cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by USDAgov
For almost two years, I have been in central office and at some times, have found it quite challenging. I am someone who likes to move around, hates sitting in one place for too long, and enjoys being around kids. What I don’t like is meetings. Never have, and never will. Honestly, I understand the point of having a meeting but not for longer than 45 minutes, with the maximum being an hour. They are just not my thing. With that being said, there is a necessity to meetings to ensure that as a “central office” we are removing as many barriers from our staff as possible, although the opposite does tend to happen in some places.
I always try to focus from the view of a teacher. Creating a 50 page social media guidelines for your staff is a little much and the likelihood of people even reading it let alone understanding it, is very low. That is why I took one version of this document and adapted it into three pages. I, as a teacher, would probably read that, especially if I used social media.
So in a conversation with a close friend who has a similar position to myself yet is new to the job, told me that she is tending to “wander”. I felt the exact same thing when I started. I would be sitting in my office, get up, and start to walk around yet had no idea where I was walking to. I had done the same practice when I was a school principal and would go sit with students, but there were no students in my building. It was quite the adjustment. I felt lost and honestly, could get bored easily. It was not like I did not have work to do, but I was just finding that sitting in an office was a little much.
I needed a change.
What I have decided to implement in the last few months in my position is basically establishing “office hours”, similar to a practice that I know many professors use. The problem is with a school district that spans over 100 kms, it didn’t make sense for a teacher to come to my office for help, so I decided to go to them. With that in mind, I would contact a principal from a school and tell them that I was simply going to do my “office work” at their school and I just needed a space to work. Knowing that I would be in the building, I encouraged the principal to let all teachers know that I would be there and that they were more than willing to come and see me with any questions about the initiatives that they had, or anything else that they thought they would need help with. The door was not only open, but the door also moved a lot closer.
As I have gone through this process, I have had a variance of experiences. Sometimes no teachers will visit, so I will just spend time in their classrooms. Not in the “walkthrough” fashion, but I would just sit down and spend time in the classroom. Of course I would be trying to learn from the way they taught, but I would also still have to do some of the office work that comes with the position. The difference in our world now is that I obviously can do that work from anywhere in the world. There is no better place to do it than in a classroom.
In this past week though, I spent an afternoon at a school and the principal had me booked solid with individual teachers that could basically ask me whatever they wanted. Some of them asked about Twitter, some had questions to make their practices easier and more streamlined, one had a question about putting a yearbook together, and finally, another teacher asked me about portfolios for kindergarten students. Through these “on the spot” interactions, I was able to either help them or lead them in a direction where they could find more support. The cool thing about this though was that they weren’t only learning from me, but I learned a great deal from the conversations that I had with them that were totally impromptu. Because of the conversations that I had with the other teachers, when I was asked about early year digital portfolios, I finally came up with a solution which I have been struggling with for literally years. If I did not spend the day there, I would have still been struggling, but now I am doing a workshop on this with our early year teachers in April. I was so excited and grateful for these conversations as they were a great learning opportunity for myself, not only the teachers that had the questions.
So when I look back at the things that I struggled with in my role (not moving around and missing kids), I feel now that I have figured it out. I have set up “office hours” with other schools and will continue to do them as long as I am in our central office. I don’t want to have that awkward “walk through” anymore in our classrooms. I would rather sit and get to know staff and the kids much better and really, I don’t need to be in my office the same amount of time that it was needed years ago. I feel like I am finally finding what works for me in this position and I am hoping it works for the schools as well. I haven’t been able to do this in all of our schools (we have 22 sites) but that is the plan.
This might just work.
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