By: Dr. Marcus Jackson August 29, 2021

As a new principal, I would always take the staff to the gym to do an activity that involved shooting basketball and the importance of differentiated instructional strategies when planning to meet the need of all students. The activity provided a reminder of the different types of learning styles, a visual of the challenge, and a plethora of emotions and challenges teachers face meeting the needs of all students.

Currently, I’m the Chief Academic Officer and decided to provide the same activity with the Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) team of the district. This team consisted of the superintendent, assistant superintendent, myself, the chiefs of every department, and academic coordinators of every content. This team is responsible for providing instructional support and professional development on effective instructional strategies for all content areas in the school district. To put it shortly they are responsible for the academic success of the entire district.

The bi-weekly C&I team meeting was different this week. I had a portion of the staff meeting in the gymnasium. The team was bewildered as they walked into the hot gym, wearing their business attire and dresses. The players were divided into two teams, and I told each person that they had to make five free throws before they could leave the gym. There were so many questions but I intentionally ignored them all.

Many were startled because they had never even touched a basketball. One coordinator immediately asked can you at least teach us how to hold and shoot a basketball? As many agreed as they never touched a basketball. Another yelled I am going to need accommodations for this activity and many agreed. After a few minutes of frustration, embarrassment, and tons of laughter there was only 1 shot made out of about 30 successful attempts. At that point, I told the staff to assemble in the air-conditioned conference room for the conclusion of the meeting.

Once entering the conference room, one lead coordinator said Dr. Jackson you didn’t even participate and shoot (modeling). I acted as if I didn’t hear her.

As a leader, I always begin with the Affective Domain. The first question I asked the teachers was how did they feel when it was their turn to attempt the free throw?  The answers were: 

  • Determined
  • Unprepared
  • Challenged
  • Uncomfortable
  • Pressure
  • Nervous
  • Was going to happen (The 5 baskets)
  • I’m the new Spud Web. I need to get in the paint and I got this!!
  • Excited
  • Worried I wouldn’t measure up to my team Go#1
  • This will be an epic failure!!   Feeling: apprehensive
  • Ready
  • Capable
  • Happy
  • Challenged
  • Impossible
  • Short
  • Energized

At this time, I reminded the teachers that this is exactly how some principals and teachers feel as it relates to the district office supporting them which trickles down to students feeling this way in their classroom when they are introduced to an unfamiliar standard, given a task they do not have the prerequisite skills (unfinished learning) to achieve or asked to read aloud in class. At this point, you could hear a pin drop. I reminded the C&I team that their instructional support should be designed to reach all levels of learners. I asked them to remember the type of players they had on their teams as they plan professional development to support schools, principals, and teachers as the support should be prescriptive. 

According to the assistant superintendent, chiefs, and academic coordinators, there were three types of players on every team: 

Nope Players 

(Don’t Want To and Don’t Have To)

These players didn’t know how to shoot at all and were not interested in attempting. We have to provide more intense support for principals and teachers and remediation for students (show them the basics and progress with a great deal of patience and compassion).

Novice Players

These players knew how to shoot, but the distance was too far (we have to meet these players where they are and provide additional practice to move them to the next level). 


These players already knew how to shoot and were pretty efficient, but simply needed more shots to be successful (these are the players with the background knowledge, understanding of concepts, and skills to achieve the task).  It is tempting to let the more efficient players stand by while we help the ones who need more help, but they too need to be pushed to reach the next level.  

I reminded the C&I team to remember that all of our schools, principals, teachers are not born in the third tier.  They will walk into this school year at different levels, and they must be ready to meet the needs of them all. Additionally, I reminded them to remember their experience when it was their time to take the shot as a principal or teacher. I also reminded them to lead from the Affective Domain understanding the social-emotional need of principals, teachers, and students must be met with the academic needs simultaneously. You see for our kids their education is their only SHOT, with it it’s still a long SHOT, but without it, they have no SHOT at all. Therefore, schools, principals, and teachers must have equitable support from the district office to even have a chance to shoot the SHOT.