How To Find Time To Get Into More Classrooms
If you’re like me, finding time to get into classrooms is a real struggle.
You’ve read all the time management tips and hacks out there…
You’ve tried to “put the big rocks first” and block off time in your schedule…
You’ve set ambitious goals such as “get into 5 classrooms per day…”
And each day, something comes up that demands your attention and keeps you out of the classroom.
What’s worse (can I just be real here?) is that every time you go into a classroom, you’ve just created more paperwork for yourself.
So, while I knew that I needed to get into classrooms, actually getting into classrooms was a real struggle.
I thought I had a time management problem.
But after months of trying every time management trick out there (including taking a one-day workshop that scared me silly with all the things I should be doing each day), I realized something important:
I didn’t have a time management problem; I had a priorities problem.
You see, I was told that I needed to be in classrooms every day, but, if I’m being completely honest here, I didn’t really believe it myself.
I mean I knew it was important (all those workshops, books and trainings said so), but I really didn’t know why it was important to me.
So I was getting into classrooms out of a duty to be visible and to give teachers feedback, but frankly, I couldn’t see how it was making any difference.
What it was making was a ton of paperwork for me to complete.
I want to suggest to you today that if you are having trouble getting into classrooms, it might not be a scheduling issue. It might be an issue of priorities.
So how did you fix it?
Figure out YOUR priorities
First, I took some time to figure out why getting into classrooms was so important (and by important, I meant important to me).
What did I hope to accomplish?
How did getting into classrooms help me be a better instructional leader?
How did it fit into my overall leadership philosophy and style?
One of the things I realized was that I was going into classrooms and giving a bunch of random feedback. That not only felt like a waste of time for me as a leader, it felt like an interruption to teachers (kinda like an annoying little gnat buzzing around their heads as one teacher so kindly put it…)
It didn’t seem connected to the work I was doing with teachers.
To solve this, I gave my classroom visits focus. I decided that my walk-throughs would be focused on a particular instructional emphasis and I would limit my feedback to that. If I saw something else in the classroom that needed to be addressed on my short visits, I would schedule a longer visit to address it.
Make it Authentic to YOUR Leadership Style
The next thing I realized was that the feedback I gave on short visits didn’t feel interactive which was not like the collaborative leadership style I was trying to cultivate. I would visit a classroom, zip off a note or complete an observation form, leave it with the teacher or email it later, and that was it. I wanted dialogue.
So, I stopped sending written feedback after a short visit (less than 10 minutes). Instead, I would follow up verbally with the teacher later in the day.
Now at first, I thought that I was creating another problem.
If I didn’t have time to get into classrooms, surely I wouldn’t have time to get into classrooms AND have a follow-up conversation later!
But that’s not what actually happened. Because these conversations were so important to me, I found myself finding ways to make sure to have them with teachers. One of the best ways to I found was during passing time between class periods, during lunch room duty, and before and after school during bus duty. We had to be there anyway, so instead of idle chit chat while we’re out there at the busses, we might as well make good use of the time.
Here’s what I found. Those conversations held at classroom doors between periods, or by the napkin dispenser at the end of the lunch line were some of the most fulfilling professional conversations I had that year. Without the formality of my office or a written form, we could actually talk about what was going on in the classroom.
Again, if I needed to share (and document) a concern, I would schedule time to come in for a more formal observation, but most of the time, what was really needed was a chance to talk about what good instruction looked like, what teachers were working on, and what kids were learning. Teachers felt free to talk about their goals, share their process, even ask for help or suggestions, and I got to get to know them, support their goals, offer suggestions, and most of all build the kind of trust and rapport that made my other feedback conversations WAY more meaningful.
NOW, you can use a few scheduling tricks
At some point, I did get better at scheduling time in classrooms, but not because I used some sort of time management trick.
I got better at getting into more classrooms because I made getting into more classrooms worth it to me.
After a while, I was able to get into as many as 25 classrooms per week.
The reason I was able to get into that many classrooms per week is because I wanted to.
If you really want to get into more classrooms this year, it’s likely you don’t need another trick or strategy to help you better manage your time. If you really want to get into more classrooms this year, you need to figure out your why first.
Download our free Classroom Visit Priorities Sheet and use it to figure out your priorities for classroom visits this year (it also includes a few tips for how to realize your priorities and get into more classrooms). Once you do, I bet you’ll get into more classrooms this year.
But (and here’s the most important part) when you do, it will actually mean something.