Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Change Sandwich

This post is a response to Bill Ferriter's most recent post.

As I began observing/evaluating teachers, I remembered a strategy that my professor in my grad program told me about. Her advice was to start an evaluation conversation with something that you thought went well in the lesson. Then, discuss the needed improvements and end with something good again. The reasoning behind the strategy is you prep the teacher with something positive, create a trust. Then discuss what needs to improve, then end the conversation with something that also went well.

I like to call this the Change Sandwich. What I want changed is sandwiched between two things that they're doing well. To me, this defuses the situation. It takes the some of the bite out of the conversation by padding the need with something good. By ending with conversation with something that worked, the teacher can leave the conversation with something positive. No matter how much improvement they need to make, they can leave feeling a bit of success. Something they did in the lesson I observed worked!

Each staff member will receive something to improve upon. Each staff member will also receive some feedback on something that went well. Sometimes, the positive outweighs the needs improvement while other times the needs improvement is the larger portion of the conversation.

As I reflect about the frequency of the observations I do, the formal observations are specified by master contract. The informal observations and walk-throughs are where a more consistent picture can be formulated of what student learning looks like in each teachers classroom. Now, am I in the classroom as much as I would like to be? Not a chance. There are the managerial portions of the principalship that take time away from being an instructional leader. I am starting to schedule time in my weekly calendar to do walk-throughs and observations. If I don't, the time will be filled with other meetings or paperwork.

Well, Bill this is my take on the other side of the desk. I've been sitting in the exact seat you are now. I wasn't as good of a teacher as I could have been. Other things get in the way... Just as now, I am not as good of an instructional leader as I could be because of things getting in the way as well.

Is this a system problem? Should the role of principal be split in 2? Should there be someone to do the managerial portion of the job and someone else to be the instructional leader? Would administrators take less pay if the job was split in 2 for the sake of increased student learning????

Monday, October 25, 2010

Moving forward....

That's a necessity in schools today. The federal government through No Child Left Behind is mandating moving forward. There are stipulations on what moving forward means through NCLB, but is that what's best for education??

I don't think this is the case. I do however wonder what will create urgency within schools, administrators, and teachers. If you do much research on implementing change in any organization one of the key components is creating urgency within the system. As a new school administrator, I've spent the first 3 months getting to know our system. I've spent lots of time getting to know students, parents, community members, teachers, AEA personal, and other administrators in our district. I've also looked at what we're doing well and what we need to improve upon. To get our school moving forward, I need to work to instill a feeling of urgency with teachers. This hasn't been done yet..

My plan for the next quarter is to begin to challenge them even more. I've begun the ground work of focusing on student learning. Each teacher needs to focus on student learning rather than instruction. We are beginning to focus on providing supplemental activities for our students, but the next step is identifying which students need help in what areas. Utilizing formative assessments to gauge student understanding is key and will be part of our focus. In January, Matt Townsley and I will be presenting to district staff about formative assessment. I hope to have started the discussion on what formative assessment is and how we can use it by then!

As you look at your school, what areas need to change? What hurdles must be overcome for student learning to increase???