NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of interviews with educators who are using #ObserveMe signs and what they’ve learned along the way. The green bold text was added as an emphasis by me and not by the person being interviewed.


Name: Bill Wietman

Twitter handle: @WWietman

Years in education: 12

Current position: Middle School Assistant Principal

Location: Bismarck, North Dakota


How did you hear about the #ObserveMe movement?
I was working on my own professional goals for my first school year as an administrator and saw teachers posting these #ObserveMe signs.


Why did you want to create an #ObserveMe sign?
As part of my goals I was contemplating how I would receive feedback and model an open door policy for teachers and staff. The #ObserveMe sign accomplishes both of these ideas.


How did you determine your feedback goals?
The goals are modified versions of the North Dakota professional development and evaluation for administrators. Additionally, these are things that I want to keep as a focus as I develop relationships with the teachers, staff, and students in the district.


Have you made any changes to your feedback goals? If so, why and what was the result?
Because I am in my first year of a new position, I have not had the opportunity to rework any goals. I am not even sure I am completely able to effectively evaluate how I am proceeding with my current goals, yet. However, as I continue to learn the position, I would like to modify them in order to have more focus on specific improvement that I can then measure in short term increments.


How did you advertise your #ObserveMe sign so that other teachers knew about it?
I created a new hashtag for our school and advertised it there. Additionally, I have talked about it in our school’s professional learning blog which was a launch to our district Twitter chat. I also mentioned the blog to our district Problem Based Lesson (PBL) leadership team as we were working through our innovative mindset inventories.


What steps, if any, did you take to ensure your intentions for posting your sign were not misunderstood by your colleagues?
When I originally posted my sign I didn’t think about its impact on my colleagues. A couple of days after I posted it, there was a comment on the #ObserveMe feed which made me consider this. I think it is addressed by the bottom of my sign which says that I am learning the position and that I am aware I will be making mistakes so this idea is just to help me learn faster. I think that using this growth mindset lets people know that this is about me and not necessarily them. At the same time it does open conversation about why I am doing it which then allows others to reflect on their own personal practices.


Please share a story of meaningful feedback you’ve received that you wouldn’t have been able to get on your own.
I received some meaningful negative feedback specifically about creating a collaborative culture after a situation where I saw my actions differently than the way they were perceived by a teacher. Face-to-face feedback of this kind is difficult to give and receive when it is critical of a supervisor. Additionally, because the feedback was focused on my own goals, it curbed my emotional response which made it more constructive. In this case, I was able to read about it anonymously and removed from the situation so I was not as defensive and accepted the feedback with an open mind. Because of this feedback I have been able to change my actions to better communicate with and serve the school staff.


What have you learned through this process that you wish you knew when you started?
When I started this process, I was new to the district, in a new position, and felt pretty overwhelmed by many of my decisions that were not black and white. I was worried that I was not working as well as I could with the school staff because the decisions that I made affected everyone a little differently in both good and bad ways. However, upon reviewing the voluntary feedback, I have gained confidence in my actions. If I had known how letting others see my personal goals would improve my own lens of continual growth, I certainly would have asked other people for feedback sooner.


What would you say to someone who isn’t sure if #ObserveMe is right for them?
I would say give it a try! Although it is often difficult to open yourself up to something new, when you are goal-focused and accept timely feedback from others, it allows you to shift from taking feedback personally to constructively improving behavior. Additionally, if you are an administrator, this project improves transparency and creates a culture of continual learning that will help your staff de-privatize their own teaching and learning which will certainly make your job easier as an instructional leader. As educators, we need to work together to improve together!

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