Career Questions: Drive By Supervision
Q: Our teachers’ contract requires that all of us have a classroom evaluation at least once a year. I’m fine with that; in fact, I like having an administrator visit my classroom and see what the kids and I are doing.
The problem is that we schedule a day and a period when the principal says he’ll visit and then he may or may not show up. Or he comes in late and leaves early without seeing the best part of the lesson. This isn’t just my problem, by the way – he does this with everybody. Some teachers plan a special lesson for him to see, only to have him not show up at all or show up later in the day to visit a different class.
Our evaluations are always fine, by the way, but I’m beginning to think that the whole thing is just a charade so he can say he’s doing classroom supervision without actually doing it.
A: The point of classroom supervision is supposed to be improvement of instruction. Under the best circumstances, your principal should meet with you to talk about what you’re going to do, what he should look for, and what goals you expect to meet. Unfortunately, classroom supervision, if it happens at all, is sometimes a “drive by.”
Principals need to protect the time designated for classroom visits. Unless there was an emergency situation, my secretary was instructed not to interrupt me during a classroom visit. I always wanted to see the very beginning of a lesson (Bellringer? Shared goals? Use of prime instructional time? Student engagement?) and the very end of a lesson (Check for understanding? Closure?). Not watching the entire lesson unfold makes it impossible to evaluate what you saw. In addition, coming late, leaving early, or missing the entire class is disrespectful to the teacher and to the process.
I suggest you start by talking to your principal informally about how you and your colleagues would like him to visit your classrooms and would appreciate any suggestions he might have. The beginning of the school year is a good time to approach the subject. If nothing changes, you might want to talk to your association leadership. Classroom supervision is an important dialogue between teachers and supervisor.