This year more than ever, school leaders are filtering an unprecedented amount of information to support prioritization for student impact. They are balancing the social and emotional needs of students with the needs of their staff; additionally, they are balancing the priorities of relationship-building and routine with the imperative of rigorous instruction. And while No-Nonsense Nurturing leaders know they have to maintain each of these priorities, they need and deserve efficient systems to lead with clarity, care, and high expectations.
The outline below provides guidance on collecting and tracking data that matters, leveraging data to analyze and share trends that drive professional development, and following up with teachers individually to impact student outcomes.
“Walking” and Tracking the Data that Matters Most
Tracking what matters starts with getting into classrooms — virtual or otherwise. Leaders are best connected to the needs of their teachers and kids when they are fully present to them. “Walking” classrooms thus achieves a number of wins for a leader: ensuring leadership’s visibility; fostering relationships and connection with teachers and students; gathering data on expectations in action; providing affirmation and push for teachers; and identifying overall trends to determine professional development needs of staff.
These benefits all begin with determining what matters most, which then drives what to look for when “walking.” While walking is ideal in person, the virtual world presents the same critical opportunity as leaders enter into Zoom or Teams sessions. Regardless of modality and in order to maintain a clear focus, it’s important to choose two to three look-fors, in addition to more quantitative data points that also matter (attendance, cameras on, etc.). Take time with your leadership team to identify these priorities or look-fors for your school. Some example look-fors include:
- Relationship Building
- Routines and Procedures
- Focused Instruction or “I Do”
- Checks for Understanding
This “Walking” Tracker Example provides a structure for tracking chosen look-fors. It provides space to notate evidence for each look-for, including specific quotes and teacher actions; it also gives space to note what’s missing in order to determine trends and drive individual feedback.
It’s important to name that chosen look-fors should be communicated and fully understood by staff. Teachers deserve to know exactly what their leader is looking for, and why it matters to their practice and to student impact. Be transparent about your intent to walk, and your priority to gather data, support, and provide feedback. Then ensure organizational systems allow for ease with walking (i.e., master schedules with Zoom links and passwords for each teacher).
Leveraging Data for Staff Celebration and PD
Once data is collected on the right priorities, the tracker allows leadership to share trends, including consistent wins to celebrate and gaps to close through PD. Take time each week to look through the tracker with your leadership team and consider the following:
- What are the key teacher actions that deserve celebration?
Because the tracker allows for direct teacher quotes and actions, consider lifting these up in weekly staff meetings or newsletters. By “shouting out” key teacher behaviors aligned to look-fors, leaders reinforce what matters through the lens of celebration. This emphasizes an asset-based frame while providing specific examples for teachers who aren’t there yet. When sharing teacher actions and quotes, provide space for staff to reflect. Ask them to consider, “What makes these actions effective?” Ask them, “What impact do these actions have on students?” Celebration with space for unpacking and reflection allows staff to internalize what makes certain moves great for kids. In turn, these effective actions are more efficiently brought to scale.
- What are the common gaps?
Your tracker also allows you to see the specific look-fors that require more skill or will building. For example, you may find a consistent gap around precise directions. As a leadership team, you are positioned to unpack the root cause of any gaps that exist. Does staff need a model for precise directions? Do they need more time to practice or internalize with one another? Do they need to better understand the “why” behind precise directions and their impact on student achievement? Take time to examine the cause, and take time to ask teachers about any unknown roadblocks when you aren’t sure. By sharing trends with staff, naming the gap, and then providing PD on the skill or will associated with it, leaders can rapidly improve outcomes for kids in a culture of coaching and accountability.
Coaching and Follow-up
While staff will feel validated by seeing schoolwide data and feel celebrated for specific actions, there is a critical opportunity to follow up individually to support relationship-building, affirmation, and growth for each teacher. Virtual teaching undoubtedly creates added stress to their role, which only strengthens the need for affirmation and challenge from the leader during or after “walking.”
After “walking” a class, use the evidence from the tracker to follow up in a note or email (or ideally in person) with what you saw. No-Nonsense Nurturing leaders follow a feedback protocol called AIC, which refers to Affirm, Impact and Continue or Challenge.
When you affirm the teacher for what you saw, be specific. Name the affirming words or actions, and then name the specific impact on students. For example: When you told Jessica her voice mattered and that you wanted to hear her thinking, she provided a quality response that you were able to lift up for the rest of the class to learn from. The impact was that Jessica felt valued by you, and was able to grow her confidence when she took a chance. She will now be more likely to share and grow her voice with you!
This level of specificity allows the teacher to feel celebrated, but also tells them what to replicate. It grounds effective teacher action in student impact, instead of naming what you liked as the leader.
When you tell the teacher what to continue or what you challenge them to do next time, maintain your specificity. Tell them your suggestion or expectation, why it matters, and then script what it might sound like. For example: Next time, use a precise direction for participation to ensure 100 percent of students have time to think. This will increase your students’ engagement in their learning and provide you meaningful data to understand where all of your students are. This might sound like: “When I say go, stay on mute and take 60 seconds to think and then submit in the chat: what is the character’s motivation in paragraph two? Go!”
Always end your feedback with a commitment to follow-up. Teachers deserve to feel seen and heard by their leaders, and this becomes even more critical when they execute on a challenge you provide. By following up and seeing their challenge in action, you can validate their improved moves and their persistence to get it right — or provide more in-depth support if they still struggle.
In summary, as modalities change, the opportunity to track key look-fors, provide full-staff celebration and PD, and follow up individually remains critical. Look-fors can and should shift with priorities across the year, but these best practices allow No-Nonsense Nurturing leaders to maintain focus, high expectations, and consistency for staff that they need and deserve. In turn, students receive high-quality teaching and learning with a laser-like focus on what matters most.
By Meaghan Loftus, Associate, CT3