No Office Day


Recently, I came across this tweet in the land of tweets:


Apparently, there are a handful of administrators that are trying to organize a massive “No Office Day” in September. Now, I first read about this issue of no office days in a great post by Lyn Hilt. While she did not use the term no office day, it is certainly what she was doing. In her post she describes a day in which she spent her day in classrooms with a particular grade level. Having talked with Lyn since this post in December, I know this is something she has done more than once. A few others like David Truss and Dwight Carter have also written about their no office day experiences. However, Lyn's experiences strike me the most in the way she didn't just observe but actually took an active role in the learning and teaching in her building. 

Back to this idea of an organized no office day where administrators can “sign up”. Many folks may see this as a great initiative and we need to get a ton of administrators to sign up. However, I don’t really think this is something I would necessarily support. Now before, I go any further, I will admit that I am not an administrator and my viewpoint will surely be biased as a result. With that being said, here is why I have a tough time supporting this organized no office day.

First, isn’t this something administrators should be doing anyways? Shouldn’t they be in classes every chance they get and not sitting in their offices? If an administrator has to sign up for one day to step out of the office, there are more than likely bigger issues at play. Should we organize a “Good Teaching Day” for teachers who want to commit a day to being a good teacher? The thought is rather ridiculous and yet asking an administrator to sign up to be in classrooms with kids and teachers is just as bad. By signing up for the no office day, does that give administrators the green light to stay in their offices the other 179 days in the school year? I hope not.

The other problem I have with this organized no office day is the fact that on some level it is needed. While this might seem hypocritical in light of my first reason, it is true. Administrators are often over burdened with meetings, trainings, and meetings. They are pulled out of their building for a whole host of obligations that are aimed at making them better principals. However, it has been my experience with the administrators that I have worked with that these meetings do quite the opposite. They are often a waste of time with no direct connection to student learning and just pull them away from the students and staff they are supposed to be supporting. I blame central offices and district administrative centers for pulling administrators out of buildings and away from the real work they need to be doing.

Administrators are often the gate keepers to policies, budgets, scheduling, and many of the decision making that ultimately impacts students. It only makes sense that they spend as much time with the people their decisions affect as possible. Please do not feel the need for a formal no office day as an excuse to leave the office and spend time with the very kids and teachers they are meant to support. Spend time out of your office and in classrooms because it is the right thing to do.

Yes, the notion of a no office day is a fantastic one that I would encourage all administrators to do. However, don’t sign up and commit yourself to a day. Commit yourself every day. Ask your secretary to put an hour a day on your schedule to be in classrooms. Don’t just walk through either. Teach a lesson. Work with students on a project. Get your hands dirty. Do whatever you can do to be in classrooms supporting the work your students and teachers are doing every day. 

9 comments:

wkingbg said...

Josh,

Great post! I am just beginning my 2nd year as a HS administrator but have already noticed a need to motivate other admin to get out of the office and into classrooms. I volunteer to teach classes and assist teachers in anyway possible when I'm out and about. It is sad that we have to organize such an event but I think some good can come from modeling what should be the day to day business of school administrators. I'm really looking forward to getting our central office (district) admin involved in this event. Hopefully the blog posts that come from No Office Day will serve as a guide to administrators who have become complacent.

Chris Wejr (mrwejr) said...

You raise great point, Josh. I was at a conference last October and a recently retired high school principal was presenting on "balance". He said that fornthe last 5 years of his principalship, he took 2 days per week for no office days. This allowed him to always get a feel for what was going on in the school. Additionally, he scheduled these in so people knew they could not book appointments that day. I don't necessarily disagree with the "no office" day in September for one reason - maybe it will make people realize how important it is to be out of their offices. Having said this, I completely agree with you in that if this is the ONLY time this happens, our schools are in trouble. Much like Earth Day and Anti-Bullying Day,etc... If we only participate in activities on these particular days, it will never work.
As a principal, I try to spend at least a block or two in classes each day. Many days, I am not successful and get stuck in my office. I am planning next year to schedule in time to be in classes each day so that nothing is booked at that time. I love it when someone calls for me and my secretary has to say "he is in classes working with kids and teachers"... But this needs to happen way more. We all know that is where the real leadership happens.

Thanks for posting!

J Allen said...

As a central office facilitator, my biggest issue is that, if it's not on my calendar, it doesn't happen. There's always something else to work on and something new creeping up. It's a little more difficult than just walking down the hall in my case, but it doesn't excuse the fact that I'm behind my computer more than I should be. I'm hoping to make it more regular that I take time out and "get my hands dirty" more often. Great post!

George Couros said...

I am going to kind of be Debbie Downer on the idea of "No Office Days". When we name something, we are saying that it is something that should be unique. The idea behind this is absolutely fantastic, but the idea that we name a day for this is kind of beyond me. Principals should spend as much time out of their office and in the classrooms as possible. I guess there might be the old school mentality that admin spend time in the office and teachers in the classroom, hence the idea of changing, but really, as admin, we need to just be in the classroom more. There are so many benefits of being in the classroom.

On Chris' point, the idea of scheduling this is not always ideal. I know that when a teacher knew I was coming to their classroom and I booked an appointment, things were different. In fact, I have seen many times where the teaching was worse because the kids were SO quiet, and the teacher was the one doing all the work due to some amazing plan. If you want to get a feel of the classroom, go in often where it becomes that you are a fixture and people are used to you.

When I started as principal, teachers were nervous when I came into their classroom. As I did more often, I saw the real class and how it functioned, while also getting to know the kids. We need to just get out there.

Thanks for your thoughts Josh.

Lyn Hilt said...

Thanks, Josh. I agree with a bit of everyone's comments here. I agree it should be an everyday occurrence and it often isn't. I will readily admit to being stuck in my office some days. I need to make a more concerted effort to get out. I agree with Chris that scheduling is key. It's not necessary to schedule certain classrooms for specific times. But if you block out hours on your schedule, visits become the priority. Teachers don't get concerned about your impending visits because they expect it could happen any day, any time. We should strive to reach a point where an administrator's presence in the room does not alter the learning environment or a teacher's demeanor - except perhaps to add another adult learner into the mix and put a smile on everyone's face :) That doesn't happen unless the administrator is a regular fixture in the classroom. It's challenging, but so worth it. On the days we fail to spend as much time in classrooms as we should, we can't beat ourselves up about it. We need to make a plan to improve the next day, and all days thereafter. 

Josh Stumpenhorst said...

Thanks for the all the great comments. You all are really hitting on some of the points that I completely agree with. Bottom line, administrators need to be in classrooms. These need to be authentic visits where they are a part of the learning going on. As George stated, the scheduled days and visits often turn into dog and pony shows because teachers and students know who is coming. It should be more fluid and part of the culture of the building. If teachers and students act differently when an administrator walks into a room there is something wrong. An administrator in a classroom should not be like a yeti sighting, but just par for the course. As many of the comments already stated, it is not a reality of an administrator’s job to be in classrooms every day or even for full days at a time. With that in mind, how many make excuses for not being “out there” more?

I hope those that do participate in this no office day, realize that it is one day and in no way should be a celebrated event. It should be a step towards more involvement in classrooms in their schools. If a day like this is what it takes, that’s great. However, I caution against days that try to celebrate something that should be expected. I don’t make a unique day for good behavior in my class…because it is an expectation and part of my classroom culture. My question would be what is the culture in your building and what is part of business of usual?

Jeff Yearout said...

We as teachers need to get out of our "office" more often as well, and visit other classrooms to learn more about our craft AND what our colleagues do (though you probably should ask and not just pop in). While I can always have the excuse of needing to work on plans and preps, one big goal I have for myself this year is to sit in on other teacher's classes at least once, or better yet, twice a month. Complacency is not limited to the administrative offices.

Shira Leibowitz said...

Educational leaders work in the world of "symbol", which does have practical impact. For me #NoOfficeDay is a symbol already inspiring practical planning among my educational leadership (we don't call ourselves administrators.) Beyond the #NoOfficeDay in September, we are planning to have a day a month that we close our offices (with a sign on the door and a message on our answering machine as if we were at a conference) as well as chunks of time daily to be in classrooms. We have planned how we will use that time and each of us has committed to teaching as well as offering support for teachers. We are opening up the conversation with the entire faculty to learn from them the ways in which we can be most helpful. We are motivating each other and gaining momentum and energy to do what we know to be right, but which takes discipline, planning, and support to accomplish. I've already benefited tremendously from sharing with other educational leaders both in my building and on my twitter PLN the ways in which time in classrooms can be meaningful spent. I thank you for furthering the conversation and look forward to more sharing. Most of all, I look forward to my many NoOfficeDays and also to my NoOfficeHours. I'm going to do my best to get as many in as possible.

Josh Stumpenhorst said...

Shira,

Thanks for the comment. Yes, I agree that sometimes symbols are powerful and can lead people to change. As I have previously said, I just hope we get to a point where principals themselves are symbols of informed and involved educators, not managers behind a desk. There are many great administrators out there that are already doing this...many have commented on this post. If this "symbol" brings more on board then great, but let's not focus on the day as much as systemic change for the role of an administrator.