Principal Helpline: Is it OK to Visit Classrooms Informally?

I don’t want to intrude but …

visit classrooms informally

Q.

“As a new principal, is it OK for me to visit classrooms informally just to see what’s going on?

A.

Absolutely! Visiting classrooms is a great way to get to know teachers and kids and to see what’s happening in the school on a daily basis. However, you should be aware of some basic guidelines so that teachers will welcome your visit and not see it as an intrusion.

  1. Enter the room quietly and take a seat or stand in the back of the room. Do not interrupt the class and do not participate unless the teacher invites you to. If students are working at their desks, do not walk up and down the rows to look at their work. That’s the teacher’s job.
  2. Smile.
  3. Stay for just a few minutes. This is just an opportunity to see what’s going on and to show your interest.
  4. If you happen to catch something great in the classroom, it’s OK to leave a quick positive note in the teacher’s mailbox (but it’s not necessary).
  5. If you happen to see a lesson that isn’t so great, just move on. This isn’t a formal observation. I once knew a principal who would leave critical notes in teachers’ mailboxes after a drop-in. He folded the notes in half and propped them up so they looked like little tents. Teachers referred to this practice as “getting tented.” Needless to say, his drop-ins were not greeted with enthusiasm.
  6. Spend some time in the halls as well as the classroom. That way, if a teacher has a quick question or something she wants to tell you, you’re available.
  7. Get out of your office and into the school as much as possible. Teachers love it when administrators are visible. I know there’s a lot going on at the beginning of the day. But spending 5-10 minutes in the halls when kids are entering goes a long way towards establishing your presence in the building.
  8. Take your phone or a small notebook with you to take notes. This will help you remember teachers’ questions or information when you get back to your office.
  9. Visit different classrooms at different times of the day.
  10. Smile.

Don’t be surprised if when you first start to visit classrooms informally, teachers stop everything and ask if there’s something you need. But once they become accustomed to seeing you, some teachers will even invite you to drop in on special activities. Being visible in classrooms and halls sends a strong message that you are interested in what’s going on and that you are accessible.

Have a question for Principal Helpline? Email it to Kimberley@schoolleadersnow.com!

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Posted by Suzanne Tingley

Suzanne Tingley has been a middle/high school teacher, department chair, principal, and superintendent. She taught graduate classes in education administration for the State University of New York. She developed a series of education videos and has been a Scholastic Administrator blogger.

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