Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fueling the Fire



As building administrators it is a part of our instructional role to get into classrooms and observe our teachers. As teachers you should hope for it and demand it. The goal as an observer is to provide meaningful feedback to what we have observed with the intent to make the instructional process better for kids, better for teachers and better for the learning process.

The feedback that we give based on these walkthroughs must be genuine. It can not be surface expressions and meaningless. Telling a teacher something you observed was "great" is a start. Telling that teacher WHY it was great and how it impacted the learning for the students is what they need to hear.  With purposeful feedback, teaching improves and learning improves.

Teachers want administrators in classrooms and providing this authentic feedback. Teachers want engaging and purposeful dialogue about improving and growing in the process. Students also recognize when we are there. What used to be the running joke of students knowing a teacher was up for evaluation (based upon the visit of the school principal) has turned into the expectation of even our kids that administrators are a part of the lesson and it's common practice, not an anomaly.

There are great resources of what separates the good teachers from the outstanding ones.
  • Todd Whitaker has excellent resources that we can all learn from.  In his text What Great Teachers Do Differently, he outlines 17 different attributes of great educators. He also writes about Making Good Teachers Great where he continues the message of helping all educators reflect upon their practices.
  • The late Stephen Covey has sold millions of copies of his books detailing the characteristics of Highly Effective People.  Educational institutions and businesses alike adopt and adapt these characteristics for their success.
  • And, the Hilliard City Schools, the district in which I work, has embedded The 7 Characteristics of Highly Effective Leaders, Teachers and Students, their own variation, and intertwined the message into the everyday work of its staff. The districts 7's is a collection of resources into one list for all to incorporate, embrace and embed into their work.

As we reflect on what we have read, what we have studied and what has been shared, we can quickly generate our own lists.  As I have completed my walkthroughs this year there are some "must see's" each time I visit a room.  If there is evidence of these attributes then I can rest assured that there are great experiences, quality instruction and learning of content coming from that class and that teacher.  These are some questions as I ask and my "must sees":

  • What's the Purpose? Have Target Goals/I Can Statements - They need to be shared and visible throughout the lesson. Maintains focus for the teacher and the student.
  • Where do you talk about the work? Collaborative space - A space where kids and/or teachers can elaborate on their learning. 
  • Can you hear the learning taking place? Noise - Chatter as it connects to the learning. Discussions and debate are great. 
  • Who's doing the teaching? Students and teachers - Make sure there is movement by the teacher, and the students. Nobody can sit for over 6 hours a day. 
  • Have we tapped into the resources? There should be an infusion of technology - Somehow, someway. As either part of the instruction or an extension of it. 
As we continue to grow in our profession, continue to reflect on your must-sees, must have's and must do's. Continue to get into classrooms. Jim Collins writes that we need to go from Good to Great. Once we accomplish that, we will have endless success.

Define, look-for and then provide feedback for your must-sees.  Be the spark that fuels the fire.