I recently wrote an article regarding why classroom observations should be conducted the week prior to leaving for a school break. Conducting classroom observations the day we return from a school break can be just as impactful.
Here is why. We recently returned from a three day break that, because of unexpected winter weather, turned into a four day break for students and teachers. I guess you could say the same for any break, but the fundamental reasons for conducting classroom observations have not changed. The day after a break is a great opportunity to remind both students and teachers of the expectations that have been established for the school.
As in many schools, our expectation is that teaching will occur from bell to bell each and every day. We wish to maximize our instructional time for our students and this can be accomplished through effective planning and implementation of research based instructional strategies. To ensure our teachers are planning and implementing research based instructional strategies each day, we must be willing to visit classrooms each day we have school, including the first day back from a break.
To illustrate the effect our frequent classroom visits have on the planning and implementation strategies demonstrated by our teachers, I would like to mention two interesting conversations I have had with teachers. The first is a teacher that is well respected in our building by all staff and by me. The second is a teacher that left our school to pursue interests in another building. Both are informative examples of how valuable our walk-through program is for our school, even on the day after a break.
I was speaking with a teacher just the other day regarding the administration of common district assessments. Our district administers and monitors student performance for each unit we teach. These common district assessments are administered throughout the district in an attempt to ensure that each student has the same access to quality instruction despite the high school they attend. We do this in hopes of identifying strong student performance throughout the district and duplicating those instructional strategies throughout other areas of the school system. Recently, we have come to realize that this effort may be falling to the wayside. As I addressed this with one of my teachers I received a response that is becoming more and more familiar in my building. I was told that some teachers comply with requests and meet expectations because of two reasons. One is that it is the culture of our school to do all things necessary for our students to experience success. The second is that teachers in some instances strive to meet expectations in the classroom because they know that at any minute one of the administrators may walk in the room to conduct a classroom observation. Whether this type of motivation is ideal or not, it is motivation for our teachers to be on top of their game each and every time they step in front of students.
The second conversation came two years after one of our teachers moved to a different school. We had a vacancy in this teacher’s subject area and I received a phone call expressing interest in returning to our school. As we talked I was informed that this teacher never really understood why we visited classrooms so often. There was a feeling that it was all about checking up on teachers to catch them doing something wrong. I think as a staff we have moved pass that perception but it was the perception of this teacher so it was concerning to me. The teacher then informed me that since they had been at a different school the reason for the frequent classroom observations was more apparent, at least for this teacher. I was informed that at the current school visitors to the classroom were rare, maybe three or four times a year. The teacher explained to me that there was no expectation of a visit and as a result there were times where the teacher would get lazy and take some time off with the kids. Sometimes even for a whole day, especially on a Friday and even more likely on a day before or after a break.
We visit classrooms very often. We visit classrooms very often for many reasons. Most of those reasons are to ensure that we are continuously improving in our teaching ability. If teachers are more consistent in their duties and responsibilities because of our frequent visits and that they never know when we might drop in for a visit: Well, that’s OK too.
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