It is always exciting when one is asked to discuss her goals for an educational institution. It is important for me to note though, that I did not arrive at Ridgefield High School (RHS) with a preconceived set of goals for implementation. RHS is highly successful across the realms of academics, interscholastic athletics, extra curricular activities and community service opportunities. Thus, one goal is to utilize my transition to Ridgefield to truly learn about the areas of strengths, as well as areas of concerns in the high school as envisioned by students, faculty, parents, the Board of Education and community members.
However, as an educational leader there are certainly philosophies and beliefs I embrace and strive to actualize here in Ridgefield. One that I have already begun acting upon is to continually focus on the growth and evelopment of our teachers’ instructional practices. I wholeheartedly believe that the most important person in our schools is the classroom teacher. The individual who stands in front of our students every day has the greatest opportunity to influence children’s learning. Educational research, as calibrated by John Hattie, consistently points to the high correlation between the quality of teaching and learning outcomes. Thus, as a principal the most important work I have is to support my teachers in the area of high quality instruction.
We will pursue this goal in a variety of ways. It is essential that the high school administrators be in classrooms viewing instruction. Teachers have seen that I am a frequent informal visitor to their rooms observing and supporting teaching styles, instructional strategies, and the implementation of curriculum. Students also play a crucial role in the teaching and learning process. During periods of group work one will see me talking to students, often asking questions such as: “What is the goal of what you are learning today?” “Why do you think the teacher felt this was an important concept for you to learn?” Feedback from teachers regarding this increased focus on instruction has been overwhelmingly positive.
Another strategy I have initiated is the implementation of weekly Classroom Walkthroughs. Every Thursday morning and afternoon I am scheduled to observe specific departments, accompanied by an assistant principal and the department leader. These are longer sessions during
which teachers have an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise, as well as areas in which we can support them. Following our time in classrooms we discuss that which we have seen and work as a team to develop a common language about, and common expectations for, classroom instruction. It also provides us with important knowledge about the most beneficial professional learning for the high school’s faculty. This strategy supports a unified approach to teaching and is well timed as the district moves toward implementing its new teacher evaluation system. Ridgefield High School’s team based approach to Classroom Walkthroughs is an extremely collaborative strategy designed to strengthen classroom instruction. This goal has to be of the highest priority as we strive to support our students.
Ridgefield High School Principal