Ever heard of management by walking around? This is a well-worn strategy used by teachers to monitor and mold student behavior in the classroom.
And it works for adults too.
One of my favorite parts of being a superintendent, particularly in a small district, is spending time walking around and observing students in classes. The sitting in my office responding to emails, prepping for meetings, and doing paperwork just doesn't hold a light to observing the magic that great teachers bring out in classrooms.
My office is a mecca of all things management - budgets, trainings, closed-door personnel based conversations, scheduling reporting, and the list goes on. It's easy to get drawn back in, whether one's role is principal, director or superintendent. But carving out that time to interact with students and staff is, as they say, priceless.
What getting out of the office and spending time at the center of learning is more than just observing and interacting. It also reinforces what I want from my fellow leaders - from top of the organization to the bottom. And I use the term "leader" loosely because we can all assume the leader role. Sometimes I'll walk through classrooms with a speech therapist. Sometimes it is with a secretary. Other times it may be with a coach, principal, or a fellow superintendent. Regardless of who it is with, the message is clear - I value what others do and I want to be able to observe them in action and see how the decisions we make as a district impact the adults and the students.
Yes, the work is still there, and often times I check in and complete it at 10 pm after my daughters go to bed and I'm nodding off on my laptop. Sometimes I catch up at 3:30 am, when a dream morphs into a noise in my neighborhood and then the niggling ideas or projects can't escape my thoughts and it is more productive to work than to just lie there for hours on end. The time that I allocate to walk through classrooms and spend time with our staff is important. It is more than important. It is essential to who I am as a leader.
And much of it is about time management...organizing my days to ensure I have a half hour to an hour to visit classrooms. Classroom walk-thru's should be a priority for any leader, from Chief Business Officer to custodian - an opportunity to support the work...the learning...the dreams...the spirit and the heart of our schools.