No Office Day

Sometime in December, 2010 I read a blog post by David Truss, principal of a school in Dalian, China titled, “No Office Day.” The title piqued my interest, but what really got my attention was something he wrote. “If a principal stays in the office all day, he/she might as well stay at home.” OUCH! Two things happened when I read this. First, I got excited about the possibilities and thoughts of what a “No Office Day” would like for me and secondly I felt conviction by my lack of presence, visibility, and connection with my staff and students.

I immediately thought of my very first staff meeting as principal in August of 2008. I publicly vowed that I was going to be visible in the hallways and classrooms on a regular basis. I had great intentions, but intentions get you nowhere. The first couple of months were as I imagined them to be. I was out and about, popping into classrooms, and standing at the major intersections in the hallway. You know, being visible, “managing by walking around.” However, as time passed, I found myself chained to my chair taking care of the necessary minutiae of the day (or days, or weeks). As the days, weeks, and now years have passed, about the only time I have taken to get into classrooms is that which is needed to do formal evaluations. Yikes! That’s not good!

So, on Wednesday, February 2, I sent out an email to my staff that included the following message:

 NO OFFICE DAY– In order to visit more classrooms, I am having a NO OFFICE DAY on Friday, February 4. I will not be in my office the entire day (unless there is an emergency). I’ll see you around!

As David encouraged, I planned to send updates on Twitter using #noofficeday.  So, on Friday, I sent out the following tweet:

 

What I heard and saw was so inspiring! My day began in an Advanced Composition class where the teacher was journaling along with the students. The assignment was a free write followed by an in-depth discussion about narratives. What was most intriguing about the lesson were the types of questions the teacher asked the students. It was like watching a master craftsman using intricate tools to complete a difficult cut. Not only did this occur in the Advanced Composition class, but in several other classes I observed.

I walked into another classroom where the teacher and students were having an in-depth discussion about Nathaniel Hawthorne and Transcendentalism vs. Anti-transcendentalism. The essential question was, “If you were able to travel in time, where would you go and why?” As soon I walked into the room, the teacher asked me the same question inviting me to join in! It was awesome. Before I left, I shared with the class what I just sent out into the twittersphere, which was public praise of the teacher:

 

Later that morning I had a very meaningful, honest, and heartfelt discussion with a highly respected teacher in the building. We discussed everything from current grading practices and student responsibility to accountability, among other topics. We just sat and talked with no pressure to hurry and get things done. I not only appreciated the time, but I appreciated just being able to actively listen.

As I traveled throughout the building I experienced groups of students working on an upcoming mock interview in Global Studies and a couple of students assisting each other with their pantomime speeches.  But one of the best conversations I had was with our Student Council members. We talked for nearly 50 minutes about an issue we have recently faced. They asked some great questions, attentively listened, and worked together to come up with solutions. Our Student Council Advisor is truly developing leaders through this group’s experiences and I am so grateful for her work and her dedication to students.   

The highlight of the day was a brief conversation I had with a student who, as a principal, I have known since she was in the sixth grade. It was near the end of the school day and she had earlier presented with a group of students at our Annual Science Symposium. She shared with me that her group earned a medal and she gave me the elevator summary of their project. I asked, “So how do you feel?” She said, “I am so tired, but I feel good about the work we did. It was so challenging, but I learned so much! And, I’m glad it’s over!” With that, we high-fived each other and went our separate ways. I had encountered yet another student, proud of herself and praising her teacher who provided an opportunity for students to stretch their learning.

As we begin each day at school, I share the Words of Wisdom, by Project Wisdom, and sign off by saying, “Make it a great day or not… the choice is yours.”  Well, my No Office Day was truly a GREAT DAY!

Like David, I encourage you to have a NO OFFICE DAY and share the events of your day using #noofficeday. Have fun!

Be Great,

Dwight

22 Comments

  1. Kyle said:

    As a new principal (13 successful days so far) I am inspired by your post. I am doing my best to stay out of my ofice and have even instigated the #25minutes challenge on twitter where I tweet throughout a 25 minute observation in a class. I did 2 sessions last week and the were definitely the highlight of my week.

    I am trying to have a paperless office – I take meeting and discipline notes on my tablet, stay in touch with my admin. assistant through texting, and spend every recess and linch break out playing with kids (I always join a game of 4-square, tag, or football on the playgound)

    I do a lot of work from home evenings and (not as much) on weekends, so you’re right – we don’t need to be in our offices.

    I will take on you #noofficeday challenge this week, thanks!

    February 6, 2011
    • Dwight Carter said:

      Kyle,

      First, thanks for the feedback. Secondly, congratulations on your new role as principal! It looks like you are off to an excellent start and I wish you all the best with your paperless approach!

      When I was a middle school principal I used to play basketball, football, jump rope, and four square during recess. It was my favorite part of the day! Keep the PLAY involved in your work, my friend. It’s so easy to get stuck, but you are off to a strong foundation to prevent that from happening. I can’t wait to read about your No Office Day experience!

      Be Great,

      Dwight

      February 6, 2011
  2. Katie said:

    Passing this on to my principal. I think she would enjoy a no office day!

    February 6, 2011
    • Katie,

      I’m certain she’ll enjoy the day! Thanks for sharing.

      February 6, 2011
    • Katie,

      Thanks for passing this along to your principal. It’s been a week since the my No Office Day and I’ve only been in a couple of classrooms. I was out of the office half this week, but in meetings. Please ask your principal to share her experience!

      Be Great,

      Dwight

      February 12, 2011
      • Shelly A Green said:

        I just sent the No Office Day to my staff. I am THRILLED that TOMORROW I will be in classrooms all day! Thank you for sharing your experience. Tomorrow will be an amazing day!

        September 24, 2015
  3. Shawn Dufour said:

    I also took the challenge two weeks ago and experienced my first no office day. It was my best day as administrator in my 10 years as an adminstrator. My school is set up in pods with 6 classrooms sharing a common area in the centre. I moved my office chair and computer and other items into two pods for this day and was very productive, getting out my Friday Afternoon memo to staff.
    The great thing about this day was the number of interactions I had with students and staff. I was in each of the 6 grade 4 and 5 classrooms at least twice in the morning. I saw teachers asking great questions, students engaged in a variety of activities and most important was the fact that I could become engaged with staff and students in these activities.
    The afternoon was similar, in the grade 6 and 7 pod. Great interactions with both staff and students. During transition between classes students stopped to see what I was doing and I shared that I was sending out some tweets about my day(I will now use the #noofficeday hastag). I was also able to divert a student in a French class, after hearing the conversation from the hall between the student and staff member I was able to make my way into the classroom and sit with the student to conjugate verbs on the smartboard and redirect his behavioiurs, which allowed him to spend the entire 50 minutes in class, which is the best place for him.
    From this day I learned so much about my school. Much of what I thought was happening in my building is actually alive each and every day. I went home that evening feeling fantastic about my day! In addition I have moved a computer desk with wheels into my office which now allows me to take my chair and work with me any time to the halls, where I can be with staff and students. I have learned that whatever it is that I am doing in my office can be done in the halls, which allows me to hear and see what is going on in the classrooms and it makes it that much easier for me to get into the classrooms. Thanks for the post about your wonderful day!

    February 6, 2011
    • Shaun,

      Congratulations and I am so glad to see you had such a wonderful experience! It’s cool to get out to interact with the teachers and students. Thanks for sharing your reflection and please keep me posted. I plan to have another “No Office Day” soon. Hopefully, this will become the norm for us and not the exception!

      Be Great,

      Dwight

      February 12, 2011
  4. Janelle said:

    Thank you for posting your experiences with your “no office day”. Your post reminds me of one of my favorite administrators. Mr. T was a principal in the 90’s at a fairly large elementary school here in ACPS, Virginia, where I was a fourth grade teacher. Thinking back…he was fairly visible compared to what I’ve seen lately in my current schools that I work. Mr. T was famous for walking around with index cards in his front pockets (pre-mobile device days) always jotting notes (mostly about students he said..) on what he saw happening. He was a perpetual note-taker. He was also a great speaker for a crowd, but a pretty awkward one-on-one conversationist. He sometimes reminded me of a very passionate preacher when he had a message to pass along to his staff. But… even though he had great intentions of being out and about, like you mentioned… he started to hole up in his office, buried with the minutia of administrative duties. So… one day a little kindergartner tugged him on his jacket and said, “hey, where have you been? I haven’t seen you!” Well… this got Mr. T reflecting… and before the week was over, he had pulled a big desk out into the foyer near the front door and at a major intersection where every class passed to go to either lunch or PE. He basically moved his office out there! He stayed there the rest of his career… working in the hall, displaying books he was currently reading or that he thought the kids would enjoy looking at that supported content they were learning, etc. He was from that move forward, a very visible principal! Mr. T retired in 2001, and I often think of him and how much I really really learned from him!

    February 6, 2011
    • Thanks so much for sharing your story about the inspirational principal!

      February 12, 2011
  5. Shelley said:

    Not sure which I’m happiest about… David Truss’ cool idea, you running with it, or you sharing it out and making your enacting of it so transparent.

    In any case, I’ve got a big ol’ grin on my face.

    I was particularly struck by the way in which your experience seemed to alter the flow & sense of time in your day… we maybe don’t realize how much we miss in our “by the bell” days until the bells are silenced.

    I hope you might consider attending EduCon next year; I think you might enjoy it, and I know folks would appreciate hearing your stories (this one among them!)…

    in peace,
    Shelley

    February 6, 2011
    • Hi Shelly,

      David definitely inspired me! I am still on a high from that day and hopefully this will become the norm and not the exception.

      I would love to attend Educon! I followed the tweets this year and was blown away by the participants comments, ideas, and reflections.

      Be Great,

      Dwight

      February 12, 2011
  6. Nancy C said:

    Dwight,

    I think it is very important for a principal to be involved with his/her staff and students. I am happy to say that my elementary school’s principal has been doing this on a regular basis for the last couple of years. He doesn’t take a whole day but several hours of many days. He has a good handle on what is going on in his building, and amazingly he knows the names of the 458 students in the school.

    As a teacher I was at first nervous at the thought of him popping into the classroom, but now I really like it and see the value. My students love sharing what they are doing and I think they see that he is interested in their learning.

    Congrats on your “No Office Day” and here’s to many more!

    Nancy

    February 6, 2011
    • Hi Nancy,

      I want to do this more often and it’s a goal to do so. Thanks for the encouragement!

      Be Great,

      Dwight

      February 12, 2011
  7. David Truss said:

    What a wonderful day Dwight!

    I can’t take credit for saying, “If a principal stays in the office all day, he/she might as well stay at home.” in my ‘No Office Day‘ post, and I’m not sure I said it at all? Perhaps it was said in a Twitter conversation around the time of my post?

    At the same time that I did my ‘No Office Day’ post, Lyn Hilt wrote ‘Be There‘ about her Grade-Level days which seemed like a really amazing experience too!

    In reference to Shawn Dufour’s comment, Patrick Larkin said on the first comment of my ‘No Office Day’ post, “I have even given up my office and taken a desk in the lobby as my home-base”. I’ve seen a picture of this. And Bob Carter suggested a ‘Principal Swap’ day.

    There are so many principals out there doing amazing things, and I think that the sharing of these experiences only serves to inspire us to try new things and to be better principals. Thanks so much for sharing your incredible day.

    February 7, 2011
    • David,

      You were my inspiration! Thanks my friend.

      Be Great,

      Dwight

      February 12, 2011
  8. Lyn Hilt said:

    Dwight, thanks for detailing your day for us! Sounds like it was meaningful for both you and your school community. Today was my day in Grade 2 and we had an amazing time. The day flew by, I got to interact with so many students and our teachers, and I completed some amazingly fun projects including Skyping with some other classes thanks to my Twitter connections! The best part of these days is knowing that, short of an emergency, nothing is getting you out of those classrooms. Thanks for sharing your day of visible leadership with us!

    February 7, 2011
    • Hi Lyn,

      It truly was a fantastic and meaningful day. I want to do more than just hope to have more days like this, but plan to have more days like this. It’s way too easy to get caught up with paperwork, etc. Thanks for your encouragement.

      Be Great,

      Dwight

      February 12, 2011
  9. I love it. Great post. Great ideas. A principal who spends the majority of their time in the office is at par with the teacher who spends their day behind their desk, isolated from the learning.

    I’ve included a link to a great training program that help school leaders manage the administrative piece of the puzzle while keep learning at the fore front. It empowers you to spend 50% – 70% of your time in the game, where it counts. In classrooms looking for learning and collaborating with collegues.

    http://www.the-breakthrough-coach.com/curriculum/two-day.php

    February 8, 2011
  10. hello admin. i opened up my mail today and kept following the links from page to page and somehow ended up here on %BLOGINTITLE%.. i’ve been reading your posts since then and i like the way you are writing. are you currently on twitter?? simply because i would really like to follow you and get notified any time you post on your blog here. i am trying to read all of your posts and i’m enjoying them a great deal. thanks a great deal for putting up a nice informative blog. Thank you.

    May 18, 2011

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