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Frank J. Hagen

When I re-entered the administrative field after a one year absence following my retirement in 2001, I didn't know what a walkthrough observation was until the Assistant Superintendent appeared at my door one morning and invited me to join her for a series of "walkthroughs". Not wanting to appear ignorant, I nodded and joined her. We used a half-sheet narrative form while visiting a dozen classrooms.

We returned to the conference room to debrief and found we were on the same page, figuratively and literally. However, I was concerned about the lack of agreement/knowledge shared with the teachers. I developed a walkthrough instrument COLLABORATIVELY with the teachers in the building which was shared with all of the staff. This was the beginning of my realization that the walkthough served many purposes including feedback to teachers, presence and visibility of the school administration in the classroom on a REGULAR basis, documented emphasis on instruction and student learning, recognition of teachers to provide (or who needed) professional development in "best practices", common language for discussion of classroom/learning practices...

In a brief period of four years from my first encounter with the walkthrough, the instrument was changed at least 6 times to better reflect our teaching/learning priorities reflected in our school improvement plan.

Frank J. Hagen
Adjunct Professor, Wilmington University
Principal Retired (MD/DE)

John Gross

You know what? The best "boss" I ever had over 36 years of teaching informed us when he became principal that we wouldn't be "observed". We, of course, wondered what was afoot. We soon found out, a large share of his day was spent sitting, standing, helping in the classrooms. No suit, no tie just a helper. He was able to do this enough and make his staff comfortable enough doing it that no one ever felt threatened by his presence. He did observations and very tough ones at times, but would always be kind and very professional when you met with him for an evaluation conference. He made suggestions, comments and even modeled, in our classrooms what he meant. It's possible, I've seen it.

Dave Sherman

Frank,
I am quite intrigued about the observation instrument you created collaboratively with your staff. Feel like sharing the instrument or the process (or both)? In our district, like most others I think, the formal evaluation instrument is a negotiated item with the teachers' union, and it is incorporated into the teachers' contract. Did you run into this issue for the walk-through instrument you created?
Dave

TeachMoore

I may be one of those teachers to whom your opening line refers (see my blog post on teacher evaluation-- http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/teachmoore/2008/01/teacher-evaluti.html). Perhaps the reaction comes from lack of understanding. Is the administrative walk-through intended to replace or supplement the mandatory, three-step teacher evaluation required in many school districts (pre-conference, full period observation, post-conference)? My frustration, as I explain in the blog, centered on the lack of feedback, as well as the poor quality of the few observations I did receive. When does a walk-through become a walk-by?

Joe Poletti

As a school-level admin newbie, I view the teacher observation as the capstone of instructional leadership.

The 20-minute drive-by observation is a formality. The full 1.5 hr. observation is where I get the most traction for what is going on in the class. I try to turn this observation into a conversation with the teacher that, at the minimum, lasts several days.

As for calibrating, we have a neat process. We have four admins. Over the course of the year, we alternate observations with the same teacher. The admin who does the first observation is responsible for the summative.

This gives the teacher different sets of filters, but I'm not sure that we do enough yet to improve inter-rater reliability with the observation process.

Mike in Texas

My district does not allow the teacher any kind of response to their walk-throughs. When they were first initiated one of our veteran teachers received a note on a walk through saying she was sitting at her desk. Turns out the office had just passed out a letter home to parents with a mistake on it, and asked teachers over the intercom to correct the mistake by hand. The admin who did the walk through completely ignored this. Another administrater hides near the edges of doors and windows and peeks into classes.

Naturally we all view these "walk-throughs" as administrators looking for a "gotcha".

Catherine Hiltz

I have been a Principal since August of 2007 and a Vice-Principal for six years prior to that. I have to complete three formal "clinical supervisions" this year, with the help of my VP. I find our process to be beneficial to initiate professional discourse, but I like my "walk-throughs" more. I do not use a check list, but perhaps I should. As I have become more comfortable with my new role, I find myself wanting to just be in the classrooms with the teachers and the kids. Some teachers like this, and I think that others are a little more uncomfortable.

I think that the staff that are a little more agitated are becoming more at ease. Sometimes following the visits I engage in conversation, but I don't criticize. I try to focus the conversations on the kids and what was happening in the classroom. Sometimes I make suggestions, but I think that what is more important is that they understand and believe that I am there to support and encourage them.

Cheryl Kuyk

I am one of three assistant principals at a high school. We divided the faculty into four groups and each of us, including the principal, visits the classrooms weekly. We rotate the group so in the course of a month, we have visited every teacher's room. It is just a snapshot visit and not intended to be used by itself as an evaluation of teachers. We also do monthly walk-throughs in small groups consisting of an administrator a two or three classroom teachers. The teachers enjoy seeing what their peers are doing and often point out areas in which we need to improve. This really gives them buy-in to school improvement issues.

Betsy Berkey

I am seeking input from administrators who have looked at teacher "feelings", insecurities,or fears about the walk-through process. If you have any information regarding this issue, please e-mail me at berkey@iqmail.net
Thanks

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