Learning and Growing through Critical Friend Visits

Posted on Dec 17, 2016 by Alicia Levitt - Quality Education

Last school year, The Lutheran Schools Partnership (TLSP) lead an effort to establish a supportive network of schools and teachers. We adopted a process called Critical Friend Visits that focuses on what students are doing in classrooms. Six of our schools piloted the process and through those experiences and the feedback we received, we revised our visits. Four more schools signed on for visits this fall.Our goal is to give schools an honest, yet supportive picture of what we observed in their buildings over the course of a day. The schools then determine which areas of focus they want to work on with the support and assistance of TLSP. Here are some of the trends we have noticed so far.1- Our teachers manage their classrooms very well. In all ten schools we visited, this was an observed strength. If teachers cannot manage their classrooms, it becomes more challenging to instruct in engaging ways. This is a great foundation for strengthening other aspects of our instruction. 2- We provide very supportive learning environments. Students in our classrooms are provided with the supplies and tools they need to learn. Our teachers also create warm, caring, Christian environments in which students feel safe and supportive!3- Autonomy has its benefits and drawbacks. We are proud of our independent school thinking and our teachers enjoy being able to own their classroom curriculum. Yet too much autonomy can lead to isolation and disconnected experiences for our students as they move from grade level to grade level. Our schools are seeing the need to make some classroom practices consistent throughout the school. They are working hard to create common instructional elements while still giving teachers the flexibility they need to be effective teachers.Critical Friend Visits have provided TLSP and its member schools valuable data that is being examined and acted upon. As we continue to reflect on the protocol we are using, the experience is becoming even more focused and meaningful. Observers in the classroom make some teachers anxious. We are thankful to every teacher who opened their doors and sat a chair out for us in the back of the room. We hope that as more schools join our CFV network, the experience will continue to benefit schools, teachers and students.This is my last newsletter for TLSP. It has been such a pleasure and honor to serve our Lutheran schools. I am thankful to Mark and Jon for making the working environment so fun, yet productive. I admire our principals who are asked to do so much with few resources. And I love our teachers. They are the hearts and souls of our Lutheran schools. God speaks to our children through them, and I will truly miss the privilege of working with them.
God Bless, Cindy