Successful Observation in Secondary Schools
The school district I live and work in is diverse. It has a little over 30,000 students enrolled and almost 1,600 classroom teachers. The teachers in this district have an average of 14 years teaching experience. Our district has approximately 85 building principals and vice principals. Across the district, we are approximately at 40% of students meeting standard in math and approximately 51% in ELA. Our growth overall in math is up to 29% and 32% for growth in ELA. The most prevalent demographics in our district are Caucasian, Latino, and African American; other demographics include American Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander and others who identify as two or more races. We encompass 35 elementary schools, 9 middle schools and 7 high schools. Every year I see a vast array of improvements; however, there is considerable efforts to accomplish.
I observed the presence of staff and teachers in the halls greeting and smiling at students as they walked into school that morning which was expressing “a culture of caring”. When I came into the office, I observed a “sense of community” by witnessing secretaries assisting parents, staff members and teachers laughing and preparing for the day together. While walking through classrooms, I saw students in flexible seating, learning targets posted, student voice opportunities, community circle gatherings, standards posted, student work posted, students being reflective learners by writing their goals and progress. My perceptions in the classrooms all centered around “maximized learning time”, “widespread recognition of academic success”, “basic skills supplemented with rich academic programs” and a sense that they sincerely care about one another and enjoy being present.
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The teachers in this school are engaging in “collaborative action, reflection, critical thinking”, and “teacher empowerment” through their weekly data grade level meetings, committee involvements, PTA events, leading after school activities, teacher leader program, curriculum pacing guide collaboration leave days, professional development through the school district and principal, data tracker creations and monthly reflections on exit slip trackers and student reflections on goals. These components “encouraged various forms of teaming/partnering with colleagues within and outside school” and instilled an “intrinsically motivated” teaching staff; which are sound components for adult learners. I observed resilient adult learners that have positive interactions and pursue opportunities to learn together and grow in their own teaching practices.
I believe this school contains similarities with the philosophy experimentalism. This school’s organization is centered around the “supervisors working democratically with teachers to achieve collective ends that will help everyone”. Also, the supervisors are “guiders” of the teacher’s learning. When you serve as a guide and not a director then your teachers will know you recognize that they “bring an expansive reservoir of experience that can and should be tapped in the learning situation”. When a supervisor sincerely understand how to tap into the vast resources in teachers that results in school wide growth and successfulness.
The supervision is purposeful and diligently on improving their practice every year for their staff and teachers. They are focused on goals that were determined by the whole staff in summer training and working closely together to achieve those goals. The supervisors at this school are transparent with school data, goals, district budgets, materials, new curriculums and all new mandates. Those qualities in a supervisor create a safe, open school culture.
There is already a tremendous foundation in this successful school however if I were to be assigned as the instructional leader I would assemble a teacher cohort to examine curriculums and materials utilized in this school. I observed no similar cross lateral literacy, writing, social studies or handwriting curriculum. We collectively would work together to dig deeper into finding curriculums, resources and/or materials that encompass our needs, students and overall school. Also, I would work with teacher leaders to create and implement a mentoring process for new teachers. Mentoring has not advocated for in our district due to that it has overlooked time and time again. New teachers should have experienced mentor teachers their first year. There are so many little details to teaching. It is the supervisor’s role to assist in supporting all teachers. All teachers have different needs, I would collaborate with staff to find the teachers willing to step into this role and create the process for implementation.
One of the biggest ways to stimulate teacher growth is to see them as an individual and to understand how vital it is for teachers to feel supported and needed. A supervisor needs to understand that a “teachers’ other adult roles have direct effects on their instruction” (Glickman et al., 2013b, p. 60). Sociocultural development of a staff and of a school must be one of a supervisor’s top priorities. Teachers flourish when they have freedom to “self-direct”, they know their supervisor recognizes they “bring an expansive reservoir of experience”, “solve real-life problems” in the school, and “make immediate application of knowledge”. I will inspire teacher growth through those practices and through my own mindfulness and efforts of creating a positive, welcoming sociocultural environment at our school for families, staff and students.
- Glickman, C. D., Gordon, S. P., & Rose-Gordon, J. M. (2013a). The Basic Guide to Supervision and Instructional Leadership (3rd ed.). New Jersey, United States: Pearson Education, Inc..