(Originally posted on Servant Principal.)
By Walter A. Kozlowski
An eighth-grade student sitting outside my office nodded toward chart on the wall and asked, “What’s that?”
I explained to him that it is how we keep track of the classrooms we have visited.
His response: “That’s cool.”
For years, I was often frustrated by my inability to get into classrooms because of what I thought were the priorities I was addressing by working in my office. Then, I began making walkthroughs a high priority. I stated a goal and I began charting my progress. There are several benefits to making walkthrough visits a top priority.
As principal, it is my responsibility to ensure quality instruction and valuable learning are occurring in every classroom. Frequent classroom visits allow me to gather evidence, which then supports my evaluation of teachers. I go get the evidence, so that my teachers do not have to put effort into proving to me what they are doing. They can concentrate on teaching. Each visit provides a snapshot, which may or may not be indicative of what really happens in a given classroom. Frequent visits help me to discern patterns and allow me to develop an accurate understanding of how a class operates and of how I can help our teachers grow.
Schools only exist because of students. Getting into classrooms allows me to see what they are doing and to have conversations with them about their learning. That said, I do my very best to not disturb the flow of the class when I enter or exit the room.
Regular classroom visits allow me to keep my finger on the pulse of the school. I generally know what topics are being worked on in each class and how it fits into the bigger picture. This keeps me prepared for conversations with parents and provides me information to use when dialoguing with students outside of their classrooms.
Checking the Building
While out and about I am able to identify concerns with the building. I get a sense of which areas of the building are running hot and which are too cold. I can spot items that need attention and ensure signs and information posted around the building are current.
Seeing Other Adults
Our teachers are not the only adults working in the building. Visiting classrooms gives me an opportunity to see the work of our paraeducators and, occasionally, catch a glimpse of what other support staff are doing. It also gives me an opportunity to visit a little with these important members of our staff.
Our walkthrough form is designed around our school improvement plan, so every visit is another opportunity to gather data, which we can later analyze to get a sense of the frequency with which our strategies are being used and so that we can provide support or make adjustments, as needed.
Making Walkthroughs A Priority
If not a priority, walkthrough visits can easily get crowded out of the day. My goal is to be in each class, each quarter. So, if a teacher teaches five hours a day, they can expect to be visited five times during the quarter and twenty times over the course of the year. With that as my goal, I have to make sure I am spending time in classrooms every week.
Classroom walkthrough visits allow me to be an instructional leader, provide an opportunity to connect with people, and help me to manage the multitude of non-instructional issues important to the efficient operation of a school. Walkthroughs can be the school leader’s version of managing by walking around (a concept popular in business). The information gained by mindfully walking around my school puts me in position to serve our students and staff, which is what my position as principal is all about.
What other benefits do walkthough visits provide? How do you make them a top priority? How does the walkthrough process help you serve the stakeholders in your school?