Last week, I read a blog post by one of our Board’s superintendents, Sue Dunlop, that really resonated with me. In this post, Sue talks about visiting schools and talking to students. Having worked in one of Sue’s schools before, I know that her school visits always include classroom visits. She mentions in this post that sometimes students don’t explain work as teachers expect them to, or they do things that teachers wish they didn’t. It happens. Often teachers worry when students don’t respond as we’d like/hope that they would, but Sue assures us that her time spent in classrooms is not to evaluate teachers, but ultimately to connect with kids. I appreciate this! The thing is, I am the teacher that Sue talks about in her post.
As comfortable as I can be with vice principals, principals, and superintendents, the minute that these visits happen, I feel my heart rate go up. I feel my hands start to shake. I feel the nerves. I hear every question that gets asked. I hear every word that my students say. I hear every comment made by both the students and the adults in the room. I can’t help myself. I tell myself not to worry. I tell myself that there’s nothing I can do now. I tell myself that I have great students that have so much to share. And yet, on many occasions after unexpected classroom visits, I feel as I did today when I sent out this tweet to Sue: While I understand Sue’s reply … I’m really struggling with following her advice.
I’ve been thinking a lot today about why that’s the case. I think that things would be slightly different in other circumstances. I’ve been very lucky in the past ten years to work with administrators that visit classrooms all the time. Do I feel like throwing up every time they come in? Yes! But do I appreciate their visits? Absolutely! I reflect a lot after they come in and from the discussions that we have while they’re there, and I regularly make changes based on these visits. Today though, someone visited with the principal. I know that my students could have discussed more about their learning. I know that they could have shared more of their work. I know that they could have shown more than they did. I even know the reasons that these things didn’t happen, and I know what both the students and I could have done differently to make this short visit a more meaningful one. I want a do-over, but I’m guessing that the visitor that came today, will not be coming back again. Now what?
It is as I write this post, that I begin to better understand the problem with tests and/or complex culminating tasks. What about the work that led up to this final point? What if a student has an off day, struggles with such a complicated assignment, or does not showcase the same quality of work that he/she has done the whole year through? I am this kid. It may seem worse in my head than it was in reality, but for me, I feel like the visit could have been so much more. I want all of us to be seen for our “every day,” not that “one moment in time.” While I realize that my principal has had numerous visits beyond today, the other visitor hasn’t, and so, I can’t help but wonder what impressions were made after one look. It’s not about just what was seen and heard … but what wasn’t seen and heard?
Sometimes I think both students and adults need second chances. And while I want to “not worry,” for my own professional growth, I also want an opportunity to try again. This may not happen though, so what should I do? How do you reflect, learn, and move on? Tonight, I’m in need of some advice. Can you help?