And here is why. Is your school accountable for the education of young people? Is your school measured based upon the academic achievement of your students? Do your teachers have enough time to effectively cover all the standards in the curriculum? Are all of your teachers 100% effective 100% of the time?
As I consider my school my answers would be: Yes, Yes, No, and No.
It has been my experience that students and some teachers like to coast into a holiday break sometimes using their time and instructional opportunities less effectively than we would like. Classroom observations the week prior to a holiday break sends the message to students and teachers that every minute of instructional time and every instructional opportunity during the school day is critical. It is my responsibility to set the expectation that we will provide students with quality learning opportunities every day and will provide quality instruction from bell-to-bell each class period.
Some may read this and say that I am unrealistic or too harsh, students and teachers need a little break. Well, maybe they are right. I promise that I will back-off and be more compassionate when our graduation rate is 100%, our CCRPI (Annual State Measure) score is in the top 5% in our state, and our standardized test scores are in the top 5% in our state.
I have learned, however, to obtain the best results the week before a holiday break I should be somewhat more selective on whom I choose to visit and whom I do not. The reasoning behind this is that by the time the winter break arrives I have been in many class rooms and should know by now who is most effective in their teaching practices and who may warrant a class room visit the week before a holiday break.
I also tend to concentrate on those teachers who have fewer visits than some others. I usually run a report that informs me of who may be slipping through the cracks when it comes to class room visits and make a point to pay those teachers a visit. If they are working hard and the students are learning it tends to be a great visit. On the contrary, if I find that we are not working hard and the students are not learning it tends to be a little less than a welcomed visit.
In either case teachers need to know that at any moment someone may be walking in to their room to visit their class. In most instances the visits are great and the students are doing authentic work and learning. In some rare instances maybe not so much. Even in those rare cases where students and teachers leave a little to be desired in the area of learning the class room visit can be a positive influence on student learning.
I have come to realize that your truly effective teachers are always prepared for a visit despite the time of day or year. These teachers are effective as a result of their practice and their understanding that learning is continuous and needs no break. The teachers that are somewhat less effective and would benefit from a visit just before a holiday break hopefully will soon realize that we desire for our students to be learning every second of every day and that down time before a holiday break just is not good practice.
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