The 95% Rule… Developing Grit, Tenacity and Resilience –

November 26, 2014

Man, I wish one of my teachers would have been able to help teach me in my school years how to work hard… Grit… Tenacity… Resilience… Perseverance…

I was one of those kids that learning came very easy to. I was a good reader and could easily memorize and remember what I needed for a test. I could easily copy and parrot what the teacher was doing on the board and learning was easily successful compared to many of my peers who had to struggle. Now, I wish I had to struggle a little bit more…

I never had to work hard because it came easy for me. Because it came easy for me, my teachers never pushed me to work hard.

This is where I believe Task Design and Formative Assessment come into the mix and are two of the biggest impacts on students learning. The idea behind formative assessment is not reaching that final product and getting 100%, but improving and making your work better. I sometimes wish there was a magic light that went on when I got “100%” on the school budget. Unfortunately, No such luck!

I wish we had a better understanding of how to help kids do better work. I just always expected myself to get good marks no matter how much or little effort I put into the work. Boy, did that ever come back to bite me when I was about 17 or 18 years old…

Task design is critical as well. My team partner and I had set up some awesome learning opportunities around a book called Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett. There were huge mouth connections as well as art and literacy integration. One of the main characters loved Pentagrams. The first time we utilized chasing Vermeer, we had asked the kids to “find the 12 pentomino shapes” using 5 blocks and record the results. Some students took a while to figure out and play with the problem. Others literally had it done within about three minutes and were ready to move on.

Fast-forward a couple of years when my teaching team partner and I decided to revisit Chasing Vermeer. This time though, we changed the question. “How many pentomino shapes can you find?” This changed the task completely. Students no longer had a final answer that they were trying to get correct. They had an open-ended question that they were able to struggle and get into the mud with. This small change to the question and the task made all the difference. They worked for hours trying to find that elusive “13th pentomino!”

Back to the 95% rule… We, as educators, have the opportunity to create “good” learning experiences and we have the opportunity to create “GREAT” learning experiences. Just by changing how we asked our question changed how the students worked on the task. It was in the 95% realm that we could control…

The task allowed students to demonstrate grit, tenacity and resilience. I hope we were teaching kids to become learners, not assuming that they only need the content. Steve Messler, CEO of Classroom Champions, where athlete mentors adopt 3-10 classrooms per year. They focus on their own personal journey, athletes teach about the hard work of training, goal setting, competition and perseverance. They share their stories of success, failure, and perseverance.

Check out for more information on Steve and Classroom Champions. And help our students develop their own grit, tenacity, resilience and perseverance.

Work hard, learn tons!


The 95% Rule… “Purposeful” vs. “Recreational” Griping

November 23, 2014

The 95% Rule… – “Purposeful” vs. “Recreational” Griping

A good friend of mine, Eric Perrault, shares the idea of “Purposeful” vs. “Recreational” Griping (he does not use the word “griping” J and I am paraphrasing…) to look at the purpose and outcome of complaining. He actually borrowed it from his friend and author David Irvine (, @DavidJIrvine) but I am “stealing” it because I like it too!

I would define “Recreational” Griping as complaining without purpose…

  • “These kids just don’t get it…”
  • “Why do I need to change or improve my practice?”
  • “These parents just complain.”
  • “There is nothing I can do with these students.”
  • “All I get are kids who can’t _________.”

I would define “Purposeful” Griping as bringing up an issue or something that is not currently working with the purpose of improving it or making positive change.

A critical moment for me was when a team of grade 2 teachers came to me and shared, “Derek, this schedule is not working for us.” As the person who had set up the schedule, which is never perfect (honest), I felt a small groan in my gut and let out a deep sigh…


They said, “But Derek, we have a plan…”

Their plan was awesome! They had thought it out and came to me with ideas that fit their needs and I was able to easily accommodate them in a way that made much more sense for their work with students. More heads are better than one!

I have tried to work that into my own thinking as well. Rather than engage in “Recreational” Griping, I am trying to make sure I am asking

  • “How do we make this better?”
  • “How can I provide feedback to improve?”
  • “What kind of changes can we make that will enhance student learning?”

If something is not working, let’s change it. Your participation is critical in this work.

Bring possibilities for solutions. Don’t wait to be directed. As a school-based leader, I need to be open to possibilities as we move forward.

Who controls our day? We do…

Work hard, learn tonnes!

The 95% Rule…

November 17, 2014

YOU have the power to control 95% of your day…

I am a firm believer that we control our destiny and our day. As an educator, how I walk into the school in the morning affects everything and everybody around me…

We control 95% of what happens during our day in how we react, the relationships we have already built, and how we control ourselves in situations. If I am having a good day, most of the people around me are having a good day!

When a student comes in highly escalated, we must support students with strategies where we are role modeling as well… How can we assist them in learning to self-regulate after the escalation, as well as build up strategies and supports to prevent the escalation in the first place?

  • Do they need food, as they are hungry?
  • Give them some time. Whenever I rush this process, I find it just is not effective…
  • Use of consistent resources such as Strategy posters that can guide the student’s reflection and guide discussion between kids and adults.
  • An exercise bike or an individual trampoline – I have experimented with having an exercise bike available for students (if they choose to use it) as an active way to self-regulate, rather than “Sit down and be quiet.” I have a visual timer that we set for a specific time for them to use the bike. The early results have been great, when the kids choose to use it… Often a student who was highly escalated comes off smiling!
  • The implementation of a Sensory Room – A place with mats, swings or special rocking chairs, exercise balls, individual trampoline, calming lights, etc.
  • One principal shared that she has a Velcro target board with Velcro Ping-Pong balls that the students love to use, which is also a great distractor.
  • Pulse Meters as part of Math, but to have students check their pulse rate and then have them do self-calming. It is also a distraction or diversion…
  • Another principal shared that she keeps a bin of mixed up markers that needs to be sorted by a students, and it magically keeps getting mixed up!
  • Time for Writing for students to be able to think and reflect
  • Time for Reading as a calming strategy
  • A problem-solving process that students are used to, whether it is individual and quiet or it is guided and collaborative with an adult.
  • I think probably the biggest factor and strategy is how much of a focus on SEL takes place in the classrooms in the students’ daily lives at school. This work enables administrators in the office to build on the learning that is already taking place!

Knowing I can find good, creative ways of de-escalating students will help them to a point where they can have a positive day and be successful in the learning. Again, 95% up to me…

If a staff member comes in and is having a hard day, how I react with them also will impact which one of the students in their clients depending on how I work with them.

Working with parents, I have a great amount of control in those interactions. If I am smart about it, I will set up interactions that meet everyone’s needs and leave everyone walking away in a positive light. If I am grumpy, having a bad day, rushing things, or just not on my game, I will pay the price either at that moment or later and it will impact many others. Let’s face it, parents talk and share and all it takes is one really negative interaction to blow a lot of relationship building.

I call it the 95% rule because there are times that no matter how smart I am and on my game, I cannot bring the person around to where I want them to be. I would say that this is maybe 5% of the time. Most of the time, if I can make sure I follow my conscience and gut, I can bring things around to where they need to be. I have seen this over again with parents, staff, and especially students.

I do not blame my day on others. My day is created by me. I have the power to make it be what I want. We need to use that power to teach others and to make sure we are creating a culture in our schools where students, staff, and parents feel empowered, respected, and listened to.

YOU have the power to control 95% of your day too…

Work hard, learn tons!

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