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100 Classroom Visits

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Wow! I did it! There were times when I didn’t think I would make it, but I did it. This week I met my goal of visiting 100 classrooms before winter break.

My inspiration for this goal was twofold. Over the summer I read Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation: How to Work Smart, Build Collaboration, and Close the Achievement Gap by Kim Marshall. The premise of the book is that there are four strategies that principals can take to improve teaching and learning:

  • Making short, unannounced classroom visits followed by one-on-one feedback conversations
  • Participating in curriculum unit planning
  • Working with teaching teams to analyze interim assessment data
  • Use rubrics for end-of-year teacher evaluation

I was motivated to prioritize classroom visits when I read about Marshall’s experiences as an administrator looking for ways to improve quality of instruction. He credits his mini-observation classroom visits and subsequent feedback-focused conversations with having a direct, positive impact in classrooms.

My second inspiration was the work of Justin Baeder of The Principal Center. He sponsors a free 21-day Instructional Leadership Challenge. Once again, the focus is on prioritizing classroom visits and follow-up conversations as a way to have a direct impact on teaching and student learning. He challenges principals to get into three classrooms a day. While it doesn’t sound like much, as any administrator knows there are days when it can be a challenge just to get out of the office! I took the challenge seriously to make visiting classrooms my number one priority, get into at least three classrooms a day, and provide feedback for each visit.

While I’d like to say that I have a meaningful conversation with every teacher after every classroom visit, I’m currently closer to having conversations after approximately 50% of the visits. However, I do provide feedback after every visit by using notecards I’ve created that include the ASD teaching standards identified in our Responsibility for Learning faculty appraisal system. I check the box(es) of the standards that relate to my notes, and provide specific written feedback from my observation.

100-visits-notes

I don’t take notes while I’m in the classroom. During the five to ten minutes that I’m observing I do just that… observe. If the lesson allows, I will have a brief conversation with the teacher while I’m in the room. By the end of the day I write up my notes and either leave the card in the teacher’s mailbox or hand deliver if a follow-up chat would be more appropriate. Before delivering the notecard, I take a photo and upload it to a folder in Google drive to archive the notes.

Keeping track of my visits was a bit more complicated. I wanted a system that would allow me to track not only when and how often I visited each teacher, but also provide an at-a-glance update on which subject areas and grade levels I’d visited. I came up with a system for a color-coded spreadsheet that I keep in Google sheets.

100-visits-month

Teachers’ names are listed down the left side of the spreadsheet with dates across the top. I color code the appropriate box for the subject area or grade level that I observe each day. I have separate sheets for each month, and have grayed out the days when classes are not in session (for example, on holidays). This allows me to easily see who I’ve visited, when, and for what subject area or grade level.

I also wanted a way to track which of the teaching standards I was commenting on and for which subject areas. I added another tab to my Google sheet to do just that. For each teacher I enter the date and subject area under the appropriate standard. I can easily see where my attention has been during visits, and be more intentional about what I focus on during my time in the classrooms.

100-visits-standards

Now that I’ve made it to 100 visits, I’m looking forward to reaching 200. But my goal isn’t really about hitting a number; it’s about becoming better informed about the teaching and learning that’s happening in the classrooms. With the system I’ve developed, I’m finding that I get into every classroom approximately every 2.5 weeks. I have to admit that I’ve never felt as knowledgeable as I do this year about the learning that’s happening in our school.

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