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  • Writer's pictureJim Mercer

SamTastic Weekly Tip: 2/26/24 - Hello from Chicago.

Hello from Chicago. 


We are training twelve new SAM teams in the Windy City today.  One of my favorite content sections is showing how leaders can train others to use them the way they’d like…the way that allows the leader to move teaching and learning forward.  So, I have a question for you, as a veteran SAM team member:


What will do you do today to train people to use you effectively…the way you would like?  


You likely have removed these words from your go-to vocabulary: no, I am not available, I just don’t have timeVeteran SAM teams understand the benefit of responding with what you can do, rather than what you can’t


A teacher approaches as you are your way to meet with a teacher for a feedback conversation.  Before SAMs, you might have said:

"I can’t talk now.  I have another teacher waiting."


With SAMs you know it is more effective to say what you can do instead of what you can’t.


  • “Our Frist Responder for copy machine issues is Mary and the office.  She will make the copies you need on the office copier so you don’t have to wait.  She will then work to get the machine in the work room operational.”

  • “Your issue is important.  It deserves focus and attention.  Please see my SAM and pick a thirty minute opening so we can give this the time it deserves.”


This is a basic part of developing a First Responder system in your school.  The SAM communications protocol is great in getting people help faster with management issues.  It is even better in creating a culture in the school where each person feels valued and heard.


How?  If the leader always expresses interest, even when if a hurry to get to an appointment, it creates a far more positive workplace.  “Can I have a minute of your time?”  should always be answered in the affirmative if you want people to feel valued.


If you say “I don’t have time right now.” It is likely heard as “You are not important.”  Instead, try this:

“You are more important than a moment of my time.  What do you need?”


The first response makes the person feel dismissed.  The second makes the person feel valued.


The second response does not need to take more time.  It allows you as the leader to hear what the issue is and then decide how to help one of three ways:


  1. A First Responder can help you faster.  Please see Joyce, the counselor.  Let me know if want to talk with me after.

  2. This issue deserves more of my focus and time than a minute in the hallway.  Please see my SAM to schedule.

  3. Change your plan.


Why would you change your plan?  Well, if a teacher told you their spouse was in a car accident and on the way to the hospital, wouldn’t your best move be to cover the class and get the teacher safely to the hospital?  Your TimeTrack plan is just that.  Your plan.  What you do will change sometimes…and should, when the issue is truly urgent.


The purpose of the SAM Communications Protocol is to triage issues, or interruptions.  In medicine, triage means to “conduct a preliminary assessment of (patients or casualties) in order to determine the urgency of their need for treatment and the nature of treatment required.”  A good SAM principal never says no, I won’t help, or I am too busy.  Instead, the SAM principal expresses interest and concern and then triages the issues.


Language makes a difference.  Developing a habit of expressing interest, and asking questions, can go far beyond the First Responder system.


Here’ are a few phrases you might try:


  • Would you be interesting in trying something new?

  • Would you try a different approach if it might improve your relationship with a student?

  • If you were going to try this, what would it look like?

  • How would you feel if you were the student?

  • Would you try this if we did it together?

  • If you were going to try this, which of these three options would appeal?

  • If/then phrasing as a support rather than a threat:  If you try this, I promise I will support you whether it works, or not.

  • Don’t worry.  We can fix this Frequently, the leader can greatly reduce the stress by expressing confidence in others and wisdom.  This too, shall pass.  We can handle it, together.

  • I am proud of you for facing this issue.


Keep in mind, managing a conversation in a positive way requires you to ask more questions than sharing thoughts or making statements.   It is important to remember this simple truth:  The person who controls a conversation is the one asking the most questions.  If you match this behavior with sincere care and empathy, you will be a leader others will want to follow.

Mission: The National SAM Innovation Project provides a comprehensive process and set of tools designed to develop effective instructional leaders resulting in greater student success.

Vision: The National SAM Innovation Project will provide SAM services in every state resulting in greater teacher and learner success.

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