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Career Questions: What Is the Point of Supervision?

Q:  I read the Q & A about “drive by” supervision.  Here’s another problem we have in our school.  Our principal comes in on the day and period scheduled and stays for the whole class.  But then, nothing!  Months later we get the written evaluation in our mailboxes.  By that time the feedback is pretty vague and generally useless.  I’m not sure she even remembers what happened in the class she observed.  I know she’s busy, but why bother to even visit the classroom if there’s no valid feedback?

A:  There’s more than one problem here.  Valid, useful feedback needs to be timely and specific.  But even more important is a chance to sit down with your principal and talk about the class she’s just seen BEFORE any written evaluation is completed.

I know from many years’ experience as a principal that supervision takes a lot of time to do well.  I used to try to meet with teachers before visiting the classroom to talk about what I was going to see.  Next I’d visit the classroom.  Then I’d sit down and talk with the teacher as soon as I could (maybe even that day) so we could have a useful discussion while it was still fresh in both our minds.  Finally I’d write up what we’d talked about (no surprises for the teacher!). 

It was a great system, but it took a lot of time.  So the year that my assistant principal’s position was cut, instead of meeting beforehand, I asked teachers to fill out a form telling me the goals, strategies, etc. of  FeedbackTitle  what I was going to see.  I still met with the teacher as soon as I could after the lesson.  Both the teachers and I considered the follow-up meeting the most important part of the process.  The written report wasn’t hard to do afterwards because we’d already talked about what would go into it.

There is no question that good supervision takes time, but it’s one of the most important jobs a principal has.  And nearly every teacher I’ve ever worked with enjoyed talking about his or her class.  I am always impressed by how reflective and self-critical teachers can be about their own teaching.

Anyway, the point of all of this is what your principal is doing simply isn’t helpful.  Your faculty council (if you have one) should confront this topic and share your feelings with the principal.  If this isn’t possible (for various reasons), try making an appointment to see the principal right after her classroom visit and ask for direct feedback.

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