When I was a newer principal, I was advised to get out of the office and into the classrooms of my school. “Go do walk-throughs,” my advisor said. “Lots of them. They’re a great tool.” Seemed like a good idea, but soon a problem arose.

You never announce, “I’m going to the garage to use the circular saw.”

“What for, honey?”

“Because it’s a great tool.”

Great tool for what? Rather than figure out how walk-throughs might help my school and my teachers, I needed to mentally back up and focus, first and foremost, on my priorities. What were our goals? What were we truly trying to accomplish? Then we could begin to look at strategies to help accomplish those ends.

The walk-through process, invariably, presented itself as a viable approach for meeting our goals. I could observe teaching and learning in the wild, I could monitor the status of school-wide initiatives, I could build relationships with the people in my building, I could support the professional learning of my teachers, I could engage in robust dialogue with my staff, I could offer feedback…the list goes on.

However, before starting down that path, it was essential to identify the focus and the desired outcomes. Otherwise, I’d have simply been running a circular saw.


Pete Hall is an educational consultant, former award-winning principal, speaker, and author of six books (including Lead On! Motivational lessons for school leaders (Eye on Education, 2011) and Teach, Reflect, Learn: Building your capacity for success in the classroom (ASCD, 2015). He shares his perspectives in 212-word entries when a topic captures his fancy. He can be reached for speaking engagements, professional development, or other queries at petehall@educationhall.com.