Today’s school principals are asked to do a lot. I would contend that the following list includes, but is certainly not limited to, the vast array of responsibilities that compete for a principals time every day.
- Leadership and Climate
- School Organization and Staffing
- Professional Development
- Staff Supervision, Growth and Evaluation
- Student Safety and Supervision
- Student Evaluation and Reporting
- Communication and Public Relations
- Budgeting and Buying
- Health, Safety, Plant Supervision
And I’m sure you would agree that the work involved in providing effective leadership in each of these areas has become even more complex as the education landscape continues to change.
How then, does a school principal find the time to provide leadership and build their own capacity in what John Hattie calls the most important work they do – Instructional Leadership? After all, district leaders expect their principals to supervise instruction and provide teachers with feedback that will allow them to both reflect on and grow in their practice. This is echoed in dimension 4 of Alberta Education’s Principal Quality Practice Guide where principals are asked to “implement effective supervision and evaluation to ensure that all teachers consistently meet the Alberta Teacher Quality Standard.” It seems to me that supporting our teachers in improving practice is far too important to be left up to individuals to decide the degree to which they implement a quality instructional supervision plan in their school. Some will do it, some will not. And of those who do supervise instruction, some will be better at it than others. This has left me reflecting on how to best approach teacher growth and supervision in my new role in district office. This responsibility is included in my human resources portfolio and I want to provide our principals with all the support needed to be successful in this very important work. So along with the more informal classroom visitations that have been going on in district classrooms for some time now, we have decided to make instructional supervision more formal and transparent. Heres an overview:
- Every teacher must receive at least 60 minutes of instructional supervision per month. This can be broken up in a way that works best at each school site.
- All administrators (principals and vice principals) must be involved in the supervision to some degree.
- All visitations must be followed up with a face-to-face professional conversation.
- Completed visitations must be recorded at a central location in each school to ensure everyone is staying on track.
- All principals must submit their instructional supervision plans by the end of October.
- Plans will be placed on our public Wiki so they can be shared with each other.
- The Wiki will also be a place to share resources, videos, articles, walkthrough tools, etc.
- Time will be set aside at monthly principals meetings to share best practices, receive professional development, bring up concerns, and grow our capacity as instructional leaders.
- Ultimately, we would like to see principals visiting each others schools and completing classroom visitations as a team.
- Assistant Superintendents will visit schools on a regular basis to visit classrooms and build their own capacity in providing quality feedback to teachers.
I’m not sure how this will play out as our principals try to find a balance between this and the many other important aspects of their job, but I do know that if we want to build the kind of learning communities needed to transform education for the 21st century, we will have no choice but to move instructional supervision to the front burner and turn it to high.