Today’s school administrator has an overabundance of duties and responsibilities to balance with the mandates from state and national reform. As an instructional leader, you must guide teachers to align learning experiences with objectives and create learning activities to optimize student achievement.

Leaders should monitor instruction and develop a clear and well-defined curriculum while ensuring quality instruction, promoting best practices, monitoring the implementation of the curriculum, providing resources, and examining assessment data.

How can educational leaders do all that? My answer: By having a pulse on the building.

Getting out of the office and seeing what’s going on in your school is critical to being an instructional leader. By getting out of the office, you’re able to take the pulse of what is actually happening inside and outside the classroom. Here are seven ways to be a more visible leader and “get out of the office.”

1. Wander purposely
Management by wandering around was a strategy at Hewlett Packard in the company’s early stages. Packard believed that to be successful, managers should be out in the field or on the workroom floor and away from a desk at least half of the day. This method allows leaders to understand their school’s instructional needs and better position themselves to make informed decisions that impact student learning. But visibility will do little in improving your school’s productivity unless your visit is focused. Capture evidence of what you see—maybe even keep a journal of your walks. Also, vary the times and locations to include pick up, drop off, lunch, team meetings, and other non-instructional settings.

2. Visit classrooms
Collaboration increases when staff feel the leader is visible. To understand instructional practice well enough to deliver growth-providing feedback, you’ll need multiple methods of class visits to build relationships. Observe the dynamics of teacher to students, student to student, and teacher to teacher to foster trust with your staff.

3. Teach classes
Encourage teachers to observe as you teach their classes. Use that time to model instructional practices you feel strongly about and want others to use. You can use that time for conversations by reflecting with the teacher on how the lesson worked and how the students learned.

4. Have lunch with students
When staff see their leader connecting with kids, they’ll be more open to collaboration because you’re reinforcing you are there for the teachers and students. And it’s fun! Take it a step further by inviting key community members to join you for an enlightening school lunch with the students.

5. Serve lunch in the cafeteria
Eating is one way to be visible; so is supporting your kitchen staff. Serve food or pass out milk during lunch. This strategy will also allow you to observe students’ behavior in a less structured environment and reinforce your expectations of manners and cooperation.

6. Go play on the playground
This strategy is a great way to have fun, be a part of your school, and have staff see you outside the classroom. P.S. Your students will LOVE IT.

7. Be involved in the community
Being involved outside of your school allows community members to get to know and hear their school leader. It’s also a great time to promote and market your school. Here are some ideas:

  • Speak at various programs. Speaking briefly at offsite events (e.g., youth, community, or religious organizations) will provide an opportunity to share information, advocate for the school, and publicly praise students, staff, and parents.
  • Use social media: Set up a school Twitter account and start sharing out all the wonderful things that happen every day. If you don’t like Twitter, try Instagram, Facebook, Remind, or your school website. These updates take seconds and can provide parents with a strong connection to you and the school.
  • Send handwritten notes: One of the best ways to connect is to write a friendly note and drop it in the mail; do the same for your staff and leave notes in staff mailboxes. If time, deliver in person.

School leaders need to be available, approachable, and visible. If leaders spend all of their time in their offices, how will they know what staff, students, and families need? How will they see what to celebrate? It is not about the need to “snoopervise,” but rather a genuine desire to interact with the staff and students to provide a positive, vibrant, and visible presence in the school.

About the Author:

Matthew Joseph, Ed.D., is the director of digital learning, informational technology, and innovation for Milford Public Schools in Milford, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewXJoseph.


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