Every administrator wants to spend more time in classrooms as it is the most fulfilling part of their job, allowing us to witness the wonderful things that teachers and students are accomplishing in their school. Despite this, classroom observations and walkthroughs often seem to be put on hold. The reason for this is that there are numerous matters that require immediate attention, such as student emergencies, parent complaints, impromptu meetings with supervisors, teacher absences that leave students unsupervised… These distractions can interfere with any administrator’s ability to conduct classroom observations. However, over the past three years, I have implemented strategies to safeguard my time for classroom observations as much as possible.
In an attempt to streamline my observations my first year, I designated two hours every Thursday morning as my observation time. I quickly found that this was impractical due to teachers being on prep or having multiple courses during that time. Since then, I have shifted my strategy to a monthly schedule.
My monthly approach follows this outline; at the beginning of the school year I look at the master schedule and create Google Calendar events for all classroom observations for the following month. This allows people to know when I am unavailable for meetings as well as helping me being purposeful about what courses I am seeing. In addition to the calendar events, I also document on a Google Sheet the date and type of course. Throughout the month if something keeps me from attending a specific observation, I highlight the missed observation in red and add a comment as to why I missed the observation. At the end of the month I sit down to schedule the following months observations as well as analyze why I missed observations. This has been a great way to track what type of interruptions I have so that I can determine a plan for how to handle them in the future.
Interruptions throughout the day are inevitable, administrators have to come up with a way to determine if the interruption should derail the purposefully planned day or not. During my reflections each month I started to group interruptions into 3 categories.
- Emergency – these are the interruptions that I cannot avoid even with the best planning. I would ask all staff members to interrupt my schedule so that I can address these situation immediately. The main reason for an emergency is a safety concern.
- Inform– these situations may result in an interruption or they may not, but I need to make that decision. I have asked to receive a text with the basic information so I can decide if this is an interruption or give advice on how to proceed.
- Document– the last type of interruptions that I discovered are those that did not need to be an interruption at all. I call these “document” situations because I ask for a follow up email. This helps me if the topic comes back around to know how it was handled in the first place.
Once I was able to evaluate my interruptions I had significantly less interruptions during my classroom observations. This is essential work when prioritizing classroom observations.
A Work in Progress
Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for protecting time for observations. There are several factors such as the size of your school, the number of administrators, the type of responsibilities you have outside of teacher evaluations… What is important is that you make a plan, reflect on it frequently, and adjust until you find a system that works for you.