Monday, July 18, 2011


** Last week, I attended the Differentiated Instruction Conference in Las Vegas. This week, I will be sharing what I learned from the conference. Although the conference is for educators, the ideas that I will share can be applied to your life. **

Funny Face Making by Petr Kratochvil 

Todd Whitaker is a rock star!

I have previously read a couple of his books (What Great Teachers Do Differently, What Great Principals Do Differently, Seven Simple Secrets: What the BEST Teachers Know and Do!), but when I heard him in person at the Administrator’s Summit last Monday, he blew me away.

He was engaging, funny, and a dynamite speaker. The title of his presentation was “Shifting Your Monkey.” The presentation was so practical that it could be applied to all areas of life.

The thesis of the presentation was this: Why do good people “take on the monkey” when bad people act inappropriately? His presentation was about shifting the "monkey" (ownership of the issue) to the people who deserve it and taking it off of those who don't.

How do you do this? First, start by treating all people as if they were good. One example that he used to demonstrate this idea involved two parallel scenarios. 

How do we typically respond when we see the two worst kids in school walking down the hall? We say, “What are you doing out here?” Essentially, we are treating them as if they are up to no good. 

Next, think about what we typically say when we see the future valedictorian and salutatorian walking down the hallway. Nobody belittles them or treats them as if they were bad. We usually say, “How are you doing today?”

Todd offered a much better option as to what we should say in either situation: “Hi, can I help you?” That is how you treat people as if they were good.

After we let this idea of "treating all people as if they were good" sink into our mind, then, ask these questions:
1. Where is the monkey?
2. Where should the monkey be?
3. How do we shift the monkey?

This is an idea that is much simpler in theory than in practice, but he gave many examples of how to do this as an administrator.

One example that he used involved a high school basketball game. Have you ever attended a game and the one fan is yelling and screaming and generally acting inappropriate? When this happens, who has the monkey? Not the crazy guy - it's everyone around him.

So, what should the administrator do? (Hint: Don't stand on the side and stare at him!) The administrator should walk up and sit down beside the man. This immediately takes the monkey off the good people in the stands - they are relieved. When you sit down, it shifts the monkey. 

Remember, treat everyone as if they are good. So, don't sit down and feel like you must address the situation. Simply talk to the man and get to know him. Maybe it's the first time he's ever seen his niece/nephew play and he doesn't realize how crazy he is acting.

Regardless, you have shifted the monkey away from the good people and made everyone more comfortable.

Again, this idea is simple in theory, but somewhat counterintuitive. I hope he writes a book about this principle at some point. I need an audio copy of the keynote to listen to many times to try and sink this idea into my mind.

Besides this big idea, Todd offered many other nuggets. I mention a few below:
  • An ineffective teacher has an inordinate number of ineffective parents.
  • Every teacher does the best they know how. 
  • Ineffective people do not know how others perceive them. 
  • Great principals teach the teachers. 
  • There is nothing wrong with being afraid. The problem is acting afraid. 
  • Adults pout because it works. 
  • Ignoring is a choice (I wrote about this last week). 
  • It’s always easier to not deal with something today. 
  • Great principals have faculty meetings that teachers value and look forward to attending. 
  • Avoidance is not a strategy. 
  • Be the aggressor; but, never be aggressive. 
  • All actions in dealing with teachers, parents, or students are about future behavior.
I have two more pages of notes from this session, but I’ll leave you with one more gem. If you supervise others, you know that when you deal with a negative behavior, most people have an excuse or offer any number of other reactions. When addressing a challenging behavior, Todd suggested this statement: “I was just telling you because I would want to know.” That is inarguable. That statement is the first step of shifting the monkey. The ball is now in their court.

This was powerful information that is just as applicable to living as to educating young people. Read back over the bullet list above and think about how these ideas fit in with your work.

If you are an educator, you need to read Todd Whitaker’s stuff – it’s very powerful. In fact, you can follow him on Twitter (@ToddWhitaker).

QUESTION: Do any of these ideas resonate with you?


Dr. Frank Buck said...

I enjoyed hearing Todd as well. He has an uncanny ability to get straight to the point and does it with illustrations that are right on target.

Jason said...

So true, Dr. Buck. You should check back tomorrow because I will be featuring information from your session at that point. Thanks for the comment!