Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Non-negotiables


The things that absolutely must happen.  No matter how positive or negative, no matter whether or not they are value-added or worthless, and regardless of how well they are done... they must be done.

Some person or group made a decision to deem some thing... non-negotiable.  The decision-maker believes in that thing and wants to see it come to life and add value to the efforts of the district or campus.

#1  

A district I worked for a few years ago has a list of non-negotiables for elementary reading instruction.  It lists a handful of things that needed to happen every day, in every classroom. One of them states, "Every child writes every day."  To some teachers, it means that every kid develops original thoughts and puts them on paper.  To a few teachers, it means copying a poem.  Both are called writing.  One is not writing.  All of these teachers checked it off their "must do" lists.

#2
Another school insists that every child practices and masters basic math facts through daily, five-minute practice.  It happens every day for every kid.  The results are quickly graded and recorded by non-classroom teachers.  It takes less than ten minutes a day and there is accountability for task completion.  Check it off the list.  Some teachers really use this practice to fills the learning gaps for kids who don't understand how the numbers work together.  Other teachers simply pass the sheets out, then collect them five minutes later.

#3
Another school requires students to maintain Level Zero volume in the hallways.  There are signs everywhere that state the required volume level.  Teachers give numerous, daily reminders.  Many students walk through the halls holding up a ZERO sign.  The expectation is Level Zero.  This non-negotiable is clearly defined and well-understood by the teachers.  One would think that the students also fully understand the expectation.  The hallways are not silent.  The biggest volume in the hallways comes from teachers voices trying to get kids to hush.

#4
Another district expects every student in certain grades to complete a science fair project.  The informational packet is sent home.  Teachers are given the discretion to choose how much control they take over the projects.  Some teachers simply send it home, then wait for the due date.  Other teachers manage the steps of the project throughout the process.  Some kids present projects that they created on their own.  Others present their mom's project.  And everything in between.

I can think of other school-related non-negotiables.  There are so many.  Some of them are etched in stone while others are simply understood.  Whether they are called non-negotiables, mandates, or "we wills"... they imply required compliance.

Non-negotiables define the necessary compliance.  They do not state the required knowledge or buy-in.  Those are intended to come later.  If everyone complies with the mandate, the practice will build knowledge and the results will garner buy-in...hopefully.

Because of that, they are often seen negatively by lots of folks.  Some folks even apologize for using the word, "non-negotiable."  Like it is a bad word.

A non-negotiable isn't a bad thing as long as it is communicated well, it adds value, and it is purpose-driven.

What is missing from the scenarios above to make them more successful?  What non-negotiables do you have in your classroom or your school that need improvement?  More importantly, are you encouraged to discuss your non-negotiables?

If doing these things is non-negotiable, doing them well should also be non-negotiable.  Talking about them should be required (non-negotiable.)