At Coldwater Elementary, Everyone Has an “Observe Me” Sign on Their Door. Even the Principal.

Editor’s note: Many educators across the country are using social media outlets, including Twitter, to tell their story about valuing what others have to say. Follow the hashtag #ObserveMe to learn more about the movement and to find additional resources.

By Christy P. Shepard, Principal
Oxford (AL) City Schools

Many teachers around Alabama, the nation and the world are opening their classrooms to others in hopes of gaining insight and feedback on their teaching practices and instructional goals. Teachers at Coldwater Elementary School are no exception!

At Coldwater, one teacher’s enthusiasm, the vision of administration, and a faculty dedicated to collective efficacy and the success of students, led to a decision to tackle the “Observe Me” concept schoolwide.

It is not uncommon for administration or others to visit classrooms for observations and/or walkthroughs. Often times the greatest downfall with these is effectively getting the feedback to teachers. The “Observe Me” strategy puts a special twist on this.

Teachers at Coldwater Elementary have created their own short observation tool for their classrooms geared not only to district and school goals, but also individual classroom goals.

Outside of each of their doors is a sign providing visitors and colleagues with look-fors and goals for their specific classroom. A link and QR Code to the electronic observation tool is also available. (Read Mrs. Bohannon’s welcome poster.)

The results of any visit go directly to the teacher and not to administration or anyone else. As a result, our teachers embrace observation and feedback from their colleagues as a learning opportunity not only for the classroom teacher being visited, but also for the observer.

The Power of Collective Teacher Efficacy

Coldwater Elementary teachers are dedicated and believe that together they can have a positive impact on student achievement. They have learned that the number one factor influencing student achievement is collective teacher efficacy. Although teachers are getting individual feedback from the Observe Me experience (and feedback is also a factor for influencing student achievement), the shared belief that teachers must work together to make the greatest difference for students is our most important outcome.

We also recognize that what one does with the feedback is very important. Teachers may collaborate with others or discuss their feedback with administration if support is needed.

School administrators are full partners in our Observe Me program. Each member of the administrative team also has an observe sign outside their door which focuses on their personal performance goals as they relate to the school. School leaders need feedback, too, and collective efficacy involves everyone. (Read the text of my Observe Me poster.)

A quote by longtime Congressional leader Barbara Mikulski points out that “each one of us can make a difference. Together we make change.” Each day at Coldwater Elementary School, we are working to make a change. Stop by, come on in, and observe!

Christy Shepard is Principal of Coldwater Elementary School in the Oxford City, Alabama school district. During her education career, she has taught (and been an administrator) at the elementary, middle and high school levels. A graduate of the University of Alabama, Christy is pursuing her doctorate in educational leadership and has taught online courses in Interactive Technology for several university programs. To learn more about the Observe Me program at her school, follow her on Twitter @cshepard_ce or contact the school at (256) 241-3870.