Giant #8: Jon Saphier

Giant #8: Jon Saphier

“if I have seen further [than others], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

1675 letter by Isaac Newton:

In the late 80s, Jon Saphier presented to our Cognitive Coaching group.  We were at an ASCD convention where Art and Bob arranged for Jon to speak.  Not only was I impressed by Jon’s thinking, but I also realized I hadn’t read some of his publications.  After reading “Good Seeds Grow in Strong Cultures” I began considering organizational culture in education as well as the individual relationships.  Read ‘Good Seeds…’ it is still pertinent today as it was in the 80s.

As I started reading Jon’s work as well as the product of his organization, Research for Better Teaching (RBT) I was impressed by Jon’s ability to identify core issues. Next, Bonfires and Magic Bullets. WOW.  This guy is an amazing researcher, practitioner, and staff developer. Every time I attended one of his workshops at NSDC, Learning Forward, etc. I learn about current topics and processes to help lead learning.  Jon remains my ‘go to’ resource today as he still contributes to so many in education.

The Skillful Teacher is in at least the 8th edition.  Over the years, as a principal and assistant superintendent, this book has been my go-to source for a solid knowledge base.  I know that if Jon publishes a book or article, it has been researched, has been implemented in real schools with real staff, and with real students.  I trust his work without reservation.

Fast forward to a few years ago when ‘High Expectations Teaching’ (2017) was published.  Most of us know that efficacy or agency in staff are key factors in learning.  Educators who have higher cognitive development produce students with higher cognitive development. I call this ‘Well Duh’ science. The saying goes, ‘you can’t give what you don’t have. High Expectations Teaching is a must read for anyone teaching and leading in schools.  The book contains 50 ways to help students know they are smart.  These are immediately implementable strategies. Learn these strategies to create more hope for ourselves and students.  Here is a sample of how Jon begins the book:

Our job, especially with students who are behind, is to

  1. convince them that they can grow their ability
  2. show them how,
  3. motivate them to want to

The challenge for us as educators is to

  • get our students to believe this,
  • teach them how to exert effective effort,
  • make them feel known and valued
  • give them high-quality instruction

High Expectations Teaching begins with a history of how our current state of education became a reality. Whether you are new to the profession or have many years of experience, read the first chapters to better understand and clarify some of the historical background of our current state of education.

Dr. Saphier has presented to many schools and districts.  As a school administrator I either introduce his work or have him present.  Jon has also presented at our Learning Omnivores several times to extend our groups’ knowledge, skills, and applications.  I am grateful.

His latest book, ‘Disrupting the Teacher Opportunity Gap’ (2023) is a blueprint for leadership development at the sites, districts, and nation.  This book outlines specific strategies that can move educational leadership forward to prepare students and adults for a world that is evolving. Most of us don’t have time to find out what is possible because we are responding in the moment.  Save time and  get familiar with Jon Saphier’s work. He recently hosted a zoom for Learning Omnivores and a state association of superintendents.

Jon exemplifies what Angeles Arrien said to me years ago:  If your job is waking up the dead, GET UP, TODAY IS A WORKDAY.   Make it happen with Jon Saphier’s guidance.  You will be glad you did.

His authenticity, knowledge, and collaborative thinking has been a gift to me and others.  Mahalo to Jon for guiding me and your friendship.  Who Knew?