Our new (I guess he’s can’t be called new any more at year three) superintendent came in with a policy of expecting principals to do a lot more classroom visits and observations, and to spend much more of their time working with teachers instead of with paperwork and regulation. Yay!
One aspect of this revamp was the weekly (?) principals’ meeting. It used to be a half day affair with the district admin bigwigs that pretty much wasted everybody’s time (I’m told). The new guy has the meeting at a different site each time, and part of the meeting is a tour of the school and a buncha classroom observations. I am a big fan of teachers watching each other and admins should be doing it all the time, but they don’t. So I think it’s a great idea.
Our visit was yesterday. They divvied up into teams of three or so and each team spent 10 minutes in each class. Between them they saw a lot of classes, and I guess they all chat it up after; I’m picturing some sort of “jigsaw” activity. Shudder.
Anyway, we got the schedule in advance, so we could plan a dog and pony show for that 10 minute slot. I hate dog and pony shows. My crew showed up right on schedule, but I guess other teams weren’t so diligent and surprised some people who did have a 10-minute show planned. I have an open door policy; no previous notification needed to watch the show. Walk-ins accepted eagerly. My team–my principal, the head of IT, and the assistant supe for curriculum and instruction–got what they got. And they got junior high at its finest.
The kids are working on a warm up/pretest for some academic words we’re working on this week. The timer is going, ready to do a loud raspberry about halfway through the observation. Perfect. I’m giving hints and prodding them toward correct answers, drawing on my remote slate. I am also circulating around, checking the grammar sheet they had for homework. Smooth as silk baby.
For a lot of the homework, I first just check to see if they did it, usually while they’re doing the warm up. Then later in the period, we go over it and correct it and practice. So that first time I check, I don’t really have to read it; I just scan to make sure they weren’t just randomly marking things. Then I make a mark on the paper to show that I saw it. It started out, back in the day, as my initials… or perhaps as OK. But it has since devolved into what we call “the squiggle.” I take a fat pen and I “squiggle” on the paper. If I happen to miss someone when I’m checking, I inevitably hear something like,
“You forgot to squiggle my vocab.”
So I am squiggling away when the team walks in.
For the past several days my squiggle pen has been one of those markers that smell. You know, like scented. This one is cherry. I don’t know where I got it–probably left behind on the floor… I haven’t bought a pen in 20 years–but it is really strong and smells really good.
So here I am: teaching away, multi-tasking, running the class like a fine Swiss watch…
And half the class has their pink sheets held up against their noses, inhaling deeply and sighing contentedly, like a bunch of glue sniffers.
As they say on the intertubes: Junior high for the win!