We have been dabbling with a Walkthrough Protocol at Burlington High School called Look 2 Learning which I wrote about back in November. As we commit to a greater commitment to this model, I wanted to share a couple of conversations that have gone on recently which I think will help us ensure a higher level of success.
First off, we revisited the why – as in why should teachers commit time to this initiative.
The rationale here is pretty straight forward. Our schools are constantly judged by outsiders based on external source of data based on standards that we have little to no control over. Why would we want to miss out on an opportunity to create internal data based on standards that we predetermine?
In addition, in New England high school are visited every decade by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges which sends a team of educators into each school to determine how well the school is doing in adhering to the NEASC Standards. As a former NEASC Commission member and a Chair of evaluation teams, I can say without reservation that the highlight of the visit is shadowing students and visiting classrooms. At the conclusion of the four-day visit, team members have a pretty good idea on teaching and learning a given school.
The sad part here is that in most schools, the team has a better handle on teaching and learning at the school than the people that work there every day. So as I answered the why with my staff, my answer was simple. We should be the experts on what goes on in the classrooms of our school. We should not have to wait for an outside group of educators to come in to our school to tell us what Teaching and Learning looks like in our school.
And Another Thing, Maybe We Should Tell The Students What We Are Doing?
I know this should be common sense, but we did not spend enough time educating the students as to what was going on and why all of a sudden groups of teachers were entering their classes for 3-5 minutes, talking to them and then leaving. Fortunately, one of my staff members was kind enough to point this out by having his students state what they thought of the “walkthroughs.”
Here are a few of the responses:
“I think that evaluators did not do a good job. They were only in the room for 3 minutes.”
“Students and teachers act differently when other adults walk into the room.”
“I think that if it were to work it would have to be done more often.”
Needless to say, we will be meeting with all of our students right after mid-terms to explain to them the format and purpose of the walkthroughs. Let’s face it, having other adults enter the room and ask them questions about what they are doing in a class and why is a little out of the ordinary in public education. Almost as foreign as telling them what we are doing and why.
Who knows, maybe down the road they will join staff on the walks?