My daughter came home in second grade with a proposal for our family: She had seen a Tae Kwon Do demonstration at school and wanted to join. So our family routine adapted to include three nights a week of watching her learn forms, spar with other kids, and attend weekend tournaments. Before long, my husband and I joined the adult class, so we turned into a martial arts family.
We spent many hours at the gym listening to and observing our instructor and watching and interacting with other students. We learned the discipline of the sport, but we also learned the discipline of showing up. You see, I’m one of the least athletic people you will meet, but Tae Kwon Do is designed to break down the journey with numerous checkpoints as you move from light-color belts like white and yellow all the way to dark colors like brown and eventually black. Being athletic is certainly an advantage, but consistently showing up gets the job done.
This time of year there are numerous tasks tying us to our desks and keeping us from getting into classrooms. Yes, we all know we need to be present in classrooms, but let me remind you of a few of the most compelling reasons to give you a little nudge.
Encourage the Good
You see the good and can encourage it to continue. So many hardworking teachers are hungry for a visitor to provide feedback. It may be nothing more than stepping into a classroom for 15 minutes, but trust me, that visit is invaluable.
Edit the Not So Good
You see the not so good, and there’s still time to intervene. Maybe you walk in on a class with a lack of focus or discover a team that is significantly behind the scope and sequence. It’s not too late to provide a concrete suggestion or set a date to join teachers for a planning session. Now is the time to take action.
Visiting classrooms gives us credibility with both teachers and principals. Teaching is a rigorous profession, so being in the trenches with teachers makes intervention and suggestions more likely to be implemented. There is no substitute for deeply knowing teachers when having conversations with principals about a school’s academic progress and future hiring decisions.
Being present reminds us of why we do what we do. There’s an endless list of items on our daily agenda, which makes it so easy to lose focus. And I would argue that we’ll write better tests, order more equipment, and fight just a little harder for additional funds when we can see the faces of our students and teachers.
Show up. It’s just that simple and just that complicated. There will never be magical extra minutes that show up in your schedule, but making priority time for classroom visits is worth every second. There will be days you may hold your breath while a nugget of knowledge is artfully shared with a classroom of students. There will be other days you cringe when all does not go well and chaos seems to be the norm. But in both of these situations, being there is the most profound way for you to change the course of the classroom, the school, and your district.