In response to the posts related to “It’s all About the Conversation,” a reader writes:
“As an extension to the blog discussion, don’t get over focused on data when you first start your PowerWalks (frequent classroom observations). Your data will not be accurate or useful for some time. It will take you time to recognize what you are seeing. Ideally, you get some external coaching. If not, you can still learn the hard way like I did and see if your prediction concerning instructional quality translates to student success on accountability tests. My schools improved, some others’ did not. The easier, faster, safer way is to go with external coaching.
While you are honing your power walking skills, at first just address the obvious such as NO INSTRUCTION, OFF TASK STUDENTS, and NO TEACHER PRESENT. Those are easy calls to make and there is no excuse for those scenarios, so pounce on them. Build your power walking skills up over say maybe a year at 25 per week and move on to more sensitive calls in years two. It’s OK to have conversations your first year, but make sure many of those conversations are with expert teachers who you will use as mentors to other teachers (HINT: they can be your mentor to improve your instructional awareness, too).
As Cain said, there is almost a Zen like art to this process.”
Good post, even better advice. Though if you are diligent in getting in classrooms a lot (at least 25 times a week), reflect on what you are seeing, and discuss what you are seeing with other observers and teachers; in a semester you will be amazed at what you are able to piece together and how much more useful you will become to your instructional staff.
A critical piece that the writer dances around is this: Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” I was talking to another early PowerWalks adopter (5,000+ documented observations) recently. We were laughing at how it seems that the more we observe, the more we realize just how little we know. Couple that with the fact that when we do figure out something new, it is usually so evident that we are embarrassed to admit that we hadn’t noticed it before.
The initial benefits of PowerWalks (again, frequent classroom observations) are these:
1. Because you are out more you can solve little issues at the source, before they become big problems.
2. Because you are out more you can get resources and support to teachers quicker and more efficiently.
3. Because you are out more you can recognize and reinforce the staff and students who are working their tails off to improve.
4. Because you are out more you can light a fire under the coasters and slackers.
5. Because you are out more you will make better decisions because you know what is really happening.
While you and your campus take advantage of the first level benefits of PowerWalks, you will slowly begin to develop insights that will eventually help your students, teachers and campus. As is it with most things, it takes time for your hard work to hone your book smarts.
Think. Work. Achieve.