Robert has offered some sterling advice on how to deal with administrators:
1. Have a checklist hanging by the door telling all visitors how exactly to observe your comprehensible input classroom. Ask the evaluator(s) to take one the moment they walk into the room. It guides their observation – unless they have a state-mandated checklist they must use. (California is not yet there, thank God.) [ed. note: find one here on the posters page of this site – that is the one from Susan Gross.]
2. Build relationships with your administrators; they are people too. There was a MASH episode in which Major Houlihan was having a lot of trouble with her nurses. It turned that each thought the other was uncaring and selfish. In one scene they were talking about the “gossip sessions” and parties the nurses would have and never invited Major Houlihan. The nurse she was talking to said, “You would come anyway.” Houlihan said, “No, but would have been nice to have been asked.” If your administrator likes you, she will see things with very different eyes. Greet administrators warmly in the halls, go out of your way to walk by and say hello. At school events (sports games, plays, concerts, etc.), stop and chat a moment. Ask about family, the weekend, summer plans. Give birthday greetings.
3. Let your administrators know you appreciate their hard work. Every time an administrator even pauses at the door to look in, go to him (best) or write an email or note thanking him for the visit. You might even ask for feedback, but at least thank the administrator for stopping by. (This is actually part of building relationships, but it’s important enough to list separately.)
4. Educate your administrators in small doses. Whenever you see an article about comprehensible input, forward it (or photocopy it and give it) to your administrator with the notation, “I thought you would find this interesting, since it relates to [the standards / classroom management / assessment / etc.].” Then follow up and ask how the administrator liked the article, if she has any questions about it or would like to get together and discuss it. I just came across an article about principals who have turned their offices into conference rooms and no longer have an office; instead, they are out on campus much more. The article indicates that they are more effective principals. I am going to forward it to my principal with the notation that, because he I see him out on campus so much (I genuinely do), he might find the article interesting – after all, is supports what he already does. Administrators cannot be expected to know all “Best Practices” (there’s a nice buzzword), especially for a content area that is so different from the “core four”, so we have to educate them. But it needs to come from “authorities” (i.e. published sources) so that it isn’t just us talking.
5. Learn your school’s terminology and use it, but do it in a way that allows you to continue basically as you have (with Laurie’s exceptions noted). For example, my district has adopted the GRR (Gradual Release of Responsibility) template for instruction. It goes “I do it –> We do it –> You do it together –> You do it alone”. If an administrator walks into my room when we are doing reading together, I can assign a quick “Think-Pair-Share” activity. Then I go over to the administrator and say, “We were just working on the text as a class; now they are working on it together; at the end of the period/tomorrow they will show me what they can do alone” [i.e. the five-question quiz]. I have now couched my classroom activities in the terminology they want and changed only a few minutes of class time to accommodate the observation. Incidentally, the administrator will seldom if ever “ding” you for talking to her for this brief moment when you “should” be monitoring the Think-Pair-Share activity, but don’t just stand around and chat; make the comment to give context and then go back to the class.