This year, as a science supervisor, I will be observing teachers. I’m not sure whether I should interact with them during classroom visits if I see something that could be improved. How involved should I be? —J., Pennsylvania
You have a wonderful opportunity to observe (and learn from) a variety of teachers and share your expertise.
Discuss with your administrator what your role(s) should be: evaluator, mentor, observer, or coach. How often are you expected to visit each classroom? How long are your observations (a whole class period vs. a brief walk-through)? Are there protocols or procedures you are expected to follow? These parameters can determine how involved you become, and your rapport with the teachers will depend on whether they see you as an intrusive administrator or a trusted colleague.
When you’re in a classroom, intervene immediately if you notice a safety issue. Otherwise, be discreet. You don’t want to undermine the teacher or react to an event without knowing the context. You can call a teacher’s attention to something without interrupting the class. Perhaps while students are working, you could have a quiet chat with the teacher or give the teacher a note.
Afterwards, reflect on your observations before meeting with the teacher. How will they help the teacher improve instruction or relationships with students? As an observer/evaluator, I would debrief with teachers with discussion-starting questions: How did you know that students were engaged? What would happen if…? Did you notice that…? What happened right before I came in? What happened after I left?
The supervisory process is time-consuming, but reflection and face-to-face discussions can make it worthwhile for everyone.
[The article, “Should Supervisors Intervene During Classroom Visits?” (Kappan, October 2015) has a good discussion on in-class coaching.]