Todd Whitaker- What Great Teachers Do Differently

Today was our regional teacher's institute and our speaker was Todd Whitaker, author of What Great Teachers Do Differently.  I read the book a couple years ago and posted the main points.

He was a great speaker: funny, interacted with the audience, easy to understand.

Here are my main takeaways:

  1. Negative people have no power. We give power to them. Pouters pout and whiners whine because it works. Who is not on any committee, doesn't do any extra curricular activities, has the easiest load, and the smallest classes? The people who complain. It is easier to avoid, ignore, or give in then to face them head on and deal with it. But pouters will pout and whiners will whine until it doesn't work anymore.

  2. Treat everyone as if they're good. Good people deserve it and crummy people can't stand it. The example he gave is when you are in a grocery store and see a parent freaking out and yelling at their kid. The parent is not uncomfortable. We are. We have a problem with the behavior but the child has the bigger problem. Our normal reaction would be to ignore or go down a different aisle. He said, what if we went up to the parent and (treating them as if they are good) asked them a normal question, like where is the coffee? For a moment, it shifts the situation. Will the parent yell at you? Maybe. But you already knew they were an idiot the moment you walked down the aisle. Don't let troublemakers, whiners, and pouters be invisible.

  3. What's great about teaching is that it matters. What's hard about teaching is that it matters every day. Ten days out of ten we should never yell, never argue, and never use sarcasm. Ten days out of ten we should treat students with respect and dignity because we never know which day it's going to make a difference for them.

  4. What great teachers do differently is know how they come across.


  1. Some of his points are great. I might get his book to help me understand better how to deal with negative students.

    If I do, it looks like I'll be arguing with him all the way. There's two things I disagree with:

    >11. Before making any decision or attempting to bring about any change, great teachers ask themselves one central question: "What will the best people think?"

    Why would I ask what other people (best or not) think? If the change is something I can achieve on my own, I ask myself if will really improve the situation. If it needs the help of others, then I think about how to communicate my enthusiasm to them. Maybe he's a better team player than I am?

    >(treating them as if they are good)

    I wonder if he's a parent. Many parents would be able to assume the freaking out parent is at core good, and not just 'treat them' that way. His suggestion may still be the best action. But he sounds so judgmental.

    Shifting the energy is a powerful thing. Sending love to the parent (who's been pushed past their limits, not by the kid necessarily, but by life) adds power to that energy shift.

  2. Sue,
    I think what he means is that when we think about making a change, we think about all the people who will hate it and moan and complain. If we instead focus on the reaction of the best people, then their positive reaction may positively affect the complainers.

    Also, he is a parent to three children. I guess he can come across as judgmental but I think that his main point is shifting the energy so that the person doing something wrong feels uncomfortable instead of the person witnessing something wrong.

    I just really really like that concept.