The day of learning walks was one of my favorite days as a classroom teacher. I didn't know I could love it anymore than I already did, and then I became an Instructional Coach. I get giddy with thought of all of the deep reflection that comes out of learning walk conversations.
We changed a few things about the learning walk process this time around. We considered the feedback that we received after our learning walks from earlier this year. Teachers wanted more flexibility in where they went and what they saw. All doors were open at all points throughout the day for this round of learning walks. At first, there was some hesitation in the air around the idea that no one knew when their colleagues were going to enter their classroom. This was very different than past learning walks where teachers got to choose when their classroom would be open. My standard response was, "Just do what you'd normally do. No one is coming in with a critical lens. Do what you know is best for your kids."
Teachers added their schedule and/or lesson plans for the day on the schedule board. When it was your team's turn to have room coverage, you came and looked at all of the schedules and decided where you wanted to go. Most teams went to three or more classrooms throughout the day. While working through this process with teams, I heard a lot of comments like, "I've never been to.... Let's go there!" This was also a good opportunity to grab a piece of chocolate! (Another learning walk necessity!)
Teams observed for a few minutes in each classroom they walked in. After the observation, most teams met in the hallway for a brief reflection of what they saw and heard. This is by far the most rewarding part of this process. I heard many teachers make comments like the following:
Teachers will provide each other with feedback from their observations. This was always one of my favorite components of learning walks as a teacher. I wanted to know what other people saw and heard and what questions they had that would challenge my thinking.
My biggest take-away from the day was that our students want to talk about what they are learning. I asked a number of students about what they were working on when I entered classrooms throughout the day. All of them were excited to share what they were learning and why they were engaged in a specific task. This sparked some deeper reflection. What are we doing to create a culture where they have opportunities to do this outside of the 3 or 4 times a year we have learning walks? What kind of audience are we exposing them to? How can we start embedding this into our classroom and building culture?
We are so fortunate to be surrounded by so many talented, passionate educators. There is so much we can learn from each other.