Sunday, January 16, 2011

A New Look at Classroom Observations

As a principal I always struggled to balance the legal requirement to observe teachers and write evaluations with the desire to engage teachers in thoughtful conversation about their teaching. I'm always looking for new ways to accomplish that task.

In The Principalship from A to Z I describe a three-step process that you can use to promote teacher growth. It includes a planning or pre-observation conference, the observation itself, and a post-observation conference. A suggested process and prompts are included in Chapter "Q."

A recent article in Educational Leadership (Dec 2010/Jan 2011) provided another way to engage in really thoughtful feedback and support. Jenne Calasacco, a principal in Hyde Park, MA schedules a week of observations. It provides an extended observation over the course of a week and a set of conferences with the teacher. While my initial reaction was the challenge of allotting so much time to a single teacher, I'm persuaded that such a structure provides a more complete look at the teaching process and how the teacher monitors and adjusts their work.

I'd enjoy hearing from you about how you provide teachers with meaningful feedback about their work and how you engage them in thoughtful conversation about ways to refine and strengthen their teaching.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Social Media and You

Over the last year I've become acutely aware of the power of social media to improve the educational experience of students and to transform the way schools interact and communicate with families and community. My good friend, Howard Johnston, and I are writing a book that will serve as a principal's guide to the use of social media in their school.

We're very aware of both the use and abuse of social media, of concerns about cyberbullying and other forms of harassment. But we've also grown attentive to the ways that principals use Facebook and Twitter to share information about their school and to keep families informed about school accomplishments and events.

Both of us have read, and recommend, a book by Charlene Li titled Open Leadership. It's a powerful book and describes the way social technology has created a more transparent environment, one in which leaders must behave quite differently.

As Howard and I continue to work on the book we would enjoy hearing from you about both the issues and concerns you have with social media, and the way you and your teachers use it to improve classroom instruction. We look forward to hearing from you.