Feedback and Communication: 2 Top Things, Part 2

imageIn my last post, I came to the brilliant conclusion that Feedback and Communication are the Top 2 Things that Teachers want from the Principal. Nothing really new here. In fact, if you’ve been reading education blogs during the last five years, you will see these two themes, or variations thereof, come up nearly every day. In any case, I promised in my last post that I would follow up with a post that describes some of the ways that I communicate and provide feedback. So here it goes.

But first, a stipulation…
I hereby stipulate that I have lots of room for improvement both in how (and how much) I communicate and in the frequency and quality of feedback I give. However, I think that I can honestly say that have made some progress on this front.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post…
I have been working on improving and increasing feedback and communication for a while in a few ways. As you read through my list of ways I communicate or provide feedback, you will undoubtedly notice that many of the specifics items could easily fit in the other category. You will just have to accept that categorizing is a wildly imperfect act.

Feedback

  1. Goal setting/Summative
    1. Goals with every professional staff in the fall; every support staff in the winter. Every year.
  2. Formal Evaluation/Observation
  3. Walkthroughs/Mini-observation
    1. I visit classrooms on a regular basis. Even at this small school, it is quite tough to get to each teacher to ask and share about what I saw. Instead, I email: What I noticed… Students were… A question to consider…
    2. Through November, I’ve completed 97 documented mini visits
  4. Weekly Teacher Meetings/[insert something here to have a slash like in the previous three items]
    1. Every full-time teacher, every week. Sometimes we talk about questions front the walkthroughs, sometimes we talk about specific students, sometimes we talk about fluency progress monitoring data, and sometimes we talk about our pilot of implementing the EngageNY math units. Oh, we also sometimes just talk about life and parenting.

Communication

  1. Monday Memo. I send out a simple email, usually on Sunday evening. I send very few other announcement-like emails. The staff learned quickly that the Monday Memo is their one stop shop.
    1. Great Things I Noticed Last Week
    2. New Items
    3. Reminders
    4. EST (an update about the most recent Education Support Team Meeting)
    5. Events This Week
    6. Tech Tips
    7. Our Values
  2. Auto-forward school Facebook postings to the staff email group
    1. I want to make sure that staff see what parents do.
  3. See Nos. 3 and 4 under Feedback above
  4. Attend weekly team meeting for each team in the building.
  5. Hang around the office and staff lounge and just chat.
  6. Keep my door open most of the time.
  7. Walk the halls, lots. Especially after school.

I suspect that when I am an old, grizzled, soon-to-retire principal, I will still be working on communicating more often and more clearly (hopefully my dentures won’t come undone every time I try to communicate). Even at that advanced age, I will still be perfecting ways to give helpful feedback to teachers.

Please add a comment with ways that you give feedback or improve communication.

Cross posted from Principal’s Point of View.

7 Comments

  1. Dave Kimball said:

    Larry – Your efforts to keep your staff informed, and provide them targeted and poignant feedback is commendable. I especially appreciate the time dedicated to casual conversations. This is an often overlooked, but critical tool in gauging the pulse of any community. So much is learned in those “lounge” conversations. Thanks for sharing!

    December 1, 2014
    • Dave,

      Thank you. Funny you should mention taking the pulse of the community. I give that lots of thought as I am not naturally perceptive enough of mood and tone. The conversations really do help.

      Thanks again.

      December 1, 2014
  2. Bea said:

    Excellent post on providing feedback frequently! As a newer principal, I certainly found the advice useful and plan to take action ASAP. I especially appreciated the informal walkthrough prompts (I noticed…etc.).

    December 1, 2014
    • Bea,

      Thank you. I have been adding pieces of this into my practice bit by bit over the years. Choose one new thing and start tomorrow. I love my time in classrooms most of all.

      Thanks again.

      December 1, 2014
  3. Amber said:

    As a new Vice Principal, I found this blog post to be extremely helpful. I also commend you on your efforts towards keeping staff and yourself informed. I find feedback difficult. I do regular walk-throughs but definitely find it hard to find the time to discuss what I noticed. Do you ever find that your e-mails are misread and taken the wrong way? Also, how did you first go about scheduling weekly meeting with your teaching staff? I think mine would be reluctant to participate. Thanks! I will definitely be slowly implementing some of your ideas one at a time.

    December 2, 2014
    • Larry Fliegelman said:

      Amber,

      Thank you. Finding the time is very difficult. That is the main reason I started emailing feedback in the first place. I try to write very simple clear sentences to avoid misunderstanding, but it has happened a few times with no serious problems.

      As for the weekly meeting, I waited to start this until my fourth year at my current school. I did not present the meeting as optional. Also, I only asked for 15 minutes – just a check in or follow up from the emails or some student event of the day. The teacher who balked a little, has been the most insistent on not canceling or postponing. She always has an agenda. One teacher thanked me for making sure she had a regular chance to talk with me.

      The real challenge now will be to maintain all of this through budget season and into the Sprinng.

      Good luck with your new VP gig.

      December 2, 2014
  4. […] of course, there are the perennial areas such as communication. Please see my previous post for ways that I am working on improving communication for […]

    December 6, 2014

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