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One of our long-time teachers recently asked me why I visit classes. My practice is to pop in for 10-15-minute observations of each teacher at least once per quarter, followed by a short sit-down for me to get more context, offer praise, and ask questions; our Associate Head of School, Dr. White, follows the same pattern. The teacher shared that he really appreciated the investment of time and the collegial conversations. But he wondered what I saw as the value of these visits when no one person can possibly offer expertise in every subject we teach. A good question.

For many years, independent school classrooms were closed-door cultures. Not here. Observing a teacher in action, talking with them about their practice, and offering specific praise means that they feel seen — something we all deserve. It gives me a chance to ask how they want to grow and align our professional learning resources to their needs. And it puts me in a position to connect teachers so that they can learn from our best resource: one another.

Having a sense of what’s happening in the classrooms also makes me a better leader. One of the reasons I so value being at a small school is for the chance to really understand the day-to-day lived experience of our students and teachers. I can’t imagine guiding the curricular and pedagogical direction of a school without that understanding.

And, selfishly, sitting in on these joyful, engaging classes is often the best part of my day!

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