Whale Done! School

Zurchin, Cindy, Ballard, James, & Lacinak, Thad.  (2012). Whale Done! School. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse

The book is based upon the book by Ken Blanchard, Whale Done! The Power of Positive Relationships had been written for businesses.

This fictional school, based on an elementary school has implications for all schools.  Let’s start with the premise:  You Get What You are Looking For

Any change in organizations will be immediately met by some resistance.  We all know the ‘Hapless Harrys’ and the ‘Pitiful Pearls.’  No offense to people named Harry or Pearl. So, how a leader introduces something new, models the process, and follows through can determine the implementation and sustainability.

Here is a quote from a parent: “I won’t have my daughter going to school where she can’t study, where she is being bullied, and where there are so many disruptions she can’t learn.  I might as well have her spend her days in a war zone.” Reducing time spent on management and increasing time focused on learning is a major concern for adults and students.

“What You Permit, You Promote” is attributed to many people.  The axiom is true for adults as well as students. So, what if we promoted what we want to permit.  Hmmm. When a principal read a business book ‘Whale Done,’ a new possibility seemed worth a try.  What if we recognized correct behavior rather than only admonishing negative behavior?  CAVEAT:  Physical and emotional safety procedures remained in force and still had consequences.  This was not abdication of responsibility.

First, educate the staff on what the new process.  When initiating something new there is normally push back, Change is hard and letting go of what is status quo causes discomfort.  Try folding your arms.  How refold them with the arm on the bottom on top and the arm on top is on the bottom.  Feels different, right?  However, if you folded your arms in the new way for thirty days, that would feel normal, and the original way would feel strange.  “Resistance is a whole lot better than indifference.”

Second, tell the students what a new approach will be.  Whale Done certificates were given to students.  Some of the reasons for being recognized were:

  • Turning in Homework
  • Coming to School
  • Making Friends
  • Coming to School on time
  • Waiting for Your Turn
  • Being a Friend
  • Helping Someone
  • Cleaning Up
  • Listening

Third, send a letter to Parents and Guardians.  An example is on page 38. Fourth, Celebrate success.  What they wanted to accomplish were three things:

  • Build Trust
  • Accentuate the Positive
  • Redirect when necessary and reward positive behavior

A caution: don’t overdo it. The stickers are working well but we need not to cheapen them by giving too many.  This is a shift from what we don’t want to what we do want.  It takes more work since we tend to be focused on negative behavior more than on positive behavior.  Correcting mistakes is still part of the job of teaching and leading.

A sample suggestion was to mark papers with the number right rather than the number wrong.  How different would it be if the paper came back with the number correct at the top (+9) instead of (-1)?

Here was a pledge staff and students said, “I pledge to look for the goodness in everyone, to be happy and help others, and to follow the Whale Done way of life.”

This following quote is attributed to Albert Einstein, but others are also mentioned as possible sources: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

So, how would you get a ten-ton whale to jump through hoops?