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SamTastic Weekly Tip: 5/20/19 - Really see instruction in your school.

Today’s tip: Really see instruction in your school. It is so much more than Observation and Walkthrough.


Connecticut SAM high school principal Joyce Mowrey decided she wanted do in-depth work with selected teachers this year. During her initial SAM training she liked the principal activity, Work with Students, one of the four ways principals observe a teacher in a classroom. She described what she did this way:


When you presented Work with Students at our training I realized it was what I wanted to do. I had never actually tried to be a member of a classroom since being in front of one and saw it as a meaningful way to learn more about my school and hopefully make a greater impact on teaching and learning.


Quarters one and two I chose to work with two teacher leaders who I knew would feel comfortable with me and since they are department heads others would hear about it quickly. I asked to be included in a project they were doing, to assign me to a group of their choosing and count on me to be there for at least three periods a week. We met throughout the unit to talk and share what we were each experiencing. The conversations we had were exactly why I became a school administrator.


Third quarter I chose a veteran teacher I have had concerns about. He connects with kids, but it seemed like his class was in ‘transition’ whenever I did a walk-through. Always. He planned a unit and placed me in a group with three students who need help focusing. During this unit I co­taught three lessons. I’d been pushing the teacher to use student generated rubrics and being a part of the unit I was able to model for him. This experience really helped me get better at indirect feedback - something I needed to work on. The teacher and I have a better relationship - he no longer hides when I come down the hall - he even called out last week when he saw me that his transition times were ‘less than a minute today’. Progress.


This last quarter I am in an English class learning about poetry working with a very shy teacher I think could be dynamic if she used some strategies I’m going to share.


Thank you so much for waking me up!


The beauty in Joyce’s work is evident. She is leading improved practice by changing how she interacts and talks with teachers. It is all about relationships. She improved her relationship with each teacher by engaging in a meaningful way. Not just more time in a classroom. Instead, she connected conversations based on her experience in the classroom and then expanded the interaction. Here are the descriptors she and her SAM, Elaine Provenzano, likely used:


1. Work with Students(her time in the classroom working with students while she observed the teacher)

2. Non-Directive Feedback (her connected conversation with the teacher about their work without giving direction)

3. Directive Feedback (her connected conversation with the teacher with direction or suggestion)

4. Teaching and Modeling (when she co-taught a class or demonstrated how to use student generated rubrics)

5. Professional Development (when she taught a teacher how to use student generated rubrics)

6. Decision Making Groups and Meetings (when she met regularly with two department heads to talk and share about the experience)


Was this a large time commitment for a high school principal? Yes. Did she get the results she wanted? Also yes. Isn’t this why you became a principal?

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