Why We Love No Office Day


This post was collaboratively written by Jessica Johnson, William King, and Shira Leibowitz

Serious critique deserves serious response. When several educators we respect wondered aloud on twitte

r about whether No Office Day sends a poor message about administrators, we took their reservations seriously.

Upon further reflection, we still love #NoOfficeDay.

For those not yet familiar with No Office Day, it is a day (or numerous days) on which principals and other school leaders shut our offices down and spend the entire day where learning happens – among our teachers and our students. Here are some of the original #NoOfficeDay principal posts that inspired the rest of us: No Office Day by David Truss, Be There by Lyn Hilt and International No Office Day by David Truss.

Does No Office Day mean we never spend other time out of our office? Of course not! Effective principals are typically hard to find in their offices, because they are the “lead learners” of their building and are usually already in classrooms to observe learning. #NoOfficeDay days are part of more comprehensive approaches by principals to transform our roles from “experts” directing teachers and managing to full participants in learning, focusing the school on a culture of collaboration to support student learning. It is a day or several days in which principals immerse themselves into teaching in specific grade levels, certain subjects or throughout the building. It is time for principals to keep “in touch” with teaching and learning.

No Office Day is merely one component of a more nuanced tapestry of the role of the principal and the way in which principals and other school leaders engage in learning. We each spend significant time daily in classrooms, not merely “driving by” as walkthroughs have been appropriately critiqued, but reshaping our roles to be more like coaches than evaluators.

It is important to note that while we are out and about all the time many principals still end up spending large amounts of time in the office. Discipline referrals, parent meetings, scheduling, community partnerships, paperwork,etc. Some of these efforts are not “busywork” such as meeting with teachers on their professional learning goals and partnering with parents to support their children. Still, we’d be lying if we said we never got caught up in “busywork”. In some districts, it is more the norm for seasoned administrators to stay in their office and fill the role of manager as compared to instructional leader. No Office Day allows the opportunity to light a fire under some of these principals (and central office staff) who haven’t taught a day since leaving the classroom for administration.

We can find No Office Day as more of a celebration of the great things we are doing (coaching, teaching, leading). Celebrating these things motivates those around us who may be set in their ways and have forgotten what it’s like to be in the trenches. It’s sad that that’s the case but its true. Last year many principals and central office staff (including superintendents) got involved and they had a blast. It really changed some of the mindset of administrators, resulting in regular No Office Days the rest of the year.

While educators that are not principals may be critical of #NoOfficeDay, we realize that it is sometimes difficult for teachers to understand all the responsibilities that principals take on day to day. None of us realized how tough administrators have it…until we became one!

Want to read more from other principals on #NoOfficeDay? You can find their posts here.

18 comments for “Why We Love No Office Day

  1. September 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this day and again, as I said, I love the intent. But again, there is a deeper issue at stake. In Alberta, the idea of instructional leadership is expected of a principal. This is not just an aside, but if you did not do this, you will not be able to be a principal. Does everyone do it to the extent that they should? I doubt it, but it is still expected.

    Here is the link to it on my blog:

    http://georgecouros.ca/blog/principal-quality-standard/providing-instructional-leadership

    I think that the issue I have with this is that this it comes across as a “one off” then a consistent and continuous culture change. It would be the same as “Innovation Day”; nice idea but if this is something that is so good, why are we not doing it all the time? I know that Josh Stumpenhorst did some great stuff with innovation day as a teacher, but I am guessing that if he was an administrator he would look at how he could ensure that this is not just something that is a day thing but a part of the way things are done in the school. Again, make it a part of the culture. It is why Google doesn’t have innovation day but 20% time where they allow for this to just be a part of the way they do business.

    So as administrators, we set the tone for what is happening in schools and I admire the intention of this program and if it leads to instructional leadership being a part of the culture, then that is awesome. But if you are truly successful in #NoOfficeDay, eventually you won’t have to do it anymore. It will just be a part of what you do.

    Just my thoughts. I appreciate the discussion.

  2. September 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    My original tweet asked “Wondering: if we left our offices on a regular basis… would there be a need for a day dedicated to being out of it? #noofficeday”. As George said, the intent is good but this should be just part of what we do. The ironic thing is that many of the people who participate in #noofficeday are out of the office on a regular basis already.

    My big concerns are based on the name. “No office day” may be followed up with the question, “what happens on the other days?”. It implies that we are doing something out of the ordinary on a particular day. As Josh has asked (albeit cynically), “Should teachers have a no desk day?”. I also am aware that some media has got hold of some of this and portrayed this as a great thing… which getting into classrooms IS – but the fact that this is portrayed as an EVENT rather than just what we do leaves me with the feeling that there is a lot of work that needs to be done around instructional leadership and supervision for learning.

    We all have the same intent – getting out of our offices and into classrooms more often. The best way to do this is share stories, conversations, and images of what our students and schools are doing on a regular basis.

    I truly appreciate your efforts in promoting this but I wonder if the negatively framed message (much like “Anti-Bullying Day”) focuses on the wrong part (being in the office) and places it as an event.

    Maybe the WHY does not need to change but more the WHAT and the HOW often.

    As I said, I appreciate all the passion for spending more time with kids… and just like most great ideas, maybe the message just needs to be tweaked.

    I look forward to your thoughts.

  3. September 20, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I appreciate the sentiment of a “No Office Day” and I understand the intention is not to assume this is the only day when this behavior takes place. I just wonder if the need of such days indicates a larger issue with the culture in a school that needs to take part in such a day. If it is normal practice for an admin to be in and out of classrooms as often as they can, then does a day like this have to happen? Should we have “No Desk Day” for teachers to get up and teach? If we need a day like that, we have bigger issues. :)

    As George mentioned, I did an Innovation Day at my school a couple years ago. It was a good day but it also indicated a problem in that this only happened once a year. I have now instituted this idea of Innovation Day and passion based learning into my every day to the extent that an Innovation Day is not needed.

    Hopefully the No Office Day will light some fires, but it certainly is not the answer. As Chris Weijr has written, these days don’t solve anything unless we take these actions and institute them into our every day practice. For those choosing to participate in No Office Day, I hope they realize this should be something that happens everyday and no an isolated event.

    • September 20, 2012 at 6:20 pm

      And I apologize for misspelling Chris’ last name…it is Wejr.

  4. September 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I imagine that the passion around No Office Day stems from our deep commitment to be present for learning and teaching everyday. On that, we agree.

    For me, No Office Day is a bit like Mothers Day and Fathers Day. Celebrating Mothers Day and Fathers Day doesn’t mean we don’t love and respect our parents everyday. Rather, rituals have meaning, offering us moments in time to celebrate people and values that matter to us. For me, No Office Day is such a moment. I value being present for learning and teaching and make time for it daily with no office hours. Giving a full day, or days, emphasizes my commitment.

    One might say if I have no office hours daily, there should be no need for a no office day. Yet I have found practical benefit. I schedule six no office days a year, one with each grade; K-5. I spend the entire day with a grade, from arrival to dismissal and gain perspective on the rhythm of the day for the grade. I wish I could spend an entire day with each class. I will this year, as a birthday gift to teachers, teach each class for a period on the teacher’s birthday. It’s not a full day, yet it is engagement with all grades and all classes.

    There is a gravitational pull to our offices and we need supports and structures to enable us to do what we know to be necessary; keeping ourselves present for learning and teaching. No Office Days are one such a support and structure among many for me and I continue to find them to be meaningful.

  5. Sheila Stewart
    September 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    I got curious about what #NoOfficeDay meant, so I got reading here to try and understand better.

    I wondered about what impression it gave to parents. Has anyone surveyed parents for their impressions and understanding? It might be good to know and may provide for further reflection. For example, I wondered if I (as a parent) heard that the principal was having a “no office day” would that mean she/he would not be able to take a call from me that day? Does it mean there are other things that they wouldn’t be doing that day…or just juggling different?

    Just trying to get clearer on intent. Thanks for the interesting dialogue.

  6. September 20, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Shira: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think we have 1000s schools with various cultures out there – some that would welcome a #NoOfficeDay like a anonymous fire drill, and others that are used to leadership visibility as the default. In putting No Office Day on the calendar, I look at it as encouraging it as the default – the principal with students & teachers supporting the best teaching and learning. For every school leader that comes away thinking, “man I should be doing this more consistently,” the hashtag/title #NoOfficeDay is a success. So for me, it is both an edreform piece as well as a reminder of what I need to be focused on daily. To Sheila’s question – of course we’d step out to connect with you in the way which best suits you, or invite you in to walk the halls with us.

    • Sheila Stewart
      September 21, 2012 at 2:38 am

      Thanks, Joe… appreciate that suggestion/clarification! Now that you have said that, it reminded me of a few good conversations in the past that I have had with principals because they said, “Walk with me, so we can keep talking”.

      I think when parents do get a chance to spend time in a school, I think most would be amazed about the “ground” that principals do cover. #awarenessisgood :)

      • Sheila Stewart
        September 21, 2012 at 2:42 am

        wow… what time zone is this blog set to? Says I posted at 2 30 am… only 10 30 pm here :)

  7. Reed Gillespie (@rggillespie)
    September 20, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    I tried #noofficeday several times last year. When I first emailed my staff about it, several commented, “When are you ever in your office?” For me this was one of the biggest complements I received all year, as being visible was goal #1 for me. So, yes, for me it was as much about making a point to teachers and students about what I value. Essentially, I felt that I was driving home the point.

    I also varied up my #noofficedays. A couple were spent observing and interacting with students and teachers. One day, I served as a substitute. I had plans to follow a student on another #noofficeday and experience school from the student perspective, but that fell through because of disciplinary issue.

    For me, #noofficeday was an opportunity to do what I value and to demonstrate my commitment to it.

  8. September 22, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I’ve been reading these discussions with great interest. Two years ago when I started scheduling full-days to be immersed in a grade level, I didn’t really “name” the day. I let my staff know I wanted to see what a day would be like from start to finish for a first grader, or a fifth grader, and I used those days to inform my practice and build a deeper understanding of our programs and the instructional activities students were engaged in each day. It also gave me a chance to work directly with students because I worked with teacher teams to plan lessons and activities to lead on those days.
    It’s unrealistic to think a principal can spend every day like that, because we all know the managerial demands require us to attend meetings and spend time in the office on occasion. That doesn’t mean the principal can’t be visible in all areas of the school on a daily basis (assuming they haven’t been pulled out of the building for meetings, that’s the worst!), even if it’s just to pop in and greet the class and teacher. Most principals I know plan observations and informal drop-ins on a daily basis, not necessarily for the entire day, but to ensure a portion of the day is dedicated to instructional leadership.
    I agree with the others’ sentiments that placing a name/tag on this type of day could be misconstrued by those who don’t truly comprehend the role of the principal. To me, it should be more of a personal commitment – make time every day to be in classrooms- that might be 30 minutes total time, or 4 hours total time depending on the demands of the day.

  9. September 22, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    “Does No Office Day mean we never spend other time out of our office? Of course not! Effective principals are typically hard to find in their offices, because they are the “lead learners” of their building and are usually already in classrooms to observe learning.”

    -The question for me then is, why do we need to celebrate a ‘no office day’ or more than one? As a fellow Albertan, I agree with George… “there is a deeper issue at stake. In Alberta, the idea of instructional leadership is expected of a principal. This is not just an aside, but if you did not do this, you will not be able to be a principal.”

    -In Alberta we are expected to schedule this time in the classrooms as instructional leaders as part of our regular planning of time and responsibility. It truly is part of the leadership culture… where we want and need it to be to support effective teaching and learning in our schools.

    Like “multicultural day” and “respect day” and many other ‘days’ we acknowledge/celebrate in many schools, one is left wondering what happens during all the other ‘days.’ I would rather have a new visitor in my school see our administrative team out and about supporting teachers and students as instructional coaches in the routine context of our everyday culture than to know that a particular day was set aside to acknowledge the importance of the process. Instructional coaching must be woven into the fabric of our teaching and learning culture so that people just know ‘that’s how we roll around here.’

  10. September 23, 2012 at 2:17 am

    I appreciate the insights of all who are participating in this conversation. And, I certainly share the desire and energy for deeper change in the role of the principal. No office days for me, following Lynn Hilt’s example, have been an opportunity to spend the entire day, from arrival until dismissal, with each of our grades. And, I do love them! They are one component among many aspects of being present to support and engage with learning and teaching. None of us involved in No Office Day ever intended to give the impression that we are primarily in our office on other days. That being said, I respect and embrace the suggestion that we expand our conversation to include a multitude of ways in which we can continue to more effectively serve as instructional leaders and coaches. I would be very grateful for a place in which we can continue the conversation. Perhaps a page on the Connected Principals blog would be the appropriate location for blog posts on the topic. Perhaps we could create a hashtag that will be more inclusive than #noofficeday. Certainly, all are welcome to use the #educoach hashtag, a place we discuss the role of principals, instructional coaches, and teachers in supporting professional learning. Perhaps there is another address for us to continue our conversation. I do look forward to ongoing sharing as we all strive to improve as learners, as teachers, and as instructional leaders.

  11. September 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I’m torn on this topic. My ‘No Office Day’ was inspired by a busy schedule whereby I promised my staff I’d see more of them and then promptly got stuck in meetings the next day. The day after that, I didn’t bring my laptop to school and spent the entire day in classrooms. That said, I was at a small school and had a personal motto of every-day-every-class, even if I popped in one door and slowly walked to the next… although it was often a visit where I’d sit with a student and dig in.

    That week was a tough week and on Wednesday at our staff meeting, I’d realized that I had really only been in most classes just once for that week and so one more day of not getting to classes was the impetus for a full day promise (to myself more than others).

    Here is the thing… it was really liberating! It’s one thing to visit a class and sit in, even participate for a whole block, or offer to teach for a block. It’s a completely different thing to say, ‘for today… the entire day… I’m going to spend my time in the classrooms’. It’s an even better thing to commit to specific classes that are expecting you to get involved, like Lyn did.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my day completely away from the office, but the reality is that I can’t do that every day. So the bigger issue I guess is “What is the message I’m giving to others when I declare a ‘No Office Day’?”

    Am I saying, “I don’t ever get out into the classes” or am I saying “I want to commit an entire day to one of my favourite parts of my job”? For me it’s obviously the latter, but if my bigger message is misleading, then maybe I just do it without the hoopla of a hashtag and an official day. But what if this day were to give other principals the same liberating experience that I had? What if it wasn’t about sending messages to others, but rather recommitting to your staff and students that you value your time with them.

    The reality is that unless you are in classes regularly to begin with, well then your day out of the office is just going to ‘creep out’ your staff who are wondering what they did wrong to deserve having you in their classroom for so long. Whereas, if you are already in their classes frequently, teachers are going to get you to roll up your sleeves and join them.

    Perhaps #NoOfficeDay is not an ideal celebration, but I would challenge even the best of principals to commit to, and stick to, a full day of being out of the office and in the classrooms… and see how the experience can be a complete battery charger in a job that can often be draining.
    ~Dave.

  12. Sheila Stewart
    September 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    This helps for me, David – Thanks! It does help to hear why the message is important and who the message is important ‘for’. I think I can embrace this better with the idea of it being a commitment rather than a celebration. (also good to hear about battery charging!)

    Good to mention the point about the possibility of the “creepy” factor!

    Could this also open up more on-going sharing of ideas and help those who are unable/not ready to commit to a full day? eg. “How do you show your staff and students that you value your time with them?” (as you mentioned was important to you)

  13. September 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    I again want to express my gratitude for a meaningful conversation. And, while we each have different paths and approaches, what unites all who have participated in this conversation is a commitment to be present for learning and teaching; for students and teachers.

    I respect David’s essential question; “How do you show your staff and students that you value your time with them?” and would add another, “How can our presence in classrooms as principals make a positive impact on learning and on teaching?” For me, we make a positive impact in a range of ways: offering nonjudgmental feedback; complimenting and recognizing the good in order to build on strengths; gaining perspective on our school through the eyes of students and teachers; deepening our relationships; and engaging and sharing our own insights through learning and teaching together with our students and teachers. I find that much of my daily time in classrooms is dedicated to feedback, compliments, gaining insight, and deepening relationships. No office days are about being fully engaged with learning and with teaching. In and of themselves, they are insufficient and yet without them something vital feels like it is missing.

    I can forego the hoopla of hashtags and official days. Still, I’ve just scheduled six no office days, one with each of our grades K-5. It’s my second year of scheduling no office days and I hope teachers and I will become more creative in determining ways I can engage to make a positive impact. I encourage other principals to try and see if no office days work for you and your teachers, with or without the hashtag and official day. And, I look forward to more on-going sharing of ideas about ways not only of being present, but of assessing the impact of our presence.

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