Low Walls for Protecting Time for Classroom Visits - The Principal Center

Free Download: 10 Questions for Better Feedback on Teaching

Low Walls for Protecting Time for Classroom Visits

Are you on track to get into classrooms 500 times a year?

Making 3 visits a day is all it takes—and also happens to be the sweet spot:

  • If you have 30 teachers, 3/day gets you around to everyone every 10 days
  • You'll never go more than 2 weeks between visits to the same classroom
  • You'll see each teacher 18 times a year, instead of just a handful of times

Imagine the impact it would have.

Imagine the feedback you could give.

You'd know so much more about your school, and you'd be known so much better by students and staff.

If you're on track for 500, leave a comment below and let me know!

If not, why not? Let me guess…

Whenever I ask administrators “What's keeping you from getting into classrooms?” the answer is always the same set of “external” challenges:

  • Lack of time
  • Interruptions and emergencies
  • Discipline issues and parent needs
  • Overwhelming levels of email and paperwork

We all know if we want to get into classrooms consistently…we'll never find time. It's all spoken for.

We'll have to make time.

All it takes is 10-15 minutes, three times a day, to visit classrooms 500x/year.

It's absolutely doable—if we develop systems for handling the predictable issues we tend to face.

We know email and paperwork can wait a few minutes, but we're often afraid to make other people wait.

We're afraid things might fall apart if we make ourselves unavailable:

  • Emergencies and student discipline issues won't get handled
  • Teachers and office staff will feel unsupported
  • We'll seem aloof and out of touch with staff and parents

And those are all reasonable fears. 

It's not a great idea to say “No one can ever interrupt me, under any circumstances, when I'm in classrooms.”

Try that on the fire department next time they show up 🙂

Monty Python - now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time

So here's what I recommend instead…

Rather than protecting your time with impenetrable “castle wall” systems…

The kind of rigid policies that keep everyone out, no matter what, like a shark-filled moat…

…we need a gentler, more flexible approach to protecting our time in classrooms.

We need systems for preventing every issue from becoming an emergency…while ensuring that everything still gets handled.

Think of these systems as low walls with gates, like you might find on a farm. 

A stone-walled pasture is no fortress, but it's pretty good for keeping everything where it's supposed to be. 

We can protect our time for classroom visits with systems that work the same way:

  1. Anticipate the interruption
  2. Have a designated person (often the office staff) who can triage the interruption, and either…
  3. Decide it can wait until you return, or…
  4. Interrupt you if necessary

For example, you don't need to be totally unreachable by phone…but your office staff should be able to intercept 80-90% of the callers who ask for you, so your classroom visits don't get interrupted by non-emergencies. 

Perhaps the entire staff has your cell number right now, so you're getting emergency and non-emergency calls while you're trying to visit classrooms. 

You might need to tell people you'll only answer calls from the office—so everyone else should just call the office if they need you. 

Good “low wall” systems combine people and policies to minimize interruptions. 

The “walls” don't need to be especially high—just high enough to direct most people to the correct “gate.”

Real emergencies can always go over the “wall” and interrupt you.

For example, think about discipline situations.

Sometimes, they're true emergencies—when someone is out of control, or someone is getting hurt. 

In those cases, I want my classroom visits to be interrupted, because dealing with the emergency is more important. 

But a lot of discipline situations are NOT true emergencies…

Yes, you need to deal with them, but it's no big deal if the students have to wait 5 extra minutes to see you.

(In fact, those 5 extra minutes might give them a chance to calm down!)

So you can finish up your classroom visit, without getting interrupted, because you have a “low wall” system to handle the situation in the meantime.

What if the situation escalates? Can people still leap over the wall and reach you faster?

Yes, that’s always an option—and that’s why there’s no real risk of becoming aloof or unresponsive with systems like this.

If the kid waiting in the office is starting to cause problems for your office staff, they can always call you to come down faster.

The policies should also protect the people who are protecting your time. 

With low walls—modest barriers protecting our time and attention—we can see what’s happening on the other side, and we can ourselves leap over to lend a hand when necessary.

Make sense?

So if you're finding it hard to get into classrooms—even under ideal circumstances—know this: you are 100% normal

If you feel too busy and too overwhelmed to get into classrooms more, I'm here to give you two things:

  1. Reassurance that nothing is wrong with you. You're doing great. This is a tough job.
  2. Hope that you can make a change—that you can choose to get into classrooms far more. 

You absolutely CAN get into classrooms three times a day, every day.

I know you can, because I get emails like this all the time:

“Hey Justin, our school year is 1/3 over (around 60 days) and my classroom visit count is at 163, and I've got 3 more to do today.  My count's a little low, but it's made a huge difference in my relationship with the students already.  Now when I walk in it's like I'm just another member of the class, it's no big deal.
Thanks for the challenge!” —Kelly

How wild is this: Kelly wasn't on track to hit 500 visits/year…just 489 :). 

You can make a commitment to yourself, your teachers, and your students, to finally start getting into classrooms…

  • Not just once in a while…
  • Not just “as time allows” (whatever that means)… 
  • …but consistently—3 times a day, 500 times a year. 

I know…that might sound far-fetched. Perhaps it sounds impossible from where you sit. 

But I promise you this—someone:

  • Who isn't as smart or hard-working as you
  • Who has a harder job than you
  • Working with fewer resources

…is getting into classrooms more than you are. 

How is that possible?

Simple: They have a good plan. They're following a proven model.  

See, it's not a lack of talent or expertise that's keeping you from getting into classrooms every day.

You are more than enough.

It simply comes down to following a plan—a system—that's already working in thousands of schools.

So, use the “low walls” approach above to start dealing with some of those external barriers—the interruptions that are pulling you away from classrooms—and let me know how it goes.

Leave a Reply 0 comments

Leave a Reply: