The NCAA Women's Basketball Coaches know how to motivate their players. Maybe principal and other school administrators should take note to cultivate effective, culturally intelligent teachers.

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Every March, the NCAA March Madness showcases the best and brightest in women’s basketball to millions of viewers. And every year, principals and administrators observe teachers for at least 45 minutes to grade their effectiveness as teachers. This is such a high-stakes procedure, as anything can happen that would make the most effective teacher, look like they haven’t taught EVER! The feedback given is usually stale and robotic.

Teachers often feel lost and unsupported because they cannot see the path forward. The feedback isn’t always aligned with their vision for their classrooms and continues to support the mundane idea of teacher effectiveness in systemic, not innovative, ways. Principals committed to developing and empowering teachers should study other industries and genres to infuse the ‘soul’ they want to see and hear in the classrooms they observe. And for any principal who watches an NCAA Women’s Basketball Coaches Post Conference…therein lies ALL the answers.

Three Tenets for NCAA Women’s Basketball Coaches
There are three tenets that all the current NCAA Women’s Basketball Coaches follow in their postgame interviews, which are closely aligned to teacher efficacy and excellence, that principals need to tap into. Once indoctrinated in the hearts and minds of America’s teachers, these beliefs will be the guides necessary to ensure they craft techniques and strategies that will highlight their greatness. More importantly, they will be empowered with the cultural intelligence necessary to create safe, affirming classrooms that foster a spirited desire for learning.

We Over Me in Women’s Basketball

When famed women’s college basketball coaches Dawn Staley, Kim Mulkey, and Lisa Bluder talk about their players, it is apparent they have intentionally designed an authentic culture of oneness. No one is bigger than the team, no matter the celebrity they might encounter. They have embedded the value system that they are to go to battle for each other, and individuality has no place in their locker rooms or on the court. They model for their players that they are to cry for each other, protect each other, and, most importantly, PLAY for each other! Regardless of the outcome, student-athletes like Kamilla Cardoso, Angel Reese, and Caitlin Clark are committed to talking about their teammates and the support they provide on and off the floor.

Equitable Classrooms

Teachers who create equitable classrooms bring that same magic to schools. All students should feel embraced regardless of learning level, and those who are high flyers should have their excellence named but never to overshadow their peers, only to assist them in reaching their highest heights. It is imperative that principals model this for teachers by the way they run the school. There should be an expectation set by administrators that the trajectory of the school’s success is based on the ability of teachers and staff to operate from a teamwork mindset, not one based on individuality. Principals are privileged to create an inclusive team that mirrors the idea of ‘one band, one sound.’

Teacher Ownership

In a devastating loss to LSU, UCLA’s head coach, Cori Close, carried the blame for the defeat. Of course, she drew up the plays and told her players how to execute, but she wasn’t on the floor. It was still up to the players to do what they were told to win the game. Close told reporters she had to ‘lead better’ to ensure they could return to the Sweet Sixteen next year and go beyond that round. She understood that she needed to take a step back, analyze the data, and determine the next steps to empower a better run.

Teachers have to be able to follow the same mantra. They provide the content to students and should be the experts in presentation and understanding how to activate the learning of every child in the class. When students don’t perform at the level expected, teachers have to take ownership. They must self-reflect and use the data to develop a better ‘game plan’ to ensure their success.

Principals must model Professional Learning Communities that allow teachers to engage in best practices and strategies that are connected to growth for themselves and their students. The PLCs should be collaboration-driven, led by administrators who understand the subject matter and can contribute to the development of the teachers on the team. Administrators leading PLCs should ensure teachers feel empowered by implementing concerted activities around data analyses, lesson modeling, instructional rounds, and other forward-thinking strategies.

Critical Approach

The best Women’s Basketball Coaches in the NCAA are so because they are not afraid to be critical of themselves or their players. They understand that greatness is birthed from fearlessness, and they exude that characteristic on the sidelines, day in and day out. This comes from the embracing of feedback. They realize they have to listen to respected sports commentators, assistant coaches, players, and other stakeholders who know the game well enough to provide insight if they want to improve their skills.

Teachers must be able to hear feedback and understand how to successfully implement the feedback they’re given to provide better educational experiences for all students. Feedback has to be perceived as information that can make the teacher better. It should be weaponized against teachers.

Cultivating Effective Culturally Intelligent Teachers

Principals must create a nurturing feedback culture. The feedback should ALWAYS be based on realistic expectations that are implementable and actionable. Principals must use feedback to make teachers feel they are being supported, not shunned!

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