In the first season of The Wire, an American crime drama television series, a young girl who lives in a poor and crime-ridden neighborhood asks Wallace, a teenaged drug dealer, for help with a math problem. It's a word problem that has multiple passengers getting on and off a bus and that asks how many passengers are on the bus at the end of it. The girl is lost. Wallace reframes the problem for her, describing a situation in which different buyers and sellers of crack cocaine take and give her different numbers of vials. When she answers correctly, Wallace asks her why she can't do the same problem when it's in her math book. She explains that if she gets the vial count wrong, the drug dealers will hurt her, so she must get it right.
When I was 13, my literature teacher Estela asked the class to look at two drawings and write down a story about each one them. I looked at the drawings: one was of a man in a suit and tie who was carrying a suitcase and wearing a watch. The other was of the same man but he had a beard, torn clothes and broken shoes. I wrote the first story about a successful man with an amazing family, the second about a poor, sad man who had no friends. Estela seemed disappointed and asked me if people are defined by their clothes. That day, my teacher spoke about prejudices and I learned something that I won’t forget.
In every country, there are dedicated and enthusiastic teachers who enrich and transform the lives of millions of children. Silent heroes who often lack proper training, teaching materials and are not recognized for their work. Heroes who defy the odds and make learning happen with passion, creativity and determination.
How can a school principal be transformed into an instructional leader who provides meaningful feedback and targeted coaching? In this blog, the second in a two-part series, we explore how principals can use observation and feedback to support teachers.