Even as schools have transitioned to online learning, it’s heartening to see that this crisis isn’t keeping school leaders from carrying out what I think is one of the true joys of school administration—classroom walk-throughs and visitations. Over the years, my thinking and approach to classroom walk-throughs have evolved and changed so much to where I consider it one of my best ways to build relationships with teachers and connect with learners.

Now that more teachers are able to have video chats with their classes, principals and assistant principals can adjust thinking and practice to make sure that not only is learning maximized, but that everyone is also taken care of. Here are four strategies for effective digital walk-throughs:

  1. Maslows Before Blooms

As we talk to our staff members about best practices, the one thing we can make sure is that every adult is focused on is whether our learners are okay. A good friend, Joe Sanfelippo, does “1 Minute Walk to Work” shares for educators, and in a recent post, he shared two questions that we should start all current conversations with: 1) How are you doing? and 2) Do you need anything?

This time shouldn’t make that level and type of concern the exception. These days are helping us prioritize what really matters in the classroom, and at times these simple, powerful thoughts can help us find out something life-changing.

  1. Eyes on Kids

When I visit classrooms, I make it a point to lay eyes on every child. In my mind, I’m keeping a “running record” of sorts on the learners in the room. I’m thinking about where they were and are in terms of last conversations.

We can do the same here and now digitally. Lay eyes on every student and do your own wellness checks. Seizing the moment to look for details is an opportunity too important to let go by.

  1. Visiting High-Needs Students

It goes without saying that some students need more support than others, and that’s okay. Keep them in mind and make sure they come up in your conversations with teachers.

Making sure you’re part of those digital visits is important. First, all students will see it’s important to the principal that everyone is on point and doing well. Second, those students who know you have always had their back will know you are still there.

  1. Feedback to (and From) Teachers

Keep that instructional conversation flowing. While we are going to give a lot of leeway and support to adjust to a temporary reality, we also have a full understanding that leeway can’t lower expectations. Lowering expectations hurts everyone.

Those of us who help schools with pedagogy shifts that include technology integration firmly live by the mantra that it’s “pedagogy before technology.” Well, these days it has to be “kids before pedagogy.”

And don’t limit this to joining digital chats teachers are having with their classes. If you are a principal who joins random tables at lunch or strikes up conversations with groups in the hallway, find a way to create some group chats now. Learners need us.

The opportunity from this crisis is to rethink these conversations. Nothing will ever be more important.

Derek L. McCoy is the proud principal of North Asheboro Middle School in Asheboro, NC, and the co-author of The Revolution: It’s Time to Empower Change in Our Schools. He has over 20 years of experience as a middle level principal, assistant principal, and math teacher, and was named an NASSP Digital Principal of the Year in 2014. Follow him on Twitter (@mccoyderek) and his blog (https://mccoyderek.com/).


1 Comment

  • Demetrios Koularmanis says:


    You have made some wonderful points. Regardless if learning is done in a classroom or virtual, staff and students should see the administration. I enjoyed your article.

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