Guest post by Chris Koch
As a parent of three young girls, I was introduced long ago to the concept of “floor time,” or getting down on the floor and playing with your kids. Through the years, I have been a student in my daughters’ classrooms, a customer at their homemade arts and crafts store, and a judge in a spontaneous dance off. Quality floor time is fun and helps me build deeper relationships with my daughters. It means so much more to my kids than just sitting on the couch and casually watching them play.
As school leaders, we often find ourselves playing multiple roles and taking on new responsibilities as each school year begins. As a result, it becomes far too easy to lose sight of one of our most important roles: being instructional leaders. In order to truly support staff and grow a positive culture, leaders must build a foundation of trust. I have found that “floor time” with staff, or what I call immersive school leadership, is one of the most rewarding ways to achieve this foundation. The most meaningful work comes when we roll up our sleeves and do the work as part of the staff rather than as the leader simply directing them.
Floor Time in Action—Designing a New Course
In 2016, we introduced four new senior English courses at our school and, as with any new course, the curriculum had to be written, aligned to standards, reviewed, tweaked, and approved. For one new course, Sports and Literature, two teachers from the department took on the responsibility of writing the curriculum. Most staff members know of my passion for sports, and I was thrilled when these two teachers asked me to assist them. Over the course of the week, we enthusiastically worked together to write the curriculum, build learning units, and create engaging activities.
On several occasions over the past year, the two teachers I worked with on the curriculum invited me to their classes to se the learning experiences we designed in action. “Remember, we created the activity around black and white sports photography? Today, we are introducing this to our classes, please stop in!” They spoke about the importance of me seeing our collaborative work firsthand, which was not only a great feeling but made me feel like I was truly a part of it all.
Faculty Book Club—Teaching Like a Pirate
Another example that illustrates the power of floor time is our school’s first faculty book club, which I spearheaded. Over the course of six weeks, 26 staff members and I met every Tuesday and Thursday in our faculty bistro to discuss Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a Pirate, which explores student engagement and high-level instruction. Though I was “in charge” of the book club, my role was not that of a facilitator but as an equal participant. We talked about our own passions for engaging instruction and had some of the most meaningful discussions about children, teaching, and school culture. Our work culminated when, together, we presented during the last faculty meeting and set up our school gymnasium as a “Pirate Flea Market.” Staff moved from table to table in small groups and participated in engaging mini-lessons and activities from the book. Many commented that it was one of the best faculty meetings they had ever attended.
Throughout the spring, many teachers who participated in the book club sent me copies of lesson plans incorporating some of the takeaways from the book discussions. On some occasions, teachers would stop me or other book club participants in the hallway and brainstorm a new unit, asking for suggestions as to what might make the unit more engaging. It mattered to them what others thought, and I was a part of the group.
With all the different directions we get pulled in as instructional leaders, it is important to remember to grab some floor time with your staff whenever you can. It can become some of the most enriching work we can do as leaders and builds a strong positive culture.
What do you do as a school leader to immerse yourself in your work with staff?
Chris Koch is the assistant principal of Frank Scott Bunnell High School in Stratford, CT. He is the 2017 Connecticut Assistant Principal of the Year.