I have often heard it said by teachers, ‘the school administration has no idea what really happens in the classroom’. I must say to some extent I have to agree.
Now, let me set the record straight.
This is not going to be an article written by a teacher complaining about their administration. On the contrary, I am an administrator. Recently, we experienced somewhat of a mini crisis at our school, which saw several of our teachers being unavoidably, absent for several days. This led to nearly all of the school’s administration having to take on a full teaching load for several days. It was during this period, that I realised that I had become too detached from the day-to-day realities of the classroom.
I taught for over ten years before becoming an administrator and I loved it. Being back in the classroom for those few days brought back very precious memories of my past students. I thoroughly enjoyed being with the students. However, I felt out of practice and by the end of the first day, I was more physically tired than I had been in a while. As an administrator, it was never my intention to become removed from the classroom but my days are extraordinarily busy with non-instructional responsibilities, which have made me become increasingly office-bound.
Regular classroom visits to do walkthroughs and formal observations are not enough. It is our role as administrators to be instructional leaders. To do that, we must find ways to stay in touch with what happens daily in the classroom. My recent experience pushed me into thinking of ways to keep my classroom link alive.
Below are a few strategies that I would like to share with you.
- Establish and maintain regular visibility and engagement in classes. Schedule time so that, walking around and interacting with teachers and students becomes a routine part of the day. Even with the extraordinary challenges of time management and the never- ending to-do list, it is still possible to set aside time each day for short classroom drop-in visits.
- Talk to your teachers. This may sound simplistic but the truth is, if you want to know what is happening; talk to the people who are doing it. Teachers are often happy to share the good, the bad and the ugly of their classrooms with an administrator, whom they know cares and will not be judgmental. Offer suggestions and advice when solicited and never appear to be too busy to listen. The latter may be an art that you will have to learn given that you may genuinely be very busy.
- Attend the teachers’ professional development sessions. This is very important. If you receive the same training as your teachers, they will become more confident in your ability to lead them on an instructional level.
- Deliver professional development sessions as often as you can. This will cause you to do more research and stay current.
- Teach. Many administrators in the Middle East do not have a teaching load but it is highly beneficial wherever possible to continue to teach at least one class. This is the most effective way to stay in touch with what is happening in the classroom. Additionally, it certainly will do wonders for your credibility among teachers.