How Visible Are You?

CC licensed photo shared by jjlapierre

It’s true that in school administration is not an easy gig.  The number of tasks required can be overwhelming some days, and then you look at your desk and realize that you did not accomplish anything YOU set out to do that day.  The workload can provide cause for one to hibernate and live in the office for much of the school day.

I am fortunate that I have always had this “urge” to get out of the office and go walk around the school.  I find I can only focus for a period of time at my desk and I need some kind of movement break.  It seems that I need this break more often as I get older.   However, I use these walks to accomplish a variety of other tasks, or to connect with a teacher or student.  In some way, I try to be visible in our school.  This is probably why I do extra-curricular and blog as well.

Granted, there are times when one has to knuckle down and if necessary, close the office door and get specific tasks done. If the door is open most of the time, then that resonates positively throughout the building.

How visible are you in your building?

11 Comments

  1. Dave – This is such an important question. Especially at a time when we are looking to increase our on-line presence, we cannot lose sight of the importance of visibility in our buildings. I decided a long time ago to dedicate the time before or after school to accomplish my to-do list. I also feel like I have a lot more interaction with staff, students, and parents since I moved my desk to the Main Lobby.

    If students can learn anywhere at any time then why can’t I conduct most of my business from the Main Lobby? I am also a believer in walkthroughs and being in and out of classrooms frequently.

    I read a quote somewhere on this topic that hit home for me – “The Principal that stays in his or her office may as well stay home.”

    January 18, 2011
    • Dwight Carter said:

      That quote struck a cord! I will definitely remember that one. Thanks for sharing.

      January 19, 2011
      • Dave said:

        Your welcome Dwight. Thx. for the comment and for stopping by.

        Dave

        January 19, 2011
  2. This is one of the things I love most about working at a small private school. My elementary has 125 students, all in one building. My office is not back in a suite. I am not tucked behind an assistant or receptionist. My door is always open and right between the Kindergarten and the bathrooms. Every time a student goes to the bathroom they stick their head in my door and say hello. As classes line up from their bathroom breaks, I can walk out my door and interact with 15 students up-close and personally.

    School-wide, I continue to teach one section in the high school or middle school. This has been critical to my relationship with the older students, since we share a campus.

    As a principal, students and teachers are my top priority. You’re right, sometimes that means hunkering down and getting some nasty paperwork done, because long-term it is in everyone’s best interests. But I always have to remember, today could be my last day with that student (or teacher)…did I take advantage of every opportunity to impact a life…

    January 18, 2011
  3. Matt Arend said:

    Great thought provoking question. This is something that I focus on daily. In an administrative position it is so easy to get bogged down at the computer answering emails or at your desk returning phone calls and rummaging through the piles of paperwork that stack up. Not one of the aforementioned tasks is the reason I entered into educational administration.

    I do my best to make an effort to be in each classroom at least once a day and sometimes more. Some days are easier than others, but it has to be a priority.

    For example, I got to work late after attending a doctor’s appt. with my wife. I knew I had to be in the cafeteria from 10:45 – 12:30 to man the school store and I had a meeting at 1:30, so I went directly to the office, sat down my belongings, and headed straight for the classrooms.

    For the next 60 minutes, I forgot entirely about my list of things to do and immersed myself into the classrooms. Teachers were teaching, students were learning and they love seeing “administrators” enter into the classroom. I enjoy sitting down with them to hear what they are working on, or just pulling up a chair to listen to the teacher instruct the young readers at the teacher table.

    Thank you for this post! It should make us all stop and think about how we prioritize our day and what we put at the top of our list. I hope to be even more visible then I have been, after reading this post and other’s comments.

    January 18, 2011
  4. Dave said:

    Thx. for the comments folks.

    Granted my office is somewhat tucked away, but teachers, students and parents all seem to be comfortable walking in to discuss an issue. I think the easy question to ask is: Is the school administrator accessible on a regular basis. Good school review question.

    Patrick, what an idea! Now I just need a bigger lobby. I ‘d put my desk in the cafeteria, but I have gained too much weight already in the last two years. 😛

    January 19, 2011
  5. Amber said:

    Love that I read this after I just walked all around my campus, 🙂 I like seeing the students, getting down and working with them, being someone that they RECOGNIZE…not just a “ghost” in an office that handles discipline. & I love the hugs, 🙂 I think it validates teachers that are working hard and doing creative fabulous things in their rooms…and it does present unique opportunities to step in.

    January 21, 2011
  6. One of the best tricks that someone shared with me was when you get swamped, get out! When I have a ton of email, paperwork or just computer stuff to do, I grab my laptop and hit a classroom and work in there with the students for 20 minutes before changing rooms and switching it up.
    I love multi-tasking and hearing what the kids and teacher is up to and it allows me to listen in while getting other work done. It’s not as rewarding as dropping everything and being totally involved but it allows students to see that I have work to do just like them!

    January 22, 2011
  7. Alicia said:

    I am currently an administrative intern and I think that visibility is very important. Our principal has an open door and is always available for us to come in and talk. She tries to take care of email and paperwork before and after school, in order to free up her time for being visible in the classrooms. Often she will pop into the classrooms to see the teaching and learning that is going on. She will walk into any classroom and ask a student what they are learning. She is looking to see if the students know the focus or objective of the lesson begin taught. Who better to ask than the students themselves! I personally believe that is one of the most effective things you can do as an adminstrator if to see what is going on in the classrooms on a regular basis. I read a great book I believe called Three-Minute Walkthroughs, which can be used as an effective tool for helping promote teacher growth and self-reflection. I also believe that the more visible you are, the more the students get to know you and you can build a rapport with teachers. After shadowing my principal several times, it is easyto see how you get bogged down in your office or with emergengy isssues, but I do think visibility is critically important. My principal blocks time into her weekly schedule time to walk around the building and I think by doing this it helps her make it a reality.

    February 2, 2011

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