The beginning of a new school year is like New Year’s Day for most educators. We begin the year with a list of things we are going to improve upon. One of the things that are probably on every administrator’s list is “stay organized”. There is one strategy I have been given in my years of administration, suggested by Sean Cain, that should prove most helpful for principals and in turn help teachers.
The Organized Principal
One of the best pieces of advice I received as a principal was to schedule my day. Sean Cain, author of “The Fundamental Five” suggests administrators schedule their day in order to make sure they get into classrooms each day. I created a schedule each day and posted it outside my door. I dedicated two hours a day to instruction, but in one hour increments. I would schedule one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. During my Instructional Focus time, I went to classrooms. Depending on the time of the year, I either completed power walks, formal walkthroughs, or appraisals. Having the time scheduled forced me to get out of the office and into classrooms.
I trained the front office staff on how to respond to parents who called or came in outside of the time I had scheduled for parent concerns. They would say, “Mrs. Patterson is in classrooms right now helping with instruction. Her parent concern time is xx. You can either leave a message and she’ll call you at that time or you can come back at that time.” After implementing this one office “strategy”, I had very few parent complaints at the district level and miraculously had time to focus on instruction.
The Teacher Effect
Scheduling my day also helped me model for the teachers how they should fit all of their instruction into one day. I asked teachers to post their class schedules outside their doors so that we knew what subject they should have been teaching when we went into classrooms. In elementary, we can sometimes ignore certain subjects like Writing, Science, and Social Studies. Asking teachers to schedule their content instruction and post it, helped me monitor classroom instruction and make sure it was happening in those sometimes ignored subjects.
What are some strategies you’ve used that have been successful in making sure you get in classrooms as an administrator?
Paula Patterson is a former principal who shares practical points on the principalship.