The Walk-through: Passing thoughts of a newbie one-year flash-in-the-pan principal
This post is the first of a series from new Principal Neil MacIntosh, as he reflects in real time on his first year on the job.
“The less you open your heart to others, the more your heart suffers” (NYT X-Word clue)
The answer was Chopra (as in Deepak). I have found much of my inspiration and procrastination from crossword puzzles. I am not sure how far I can take this analogy, but humour me on this. My DG and I had conversed about the qualities of being a principal – putting yourself 2nd, listening, listening, listening – and not with the intent of interrupting with your own pearls. In my quest to define what kind of principal I wanted to be, I eventually settled onto the idea of being what in Yiddish is referred to as a mensch – “The key to being ‘a real mensch’ is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous” according to Leo Rosten. I interpret this as being in the moment and real with whomever you deal (with). So perhaps your heart opens up, the more you listen to others. I find that by listening more and by reacting less (actions, words), that I put my foot in my mouth to a far lesser extent. And then I’m better able to move to action to support the learner or teacher.
Recently, I read “A New View of Walk-Throughs” by Moss and Brookhart (Thanks to Julie Hobbs of ASSET). First periods are free for me to greet and circulate through the different classrooms to be visible (as per Marzano’s School Leadership that Works). The trick here is habit, so that the walk-throughs are not a rarity but become a regular occurrence – and damn the papers that pile up in my office. This is not to see what the teacher is doing, but what the students are doing, what that they think they are doing, and seeing if they know why they are doing this. It helps me also know what I did not know. In the first month here, I did not know what I did not know. As Emperor Palpatine said “Young fool, only now, at the end, do you understand.” Well, perhaps not that bad. Now I see a bit more. Having sweated myself as a teacher as principals over the past 26 years have wandered through my classes, I was relieved by the statements of Moss and Brookhart, who debunk these three myths of the walk through –
- Only the principal has the “deep understanding of teaching and learning.” Actually, walk throughs should actually be learning opportunities for principals.
- The use of a “one-size-fits-all criteria” to measure the ability of the teacher. Time on task does not equal meaningful learning, and the primary goal of the walk-through is NOT to measure a teacher’s ability!
- “Top-down” decision making based on what the principal sees and filters down to the teacher, ignores the most important decision maker in the class – the student.
I use the walk-throughs as the beginning of discussions with teachers, supporting, asking for clarification. I figure that I can improve the education of the students by supporting the teacher and having them know that I support them – the teacher being one major factor in the success of a student’s education. My DG and I rhymed off the main (f)actors – teacher, student, parent – and my DG reminded me of the principal as a factor – hmm –had not thought of that.
Until next time!
Ed: Do you have any words of wisdom for Principal MacIntosh? I’m sure he would love to hear them!
A New View of Walk-throughs by Moss and Brookhart (you must be an ASCD member to read the full article)
School Leadership That Works by Robert J. Marzano, Timothy Waters and Brian A. McNulty