Teacher and Principal Supervision in Spring of 2020

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Teacher and Principal Supervision in Spring of 2020

By Dr. Gary Bloom

 School closures and the difficult transition to remote schooling came at just the time when most educational leaders would normally have been busy completing formal teacher observations and summative evaluations of both teachers and administrators.  

It is a given that formative supervision and summative evaluation are essential to ongoing professional growth, and to ensuring that our work in schools meets professional standards. What has the interruption of these processes meant, and what should we be thinking about as we look to an increasingly uncertain Fall of 2020? 

Here are a few things I have learned about the current state of affairs as I have spoken with people in a number of school districts: 

  • Standard practices and protocols  have been interrupted and a great deal of flexibility is being implemented moving forward.
  • School leaders are largely  being empathetic and pragmatic as they work with staff to meet student needs.
  • There is less of an emphasis  upon teacher and principal accountability, and more of a focus of accomplishing what is possible as a team.    

Among the many repercussions related to supervision that I am hearing from the field, are the following:  

  • Most teachers and administrators  are feeling a high level of support and are communicating more than ever with supervisors and colleagues, though some others are feeling isolated, a bit helpless and left to their own devices (no pun intended).
  • Some teachers and administrators who would otherwise have been released or reassigned are being held in place because supervision processes were not completed or because of feared difficulties in hiring replacements.
  • Some districts are fearing that some teachers and administrators may choose to retire and/or not to return to work, creating unanticipated vacancies in a period in which hiring may be particularly difficult.
  • Labor/management relations have built upon and amplified relations that existed before COVID-19. Where there was a focus upon collaboration, communication, and student needs, trust and commitment seem to be ascendant. Where tension and resistance already existed, a commitment to best meeting student needs in the current circumstances may be harder to establish and maintain.

As we wrap up this school year and look towards 2020-21, a few recommendations come to mind in relation to teacher and principal supervision:  

  • Prepare to invest in coaching-based support. We are in a new world, where nobody has the  answers. Teachers and principals will look to their supervisors for guidance, and to their colleagues as best practices evolve. Communication and collaboration have never been more essential.
  • Develop clear and realistic expectations around job performance. What can we expect of any teacher or principal in the course of any one day if they are working remotely?
  • Give real attention to the goal setting components of your evaluation systems. Set goals that are meaningful and achievable. 
  • Data driven improvement processes and accountability are still relevant. How are we going to measure our success on a daily, monthly, and annual basis? 
  • Maintain and solidify commitments to equity, given our knowledge that the current crisis amplifies advantages and disadvantages.
  • Develop and practice protocols for observing and evaluating distance learning, remote staff meetings, professional development activities and the like. Effective coaching, effective formative and summative evaluation depend upon observational input.
  • Lighten up, show compassion and flexibility as we work through this crisis, while at the same time remembering that our actions have significant and lasting impacts upon our students.



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