh my gosh, I love everything that you just said. So I also love that you have the list that you, I know you guys said you have to look at it, but I love that you have the list. I am so curious what are some, can you share like one or two of these instructional strategies that are like really strong. Absolutely. So clear learning intentions and success criteria. Um if you don't have a goal for what it is that you're looking to do with students and if students don't know that goal, the rest of the things that I'm about to say as far as the other strategies don't really matter, it's a waste of time to say well we're doing these amazing things. It's like when I was in, I tell this story as I explained it to my, my my principles on a regular basis. In 1st grade, my teacher uh gets saltine crackers out in the strawberry jam substance that we all helped in putting the ingredients and to mix and put together and for the life of me, I don't remember what MS Robinson was teaching us, but I remember the taste of that strawberry jam or substance that was on the steam crackers in the same way we mixed baking soda and vinegar together in fourth grade in science class.

And I can tell you now that it was chemical reactions, but in fourth grade, I I just came home and said the top popped off of the bottle and everybody was laughing. And so there wasn't, there was a goal that was possibly articulated at those times, but I don't remember that goal because that wasn't the most important thing, it was more about the particular experience that I had. I think the linking of those two is what education is about clear intentions, learning intentions and success criteria. And so another one would be um, that I think is pretty cool is classroom discussion or Socratic seminar, which I think needs to just be tweaked a little bit and talk to talk about from the perspective of collaborative structures in the sense that those are two collaborative structures. A Socratic seminar or a discussion technique that can be used as a collaborative structure. So I think those are two critical pieces, collaborate structures, I think is important because if students aren't collaborating, they're likely not learning if they're sitting and listening to the teacher for 48 minutes or 90, 90 minutes.

It's crazy to listen to a teacher for 90 minutes. But unfortunately sometimes in schools, in our nation and our state and our school district, we have things that are going on where kids are listening for a long period of time and we know if you sit and listen. So if somebody's listening to this podcast for a long period of time, they're gonna miss some things. So you need some some some ways to collaborate. Some ways to structure that time so that you have individual chunks of time with different things happening, which is another one chunking. So rather than going through the entire list, those are three collaborative structures chunking, clear learning intentions and success criteria. Oh my gosh, I love it. And I love how specifically you are saying to the collaborative structures like have a couple of pieces underneath them as well, right? Like Socratic seminars or or like a circle or another discussion protocol. Like I think that is so wise to be able to say like yeah, maybe you have some some flexibility in choosing. Like what's the specific protocols, what is the step by step that students are doing? But like overall we all have these pieces and maybe department by department is like, okay, these are like this is our discussion protocol or something, right?

Or this great team says like this is the what the step by step, we're doing. So kids don't have to learn the step by step, as you said in each different class agreed. So I would even push to say I would go so far as to say that there should be four collaborative structures that school says these are the collaborative structures that we want to use and only these and once we get really good at those then let's introduce four more. As opposed to saying I use this one Lindsay you use that one, this is the one that I brought from my old school district that I didn't do very well but I liked it and as a result kids don't get a really good experience with it instead why not? When they go into your class in my class, they understand what a stand up hand up pair up means because they do it to the point where they say I got it, I know what a hand up stand up hair means, I know what I need to do, so you don't have to teach it, You talked in your class by the time they get to my class for the second corps of the day, they got it already and then we expand from there as opposed to saying let's use collaborative structures and what you want to do under that, let's adopt a mechanism before we adapt it.

I love that so much. It reminds me of E. L. Education says 3 to 5, they're like 3 to 5 protocols for like the year ever. Just that's it, right? And so I love the idea of reducing so good, so good and so beneficial for students, right? Then they grapple with the content. They don't need the cognitive time spent or the cognitive energy spent on this other stuff awesome. So I'm thinking you kind of alluded to some of these things already, but like one of the things I I think we we had talked about previously is thinking about, you know, the data that we want to collect, for example when we go into a class and we're doing an observation or a walkthrough or something. And and we're kind of looking at some of these protocols or the student experience of interacting in this class setting. Um Like what are the ways that we or what are the strategies that you use or encourage coaches or instructional leaders to use when they're in these classrooms and looking at some of these things in order to collect data that gets at, you know, the student experience, educational equity and ultimately coaches teachers to kind of do this work well.

Sure. Um So really smart guy once said to me that when you go into a classroom you should be looking to paint on a canvas. Um but you need a canvas to paint on before you can start painting. So some classrooms you go into, you can see the canvas pretty easily and that there's an agenda, there is a continuous use and revisit of the goal that happens for that particular time, there's chunking that's occurring during the work that's happening during that time, um, there's time for students to talk their student discourse going on. There's collaborative structures that are happening. Um teacher has essentially released the responsibility of the learning to the students so that they can productively struggle and grapple with as opposed to being a sit and get or a situation where the teachers driving all of the instruction. Um, so I'm looking for those kinds of things. I'm looking essentially for the high yield instructional strategies, re wash two point oh, the ones that I'm working on right now, um, in order to go into the classroom and see those things, I think you have to have that canvas there now.

In the, on the other hand, you have some situations where you go into a classroom and you don't see those things happening to the extent necessary, then it's incumbent upon the instructional leader of that building to say which of these is the high level strategy that this particular teacher needs in order to impact the learning. Um, so if maybe the students are moving about the room without the teachers inter interjection intervention or even direction to do So let's lean into that. Let's use that as an opportunity to say, let's do a turn and talk or let's do a um everybody stand up and move to the left of the room. If you agree with this statement or move to the right of the room. If you agree with this statement, use that energy because they they're telling you behavior is communication. They're communicating. We need to be able to get up, get up and move around and we're not in a position where we're willing or listening or willing to listen to what it is that you have to say if you're saying it in a means that allowed or forces us to sort of sit and get sit and listen to the to the interaction that's happening, the information is being shared right now.

So um, so I share with our principles that those are some of the things that we need to be looking for as we go into the States. Now that's only half the battle because if you see or don't see something that you want to see or don't want to see, then you need to know how to say it in a way that frames the conversation around. We need you to do this. So we use the three part pre statement of three part um, growth action statement. So three part pre statement is something like I noticed that you were using advanced organizers. Those are really great for having students to process the information that they've learned over the course of time and it directs them right back to the clear learning intentions and success criteria. Third piece will be something like great job kudos awesome souls something that shows that you're telling them continually do this, don't stop doing this particular thing and then growth action is obviously the opposite. I noticed that you were doing this, telling them what you saw a replacement strategy, Maybe you try this as opposed to that and I'm looking forward to coming back to your room.

So sometime soon, maybe in a week, maybe in a month, depending on how frequent your visits are in order to see that happen. Now, if it's a month, you should be saying, I plan on coming back and you need to have had this conversation already either with the coach in our building, but we can then leverage to have that conversation with that particular teacher and bring value to both of the relationships or we need to sit down and talk together. Have a need a need in order to talk through what it is that you need to do in order to master this particular thing that I'm asking you to do differently. So we use that essentially and um, we just, we just had a principal's meeting about 23 weeks ago when we were talking about that those particular things in order to make sure that everybody had a clear understanding of what we're looking for when we go into the spaces. I love so much about that like idea of starting with praise because I think there's so much stress anytime like, you know, as an educator, somebody like people walk through the class like, oh no, what am I doing wrong? So just to be able to start with that praise and be like, there are things that are good, so great and then also to be really just specific about the growth and and say, you know, like here's the thing we'd like to try out and I will be back, like I'm not just leaving you hanging, I'm coming back, I'm going to check it out like in this like kind of just the way you presented it just almost kind of felt like this like celebratory, like you're gonna go do this thing, it's gonna be great and then I'm gonna, I'm gonna come check it out, I'm gonna see it, it's not like this, you know, scary, I'm gonna be back thing, it's, I'm gonna be back and see how great this has evolved and grown and supported Children agreed.

I mean and I would even say so I I tend to, when I was a principal and now when I go into schools and I give feedback to principles about what I saw, I tend to say things like let me know your thoughts on that or let's sit down and talk about it if it is something that you're confused about or you have some concern about because at the end of the day, I want you to go home and say, I know what ed small thought of me if I'm the principal of the building or I'm the teacher in the classroom, I'm not confused in any way about what it is that this feedback is trying to get me to do. Here is something that was great, keep doing it. Here's something that I think you should do differently. Let's talk about it, let's have a conversation. Um let's connect. But by the time I come back we needed to have connected so that you can give me context to say, well this is why I chose the thing that I did say, hey, tell me more about that particular strategy, Tell me more about the thing that you're asking me to do so that I can do it to the extent that the kids are benefiting from it as opposed to doing it from the perspective that you've asked me to do.

Mm I love that. So I'm wondering if in doing this work, because there's a lot of, you know, big asks in this, right? There's a lot of coaching, there's a lot of, you know, reducing like we're not doing 100 strategies were really condensing, we're getting clear. I'm wondering if there are some challenges in doing this work or challenges that teachers have had or, or even principles or instructional coaches have had um, in in kind of creating the plan for or enacting the plan for this kind of vision for instruction and curriculum, is there any like challenge that comes to mind for you or, or way you work through that. Absolutely. So um I guess the biggest challenge that I face on a regular basis with this kind of work while it's important work and everybody believes it to be important work is that nobody really likes to be critiqued. Nobody really likes to feel like you're telling them, hey, do this differently because it's essentially feeling like to the person you've taken their hard created planned work and time, you've picked it up, held it as a single sheet of paper and dropped it in the shredder.

Or it's another way of saying, I'm trying to tell you to choose between your two babies, which one do you not want anymore and nobody, nobody likes that. So it requires trust, it requires relationship building, it requires an opportunity to sit and talk with you about the things that matter to you and then use that as a sort of a leverage point or a mechanism to talk about the things that matter to us together. So if I can understand your values, then I can help in sharing my values and create them and share values together. Um and then develop those relationships over time. There's, I typically say to um I usually say this to my wife, like she and I can argue about something and on worst days the next day, the worst argument we've ever had, maybe a day or two goes by before everything's back to normal. Normally it's more like two or three minutes, two or three hours we, I watch a television show, she reads a book or I read a book, she watches the show, then we come back together or something happens in our family.

That makes us have to come back together anyway and everything is normal. That same relationship doesn't normally exist in the professional atmosphere because when I tell you something that you don't like, you don't have that same level of trust with me because you don't know that my intentions are for you to win because if you win, then we win and as a result, I lift all the boats. Usually you're thinking the way you're winning could be that you're trying to get me off the bus and that doesn't feel good to me. So I don't have the trust there for you. The only way that I can fix that is through time. So that I think the cost of leadership is time. The, the definition of leadership has influenced the challenges, conflict, the results has changed, but the cost is time the time that I have to invest in the conversations, the interactions, the, the time that needs to be invested in you in order for you to gain that level of trust.

Sometimes it's possibly too much for a person and, and other times it's just right for a person. Um, so I believe that the challenges is trying to make sure that we're in a position where when I'm when I'm telling you do this differently you see it as always trying to help me. This is not something that's saying he's trying to get me off the bus. He's putting me in the right seat on the bus in order for us to move more efficiently from one location to the next. I love that idea of just like were like as leaders like we're rooting for you teachers we're rooting for everybody to succeed. And this idea of the cost being, time is so valuable. It makes me think on all levels like staff culture and even individual class culture. There's kind of a view of a trade off like in a classroom for example I have to cover this curriculum so therefore I can't build relationship with students right? Or staff have so many things on our plates or we have to do this P. D. In this way so we can't take the time to build relationships.

But that time investments right pays dividends when we have that relationship building is just part of how we do things staff wide and classroom wide when it comes time to that conflict right? And that trust we have to leverage and all of that. I think that's such an interesting way to look at it. I had never thought of that before. Yeah And so I think we're getting close to our our 30 minutes. I won't I know you're incredibly busy, I won't keep you much longer. But I am curious to know all of the things that we talked about today, what is kind of or something new, what is kind of a thing that as listeners are kind of wrapping their minds around all the stuff that they could be doing as leaders or ways to support this vision, What's like a starting point? What's maybe one action step that enables them to kind of live in alignment with the values that you've described today and the vision you've described today. So I would say take an inventory of your relationship with your teacher or if you're the teacher of your leader and ask yourself, have there been opportunities for us to grow together in the relationship?

Is there something that I can point to to say this is why I'm not really trusting of this person to be able to give me feedback that helps us together as opposed to giving me feedback that sort of writes the paper that is put in place in order to get rid of me, because I think that's the divide the thin line between doing what it is that the person is asking you to do, trusting in them and having that lack of trust that you're looking at something either a narrative that someone else told you or your own narrative to say this is why I can't trust you to actually be in my corner and want me to win if you can't identify something that you have a personal connection with. Here's the situation that happened, here's the event that occurred then it's somebody else's narrative that you're listening to. And then I would say don't trust that narrative speak to to that narrative and say I'm gonna trust this leader, I'm gonna trust this teacher to do the right thing and to work with me so that we can move together if there is something that I'd say talk about it, have that conversation with that leader or that teacher spend some time building the relationship because it will work wonders in the end or you will learn through those interactions that this is not for me my vision and this person's vision is not lining up.

And do you really want to stay in that particular position if the visions are not aligned, it probably is working against your own particular energy, your knots energizing. So it's your energy versus their energy. Yeah that that right there is gold I'm thinking about like yeah that idea of just constantly hear it referred to as like buy in But I but I think really that the way around I think by in or Yeah I think the way around buying is we co create that vision together so that it is a shared vision right? So that we need to have the values discussion. I know you referenced that earlier is the shared values and I think that's so critical to kind of preemptively thinking about that conflict, right? That is that is inevitable. Yeah. Okay, cool, well thank you so much for today. I have two final quick wrap up questions for you. One is for fun. I ask every guest what is something that you have been learning about lately and this could be professional, but it could also be like I learned how to play golf or something completely random.

That is not educational related. Okay, three things. Um I just learned how to solve a Rubik's cube um for My entire life I've been trying to learn. So I've been watching some YouTube videos and I figured it out and I can solve it in like probably 20 minutes as compared to the person that can solve it in like a minute. So I still feel ashamed that I'm not fast at it yet, but at some point I'm going to get to the point where I'm able to say Lindsay watch this. Hey everybody, just a quick interruption to the episode. A reminder to grab your free resource for this episode with dr Edward Small. You can grab the freebie at lindsey Beth Lyons dot com slash blog slash 97. Let's get back to it. This person is my main crush. Um I would say if you have not listened to Malcolm Gladwell's revisionist history. There's some amazing podcast. There's one called puzzle rush. Um there's like 10 of them rather than naming them all, I would say just listening them get your top 10. My top 10 is my top 10 and I'm gonna keep it selfishly to myself, but definitely that's something that I think everyone should do and then maybe listening to or reading the books, I do a lot of audio books because I have a long commute um Jason Reynolds.

Um he's got a book called A Long Way Down or I think it's called actually just long way Down. Um he's also got one called stamped from the beginning that I think he's the reader for um that is written by another gentleman. Um Kindy, I believe his last name is that author. Um but I think those are three things that I'm I'm grappling with experimenting with right now listening to enjoying in my spare time. Those are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing so, so much of that and then finally, I'm sure people are going to be super curious to just get in touch with you or or kind of following on social media or something if they have questions or just want to learn more about you and your context where could people go to be able to connect with you if they're interested. Sure. Um so it's funny that you ask that question as I was looking into preparing for our podcast today, I started looking because I've actually never looked to see what I originally wrote for my, I guess my name on instagram and twitter and things of that sort. And then when I looked it says for instagram, dr is small, but there's no period.

So it's just dread small. So I'm thinking to myself, well maybe I should change that at some point, but dred small, no esta bien, I'm not a relative of the guy from the sand lot or biggie smalls. There's no s at the end Um Dr is small on Twitter, I think it's a small on Facebook or the easy way. I'm sort of an older gentleman and an old soul and that you can just shoot me an email at the small 0415@gmail.com. That would be the easiest way to get in touch. Perfect. And we'll link to all those in the show notes in the summary of the quest as well. So, thank you so much. Dr Small is a pleasure talking with you today. Thank you lindsey. I appreciate your time If you're leaving this episode, wanting more. You're going to love my live coaching intensive curriculum bootcamp. I help one department or grade team create feminist, anti racist curricula that challenges affirms and inspires all students. We leave current events into course, content and amplify student voices, which skyrockets engagement and academic achievement.

It energizes educators feeling burns out and it's just two days plus you can reuse the same process any time you create a new unit, which saves time and money. If you can't wait to bring this to your staff, I'm inviting you to sign up for a 20 minute call with me, grab a spot on my calendar at www dot lindsey beth Lyons dot com slash contact. Until next time leaders continue to think big act brave and be your best self. This podcast is a proud member of the teach, Better podcast network, better today, better tomorrow and the podcast to get you there, explore more podcasts at teach better dot com slash podcasts and we'll see you at the next episode.

97. Developing a Short List of High-Yield Instructional Strategies with Dr. Edward Small
97. Developing a Short List of High-Yield Instructional Strategies with Dr. Edward Small
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