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I have no idea how to provide feedback and praise to teachers. However, those teachers provide feedback and praise to their students. Maybe asking them how they do that will give you some innovative, new ideas for your role.

Kari Fisher/Gibson

I have found that I too say the same things each year. It will never be enough time in classrooms. However each year brings more time as I find more efficient ways to handle some of the management pieces of the job of principal. As for acknowledgement of a teacher's effort and/or effectiveness, I have found two things that help. I send a weekly memo (which is becoming a blog this year) that mentions great things I or another administrator has seen in a classroom. The teacher the comment represents then gets an email or a quick not saying that they were the inspiration for the comment. Most teachers I think keep it to themselves, however, I have had teachers who need others to recognize them have shared that it was something they did that made the weekly TGIF. I also use a half sheet check off pad that I carry with me that lists objectives we has a school are working on and best instructional practices. I mark a couple of the ones I have seen in my brief visit and then a quick comment to give a specific example. I leave the note on their desk or in their mailbox when I return to the office.

Kevin W. Riley

Hey Dave... when you are weighing the relative value of walkthroughs and watching the e-mails and messages and "to-do" items pile up while you are out doing observations...

consider this list:

"The Top Three Strategies for Radical, Sustained and Revolutionary School Improvement"--

(By the way, I cannot take full credit for the items on this list. It is a meta-analysis of all of the research ever conducted in the history of the school reform movement!)

Here are the Top 3 strategies...

1. Improve the quality of Instruction of every teacher in your building
2. Improve the quality of Instruction of every teacher in your building
3. Improve the quality of Instruction of every teacher in your building

Having said that, there is no better way to achieve this than being in classrooms where teachers are teaching and providing them with the coaching, support, feedback, and "wonderings" they need to get better.

I abandoned the checklists and post-its and patronizing one line memos a few years ago. I replaced them with the process of JOURNALING.

Every teacher at my school has a journal that they keep inside the door. I pick up the journal when I first walk in the room and I sit down with it. I read my last entry and then the teacher's last entry. Then, I respond. And while I am responding I am also observing today's lesson for rigor, pace, engagement, deep learning, etc. I comment on that too.

Some days I am sitting in the same classroom writing for 30 minutes or more. I am never in a classroom for less than 15 minutes because it takes me that long just to read everything and resume our "conversation." And that is the power of journaling. It is a conversation that I carry on with 40 teachers simultaneously throughout the year. It is honest, often emotional, sometimes personal...and very raw. Teachers have confided their frustrations, insecurities, heartbreaks... but also the joys and breakthroughs of working with a very tough set of circumstances.

I suppose a lot of principals would say that this takes too much time so it is not very practical. It's ok with me. I don't really care how other principals provide feedback to their teachers. I just know what works for us. So I don't try to do the "every classroom every day" walkthroughs anymore. Journaling is about quality feedback... not the quantity.

We now have several masters degree students and at least one doctoral candidate studying the practice of "journaling" as a rare but authentic means of providing professional feedback to teachers. And it isn't just the feedback. It is a medium for deep professional reflection. That self-reflection, which is often nudged by my commentary (if I do it right), is like gold.

And that is just one way to "Improve the quality of Instruction of every teacher in your building".

Scott Mato

Clear expectations, organization, and delegation of management issues are the foundation for educational leadership on a daily basis.

Create an observation schedule in your calendar and stick to it. Share it with your secretary and anyone else who is responsible for observing and evaluating your teachers to prevent duplication of effort.

1. "Inspect what you expect." Provide clear expectations to your teachers of "non-negotiables" (classroom and instructional practices that must be consistent). Learning Walk Through observations work well. Explain to your teachers which particular classroom practice or instructional strategy you will observe. Make it clear to your teachers that it is not a "gotcha" observation. Rather, you are collecting multiple data points by visiting each classroom multiple times (5-10) in a day (or two if you have a large building), and you simply document whether or not the practice or strategy is being used. No teacher names are attached. You put the data into a spreadsheet and put it into a graphic format (i.e., exploding pie chart) and share it with teachers as soon as possible after you complete the WT's. Let the data speak for itself, and allow the teachers to make their own observations and draw their own conclusions. Perhaps it is a celebration because everyone is on the same sheet of music. If the converse is true, engage the teachers in a brainstorming session of what can be done. The use of objective data depersonalizes the experience and takes egos and personalities out of th e mix. Because they are intimately involved in the process, they are much more likely to take ownership.
2. Collaborate with teachers when you are doing other kinds of Walk Through observations, or formal observations. The teacher can determine one aspect of their teaching on which they would like feedback and support. You can also determine a particular aspect of teaching on which you will focus.
3. If you are doing Walk Through observations, do your best to make sure they have a copy of the observation before the end of that day (except for Learning Walk Through observations which are shared with the group soon after you complete the data collection). I usually send the teacher an electronic copy with a note to either drop in or make an appointment with my secretary to discuss the findings. Alternatively, if I have time or I need to discuss a sensitive issue, I will try to visit the teacher in his or her classroom to discuss the observation and agree on a course of action.
4. If you are doing formal observations, a good rule of thumb is to make sure the teacher has a copy within three days.
5. If your teachers are participating in a differentiated model of supervision (book studies, study groups, portfolios, etc.), make sure you create a schedule for you and them to discuss their work. Collaborative tools such as Google docs can help.
5. Things happen, but unless it is a crisis, stick to the commitment you have made to your teachers.

Benjamin Stewart

What I do is pose a reflective question that (hopefully) provides the means for teacher reflection. The frequency of post-walk-through conferences of three-to-five minutes depends on whether the teachers are dependent, independent, or interdependent and whether they are a novices or experts. Regardless, I don't provide a reflective question after each walk-through. And I hardly provide praise as part of the walk-through process. I save that for later if I want to showcase a teacher's technique as part of a staff development meeting. The trick is to empower teachers in a way that enables them to find those intrinsic motivators that drive them to want to improve themselves.

Peter Carlson

As a teacher I welcome the administrator into the room at all times and wish they'd come around more often.

Kevin Rilley wrote: "there is no better way to achieve this than being in classrooms where teachers are teaching and providing them with the coaching, support, feedback, and "wonderings" they need to get better."

That's an excellent quote and I'll be using it in my next interview for an administrative position. I also see the value in using a journal for teacher reflection and supervisory feedback. As a teacher I use this formula in reading instruction with students. Why not use this with teachers? It's something we rarely do, yet need too.

I've been asked the question in 2 interviews: "How do you move a mediocre teacher to being a great teacher." I responded the first time: Through continuous observation and feedback yet done with dignity and respect.

I guess the interviewer didn't like that response so I rethought it. I interviewed at another school/district and was asked the very same question. This time I responded "Through the use of student data and looking at teacher instructional weaknesses. I also mentioned using formal and informal observations then provide instructional coaching focusing on objective weaknesses.

I believe the key now is to not just pay attention to the weaknesses but really focus on what's done well, then turn the focus to what needs to be done to improve.

All of the responses on getting into the classroom are powerful in that - 1. You're setting expectations upfront and 2. You're focusing on improving instruction.

Frank J. Hagen

You will not spend more time in the classroom observing teachers unless you make it a PRIORITY and SCHEDULE it EVERY day.

You LEAD a school from the CLASSROOM!!!!! School leadership does not happen in the Office of the Principal. The latter is the place to do your paperwork when the students and teachers have left the building.

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