Teaching Opinion

Celebrate Positives With Classroom Walk-Throughs

By Starr Sackstein — September 28, 2017 3 min read
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As I peeked into the classroom of excited 7th grade Spanish students, I couldn’t help but smile widely.

They were sitting in pairs with the chromebooks on their desks, Spanish music was playing in the background, and kids talked to each other about the research they were doing.

Not wanting to disrupt what was happening, I smiled at the teacher (who gave me the heads up about the project she was working on with her students) and eagerly joined the classroom.

Briskly, I walked to the side of the room with my notebook and made sure it was okay for me to start talking to kids.

Kneeling down next to the first group of boys in the back of the room, I asked them what they were learning.

“We each have a Spanish-speaking country and we have to talk about its influence on the United States.”

“Cool! What country are each of you working on and what have you learned so far?”

“Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Venezuela.” No so coincidentally, they all liked learning about the food best.

As I continued to make my way around the room, the teacher was busy, moving around the room answering questions and helping the students. It was clear everyone was having a good time and learning.

It was another huge reminder of how much I miss being in the classroom with the students. I knew the transition would be challenging, but the one part of being a teacher that is hardest to let go of are the students, watching them learn and actively participating in their discovery.

As I continue to design what my days look like, I’ve made a concerted effort to get into classrooms daily with the dual purpose of celebrating what teachers do well and to get a feel for the student learning that is happening.

Although I’m not sure my teachers will take me up on the offer yet, (at least not until they get to know me better), I’ve offered to come into classrooms, teach lessons, be an extra set of eyes, celebrate their awesomeness, or anything else that would show them I’m all about practicing what I preach.

What I’ve loved most about doing walk-throughs (I spend no more than eight minutes in a class) is getting a feel for the learning and the rapport students have with their teachers. I walk into every classroom expecting to see that thing teachers do that makes kids want to come back tomorrow.

After I leave the classroom, I also smile and thank the teacher if isn’t too much of a disruption and then I write them a little thank you note with something specific I saw that I enjoyed or seemed to work for the students. It’s extremely important to me that my teachers know I’m there to support them and to work with them to build better learning environments for the students. I don’t want them to feel anxious when they see me come in, I want them to feel good.

All of this is a precursor to observations and the best way to really make them meaningful. Since goal-setting meetings happened, I want teachers to continue to reflect on areas they are working on and to let me know so that I can provide very specific feedback to them the same way I used to with the students.

Feedback is a powerful tool and positive, sincere, specific feedback is a great way for them to know I see what they are doing and I appreciate it.

Although I will always feel like I spend too much time in my office and think fondly of my experiences in the classroom, I look forward to the time I spend with the teachers and our kids and can’t wait to get my first invitation to lead a lesson. I mean, I can’t expect my teachers to take big risks, if I’m not willing to do what I ask.

How best do you like to give/receive feedback to help grow talent? Please share.

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress 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.