Toward the end of the book Trillion Dollar Coach, the authors discuss the ingredient Bill Campbell believed made a great team great. In their explanation they use the words of Steve Young, one of my favorite football players growing up.

Love is part of what makes a great team great. Yes, this was a natural part of Bill’s (Campbell) personality—he was way more ebullient than most of us! But it was also something he likely learned from football. Steve Young, a Hall of Fame quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, spoke of team love at a conference honoring Bill in September 2017. “Great coaches look beyond,” Steve said. “[49ers coach Bill Walsh] would get the team together every year and say, ‘Hey, guys, we’re going to integrate this team.’ There were all these little cliques—the safeties hang together, guys from different schools, socioeconomic backgrounds, geography, language, religion. He says, ‘I’m going to break all of those . . .’ “He wanted us to get integrated with each other so when you’re at Lambeau Field, down by four, with a minute and a half left and it’s third-and-ten, it’s sleeting, you’re soaking wet and the wind is blowing and eighty thousand people are screaming at you. Human nature is saying get me out of here, I just want to get to the bus, get this over with. “Now you’re in the huddle and it’s that moment. Everyone looks at each other and it’s like, we are integrated, we have a reason, we have a depth, we have a love for each other, a respect . . . “Why did the 49ers do so great from 1981 to 1998? It’s because we had a love for each other.”

Young talks about being wet and cold with 80,000 people screaming, and the natural inclination was to get to safety. I think everyone would have the same initial feeling in that situation. What was the factor that helped the 49ers withstand both the physical and emotional obstacles to success on the gridiron? It was love. Great teams have a bond that’s formed before stressful situations occur, and it’s that connection that aids people in reaching a goal. To use popular verbiage within the field of education, it’s collective efficacy.

The Strategy of the Crown

[The following is an excerpt from a book I’m currently writing for self-publication later this year (2018). Any feedback is welcome!]

The most integral component of collaborative work is that a team believes it can make a positive difference. In other words, stories are told to one another stating collective effort matters and will increase student learning. As John Hattie’s research shows, teacher collective efficacy is the way through which teachers can help quadruple the amount of learning a student can accomplish. This is a belief system, which Robert Greene call the Strategy of the Crown in his book 48 Laws of Power:

“The Strategy of the Crown is based on a simple chain of cause and effect: If we believe we are destined for great things, our belief will radiate outward, just as a crown creates an aura around a king.”

Educators must believe they can positively affect student learning. In this era of data, we expect information to be sufficient to change people’s minds. This may be true in some cases, but in many other cases data fails at changing behavior. Why do people continue smoking when there’s ample evidence proving what it does to your body? Why do people still drink and drive in a world with Lyft and Uber? Why do some people not work out or eat healthy food? Why don’t people read more books, start side businesses, or stay off social media when more and more studies prove the negative effects of Facebook and Instagram? It’s because data oftentimes doesn’t matter–what people need is a story.

As a leader within an organization, it’s your job to provide that story. Sure, information is extremely helpful, but rather than start a staff meeting with graphs and tables showing the growth or decline of the school in various areas and sub-areas, it’s more important to tell specific stories of how students are thriving at your school. Write up a story about how an EL student was reclassified. Share how a student in GATE class created a project that was honored by a local energy company due to its technical skill. Tell a story about the students who were able to go on that field trip because they all scored proficiently on a formative assessment.

As Yuval Noah Harari states, humans are transitioning from an era of “humanism” to an era of “dataism.” Data is not going anywhere. In fact, it’s just going to become more prevalent when making decisions regarding what to buy, where to live, what to do as an occupation, who to marry, etc. There’s nothing wrong with using data–data is extremely important–but Homo sapiens have had the same brain for 70,000 years. Just because data and information have crept into our professional practice doesn’t mean telling each other stories is a dead practice. We will need stories for many more generations, and practices such as The Strategy of the Crown help blend data with the stories we tell ourselves concerning not only the power we have within, but the collective power we possess when striving for high student achievement.

What Informs Our Practice

Recently I made the following video in which I attempted to conflate the Four Right Drivers from the book Coherence, concepts from the book Leading Impact Teams (i.e. how to build teacher collective efficacy), and Visible Learning strategies during the Action part of the EAA model (Evidence, Analysis, Action). Here it is:

At the end of the video, I concluded that the Action portion of EAA is where teachers should determine which Visible Learning strategies must be deployed. I was corrected today by a very knowledgeable author who told me the following:

“We shouldn’t be figuring out which Visible Learning strategies to use when discussing next steps. What we should do is determine what we want to hear and see our students doing.”

This is so true, and I stand corrected. The right question to ask as we work collaboratively in the Action portion of EAA is: What do we want student learning to look and sound like? Once we determine this, we can backward map, determine success criteria (i.e. clarity), and provide constructive feedback. In addition, student learning will become visible, which helps us formatively assess as the students self-report on their own learning.