- The WALK acronym (Wonder, Assist, Learn, Kindness) provides guidance for enhancing connections while walking and working, particularly for educators.
- Connecting while walking and working creates opportunities for visibility, accessibility, recognition, and two-way communication, fostering positive interactions and learning experiences.
- Planning what to read or work on, being aware of how to walk courteously, and considering the use of tools like the Connect A Desk can help maximize productivity and connection while walking.
- Purposefully choosing where and when to walk can further enhance interactions.
Connecting While Walking and Working
Connecting while walking and working builds on the strategy of managing by walking or wandering around (MBWA) that was popular in the 1980s. MBWA encourages managers or leaders to get up and sporadically converse with colleagues to gather feedback and share praise.
This blog proposes connecting while walking and working as an updated version of MBWA. This updated strategy emphasizes connecting while walking around rather than managing and is enhanced by recommended equipment.
This idea originated with the recognition that, similar to an elementary school student, I needed a stretch break after sitting for a long time (during longer meetings). I reflected on how I could answer emails, write drafts of communications, get some steps in, and connect with colleagues or students before or after meetings rather than being isolated in my office.
Employees typically work when they are at their desk. However, similar to the Taco Bell slogan, “think outside the bun,” you can “think outside your desk” as you connect while working at your desk. Alternative options for sitting at your desk include standing at your desk, using a treadmill desk, or a stationary bike under your desk. However, a “harness desk” empowers connecting while walking and working.
Completing work is part of everyone’s job. However, completing SOME of your work during PART of the day while walking around has benefits. This blog focuses on the benefits for school and district administrators, but there could also be benefits for administrative assistants, instructional coaches, teachers, technology staff, students, employees who work for businesses, and authors.
The walk acronym below provides guidance to enhance the impact of connecting while walking and working. The acronym focuses on the guiding words wonder, assist, learn, and kindness. Wonder reminds educators to curiously ask questions and show interest in students, colleagues, and activities. Assist reminds educators to support and help problem-solve to enhance outcomes and empower others. Learn reminds educators to listen empathetically for opportunities to connect, empower, validate, improve, and learn. Finally, kindness reminds educators to smile, laugh, and wave while gratefully appreciating effort, focus, collaboration, and outcomes while finding and looking for positives.
|W||Wonder||Curiously ask questions and show interest in students, colleagues, and activities.|
|A||Assist||Support and help problem-solve to enhance outcomes and empower others.|
|L||Learn||Listen empathetically for opportunities to connect, empower, validate, improve, and learn.|
|K||Kindness||Smile, laugh, and wave while gratefully appreciating effort, focus, collaboration, and outcomes while finding and looking for positives.|
Everyone benefits when leaders and colleagues communicate and make connections during the work day. Administrators can work while they walk and connect with students and colleagues in the school and district. Noted below are considerations to enhance interactions.Enjoy the interactions and opportunities of connecting while walking and working and share your stories with colleagues, parents, and fellow educators. Click To Tweet
Appreciate WHY walking around while working has potential benefits. Walking around creates opportunities for interactions. Work must be completed and meetings are part of the process, but there are benefits of connecting with colleagues and students during different parts of the day. Sometimes you need a walking break after a meeting, now you can walk and still connect with others while working. Walking with a computer is also unexpected, so it is a great conversation starter with students and adults.
Connecting while walking and working creates opportunities to enhance visibility, accessibility, awareness, gratitude, and two-way communication. Opportunities are also created to recognize positive behavior, interactions, activities, and ideas; learn and exchange information; make time for small talk; and create moments and memories.
Connecting while walking and working also enhances opportunities to help others. Visitors, students, colleagues, or parents might need help so being more visible and accessible provides opportunities for you to help others and can greatly enhance the efficiency of when others receive help. Colleagues are probably busy in their offices or classrooms, but if you have time, your presence in the hallways can help individuals and the organization. Organization is mentioned because friendliness, approachability, and collaboration can enhance the culture and help others one interaction at a time.
Finally, walking can help your thinking and creativity. If walking can help your thinking and creativity, why not try walking, thinking, and typing?
Plan WHAT to read or pay attention to on your laptop or iPad while walking around. Anticipate being interrupted and distracted. Answer emails, plan agendas, and write rough drafts of communications. You don’t want the quality of your work to be negatively impacted by not being 100% focused on your computer, but you can still get work done. In addition, walking with your laptop or iPad probably looks more focused than staring at your phone while walking around the school or building.
Even if you simply read emails by deleting junk or not important emails, you can save time by reviewing emails while walking and interacting with others. If you open an email that needs a focused response, review it later or find a private location.
Cautiously and courteously be aware of HOW you walk. When you interact with someone else, fold your computer or device screen down, make eye contact, and engage in a conversation or interaction. Monitor your pace, walk on the right side of hallways, listen and watch for people, doors, and objects to avoid. For safety of the device, remember to hold onto the device if you have to bend down.
There is an effective option to help you connect with others while also maximizing available time to complete work. The benefits of interacting with colleagues throughout the day can be enhanced with a Connect A Desk. The Connect A Desk is a harness worn over your shoulders to hold your laptop or iPad while walking or standing. Purchase your own Connect A Desk from this website link and use discount code EDU10 at checkout to receive a 10% discount. Another reason why the Connect A Desk is great is because it is made in the United States of America.
Principals could purchase five Connect A Desks so staff or students could use them. You can use the Connect A Desk to make it easier to walk and assess students. For example, I could see the benefits of physical education, music, or classroom teachers being able to walk around and observe and interact with students more conveniently if they used a Connect A Desk. Educators could wear a Connect A Desk as they distributed materials. Rather than purchasing a standing desk for a student, the Connect A Desk is an inexpensive option for students to use for part of the classroom period or day. Continue to think about and share additional usage of the Connect A Desk for different staff or activities.
Purposely plan WHERE you walk to target or avoid specific areas or people. Walk around your building or a school in your district. Purposely walk to different locations where staff or students might be available to interact with. Find a quieter area if you want to complete a task, but still be accessible to see and hear the wonderful happenings in school districts.
You could also walk outside if students are outside or you want to walk and work. Walking outside and typing allows for exercise that may inspire creativity and/or decrease stress, but would probably not also focus on connecting with others. While walking outside you may also need Wi-Fi via a hotspot on your cell phone.[scroll down to keep reading]
Deliberately plan WHEN you walk around with your Connect A Desk. Depending on your schedule for the day and week, you may explicitly specify in your calendar one time in the morning and one time in the afternoon to connect while walking and working. Alternatively, you can connect while walking and working whenever you have time or think of it.
Regardless if you explicitly schedule your walking, target times in the day when you have been sitting or are about to sit for a long time. Another option is to target times when others may appreciate your visibility or assistance.
Probably not ideal, but virtual meetings are another opportunity to connect while walking and working. Zoom or Google Meet meetings are less frequent than during the pandemic, but they still happen among educators. For some meetings, where you are listening more than leading, you can walk and participate in a virtual meeting. You should wear headphones and should be cognizant of when or how loud you talk during the meeting. Also, be aware that you may look like you are dancing as your computer moves up and down as you walk and listen to the meetings wearing headphones. However, you are connecting (albeit virtually) while walking and working.
Go prove to the world that you can walk, chew gum, type on your computer, and more importantly, connect with colleagues and students. You don’t have to work continuously. You can walk, smile, type part of an email, walk, and even stop. Enjoy the interactions and opportunities of connecting while walking and working and share your stories with colleagues, parents, and fellow educators.
What different ways can or will you connect while walking and working? Please share comments (and pictures) with me via Twitter (@Erik_Youngman) and find additional information about collaboration opportunities via my website (ErikYoungman.com).
About Erik Youngman
Erik Youngman is an education leader who is passionate about topics such as homework, grading, leadership, and growth mindset. He recently completed his nineteenth year in educational leadership. Erik is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for Libertyville District 70 in Libertyville, Illinois. Previous education experiences include being a principal in Libertyville as well as an assistant principal and teacher in Gurnee, Illinois.
Erik earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Education Specialist Degree, and Master of Science in Education from Northern Illinois University and a Bachelor of Arts from Augustana College. Please follow and contact Erik via Twitter: @Erik_Youngman.