A Reflection on my First Day of Observation Meetings

In my last post, I described how I plan to use mini-observations and scheduled observation meetings this year as I learn to be an instructional leader. Today was my first day of observation meetings… and I loved it!

As I was talking to my five-year-old son tonight, he commented that he would be scared if he had to visit his principal, and he wondered if the teachers at my school were scared if they had to visit me. That’s a really weird thought for me. I hope everyone at my school feels comfortable visiting with me, but my son may be right. I wish that weren’t the case.

  • I’m hoping regular meetings will ease those fears.
  • I’m hoping I develop strong relationships that will ease any fears.
  • I’m hoping that everyone in our building sees my goal– to be the best we can be every day.

So today we began the meeting process, and I met with five teachers for 30+ minutes each. (Five conferences in one day to discuss goals, growth, and teaching! I can’t remember having five of those conversations with a principal during my first 10 years of teaching!) In my opinion, the meetings couldn’t have gone better. Our meetings followed this structure:

  • Teachers shared positive things from the year so far.
  • Teachers shared any concerns or needs they have.
  • We discussed the mini-observation process and showed my observation documentation system and how it works.
  • We discussed the observation notes I’ve already gathered through mini-observations.
  • We reviewed the three school-wide instructional goals for the year (writing effective objectives, student engagement, and appropriate and effective student technology use).
  • We identified 3-5 individual PD goals I can help each teacher reach. Essentially, these are some of the key things I’ll look for during a mini-observation in addition to the school-wide goals.
  • Finally, we went over the teacher evaluation rubric. Teachers assessed themselves with the rubric prior to coming to the meeting. We will re-evaluate in December and in May.

This won’t be a typical observation meeting, but it was a great first one. I feel like we got a lot accomplished and we’re heading in the right direction. In our second observation meeting, we’ll be able to have deeper discussions about effective lesson planning and analyzing assessments.

I have seven observation meetings scheduled for Thursday. I can’t wait!

But I will admit that I was pretty tired by the end of the day; however, this is the work.

Evernote Use #24- Informal Classroom Observations Checklist #50EduEvernote

After reading Kim Marshall’s book Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation, it’s clear that administrators need to be in as many classrooms as possible every. To get a clear picture of what goes on in the classroom, Marshall recommends that building principals should be in every teacher’s classroom at least once every two weeks.

Marshall says, “Talking to teachers about the teaching and learning that’s going on in their classrooms is the heart and soul of instructional leadership. There’s nothing more productive and satisfying than being in classrooms and talking to colleagues about teaching and learning. This is the work!”

Marshall’s system is really simple:

!. Observe each teacher at least once every two weeks.

2. Have an informal conversation with the teacher to discuss the observation. Find out the context, learn about what’s going on in class, ask questions, and offer suggestions.

3. Document the observation and conversation with a follow-up email.

That makes sense and seems easy to do, but like many things I’ve discovered in my first year as an assistant principal, life happens during the school day, and without a plan, informal observations and classroom visits rapidly get moved down the priority list. If I’m not careful, I’ll get busy and go a day or two without being in one single classroom! If I believe observations are the most important thing I can do, then I must make them a priority.

To help keep me on track, every two weeks I create an Evernote note for an informal observation cycle, and I put the note at the top of my shortcuts list. In my note I list all of our teachers and provide three checkboxes in front of their names. As I visit a classroom (O), follow-up with a conversation (C), and document the observation (D), I check the boxes. I also put the class period I visited just to make sure I vary the classes I observe.Informal Observation Checklist

This checklist really holds me accountable, and even though I may not get to every classroom in an observation cycle, I am able to see the cold-hard facts of how often I am observing classrooms. It also shows me in black-and-white the classrooms I frequently visit and the ones I don’t.

I’m still learning this whole administration thing and having a checklist has really helped me so far!

In my next post, I’ll share how I use Evernote to document a classroom observation.

 

How might a recurring checklist like this be helpful for you? Share your idea below and help out another educator.