18772802 - THE PRINCIPAL CONNECTION Teacher Supervision If...

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Unformatted text preview: THE PRINCIPAL CONNECTION Teacher Supervision: If It Ain’t Working . . . Joanne Rooney 5 this working?” I asked this question of 17 tenured teachers who were due for their formal supervisory visits at Pleasant Hill School in Palatine, lllinois. After years of following the traditional model of supervision, as principal I thought it was time to consider creative alternatives. "Honestly," I asked my colleagues, “do my annual visits and follow-up conferences help you become better teachers?" I knew these women and men well. We had worked together for many years, laughing at students’ antics and weeping at the grown-up problems that students faced. Together we had mourned the deaths of relatives and friends; celebrated weddings, pregnancies. and other personal mile— stones; and jointly negotiated the peaks and valleys of our professional lives. Our school resembled a community more than an organization. We shared a deep, moral belief that the care of chil- dren was at the core of our work. 1 had faith that these teachers were, above all, professionals dedicated to stretching the intellects, imagination, and spirits of children. I knew that these teachers valued my informal visits to their classrooms and the feedback about their instruction that Ijotted down for them on sticky notes. I knew that the heartbeat of the school was steady and strong. it was difficult to believe that my fortnal 40-minute supervisory visits, followed by perfunctory conferences, made a significant difference in the school climate or in indi- vidual classrooms. My question Is this working? was met with muffled laughter. The teachers and 1 both realized that I did not have “super” vision. They knew that my rushed, mandatory visits and conferences were, at best, a meager contribution to improving teaching. After several prolonged brainstorming sessions, we devel— oped a new procedure for teacher supervision. Before we arrived at this more effective system, we needed to go beyond the mechanics of when, how many, and how long to discuss 88 EDULATIONAL LEADERSi-iir/Novwnra 2005 My question Is this working? was met with muffled laughter. more foundational questions, including I What actions will most help us improve teaching and learning? I How can the principal remain accountable—to the public, the profession, and the district—for excellence in teaching, while still trusting the professional expertise of teachers? I What criteria should we use to determine whether new teachers should be given tenure at our school? I When should we begin a more aggressive plan of remediation for strug- gling teachers? Teachers seized the chance to have a voice in deciding how they could collab- oratively improve their teaching. Our school initiated a program of peer coaching. Teachers visited one another’s classrooms while I filled in for the teacher who was visiting his or her colleague. This required no more time on my part than supervisory visits would have, and teaching ciasses renewed my skills and gave me deeper insight into classroom realities. I would not have taken this path as a first-year principal, and I did not include nontenured teachers in the process. The process worked because our longtime faculty members had bonded, built a shared history, and nurtured mutual trust. We all believed—and acted on the belief—that teachers are the professional experts on instruction and that the collective discernment of faculty members was our best source of wisdom. Our first efforts proved effective. The walls that existed between teachers‘ classrooms became more permeable, and I found teachers observing one another‘s practices beyond the formal supervisory visits. Teachers conversed more about their instruction—what worked, what didn’t work, what they We not: only i'iiit'iiotrtztl our supervisory system. lint tire ails-n- got lte’yond it lot-iii- standing lilt'é'tt'ltli'lt‘it'i of isolt-tted t'etit‘l ii iii-,1. might try next. We not only improved our supervisory system. but we also got beyond it lnng—stunding tradition of isolated teaching. Willi a little creativity. we were able to lttllill the requirements ol our district's stipen'isoi‘y program while trying out this alternative method. [ did enough visiting in tettcliers' classrooms to meet the districts mandatory number of visitsminutes. We considered group meetings to plan the new process as the required pre-eonlereneing; we counted as post—eonlerenees teachers l'ollow-up meetings to exchange their observa- tions. [1 was not exactly what the writers ol the district procedure had in mind. but we l'ullilled the underlying intent of the law, November is here and principals must begin stiperustng teachers in earnest. As we draw up observation schedules and dttst oil the yellow notepuds. lets not forget to ask ourselves and our teachers. “ls this working?" it that question is met with restrained laughter or an hottest "Not really.“ then we need to initiate a deeper conversation with teachers. We might be surprised at their capaeity for creative alternatives Joanne Rooney is Codirector of the Midwest Principals' Center and Ass0~ Ctate Professor, NationaliLouis Univerr sttv, 1000 Capitol Dr, Wheeling, IL 60090; [email protected] Learning for Leadership Ei).D. Hi EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP K-ll As .I \L'.l\{|lll'|l \l litml .ttllllll'lhl’l'JltH'. you desire to rinse the .tcltievenient trip so Prevalent tti tot‘liv‘s urban stlttvols.4‘lrtt~'it Paulie University eqtttpx‘ you to nuke .1 tlili’erent'e thronin its Fell ). iii ‘ l. I'll-ll INl‘I.‘ll,‘ll'i"ri I .ttutttnttus-tl'l‘wl' llll'~ lllllil tl‘ill.Llli]| t ~'-.t in; l-t in. !ii. I In tithl lll| L‘llll lllt 'tl'l itllllEl. liati iiltigf. - \tiiu- il‘nnmi ilin tiuiiil. li'lNlli'll-V'r ltt !l'il-‘l'll.||lv||lll t‘tllll twin .rt-iii- l‘iitit‘atioml leadership (Kill) degree, CALL Miln; MR “Tl CHI K wwts..t}‘tt .etltt ’etltit .itioti 'k7 l 3 EMAIL titltiinntu.ithnlti AZUSA PACIFIC UNlVERSITV “5” Our Alum txtinpiix. located iii LA. (Iotintv The Edusoft Platform is Driving Achievement Educators You Know Think Solon! "With Edusoft, we are able to make better data—driven instructional decisions, allowing our teachers to focus their time on instructional strategies and interventions. ” — lony Wold. EttD. 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18772802 - THE PRINCIPAL CONNECTION Teacher Supervision If...

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