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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Leaders: Get Out of Your Office!

By Adam Welcome, Kenneth Durham, Jennifer Kloczko & Eric Saibel — September 07, 2014 5 min read
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Today’s guest post is written by four school Administrators in California who believe in being highly visible on their campuses, while staying connected through a plethora of digital tools throughout their day.

Adam Welcome @awelcome

After first hearing about #NoOfficeDay on Twitter last year it actually made me kind of laugh. My Office Manager always says - “I never see Adam during the day, he’s always on campus, but we can see what he’s doing by following our school Twitter feed!” (@jseroadrunners)

There’s no denying a Principal has administrative ‘office’ duties, I get it. There’s just no other way to feel the pulse of your school without constantly being on campus and in classrooms. My first year as Assistant Principal and Principal, I was in each classroom, every day, for the first one-hundred days! You can’t feel the pulse or set the tone of your school in an office.

What are Principals doing in their offices all day? Your iPhone connects you with Google Drive, Remind, Twitter, Voxer, Evernote and Google Hangouts. Embrace the digital tools that empower your smartphone to be the hub that turns the gears for your school site.

The ‘Adam’ version of #NoOfficeDay is a Tweeting Challenge. This happens for me about five times per month and during my day I’ll send at least three Tweets from each class. This is even more profound because our ENTIRE staff is on Twitter. Tagging my Tweets so teachers and parents can see what’s going on adds so much to our school culture.

I challenge Principals to spend more time each day in classrooms than your office, Tweet all the #eduawesome from your school, create a school hashtag (we created #teamkid) and increase the KDI factor on your site! (Kids Dig It)

Kenneth Durham @PrincipalDurham

As I head into my fourth year as an assistant principal and third year using the #NoOfficeDay model, I can say without question this practice transformed me as an educator and a person. My journey began after attending The Breakthrough Coach training presented by @MalachiPancoast. The workshop helped me articulate what I had always felt during my eight years as a science teacher and struggled to convey to my administrative team my first year as an assistant principal.

How can leaders develop a relationship with students, teachers, and staff when we spend 95% of our time sequestered in an office? How can principals be instructional leaders when they rarely see instruction, or assistant principals become instructional leaders when they are not encouraged to immerse themselves into the learning process at their site?

California school districts spend approximately 85% of their entire budget on human resources. It is astonishing that more emphasis is not placed on developing the human capital of a district’s largest investment.

In three years I have visited over 1,100 classrooms and provided teachers with instantaneous feedback using Google Forms and the autoCrat script. When I began, I was told that teachers would resist the practice, but found the opposite is true. If I walk out of a room and the teacher does not have their PDF in 15 minutes, I get an email saying, “Hey man, where is my feedback?”

Even if you are not ready to do a complete #NoOfficeDay think about this: Spend twenty minutes in the morning in two classrooms and twenty in the afternoon. That allows you to see four classes a day. If you see four classes a day over a 180 day calendar that is that is 720 ten minute visits in a year. Even if you only did it a third of the time think of the impact that you can have on instruction, relationships, and culture in your building.

Jennifer Kloczko @jkloczko

Last Spring, I was inspired by two “no office day” blog posts . To be honest, last year was an accidental no-office day because I wore many hats daily- lunchroom supervisor, receptionist, and even janitor. After reading No Office Day and Why we love “no office day” I was determined to get into classrooms this year. Here are three ideas to consider for your #noofficeday!

Be a learner.

For me, #noofficeday is about learning alongside teachers and students. Each week, I’ll keep these questions in mind:

  • What did I learn?
  • What did I notice?
  • What do the teachers and students want me to learn?

Be present.

In The Greatest Gift of No Office Day Shira Leibowitz wrote ,

No Office Days are special. I do no supervision or evaluation of teachers on these days. Instead, I participate actively in learning and teaching as a peer. Sometimes I teach a lesson ... Sometimes I provide student support... Still other times, I am simply present, participating enthusiastically in whatever the activity."

Whether learning or teaching,, be present. Listen. Write. Discuss. Celebrate. Connect. Dance! Last week’s kindergarten hip hop still has me smiling! My iPhone keeps me connected, and allows me to respond if needed without ever leaving the classroom.

Be reflective and share.

Do I miss the classroom? In some ways it’s like I never left! Instead of one class, I have a community filled with students, teachers, and families. Getting into classrooms helps me to reflect and learn about our school and to discover our strengths and areas for growth. Each week, I’ll blog and tweet out treasures! Follow the hashtag #noofficeday and join the conversation!

Eric Saibel @ecsaibel

Be A Documentarian

Leaving behind the confines of our offices frees us to witness, participate in, and record the learning taking place. Whether the medium is the school newsletter, email blasts or school social media feeds, the community has the chance to pull back the curtain and see the learning process in action. This not only gives our own community a more transparent view of what their kids experience, but also shines a spotlight on the incredible work being done by teachers every day. In short, being a documentarian means “embedding” ourselves in the process, noise and hubbub of learning - and not reporting on it at arm’s length from our offices.

Many teachers are also not yet fluent with social media, or struggle to find the time to attend to the needs of their students while also documenting the process they are facilitating! Administrators have the opportunity to step back and capture this process to add to the “learning archive” of the school - by using tools like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Audioboo for podcasts, they create a publicly accessible resource of what learning looks and sounds like throughout the year.

Get Students Involved

We can also recruit students to document and share! We know for a fact that our high school kids are using social media - let’s show with our actions that we trust them to use it as a learning tool by empowering them to be the eyes and ears of the school. One great example of this includes the work done at Leyden High Schools in Chicago under the leadership of Principal Jason Markey; he hands over the school Twitter account to a different student on a weekly basis, and students regularly contribute to their school blog.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.