I’m so happy to see all the posts on social media from principals who are joining classroom discussions between teachers and their classes. It’s heartening to see that this crisis isn’t keeping school leaders from carrying out what I think is one of the true joys of school administration and that is classroom walk thrus and visitations. Over the years, my thinking and approach to classroom walk thrus have evolved and changed so much to now I consider it one of my best ways to build relationships with teachers and to connect with learners.
After my time as a middle school math teacher, I was a curriculum support teacher for a couple of years. Here my support included frequent classroom visits and coaching/growth/help conversations with teachers. That experience helped ground me as an assistant principal and principal. Instead of seeing it as an obligation, I embrace EVERY visit to the classroom as an opportunity to have a conversation that will help learners and teachers.
Growing teacher efficacy, improving instructional delivery ensuring learners are getting what they need are what we are all about and informal/walk-thru are a critical part of making that happen. But most importantly, we can see for ourselves, with our own eyes, in most cases, that the most important student needs are being met. As we are checking on instructional design and delivery, we can have conversations with learners that let us sleep at night. Now that more teachers are able to have video chats with their classes, principals and assistant principals can adjust thinking and practice to make sure that not only is learning maximized but that everyone is also taken care of.
- Maslows before Blooms – As we are talking to staffs about best practices now, the one thing we can make sure every adult is focused on is are our learners ok. A good friend, Joe Sanfellipo does One Minute Walk to Work shares for educators and in a recent post https://buff.ly/2QQyRkk [subscribe here], he shared two questions that we should all start current conversations with 1) How are you doing? and 2) Do you need anything? This time shouldn’t make that level and type of concern the exception but these days are helping us prioritize what really matters in the classroom and this simple, powerful thoughts can help us find out something life-changing.
- Eyes on Kids – When I visit classrooms, I make it a point to lay eyes on every child. In my mind, I’m keeping a ‘running record’ of sorts on the learners in the room. I’m thinking about where they were and are in terms of last conversations. We can do the same here and now digitally. Lay eyes on every student and do your own wellness check. Seizing the moment to look for details is an opportunity too important to let go by.
- Visiting High Needs Students – It goes without saying that some students need more support than others, and that’s ok. Keep them in mind and make sure they come up in your conversations with teachers. Making sure you’re part of those digital visits is important. First, all students will see its important to the principal that everyone is on point and doing well. Second, those students who know you have always had their back will know you are still there
- Feedback to/from Teachers – Keep that instructional conversation flowing. While we are going to give a lot of leeway and support to adjust to a temporary reality, we also have a full understanding that leeway can’t lower expectations. Lowering expectations hurts everyone.
Those of us who help schools with pedagogy shifts that include technology integration firmly live by the mantra that its ‘pedagogy before technology’ – well these days it has to be ‘kids before pedagogy.’
And don’t limit this to joining digital chats teachers are having with their classes. If you were a principal to join random tables at lunch or strike up conversations with groups in the hallway, find a way to create some group chats now. Learners need us.
The opportunity from this crisis is to rethink the conversation – nothing will ever be more important.