Serious critique deserves serious response. When several educators we respect wondered aloud on twitter about whether No Office Day sends a poor message about administrators, we took their reservations seriously.
Upon further reflections, we still love #NoOfficeDay. For those not yet familiar with No Office Day, it is a day (or numerous days) on which principals and other school leaders shut our offices down and spend the entire day where learning happens – among our teachers and our students. Here are some of the original #NoOfficeDay principal posts that inspired the rest of us: No Office Day by David Truss, Be There by Lyn Hilt and International No Office Day by David Truss.
Does No Office Day mean we never spend other time out of our office? Of course not! Effective principals are typically hard to find in their offices, because they are the “lead learners” of their building and are usually already in classrooms to observe learning. #NoOfficeDay days are part of more comprehensive approaches by principals to transform our roles from “experts” directing teachers and managing to full participants in learning, focusing the school on a culture of collaboration to support student learning. It is a day or several days in which principals immerse themselves into teaching in specific grade levels, certain subjects or throughout the building. It is time for principals to keep “in touch” with teaching and learning.
No Office Day is merely one section of a more nuanced tapestry of the role of the principal and the way in which principals and other school leaders engage in learning. We each spend significant time daily in classrooms, not merely “driving by” as walkthroughs have been appropriately critiqued, but reshaping our roles to be more like coaches than evaluators.
It is important to note that while we are out and about all the time many principals still end up spending large amounts of time in the office. Discipline referrals, parent meetings, scheduling, community partnerships, paperwork,etc. Some of these efforts are not “busywork” such as meeting with teachers on their own goals and learning and partnering with parents to support their children. Still, it’s unfortunate but its the truth, and we’d be lying if we said we never got caught up in “busywork”. In some districts, it is more the norm for seasoned administrators to stay in their office and fill the role of manager as compared to instructional leader. No Office Day allows the opportunity to light a fire under some of these principals (and central office staff) who haven’t taught a day since leaving the classroom for administration.
We can find No Office Day as more of a celebration of the great things we are doing (coaching, teaching, leading). Celebrating these things motivates those around us who may be set in their ways and have forgotten what it’s like to be in the trenches. It’s sad that that’s the case but its true. Last year all the principals and central office staff (including superintendent) got involved and they had a blasts. It really changed some of the mindset of our administrators and resulting in regular No Office Days the rest of the year.
While educators that are not principals, may be critical of #NoOfficeDay, we realize that it is sometimes difficult for teachers to understand all the responsibilities that principals take on day to day. None of us realized how tough administrators have it…until we became one!
Want to read more from other principals on #NoOfficeDay? You can find their posts here.
Edited to add: This is also posted at Connected Principals and has invited great discussion in the comments.