“Most school reform efforts are focused on future policy, more so than current practice,” says David Ginsburg. “Of course we need new and better policies for tomorrow. But what about the kids that are in our schools today? We can and we must improve teaching and learning now.”
A former business executive who also spent 18 years in urban schools as a teacher and administrator, Ginsburg now is an instructional coach and school leadership coach. Ginsburg believes the best way to help children reach their potential is by helping educators reach their potential. He also authors an Education Week blog, Coach G’s Teaching Tips, to give teachers practical tips for their classrooms.
Here, Ginsburg shares his approach to “cause-effect” coaching, what he believes are the biggest obstacles in education today, and why he’s optimistic about the future.
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovatin in education?
Innovation in education requires well-managed, student-centered classrooms. My Cause-Effect Coaching creates such classrooms by connecting what teachers are or aren’t doing (the cause) with what students are or aren’t doing (the effect). And it’s a simple process:
- Identify and tell teachers—from students’ perspectives—what they’re doing right so they keep doing those things.
- Identify and tell teachers—in a way they can hear and accept—what and why they need to change.
- Collaborate with teachers on how to change.
- Show school leaders and instructional coaches how to use this approach themselves.
A big reason Cause-Effect Coaching is so effective is that it targets the whole child. I don’t just help teachers develop students’ academic skills. I help them cultivate non-academic skills—such as resourcefulness and teamwork—that students need to be successful in school, the workplace, and life.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
Student learning has improved because teaching has improved. Morale has risen, and
teacher turnover has dropped. And students have been better prepared for future academic and employment challenges because they’ve become more confident and self-reliant.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Ongoing cause-effect analysis. School leaders and teachers must always reflect on how and why their actions or inactions may be creating barriers to learning. They must then pursue new and better ways to manage their schools and classrooms so that students acquire the skills—both academic and non-academic—they need to be successful.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
I use various Web 2.0 tools to extend the reach of my support beyond schools I work with in person. One example is my blog, Coach G’s Teaching Tips. Another example: instructional coaching via the web, which allows me to support teachers anywhere without having to be on-site.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
Poverty. Uninvolved parents. Misguided policies. These and other factors compound the
challenge of providing kids a quality education. But they don’t prevent us from providing kids a quality education—unless we believe they do. That’s the biggest obstacle I face: convincing educators they can be successful despite obstacles they and their students face. Of course, you can’t just tell people they can be successful. You need to show them how they can be successful, and that’s what my coaching is all about.
What is your country doing right to support education?
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a step in the right direction. In math,
for example, the U.S. has lagged behind other countries in large part because our curriculum has been about breadth rather than depth. Kids have been unable to master concepts because teachers haven’t had the time to teach them. CCSS is on target because it calls for teaching fewer concepts per year in greater depth. Now we need to provide teachers training and coaching so that they can implement CCSS successfully.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
Better support for education starts with better support for educators. Teachers today feel scrutinized more than supported. And the support they get often isn’t practical. Teachers need less cookie-cutter training, and more classroom coaching.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
Innovation involves change. And change requires on-the-job support. Whether it’s integrating technology or improving behavior management, teachers can only make meaningful changes if they get practical support where it matters most: in the classroom.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Teachers have a huge, lasting impact on children’s confidence and emotional well being. Do your best to make sure that impact is positive. But also know that, with 30 kids and 30 personalities, you’re going to hurt a child’s feelings from time to time. What matters is that you acknowledge and apologize to students when this happens so it minimizes the effect on them.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
With fingertip access to information, students have less need for teachers to provide information. What they need instead is help sorting through and applying information. The good news: more and more teachers are open to switching from “sage on stage” to “guide on the side,” and more and more school leaders are providing coaches to help teachers make this switch. The bad news: many school leaders and teachers are clinging to the old model. Overall, though, I’m optimistic.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
When we hear “educational tool,” most of us think about technology. And that’s great, since all children should have equal access to technology that can enhance their education. But whether or not kids benefit fully from any given tool depends on the teacher as much as the tool. My wish for every child is a classroom equipped with the latest and greatest learning tools AND a quality teacher.
About David Ginsburg
Instructional Coach, School Leadership Coach, Math Specialist
David Ginsburg is a consultant specializing in instructional coaching, school leadership, math instruction, and new teacher training. He is a former business executive, and has served 17 years in urban schools as a teacher, instructional coach, and school leader. Click here for more on David and his work. Follow @CoachGinsburg on Twitter. Find him also on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
Current residence: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Education: B.A., M.B.A, M.Ed.
Website I check every day: Education Week, and not just because I blog there.
Person who inspires me most: Not one person—low-income children as a group.
Favorite childhood memory: Playing whatever sport was in season—dawn to dusk,
rain (or snow) or shine.
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Chicago—pleasure and work.
When was the last time you laughed? Why? It’s hard for me to go more than a minute or two without laughing when I’m with my kids (ages 12 and 10). They’re fun and funny.
Favorite book: There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz
Favorite music: Springsteen
Your favorite quote or motto: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” President Theodore Roosevelt