Keeping in touch with teaching and learning

One of the reasons that I did NOT want to pursue administration was that I LOVED teaching so much. I’ll skip the whole story of how I became a principal to how I now LOVE my job as a principal and still keep active in teaching.

When I did become a principal, I told myself that I would never become a “paper pusher” or just sit in the “ivory tower.” How can I have discussions with teachers about teaching and learning if I become out of touch with teaching?

Here are some of the things that I do to keep myself in touch with teaching and learning:

1. Read professional journals, books, blogs and keep active with my PLN on twitter. (Finding time for all of that is a problem…I have a little secret place to read each day, but that’s another story!)

2. Get in classrooms as much as possible. Not only do I have a pulse on the school, but I learn from my best teachers to share strategies with other teachers and know which classrooms I can send teachers to observe great strategies.

3. 3 days a week I teach a 3rd grade intervention group as part of our school-wide WIN (“What I Need”) time.

4. 2 days a week I work 1:1 with a struggling student in math. (I’ve done this with a few other students in math and reading).

5. I keep a simple spreadsheet on my clipboard (yes-still on a clipboard, because I haven’t figured out how to transfer this to my IPad) that lists my “frequent flyer” children. These are my children that will end up if my office if I don’t make a point to talk to them during the day. I just simply fill in the day’s date on my spreadsheet for a student each time I have a positive interaction with them. This could be talking with them at breakfast about what they did last night or praising them for their hard work in class during a walk-through.

6. Last summer I ended up having to teach a summer school course when we had a teacher quit last minute. I loved it so much that this year I’m planning to teach my own class again, but teach using the Daily 5 structure so I can practice what all of my teachers will be implementing next year.

7. I assess some of the 4/5th grade students with our Fountas & Pinnell benchmark assessment at the beginning/middle/end of the year. I also use this time to praise students for the great reading strategies I see them using and talk with them about something I notice they need to work on.

8. I cover classes whenever I can–when we’re short on a substitute, a teacher has to leave early, or for teachers to observe each other.

I’d love to hear what other principals do to keep their hands in teaching/learning. Please add in the comments!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Patrick Larkin, Principal

    Because I fear becoming disconnected to what it is like to be a classroom teacher after 14 years in administration, I have started teaching a class on period a day this year. With all of the new tools available to engage students, I feel it is easier than ever to lose touch.

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. The Brecknock Rock

    Enjoyed your post! I am envious of principals who have the chance to teach a class regularly! Last year I started a student council in our elem. school so I could meet a few times per month with groups of students and help make our school/world/community a better place. It’s been very rewarding! I also identified days this year to stay immersed in grade levels/specialty areas for the day. Those have been some of the best days of the year for me!! Lyn

  3. erinpaynter

    Great post. And as a valued colleague and experienced principal once said to me, “If you become a principal and feel like you’re disconnected from the kids, then you’re a lousy principal.” From the sounds of it, I think you’re doing well 🙂

  4. Kimberly

    Excellent post! In Texas, we have the Bluebonnet Reading List which is a list of 20 books nominated by the Texas Library Association…aimed at getting students to read great books. The list is out, and I am going to read the 20 books for 2011-2012 so that I can participate in discussions with our students.

  5. Ron McAllister

    I received my Gifted Endorsement with ten of my teachers this past year. I used my new learning to co-teach a 5th grade class with @jamburgy four days per week. We will co-teach again this year. Also, ten more of my teachers and my AP, @CourtneyFoster3 will get their GT Endorsement this year.

    I cannot wait to implement the strategies and tools shared by my PLN and through awesome PD events like #RSCON3. Thanks, PLN.

    ~Ron (@rondmac)

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