A Leadership Mistake

by Ryan Bretag | @ryanbretag

How many teachers have you seen teach in your school?

I've seen every teacher teach during my building walks and instructional walks. I've visited a good percentage of classrooms and teachers. However, I've not sat in the classroom of each teacher and immersed myself in the environment.

This is a critical leadership mistake, one that is simply not acceptable if I'm to call myself an instructional leader.

It makes it difficult to understand the full weight of decisions. It makes it difficult to speak on their behalf or more importantly, the students' behalf. It makes it difficult to lead.

Sure, I'm advised through formal and informal committees. I speak with as many people as I can. It just isn't the same as first-hand knowledge of each classroom not some.

As a teacher, I remember professional development days, meetings, policies, and decisions that had me scratching my head: has anyone seen our classroom, how does this tie-in with what we are doing, etc. I know the feeling of wondering if the leaders care about the day to day classroom experience.

Perhaps this is the norm in schools. Perhaps I've seen and been in more classrooms than most administrators. Perhaps that is the problem. We've become so accustom to administrators not immersed in the learning environment that we rarely question if that is acceptable.

It isn't.

I asked at the beginning about the number of teachers you've seen teach. I'll ask a second question of equal importance: how many decisions have you made that impact learning and teaching in your school? If the answer is a lot and you haven't seen all your teachers teach, this lack of alignment needs to be resolved.

It is why I'm adding to my goals an action step for seeing a large percentage of classes this year - building closer to actually being immersed in the classroom of each of our 210 teachers. Along with my action steps of instructional walks, I'll continue to work towards the goal of developing and sustaining an effective professional development program for all learners.

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