Making use of new tools can be challenging, especially for principals and instructional leaders who already have their hands full with a plethora of other responsibilities in the classroom. Luckily, there are concrete, actionable tactics that school leaders can use to integrate high-impact classroom observation and feedback into their daily routines with observation software.
The Major Hurdles of A Coaching Cadence
Integration of observation and feedback into your schedule won’t happen overnight. Making this shift requires practice, repetition, and plenty of trial and error. Building new habits is a complex, protracted process that requires strategic planning in order to effectively address the challenges of instructional leadership.
According to The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Challenges For School Leadership, the responsibilities of school leaders are more complex and demanding today than ever before. The greatest challenges for school leaders involve resource management, addressing individual student needs, and engaging parents. The study reported that 53% of principals rated “evaluating teacher effectiveness” as either challenging or very challenging. Furthermore, 49% of principals stated that “providing guidance and opportunities for teachers to build their competence and skills” was either challenging or very challenging.
Because so many demands compete for the time and attention of school leaders, it can feel difficult to schedule out opportunities to implement new systems and practices. In order to take charge of your time, it’s important to approach your schedule proactively as opposed to reactively. Although school leaders are often required to re-calibrate at a moments notice, a highly intentional focus on your priorities will help keep you on track.
Jen Schwanke, author of the ASCD book, You're the Principal! Now What? Strategies and Solutions for New School Leaders, maintains that a successful school leader will devote a quarter of their time to focusing on staff. This time should center on observation, feedback, and training to enrich instructional practices.
Principal and professor Sanée Bell notes that it is most effective for principals to spend the majority of their time in the field. In a discussion with Education Week, she noted, “it’s amazing how much work never makes it to your office if you are out of your office and in the school … so many things come to the office because the principal is not out coaching and giving feedback.”
The exact amount of time dedicated to observation and feedback will depend on your school’s needs and your ability to delegate the other tasks that often fall on your shoulders. As your school begins this transition, aim for once or twice weekly meetings with teachers to discuss feedback gleaned from your classroom observations.
So, how exactly can you make time in your schedule to make those observations and conduct feedback sessions?
Time is a limited resource, but having clear priorities will help you stick to your mission. According to principal Amy Dujon, school leaders should allocate 75% percent of their time to their vision for instruction. Classroom observation and feedback is key to bringing that vision to life.
In order to carve out time for what matters most, William Sterrett urges school leaders to proactively manage their schedule. In his ACSD book Short On Time, Sterrett stresses the importance of implementing a synchronized calendar that coordinates district-related items, instruction-related items, school events, and community partnership events. This will provide a comprehensive overview of your commitments and will create the opportunity for you to intentionally build your schedule in advance. This means you will be able to more easily coordinate and prepare for recurring events like observation and feedback sessions.
Another tactic to improve prioritization is selective abandonment. This practice entails letting go of habits and routines that eat away at time that could be used to further your priorities. For example, performing lunch duty every single day will not further your goals in the same way as devoting that time to classroom observation or feedback sessions. Instead, delegate that task and use the time to take care of a responsibility or need that someone else cannot cover. Additionally, by being more present in the classroom, you’ll find that you can achieve many of the goals you had planned to address through building a constant presence in the lunchroom.
Selective abandonment will work in your favor if you cultivate the ability to effectively delegate responsibilities. As star educator Paul Bambrick-Santoyo notes in his book, Leverage Leadership, delegation creates the time you need to implement a strong teacher coaching program. By using this practice, Bambrick-Santoyo observes, “leaders of large schools can ensure that every teacher in the building is observed, receives feedback, and conducts data analysis with an instructional leader.”
Observational software is a seamless way to hold yourself accountable for consistently taking the small steps that will enable a major shift in instructional practices at your school. In addition to tracking and analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data, Whetstone’s observational software provides frequency dashboards to track coaching interactions including quick feedback, longer observations, and debrief meetings.
The Benefits of Classroom Observation Software
Classroom observation software helps teachers get better faster, and helps school leaders keep educational priorities at the forefront of their schedules. Such tools close the gap between great intentions and measurable growth by making the coaching visible. Observation software like Whetstone offers data analysis that makes important information digestible, augmenting the impact of feedback sessions. Data gleaned from classroom observation is also crucial to designing actionable steps that will actually help teachers improve their instructional practices.
A data-driven analysis will highlight which teachers need help, as well as what skills require further development. When school leaders are empowered to accurately identify their school’s needs, they can implement targeted professional development to facilitate growth in areas that need improvement.
Contact us today to learn more about how Whetstone’s observation software can help school leaders drastically improve teacher performance and boost student outcomes.