I stand at the front door or “the intersection” every morning to greet the students (my building has one long hall and one short, therefore, one intersection). I do lunch duty or just eat in the caf most everyday. I go out to recess on a regular basis. I cover the front desk as needed. I say goodbye to every child on their way to the buses each afternoon. Most importantly, though, I visit classrooms on a regular basis. I have been working on this habit for a number of years. Over the last few years, I can finally claim that this is something fully integrated into my practice as a principal. There are many ways to visit classrooms, so I decided to explain my visits to the BCS community. I recently sent this out as part of BCS Dates to Remember, the monthly newsletter:
You may wonder how I know about the hard work and learning that goes on. Well, unlike the principals that I had as a kid, I am rarely in my office for long (those of you trying to get me on the phone can attest to that). Instead, I spend tons of time in classrooms. I make three main kinds of visits to classrooms: 1. Super brief visits to deliver a message or talk to a student; 2. 45-minute long formal observations of the teacher; 3. 5-20-minute-long “Stopped by” visits. I track this last kind of visit with a short email to the teacher on the way out the door. As of February 21, I had conducted and documented 180 “Stopped by” visits. This comes to an average of more than 11 visits per teacher; or more than 16 on average for the full-time classroom teachers.
So, what do I do with all these visits? I give a small amount of feedback after each visit, but the real value is when it comes to decision-making. With so much direct knowledge of what goes on in the classroom, I am far better able to make decisions about students, curriculum, staffing, and school-wide initiatives. I can have better conversations with teachers about the learning that I see.
So, frequent classroom visits are a very important part of being visible. Between giving feedback, building relationships, and making decisions based on real knowledge, visibility is a vital part of being a principal.
*OK, I say that I know what is going on, but I realize that might be an overstatement. I am more visible than most principals, and I still only see the slightest sliver of the teaching and learning that goes on. Let’s say each of my 180 visits lasts ten minutes, that is 3600 minutes. Add in the formal observations at 45-minutes each for an additional 180 minutes, and I am up to 3780 minutes out of 338,100 (7 hours (420 minutes) for 115 days for 7 core subject teachers). That is just a little more than 1% of the learning.
P.S. I do not wear the high visibility vest, but I sometimes think about it.
Cross posted to principal’s point of view