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How to Become a Better Principal
The In-Service Growth of Teachers
Compiled from various sources


It is absolutely necessary that Catholic schools be in the hands of teachers who not only profess the Catholic faith, but have all the qualities demanded by their offices. (Pius XII)

Catholic schools operate in order to provide the best possible education for Catholic children. This means that the teaching in Catholic schools should be second to none, and that children should be learning in Catholic schools better than they would elsewhere. It follows, then, that we must, first of all, know what the teaching is actually like in our schools, and that, second, we must work to improve our teaching. The individual teacher, or course, examines his own teaching from time to time, but the responsibility for judging and improving teaching is the principalís. All of his activities must be oriented toward this goal. No matter how attractive or satisfying other duties may be, the improvement of instruction must be the all-embracing objective of the sincere principal. We hope that the following pages will help him to fulfill this most important duty.

Principals tend to shrink before the prospect of supervising. Convincing reasons can be advanced for this shyness. Many principals are teaching principals (If they are priests, they are often teaching catechism and Latin), and hence absorbed and weighed down by their own classroom duties. Some principals feel inadequate for supervision, because of lack of formal training in this area. Other principals think that, since all teachers are mature persons, they ought to be able to take care of their own classrooms. Still other principals insist on viewing the principalship as a job for a "head teacher," one who orders supplies and writes checks. And some principals, it must be admitted, are more interested in management, that is, the smooth operation of the school. Certainly management is easier, more "showy," and more flattering. Highly polished floors and carefully chosen planters are easier to maintain than a conscientious supervisory program.

However, the principal is responsible for providing the highest kind of education for the pupils in his school, even if he is a teaching principal. So whatever the reasons to the contrary, he must accept the responsibility to improve instruction, and hence to promote better learning. The principal can do this only through a well-planned supervisory program, using the procedures now known to be effective for improving teaching. "I must supervise" should be the slogan of the principal. Facing this duty squarely, the principal must solve the problems inherent in his own school situation.

All principals must allocate time each week for supervision, their most important responsibility. A practical rule-of-thumb (for principals whose only duties are school-related) is this: at least forty percent of his non-teaching time should be devoted to improving instruction. For the supervising principal, this means at least twenty-three hours a week, and for the teaching principal, eight hours. Twenty-three hours a week is all too short; the supervising principal must budget his time carefully to keep all aspects of the in-service program moving satisfactorily. In eight hours a week, the teaching principal will of course accomplish less, but he can improve the teaching-learning situation through a conscientious use of his time for the detailed weekly schedule. This time for supervision should be planned before any other activity. It should never be a question of how to "get in" supervisory duties; it should rather be a question of how all other duties might be delegated or subordinated so that ample time is given to the duty of primary importance the duty of supervision.

The parallel is clear between the history of supervision and variations in teacher preparation in schools today. When pre-service training has been poor, the principal must resort to some of the earlier authoritarian measures. No matter what the date, ill-prepared teachers need on-the-job training by the principal. In-service growth for these teachers will be vastly different from that undertaken by qualified teachers. In order to prevent inadequately trained teachers from harming pupils educationally, the principal needs to remedy at least the most glaring deficiencies. Authoritarian supervision is not in good repute these days, but poorly prepared teachers require strong, consistent direction as they learn on the job. The orientation program for teachers who have not completed their training will resemble somewhat a student-teaching process.

  One of the chief difficulties, then, of the principal as supervisor is the inadequate preparation of some teachers on the staff. Another difficulty is the problem of adjusting the in-service program to the varying needs of the staff. Teachers who are especially capable, weak, colorless, resistant, or old require specific attention in the in-service program.


Perfect schools are not so much the result of good methods as of good teachers.  (Pius XI)

The essence of a school is a faculty.  (Dr. John Senior)

Properly used, faculty meetings are a most effective means of in-service growth. Well-planned faculty meetings provide for the all-over development of the teacher: as instructor, as counselor, as link with the community, and as staff member. Faculty meetings giver teachers the opportunity to share in planning and to work together on problems of mutual interest. Particularly with teachers whose preparation has been somewhat adequate, faculty meetings, develop leadership and skill in-group processes.

But, we may as well admit it; faculty meetings are not loved by teachers! Judged by teachersí reactions and who is better informed on the subject? faculty meetings donít accomplish much. At best, faculty meetings are just tolerated in most schools. In case you doubt this, give yourself a shock treatment. Solicit the honest opinions of your staff, or of other teachers whom you know well. If your little written survey is written, by all means have the papers unsigned. You will see that teachers often resent and resist faculty meetings. Your first reaction will be a defensive one: "After how hard Iíve triedÖ They should want to improve!"

But this shock treatment will set you on the right path. For, you see, teachers donít think the same things important that you rate top priority. Just think back to the time when you werenít principal. Did you just love to attend faculty meetings? Did you volunteer enthusiastically for every new job? Did you welcome the chance to have your work criticized? Ask yourself a few penetrating questions, and you will see that your staff is not so very different from you after all. Your point of view has changed; theirs has not. In order to provide the kind of meetings your staff wants and needs, you must realize that faculty meetings can stand improvement. It is the principalís job as educational leader to arrange for better staff meetings and this requires effort and planning, of course. But have you ever watched a football coach plan with his team, going through the plays for the game just ahead. The planning is meticulous each individualís strong points are put into focus, co-operative teamwork is arranged, obstacles are foreseen, and morale is kept at a high pitch. To be sure, the situations are different, but planning is basic to any kind of successful empire.

Kinds of Faculty Meetings

The faculty is a hierarchical organism in which each teacher strives, with all his heart and in solidarity with the others, to work for the children through teaching. The unity is based on

  • true theology and philosophy

  • a community of thought

  • a doctrine about education accepted by all.  (Fr. Calmel, OP)

The first step in improving faculty meetings is to recognize that there are different kinds of meetings: administrative, supervisory, and social. When a meeting is scheduled, the principal and everyone else should know exactly what purpose the meeting is to serve. An administrative meeting may be called when the principal wishes to impart information to the staff, such as the details of the medical examinations to be conducted in the school the following week. A supervisory meeting is intended to help teachers grow professionally, as in knowledge of certain curricular content, or in teaching skills. A social meeting the purpose is obvious a coffee hour, for example, at the beginning of the year, for staff members to get acquainted.

  An entire faculty meeting may be devoted to one of these three purposes, or a meeting may be divided so that all three purposes enter in. The following agenda may illustrate this composite kind of faculty meeting:


  • Opening Prayer
  • Announcements by the principal

  • Teacher panel:  "How are we helping the gifted child?"

  • Group questions and discussion from the floor

  • Refreshments

In this faculty meeting, the principalís announcements are of an administrative nature; they concern administrative policy and school organization. Typical items include routines in the cafeteria, events of the coming week, procedure for marking the new report cards, and other items of similar informational nature. Explanation of each item is given as needed by the group.

The supervisory part of the meeting is the panel discussion on helping the gifted child in the regular classroom. Four teachers have previously volunteered or been assigned! aspects of the topic and have read professional literature in preparation for the meeting. The question period which follows gives other staff members the chance to explore the topic further and to relate it to the local school situation. In applying the panelistsí remarks to their own classrooms, teachers pave the way for better teaching.

  The social aspect of the meeting comes with the coffee and doughnuts, or the tea and cookies. The staff relaxes in friendly and informal conversation. Some schools prefer to have refreshments before the meeting, especially when the meeting is held at the end of the school day; other schools prefer to socialize at the end of the meeting.

  While a faculty meeting can be comfortably devoted to all three purposes administrative, supervisory, and social to be a good meeting the supervisory aspect should predominate, with staff participation in improving their own teaching. Also, there should be a distinct division of the meeting into parts; one should not have to guess what purpose is being served at any given time. Occasionally, an entire meeting can be administrative, as the orientation of the meeting for new teachers. Or, before a holiday, a completely social get-together is in order. The faculty meetings for the entire year should be so planned that there is variety, and at the same time adequate attention to in-service growth activities.

Features of a Good Faculty Meeting

Time and Frequency for Holding Meetings

Meetings have been tried before school in the morning, during an extended lunch hour, after school, on Saturday, and beginning half an hour before afternoon dismissal. Each time has advantages and disadvantages. It seems that faculty meetings after school continue to be in the majority. Teachers seem to prefer meetings after school, rather than having to adjust to a special schedule.

How often should faculty meetings be held? Meetings involving the entire faculty seem best when held once a month. Planning meetings, in which groups of teachers prepare for the general faculty meetings, will need to be held oftener. Perhaps two or three small-group planning meetings may be held in preparation for a meeting in which teachers present a demonstration of teaching methods. Or, in larger schools, committees may meet to work on topics of special interest, such as materials for enriching the music program. Faculty meetings involving the whole staff should be scheduled in September, and the schedule posted, so that all teachers can arrange to attend the meetings. Ten general faculty meetings are the rule, one a month, with an orientation meeting for teachers before the opening of school in the fall.

In deciding on the hour, the day, and the frequency of the meetings, the principal would be wise to utilize the suggestions of his staff, so that the best co-operation can be achieved.

Place for Holding Meetings

In the newer buildings, there are conference rooms which are delightfully pleasant and well arranged for staff meetings. In the older schools, very often a classroom is the only available place for a meeting. If so, every effort should be made to have the arrangements as comfortable and informal as possible. Particularly are comfortable chairs needed, pupil desks are cramping physically and intellectually. Chairs should be arranged so that all teachers can talk face-to-face, in a circle, or around a table. Ventilation, heat, and lighting should be good, and distracting noises and interruptions should be kept to a minimum. The time spent on the physical aspects of the meeting place will be more than repaid in the improved participation which will result. A chairman of arrangements can assume this responsibility, and leave the principal free for other matters.

Length of meeting

If you poll your teachers about faculty meetings, you are sure to find that long meetings are poor meetings. Particularly are long meetings boresome when the staff cannot estimate how long the meeting will continue. The very uncertainty of a poorly planned meeting adds to its bad effect upon morale. It is important that faculty meetings be carefully planned as to time, and that they begin and end at the time stated. The agenda given earlier can be used to illustrate the time of a good meeting.


  • Opening Prayer
  • Administrative: Principalís Announcements ( 5 to 15 minutes)

  • Supervisory:

  1. Panel of teachers (30 to 40 minutes)

  2. Questions and discussion from the floor; (10 minutes) applying material to the classroom situation

  3. Summary of discussion (5 minutes)

  • Social: Refreshments (15 minutes)

Total time:  1 hour, 15 minutes

For a good faculty meeting, one and a quarter hours seem quite adequate. As mentioned before, the meeting should begin and end on time. Further, each part of the meeting should take only the time allotted to it. A chairman usually keeps the meeting moving on schedule, but a timekeeper may be needed in some instances.

The Agenda

In the Latin, agenda means "things to be done." Applied to meetings, the agenda is a list of things to be done, or topics to be brought up for discussion. In a faculty meeting, ordinarily the agenda should be divided into the three parts already mentioned, with emphasis on the supervisory aspect. Decision-making does not play a prominent role in faculty meetings. Principals are advised not to ask the whole faculty to consider extensively a topic which they have no power to decide.

The agenda is indispensable for an effective faculty meeting. It is the road map of the meeting, the calendar of events, the timetable. During the early part of the year, the principal can propose possible topics for faculty meetings and enlist the help of a faculty advisory committee in choosing topics that will most interest and help the teachers. In selecting topics the principal should sample each of the four areas of teacher competence: instructional skill, guidance, school and community relations, and staff membership. In a large school, it may be good to have a few faculty meetings devoted to primary teachers, while upper grade teachers have their own meetings on topics of interest to them. Of the ten monthly meetings to be scheduled, perhaps seven can be definitely decided upon in September, with three meetings spaced through the year for important local topics that might develop. Another reason for leaving a few months with topics unscheduled is that occasionally the faculty might wish to pursue a topic further, and might arrange for another presentation of the material the following month. Topics should not be continued after the interest has waned, but some topics cannot be adequately handled in a single period.

The agenda should be copied and distributed to the faculty a few days before the meeting. Sometimes, a short list might be included, giving pertinent references available on the teachersí library shelf. Additional copies of the agenda should be passed out to the faculty just before the meeting begins.

Two good books where topics of discussion can be found are The Art of Teaching by Gilbert Highet and The Art of Interesting by Francis Donnelly, SJ.

Sharing Responsibility for Meetings

To encourage group participation in faculty meetings, it is a good idea to let the teachers choose the duties they wish to assume. An outline of meetings of the coming year may be passed out to the teachers, who may sign up as they wish. The following excerpt from a schedule of meetings is illustrative.

Team Work in Our Faculty Meetings for the Coming School Year




Chairman of Arrangements


Refreshment Hostess


Panel: "The Gifted Child" (4 participants needed) 1ÖÖ.






Group Discussion With Leader (see attached reading list and guide sheet) "Our Policy on Homework" Principal as Leader      


Demonstration: "Improving Oral Reading" (2 teachers needed) 1ÖÖ.



In a faculty of twelve, each teacher would have an opportunity to take part in almost every activity, from participant to hostess. Each teacher would be expected to work in one of the in-service activities, such as a panel or demonstration, or book review. Sharing responsibilities for meetings develops the teachers professionally, and also gives them a sense of achievement. The meetings can be no better than the staff makes them; this puts the responsibility for growth squarely where it belongs. Through his leadership, of course, the principal provides material which the teachers can use, and helps them develop needed skills.

Principalís Bulletins

Usually, the principal opens each meeting with a prayer, followed by administrative announcements. It is best to have these announcements copied so that each member can have a copy. The principal comments on the notices which are especially important, or which might be misinterpreted. The wise principal does not read each announcement aloud to the staff. This bulletin keeps the announcements from being a monologue on the part of the principal. If possible, the announcements should cover routine administrative notices until the next faculty meeting. The principalís bulletin is an orderly way of getting information to the staff, without taking too much time from the supervisory aspects of the meeting. At times, the bulletin may list topics to be discussed with the staff, on which decisions must be reached.

In summary, principals can be sure that well-planned faculty meetings pay rich dividends in-group spirit as well as in improved teaching. All that the principal knows of group processes can be utilized in preparing and conducting faculty meetings. In providing for the in-service growth of the staff, the faculty meeting is one of the best techniques.


In the absence of Catholic Teachersí Colleges, it is only with great difficulty that we can form teachers suitable for our needs.  (Pius XII)

Three important people in education interact during a supervisory visit to the classroom: teacher, principal, and child. Therefore, classroom observation should be viewed as a co-operative endeavor of principal and teacher to help the child learn better. If an improved teaching-learning situation is to be provided for the child, then the principal as supervisor and administrator should utilize all the potential of the classroom visit to achieve this purpose.

Most principals will agree verbally with these truisms, but many will then proceed to object: "That is all well and good, but ." "For somebody else in some other school, maybe in another city, visits to the classroom would be ideal, but ." This attitude on the part of principals is the chief reason why classroom observation is perhaps the least used and hence the least effective technique for the in-service growth of teachers.

Difficulties Involved in Observation

What are the principalís reasons for shying away from the supervisory visits? The first reason is no time. Teaching principals just throw up their hands; obviously there is not time. Why, they are in their own classrooms all day long. Even non-teaching principals complain of not having enough time. Supervising principals are assigned mainly to the larger schools, and the clerical work is very heavy in large schools. Besides having not time, principals are ill at ease about going into classrooms to supervise. The first-grade teacher certainly knows more about first-grade methods than the principal, who perhaps never taught in the primary grades. No principal can be an expert in all subjects; how can he make constructive suggestions in art, music, science, and all the other areas? The staff would think him aggressive, if he suddenly announced he was going to visit all classes. And, finally, there are so many other things he would rather do than observe in classrooms. The supply shelves need attention; the drapes in the office are getting faded; the janitor isnít sweeping the stairs; and there are innumerable other little things that nobody else seems to think of. For all of these cogent reasons, the principal just does not observe in classrooms, or he does so very seldom.

Need for Visiting Classes

A principal who has not been holding regular faculty meetings can be converted rather easily; but a principal who does not visit classes it seems that this vice is cast out only with great difficulty. The principal needs first of all to be convinced that he is no longer in the days of the one-room school, where the principal did everything. The principal at that time was teacher, secretary, janitor, librarian, cook, nurse, and supply manager. Even in the two-room school, conditions had not changed much. The principal was only the head teacher, or the one consulted when there was a fight on the playground or coal to be bought.

Todayís principal is not in the same category at all as the head teacher of past centuries. Todayís principal is the instructional leader of the school. Schools are now much larger, it is true, but the main difference is the quality of leadership rather than in the size of the enrollment. As instructional leader, the principal must know firsthand what the instruction is like in his building. Only when he knows familiarly what each classroom situation is like can he attempt to improve instruction. And it follows that the principal must visit the classrooms while teaching is going on to know how classes are being conducted. This is not to make the principal an authoritarian taskmaster, dictating exactly how lessons are to be taught. The real purpose of classroom observation is to insure for each child the best possible education under the circumstances. The principal cannot lightly set aside this obligation under the pretext of more urgent duties; no other duty is as urgent as providing a good education for the pupils entrusted to his care. A good principal observes classes and accepts his responsibility for heading the educational program of his school.

Principals should not think that observations will harm his good relations with the staff and the students. It is a fact that teachers want the principal to come into their classrooms. Studies of teachersí opinions have repeatedly shown that teachers need the security of having their principal discuss classroom matters with them. Teachers feel uneasy about having no instructional conferences with the principal. New teachers report this dissatisfaction most frequently, but even older teachers dislike being ignored. Teachers resent domination, of course, but a good supervisory visit is a far cry from domination. The children themselves, of course, love to have a visitor. Unfortunately, some pupils go through eight years without knowing the thrill of having a principal interested in their work. When classroom observations are well conducted, teachers profit by them and want them. Children also respond favorably. And the principal? The crux of the matter is that the principal needs to "learn by doing" that supervisory visits are indispensable to a good educational program.

To make classroom observations most profitable, the principal needs to plan carefully what he will do, before the visit, during the visit, and after the visit. This will mean in-service growth for him also, for this planning will keep him "on his toes" professionally.

Preparing for the Supervisory Visit

Before going into a classroom to observer, the Principal has some preliminary work to do. He must first of all schedule the time for the visit, and if he is a teaching principal, this requires real ingenuity. The principal must also familiarize himself with the course of study and textbooks; the teacherís lesson plans, the pupilsí records, and notes on previous observations and conferences. A preliminary conference with the teacher is invaluable. The thoroughness of this preparation determines to a great extent just how helpful the classroom observation will be.

Results of Classroom Observation

The principal may wonder how he can improve instruction by visiting classes. He can do this in two ways: first, by learning how the teachers are presenting the content and dealing with the children, the principle is in a good position to co-ordinate the program of the school. Co-ordination is one of the chief reasons for visiting classrooms. It is true that the course of study should be followed by all teachers. But newer teachers, and even more experienced ones, omit certain basic learnings or overemphasize units which they like especially. Also, the kinds of homework assignments given and seatwork exercises need to be co-ordinated. Slow-moving pupils need special help in all the grades, a certain minimum of direction consistently given. Group work, for example is needed at all levels. All too often upper-grade teachers keep the entire class together for all instruction. Gifted students need a longitudinal pattern of enrichment activities. And there are many other ways in which the principal can co-ordinate the learning going on in school.

The principal also improves instruction by sharing good ideas among his staff. During classroom observations, the principal sees fine techniques and deft handling of instructional problems. Other teachers would never benefit by these excellent devices unless the principal was there to gather the honey, as it were, and spread it among the staff. Older teachers especially can be drawn upon to help newer teachers through this sharing process. Also, in a negative way, the principal improves instruction by sharing good ideas with teachers who are obviously ineffective. Though one dislikes mentioning it, there are teachers who do not prepare for their classes, who waste time changing from one subject to another, who give unreasonable assignments, who teach according to caprice. Only if the principal visits classes consistently will such teachers be kept in line. In justice to children, visits to weak teachers are obligatory. But visits to weak teachers will be accepted only if all classes are visited.

After thinking over these reasons seriously, the principal should be convinced that he can improve instruction through supervisory visits. At first, the principal will feel inadequate and will be able to make only superficial comments. But after a time, the ideas he gets from the teachers themselves will enable him to function effectively in improving the teaching-learning situation in his school.

Scheduling the Visit

There are certain aspects of scheduling visits that are common to both teaching and non-teaching principals. The first is the amount of time that should be devoted to any individual teacher. A rule of thumb might be to apportion the time available according to the years of experience of the staff member. A teaching principal responsible for seven teachers might allocate his two hours of observation weekly as follows.

Allotment of Time for Classroom Observation


Years of Experience

Amount of Time Per Month

Schedule for the Month



1st week

2nd week

3rd week

4th week





30 min.

50 min.

30 min.

30 min.








10 min.






20 min







20 min.








30 min.

10 min.

50 min.

30 min.





10 min.

10 min.

30 min.






30 min.

30 min.

10 min.

50 min.



8 hours

2 hours

2 hours

2 hours

2 hours

A supervising principal could allocate his two hours of daily observation in a somewhat similar way. For the supervising principal, observations would be more frequent and typically longer per visit.

A division such as that given above is a mechanical one, and should be varied according to the individual needs of the teachers. Weaker teachers may require more of the principalís time early in the year, while stronger teachers may profitably experience supervisory visits of greater length later in the year, perhaps when preparing for inter-visitation. By following this schedule, a teaching principal would visit each of his seven teachers at least once a month, and would spend about two hours a month in the classrooms of newer teachers. In all, the teaching principal would be spending about eight hours a month in supervisory visits, and would make a total of eighteen visits per month. Certainly, this schedule would do much to establish the principal as an instructional leader in his school, and at the same time, improve his own knowledge of curriculum and methodology.

The length of the visit, then, depends partly upon experience and need, but also upon the kind of lesson to be observed. The supervising principal has greater flexibility in planning his visits, but the teaching principal may be limited to a lesson of no more than fifty minutes, because his own class is to be considered. Several shorter lessons, as, for example, drill lessons, might be observed during a fifty-minute period. The principal should schedule his visits so that most teachers are visited both for longer and shorter lessons. The principal should arrange to be in the classroom before the lesson begins and to remain there until it is finished.

The problem of whether to announce visits beforehand troubles many principals. In general, scheduled announced visits are most beneficial to teachers and children. A posted schedule of visits for the coming week, or month, allows teachers to make adequate preparation for the visit. Principals are after all not trying to trap teachers, but to help them. Seeing teachers when they are prepared usually makes them more at ease, certainly when observations are frequent and routine. Even in the case of a teacher who is extremely timid or nervous, tension should disappear if observations are well planned. The principal is probably wise to adhere to his plan of scheduled, announced observations.

Developing Background for the Lesson

No good can come of an observation if the principal visits the classroom "cold." The principal owes it to the teacher and the pupils to be thoroughly acquainted with the work they have done and the work they are now doing. This means that before an arithmetic lesson, for example, the principal should consult the course of study to get an overview of the material for the grade, and particularly for the present unit. Also, the principal should read through the teacherís manual for the unit, study the textbook, and the workbook. The principal goes into the classroom to note pupilís development; intelligent observation presumes that the principal knows the content to be presented and how this content fits into the all-over program for the grade and the school.

It is helpful to examine also the teacherís lesson plan book, especially for the subject to be observed. In this way the principal can notice the kinds of lessons taught, the amount of progress made, the testing, and the re-teaching that takes place. Many schools have the policy of submitting lesson plan books to the principal each week; in this case, the principal need only to study more carefully than usual the subject to be observed next.

The pupilís records furnish essential information. The principal will of course know some of the pupils from previous experience, but having the pupilsí cumulative record provides information on intelligence, achievement, absence and tardiness, progress through school. Ideally, the principal studies the pupilsí records before the classroom visit; but if not, then the records should be available to the principal to glance at as needed during the lesson. A seating plan, arranged for viewing from the back of the room, also helps the principal interpret the lesson.

Finally, before the lesson the principal should review all notes he has taken regarding previous work of the teacher to be observed. Especially, the principal should make sure that he has carried out any offer of assistance previously made. If possible, the principal should have a preliminary conference with the teacher to discuss his aims for the lesson. Either during the conference or at a faculty meeting, the principal can explain the points he notes during an observation.

The beginning principal will develop faster if he concentrates on a single subject matter area at a time. For example, during October all visits during the first two weeks might be to arithmetic classes, during the third week to reading, and during the fourth week to arithmetic again. When the principal feels that he has a rather sure grasp of a single subject, then he can proceed to another subject. It is wise to return several times to a subject already observed in order to maintain familiarity with the area and also to help the teachers maintain their own skill. The principal cannot improve instruction in all areas during a single year, so he would be wise to single out certain areas for emphasis. These areas could well be emphasized also in faculty meetings, so that the entire staff is working on the same general objectives at the same time.

Before each supervisory visit, then, the principal needs to make a general, long-range preparation, and also specific preparation. The better the principal knows the material, the pupils, and the teacher, the more effective will the visit be.

Procedure During Observation

The most important thing about procedure is how people feel about what is being done. In classroom observation, everything the principal does should be motivated by interest, sincerity, kindliness, and professional purpose. If the principalís motives are not of the highest, no rule of procedure will help him arouse a co-operative response in teacher and pupils. If his motives are genuinely good, then a little clumsiness now and then will not estrange those whom he proposes to help.

The principal should arrange to be in the classroom before the lesson begins. Teachers and pupils usually expect a smile and a word of greeting, though a lengthy talk is out of place. The principal then goes to the back of the room, where he will not distract the pupils, and examines the lesson plan which the teacher has given him. The pupil records and a seating plan are also there, as well as the text and manual. The principalís attention should be focused upon what the pupils are doing and what the teacher is doing, and not upon any mannerisms of traits peculiar to the teacher. The principal should be alert to what is going on, since both teacher and children react favorably to a responsive observer. A passive observer is annoying, as is one who seems to be oblivious of everything that is going on about him.

During the class, the lesson plan can be used as a guide in following the presentation of the teacher and the text. Pupil records help in interpreting the pupilsí answers and activities. It is usually best not to take any notes during the lesson, because note-taking seem to make most teachers uneasy. However, if the notes are shown to the teacher after the lesson and discussed with him, few teachers mind note taking during observation. Mental notes are necessary, however, as guides to the conference following the lesson. Particularly one should notice how the teacher realizes the objectives of the lesson, and how the lesson leads on to the next dayís work.

Should the principal "take over" when the lesson seems to be going badly? The teacher is making mistakes in presentation of factual information; or he is floundering and not able to get his presentation across; or pupils are noisy and inattentive, or merely listless. The principal may be tempted to take over the class, and show the teacher how it should be done. Except in extreme cases, this temptation should be resisted. If the teacher is unorganized during observation, he probably is at other times also, and intervening will not remedy the condition. More good will result in the long run by an analytical conference afterward, and perhaps a planned demonstration lesson. When a teacher is ineffective, the rule here is the same as for other problem situations: When in doubt, do the kindly thing. Exposing a teacher before his class will not improve his teaching; instead it will remove one prop he may have counted on the principalís regard for him. An extremely weak teacher should be removed from service, but only after a consistent supervisory program has failed to develop him adequately. So, in visiting a classroom, the principal should consider himself an observer, a visitor, and should not have a mental set which says, "If he canít do better than that, he should be shown." By all means, in the conference following the lesson, the principal should be frank in his appraisal of weakness, and should make specific plans for helping the teacher.

When the lesson is over, the principal again nods to the teacher, perhaps makes a single pleasant remark to the class, and leaves the room unobtrusively. If the lesson is running overtime, the principle should feel free to leave at the scheduled time, but without interrupting the class, if possible.

Keeping a Record of Observations

With so many details to keep in mind, the principal cannot hope to retain all the important aspects of lessons observed. If these important points are forgotten, then the supervisory visit is less effective. The practical principle arranges to keep a written record of classroom observations, so that he can best contribute to the in-service growth of the teacher.

A simple form such as the following might be kept in the teacherís folder or in a loose-leaf notebook devoted to supervisory reports. Each report should contain examples of teacher and pupil activity so that the conference can be specific and helpful.

Report on Observation and Conference

Teacher Grade Subject

Observation (date) Time to Observer

  1. Type of lesson
  2. Materials used
  3. Activities
  4. Purposes achieved
  5. Notes for conference

Conference (date) Time to

  1. Topics discussed (other than the above)
  2. Comments and suggestions
  3. Principal
  4. Teacher
  5. Proposed follow-up

A record of classroom observations is essential if the principal is to make good use of his time. When a teaching principal devotes two precious hours weekly to visiting classes, he should be able to show what he has accomplished. A record enables the principal to do this. First, the record shows the pattern of the observations subjects observed, time of day, teachers visited most often, and follow-up recommendations. It is futile just to flit in and out of classrooms spreading good cheer. Observations should be carefully planned; a written record helps to show how this plan works out in practice.

Another good reason for keeping records of supervisory visits is for co-ordination purposes. Faculty meetings ordinarily stress points that can be carried over into classroom practice. The principal should make a point of unifying instruction by keeping teachers conscious of worthwhile conclusions made during faculty meetings. Also, during conferences following visits, teachers make sound comments on the present program in the school and what should be done to help children learn better. These suggestions are lost, hence cannot be implemented, without a written record. At the end of the year, in looking forward to the following September, the principal can summarize the records of his observations and plan helpful continuing work.

By keeping a simple record of observations, the principal will find that he works more efficiently and more satisfyingly. The principle, too, needs the assurance that he is doing a worthwhile job. Written records help to give him this assurance.

Individual Conferences

The amount of sharing of ideas in the individual conference depends upon the situation. With a mature, qualified teacher, a principal can conduct a conference as with a co-worker, interested in the same objectives. It is refreshing for a principal to be able to say sincerely to a teacher, "Let us analyze together the work you are doing with you third group in reading." With almost complete objectivity (but never entirely complete!), the teacher will discuss the pupilsí intelligence test scores and their reading achievement, the materials they are using at the time, and his plans for their future work. If the principal has noticed some expert teaching elsewhere in remedial reading, he may present the idea as a suggestion, but not one which he expects the teacher to use. With new teachers and weak teachers, the principalís approach would not be, "Here is a teaching technique which you may wish to use." Instead the principalís attitude would be, "To vary you presentation in arithmetic, I should like you to try this procedure. After my next visit to your class, we shall discuss together how effective you found it."

With beginning teachers especially, but with most teachers from time to time, the principal will conduct a post-visit conference that will be a learning situation for the teacher. Such conferences follow a definite pattern. The factors of time, place, and procedure are very important.

Time for Holding Individual Conferences

To be effective, a conference should be held shortly after classroom observation, but not before the principal has had time to prepare his notes for the conference. The record form given earlier provides most of the information which the principal needs to hold a profitable conference. Usually the conference lasts about half an hour, which is typically enough time for the principal and teacher to discuss the observed lesson. However, occasionally, because of the kind of lesson observed, or the needs of the teacher, a conference may last anywhere from ten minutes to an hour. The conference should not be rushed, but it should conform to the standards given earlier for a good conference. With teaching principals, the conference is held either after school or before school in the morning.

Place for Conferences

The teacherís classroom provides an informal atmosphere for a friendly conference, and is also convenient because the teacherís materials are readily available. However, usually the principalís office is the best place for conferences. There are fewer interruptions there, the tone is more formal, and the supervisor-teacher relationship is more clear. Especially when the conference is with a beginning or weak teacher should an instructional atmosphere be maintained. The principal is a busy person, and though he does not want to stress this fact, he must use his time efficiently in conducting conferences. The place of the conference has much to do with the effectiveness of his allotted time.

Procedure for Individual Conferences

The immediate pre-planning for the conference includes the principalís reviewing his conference record, both for the lesson just observed and for previous visits to the teacher. All materials needed for the discussion should be on hand; these materials include the course of study, textbooks and manuals, teacherís lesson plan book and lesson plan for the class observed, pupilís cumulative records, and any other data that seem pertinent.

In all previous contacts with the teacher and during the conference, the principal deals with the teacher in a friendly, interested, and professional way. Together, they are engaged in an important and serious work, yet a work which is at the same time interesting and challenging. The conference opens with some praise from the principal on the successful aspect of the lesson observed. Then the principal and teacher go over together the points selected for improvement. The principalís comments and suggestions must be specific and ones which the teacher is capable of carrying out. The discussion must not wander; it should emphasize selected points, though the teacher should have an opportunity to comment and ask for assistance as needed. Follow-up suggestions are made by teacher and principal, and these suggestions are written down in the record of the conference. If it seems desirable, plans can be made for a demonstration record. The conference closes on a constructive and pleasant note.

Demonstration Teaching and Inter-visitation

If there is a lack of teachers trained in Catholic Teachersí Colleges, it is difficult to imagine how Catholic schools can continue to exist and respond adequately to the high standards that is expected of them.  (Pius XII)

When asked what would help them most, teachers generally answer, "Watching a good teacher teach." Principals like to think that faculty meetings, professional reading, and conferences rate first place, but the teachers themselves universally favor demonstration lessons. The principal who observes classes regularly knows how much he himself learns. It stands to reason that other teachers would benefit from observing good teachers at work. Not that demonstration teaching overshadows all other methods for promoting the in-service growth of teachers. Rather, carefully planned demonstrations should be part of the principalís supervisory program for the year.

When to Use Demonstrations

Particularly with new teachers, or teachers returning to service, demonstration lessons are welcome. In this case, the demonstration, or inter-visitation, should be given early in the year, and repeated as often as advisable to develop certain skills. Demonstrations are also helpful for experienced teachers in illustrating particular techniques as introducing a unit and improving the art of questioning. In conferences and meetings, teachers often ask for help in making their work more effective. A well-chosen demonstration shows the teacher how to translate theory into satisfying everyday practice. Demonstrations are also enlightening to the entire faculty group, as demonstrations on the methods of teaching music at various grade levels. Parents report that their most enjoyable Home and School Meetings were those at which teachers showed how particular subjects were taught in the regular classroom. By instructing a reading group, for example, the teacher shows parents the methods used, and indirectly impresses parents with the good job the school is doing.

With beginning teachers, and those coming back into the classroom after a number of years, demonstration lessons are looked upon as a Godsend. Ordinarily, the principal needs only to plan carefully, and the teachersí receptiveness is assured. Having an Advisor demonstrate techniques is genuinely appreciated by new teachers. However, with experienced teachers, even though they may not be strong teachers, the principal needs to wait for, or develop, a willingness to observe demonstration lessons. This is puzzling in a way. Experienced teachers want demonstrations, but usually from someone outside of their own faculty group. "No man is a prophet in his own country." The principle must be careful not to offend a teacher by implying that one of his peers does a much better job of teaching geography. Usually, the principal should not suggest that an experienced teacher observe in another classroom unless the teacher asks to do so. The principalís long-range supervisory program for the year might well include demonstration of techniques to the faculty as a group. Readiness for self-appraisal is necessary, however; the principal needs insight into his faculty before suggesting observations for experienced teachers.

How to Use Demonstrations Most Effectively

It is a waste of time to release teachers to observe in classrooms unless the program has definite aims and expected outcomes. Teachers will not improve their teaching just by relaxing and examining the art display in someone elseís classroom. The principal must plan well, if this activity really serves to improve teaching.

First, the principal should plan with the demonstrating teacher. Because the teacher is willing to spend a good deal of effort to help other teachers, the principal should try to foresee difficulties that might arise, and also to make the experience profitable for the teacher himself. Through his own observations and conferences, the principal knows what the teachers need and would like to see. This information, together with the teacherís own interest and skill, determines the type of lesson and the subject matter. Together the principal and teacher work out the lesson plan: the aims, content and procedures. The lesson selected should be in correct sequence in the course of study, and the materials used should be typical. The lesson should cover only a limited amount of material; demonstrations are often spoiled because the teacher attempts too much. There should be no exhibitionism; the experience should be as normal as possible, prepared for but not rehearsed. Before a teacher gives a demonstration, the principal should see him present the same kind of lesson. In this way, the lesson will be made most beneficial to the visitors.

Besides the lesson itself, there are other aspects of teaching which observers will note: the attractiveness of the classroom, pupil papers, efforts at character development, such as courtesy, pupilsí speaking in a clear voice, the teacherís deftness in moving form one part of the lesson to another, and the general tone of satisfaction and work which permeate the classroom. It is good to prepare an outline of points which the teacher should include in his preparation. Sometimes it is helpful to work out a guide for the discussion following the lesson Ė questions on the aspects mentioned above.

Second, the principal plans with the visiting teachers. At times, a demonstration may be given for a single observer; but wherever possible, more than one should be present to warrant the expenditure of the demonstrating teacherís time. Whatever the number, the principal holds a briefing session before the lesson. The principal and demonstrating teacher show how lesson relates to the ongoing unit of work: the lessons that prepared the class for the dayís work and the lessons that will follow. The lesson plan for the day is explained in some detail, and a copy of the plan given to the visitors. The visiting teachers are given pertinent facts about the class, and also a seating plan. The visitors may ask questions about the lesson and the class. The procedure for conducting demonstration is next explained: how visitors are to enter and leave the room, how they are to observe but not interrupt the class.

After the lesson, the principal and demonstrating teacher hold a follow-up conference with the visitors. The purposes and activities of the lesson are reviewed: the visitorís questions are answered. Application is made between the lesson and the observersí work in their respective classrooms. In the case of beginning teachers, plans are made for follow-up observations of the techniques or procedures presented in the demonstration lesson. The visitors should take notes on the lessons observed, and file these notes as part of their professional growth record. The demonstration teacher should be prepared for some adverse criticism, or questions on other ways of achieving the aims of the lesson. Through experience in conducting conferences and in giving demonstrations, the teacher can learn to deal effectively with such questions.

A demonstration lesson should be prepared for and followed up in this manner. When so conducted, it is a time-consuming activity. Obviously, teachers who present demonstrations in this manner are bound to increase their professional stature. That is their reward. Those who come to observe will necessarily learn new techniques and procedures, and may also be rewarded by finding their own teaching similar to that observed. Properly conducted, demonstration lessons, or inter-visitations, are a valuable in-service growth activity and not old-fashioned in the least.

Professional Reading

We must have the courage to repeat to teachers how indispensable it is that they should cultivate themselves. It is by reading that a man shapes himself and not be reciting textbooks.  (Charles Pťguy)

We like to think of the Catholic schoolteacher as a well-read person. Many principalsí offices and teacherís lounges display an attractive array of professional literature. Yet, the truth of the matter is, as teachers themselves confess, they donít read enough. In fact, the principal need only look back over his own reading habits to know that reading needs encouragement.

The inventive principal doesnít abandon all hope of stimulating reading among his staff. Instead, he tries a variety of devices, and keeps on trying, for reading is essential to self-improvement. First and foremost, if teachers are to read, there must be a pleasant place, comfortably furnished and well lighted. Right along with this, there must be an array of interesting material. These books should be on various topics reference books in the various subjects, particularly religion, and fresh and interesting books on professional subjects. It is practical to have there a complete set of the textbooks used in the school so that teachers may see how the work of their grade compares with work in earlier and later grades. Many parochial school principals have found fiction attractive to their teachers, as well as a good biography or two. The school library is not meant to supplant the local library, but it is a well-known fact that a book at hand is more likely to be read than a book on the shelves of a distant library.

In addition to providing a pleasant library corner and selected books and magazines, the principal needs to invent devices for getting the material used by the staff. In preparation for faculty meetings, the principal assembles a kit of interesting and helpful pamphlets, articles, and books, all marked for easy consumption. A faculty committee can keep alive a bulletin board devoted to encouraging reading clippings of articles and pertinent book reviews, all of which must be on the faculty bookshelf if they are to be helpful. During a teacher conference, the principal has occasion to suggest references, but he must be sure that the material is simple, pertinent, and ready at hand. Lay teachers in one school had the commendable practice of buying one recommended book each semester. Then they exchanged books among themselves. Then these devoted lay teachers donated the books to the faculty library.

Principals have long used the device of marking an especially good article, and routing it among the teachers, or sending it to a teacher who might be especially interested. A guest speaker at the faculty meeting can do much to stimulate professional reading, particularly if he suggests specific books and articles.

Like any other device for self-improvement, professional reading needs to be motivated. The strongest of all motivations is the influence of a principal who reads. There is an irresistible force in being with a principal who has read the books and magazines himself, who knows them intimately, and who uses them. The principal who reads is likely to have a faculty who reads.

Most of this material was drawn from The Catholic Elementary School Principle, by Sr. Mary Jerome Corcoran, OSU, PhD.