A daily round of quick classroom visits by administrators can transform the teaching and learning climate. This strategy covers the three most critical steps towards making this transformational step part of an instructional leader's daily leadership practice. It covers how to set a purpose, create a schedule, and use non-evaluative observation tools.
Set a purpose and routine for your quick classroom visits. This step is often overlooked but very important as it provides you with a focus, and it is important that teachers know your purpose as well. The purpose doesn't have to be highly technical - just honest.
For example, you might tell a teacher, "I'm going to do my best to drop by your classroom every other day, just to see how things are going. Please let me know if there is something you'd like for me to look for, or if you need help with anything specific."
Use tools that help you make and keep a schedule for dropping in to classrooms.
A clipboard with a checklist of classrooms or teachers and your note-taking template or Quick Observation Tool (included in the resource section below) is one simple example.
There are also tech tools that randomly assign you classrooms to visit, and support your note taking. (See the Resources and Tech Tools sections below.)
It is critical that you see every classroom at least once every two weeks. The classroom visits can be divided up among a leadership group, which can include teacher leaders.
If more than one person is conducting quick classroom visits, it is vital that the group "tune" their intent together so that what teachers are experiencing is consistent (see the How to Use a Quick Observation Tool resource below). You can also create your own using the resources below. Remember, this is a quick visit intended to bring the school together, so always keep the visits brief and non-judgmental. You should not intervene in the teaching unless there is a safety/emergency situation.
Consult this resource to see how administrators in Charlotte-Mecklenberg schools conduct Three-Minute Walk-Throughs
Use your notes. Share great moments of teaching and learning that you observed both at staff meetings and with individual teachers either in person or via email. Note what practices you'd like to spread throughout the school via professional development, note areas that need to improve school-wide, and develop a more nuanced picture of your teachers that will be invaluable during formal evaluations.
Schools serve an increasingly diverse population and have a responsibility to teach every child. Supporting specific best practices for EL and Special Educational students through quick classroom visits helps keep your leadership spotlight on what is actually happening in classrooms as a result of mandates or initiatives. It is a powerful tool to note strengths and areas for improvement. Modify your quick classroom checklist to look for specific practices and materials that support the EL or Special Education students in the classroom.
As schools across the country become more diverse, and serve student populations with different needs as well as cultures, teachers and school leadership need to bring a culturally responsive teaching and learning focus to their work. Quick classroom visits are a powerful way to see what teachers and student are experiencing, how any changes to curriculum and teaching need support, and how engaged students are in learning. Modify your quick classroom checklist to look for specific culturally relevant practices and materials.
Repertoire is a web-based app that supports classroom visits on a daily basis by randomizing classrooms to send you to, and providing a structure for note taking.
Google Calendar is one of a variety of free online calendar management systems.
Use the calendar proactively to plan your week, blocking off different times to visit classrooms as a time that is sacred and cannot be used by anyone else for any purpose, unless it is an emergency. Google Calendar allows you to organize your time much more efficiently, because you can block off work times, set up events, put meetings, events and reminders on other people's calendars, and share your calendar so that people can see when you are available and book time with you.
In developing this strategy, the following resource was consulted.