See for Yourself

I’m not getting it right every day. I’m not winning with all of my reactions or the ways I’m showing up at certain meetings.

But there is one thing that always feelings like winning. Focusing on the good in others. And there is one move that I make that I never regret.

Being in classrooms.

I have never regretted visiting a teacher’s classroom. Ever. Want to be filled with hope for the future? Spend time around teachers and students. This past week was a little rough with all of us getting back in the swing of things. We could have easily said that we were going to leave teachers alone and give them space to do their thing.

But our team made space to visit teachers and leave positive notes for them on the way out the door. We’ve been deeply committed to making this a weekly practice, and while doing so, we’ve been practicing Mike Rutherford’s 30 second feedback.

It’s pretty short and easy to do. When you enter a classroom, you allow yourself to take everything in for the first minute. There’s no reason to tip-toe around. You are already a distraction so kindly lean into it with a smile and enthusiasm. I usually say something like, “Hi! We really want to be around kids and teachers today, and it looks so fun in here, would you mind if we came in for a few minutes?”

Then, you allow yourself to get deeply curious and interested in what you see the students doing, what’s on the walls, what the teacher is doing, and then when something becomes increasingly intriguing to you, you spend more time noticing it, moving closer to learn more and ask questions. Before leaving, you write on your post-it note. Something along these lines:

“Thank you so much for having us today! (An intro with gratitude) When you allowed students to work in groups and write out the math on vertical surfaces, student energy and student voice increased. (Specific move you saw.) When students are excited about the math and when math feels collaborative, learning increases. (Impact of that teaching move.) Bravo!”

This week we visited the math class of a veteran high school teacher is probably a few years away from retirement. This particular teacher was doing just what I described above. The teacher was walking around and talking about the math with the students and letting them know when they could move to the next problem, so there was a nice variation in the pace appropriate to where each student group was in the learning process. I said to a group of boys, “Wow, this looks fun!” They laughed and replied, “This isn’t fun! This is hard!” I loved that. Fun learning can be messy. It can be rigorous. It can be hard! So often, even myself as a former high school teacher, I can think of the fun stuff sometimes as being “fluff” or “easy” but no, learning can be both fun and challenging. In fact, aren’t those the best kinds of challenges? The ones were we are mentally sweating and yet there are aspects of the learning that make it enjoyable?

The teacher may be using methods like this on a weekly basis. I know they have been doing professional learning that supports these types of methods. But the thing is, if we hadn’t pushed ourselves to get out there and see it, we would have missed it. And the teacher wasn’t doing it for us. They doing using this methodology because it was what was best for student learning.

If we hadn’t walked around to see it, we would have missed an opportunity to celebrate it. We would have missed an opportunity to elevate effective instructional practices.

It’s easy to make assumptions about what is going on in classrooms when you aren’t spending time in classrooms.

Go see for yourself. There is so much good happening out there if you simply go look for it.

How might you make a bit more space in your week to get into classrooms? How might you encourage others celebrating their good work when you see it?

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