We’ve all seen the signs on various company vehicles. You know the one I’m talking about. How’s my driving? Call 1-800 … What would it be like if schools had something like that? What if while you were teaching someone could comment on how you were doing? Well, we actually do. Formally we have observations, but informally we have what are called walk throughs. These can be no big deal in the eyes of one teacher, or strike fear in the heart of another. Why the difference in perception? It really comes down to knowing what the purpose of the walk through is, and the relationship you have with your administration and fellow teachers.
A little background first. Just yesterday I attended my district’s Leadership Summit. It was the first time I had been asked to attend and represent the intermediate teachers in my building. I really did not know what to expect or what we were even expected to do. It was amazing. However, I won’t lie. My eyes did glaze over when we started making watch list data sheets. Thankfully, my former teaching partner is amazing with these things. Anyway, we were asked to look at our walk through observation sheet and then set a schedule. I must say it’s a much nicer form than the one we had previously. Gone were the checklists of what is hanging on the walls. It’s no longer a ‘caught you not doing something’ kind of form, but rather a way to look at what is going on in your classroom. What I’ve seen of our form so far is really pretty good. I really see it as helping both novice and veteran teachers alike know exactly what administration is expecting to see and how to format your lessons. The purpose really is to help identify what our professional development needs really are, to pair up teachers who could help each other out, match teachers wanting to try the same instructional strategies, and yes, to help those who may be struggling. In addition, it will help with documentation on our new teacher evaluation tool (KEEP) in Kansas. Click here to go to the video our district made to get more information on walk throughs.
So what does your relationship with administration and fellow teachers have to do with a walk through? It’s easy. Stop being paranoid and start trusting. There’s no use getting upset about this. It is coming and how you approach it can make all the difference in the world. If you look at formal and informal observations as a way to improve your craft, you’re well on your way to being at ease with this process. If you are paranoid any time another adult or even an administrator walks into your classroom, you are going to have issues. Choose to look at this as an opportunity to improve or even an opportunity to share what you are doing that is just plain awesome. Trust that your administrator is there to support you. I really don’t wake up every morning wondering what my principal is going to do to me today. I really do believe my principal and school improvement specialist want to see me succeed and will help me reach the goals that I or they set. It’s the same way with your fellow teachers observing you. If they are that shallow as to use this as an opportunity to make you look bad, it will eventually come back on them. Choose to trust and believe in the good of your fellow teacher. I learn so much by observing other teachers and bouncing ideas off of them, even if they are not in my grade level. It will take a leap of faith and trust when you then sit down and discuss what they saw during the walk through, but that is where the learning comes from. I see it as a time to ask questions, get ideas, and to above all, grow in our craft. Like anything else it will be uncomfortable at first, but will be so beneficial once it gets going.
So, as I look towards next year I’m actually kind of welcoming these walk throughs. I’ll be moving up to fifth grade and will look at these walk throughs as a much needed resource. I’m actually looking forward to my new teammate letting me know if I’m on the right track and my other also new teammate to commiserate with me on as to what we need to work on.
Once we get this walk through process up and going I’ll come back and post how it is going. I’m sure there will be bumps along the way, but it will be ok. As I finally get to the end of this incredibly long post I will leave you with two thoughts I pinned on Pinterest that fit walk throughs. The first is “Stop competing with others, start competing with yourself.” The last is “What if I fall? Oh, my darling, what if you fly?” Be prepared and choose to fly.