Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Make Time for Organization/Communication Analysis

Yesterday it occurred to me that the ease of the transition back after vacation had a lot to do with multiple updated systems and better organization throughout our school community.

More Facile Report Card Systems
For starters, our school secretary really helped us out a lot with new systems related to recent report cards. In days of old, classroom teachers had to spend a lot of time collating and organizing those reports. Now the secretary and her team collect the information, update attendance and other statistics, and collate the reports--that saves us a lot of time and ensures good accuracy too. Furthermore the tech staff has organized the data files to make the input of grades* easier as well. All of this means more time for the deep work we do to communicate and teach children well.

Google Calendar
Our school-wide use of Google calendar is growing too. That calendar hosts multiple, more specific calendars and organizational lists. A thoughtful weekly review and quick daily appraisal helps you to know what to expect as you plan for teaching. We are able to sign-out the computer labs by accessing these calendars too. Using even more of the Google calendar features will help us to create reminders and share information with greater effect as well. David Garcia recently shared this YouTube clip that describes ways you may use the Google calendar with students. I want to explore Google calendar's features more and update my personal and professional use of this terrific tool in the days to come.

Regular Meetings and Reports
Committee work has taken on more of a rhythm also. Our faculty senate meets monthly and helps to prepare for the monthly faculty meeting. Faculty meeting, faculty senate, tech committee, and student council regularly share their notes with the entire faculty helping to keep everyone on the same page with information and upcoming events. Similarly, our building administrator distributes a Friday memo that includes weekly updates about school news, dates, and initiatives. PLCs work in this regard as well. These regular meetings and reports have helped to develop culture and shared investment in the work we do.

Classroom/Subject Area Websites
Websites were given a bit more uniformity this year as administrators outlined specific categories of information for each website including a newsletter, list of important dates, educator's name and a brief biography, and homework assignments. The websites serve as reference information to family members, colleagues, and the greater teaching/learning community and reflect an educator's style with regard to format and design. If I'm wondering what other educators are doing with regard to a particular unit or time of year, I can access their websites as one way to inform my work and practice. Similarly our school websites help to provide needed information to support the work we do for children.

Classroom Organization and Communication
Recently I updated classroom organization and I noticed students' happiness with the fact that materials and information were more easily accessible. My partner teacher and I also communicate with family members on a weekly basis which helps to keep everyone in the loop of classroom events, expectations, and needs.

Yearly Pattern of Events and Initiatives
Our system has also developed a yearly pattern of events and initiatives. For the most part, the main events are listed on a calendar in September so we know what to expect. Most events include introductory information that is distributed ahead of time to give educators a chance to prepare and plan for the event.

Yearly Goal Setting
At the start of each school year, goals for the system are set and shared. This provides a launching point for the specific work we do at each school for each subject and group of students.

The better we streamline and strengthen the organization and communication routines in an organization, the more time we have to do the good work that matters. Creating regular patterns and systems of organization and communication supports this work. Yearly inclusive review and revision of these systems serve to boost our collegiality and forward growth with respect to teaching children well.

Without yearly review and revision, there's the possibility that some routines and systems that are no longer effective will persist. Hence, some kind of review and prioritizing are necessary to keep our systems and work timely and effective.

As I think about my own work in this regard, I am guided by the following questions:
  • How can I best organize the classroom learning space to support my young learners?
  • How can I streamline and enrich classroom communication so that colleagues, students, and family members receive the information they need in timely, efficient ways?
  • When will I research Google calendar with greater depth and apply what I learn to better use that vehicle in conjunction with school/home use?
  • As a teaching/learning team, how will we assess and revise the committee work and communication we do to develop our work for students in ways that make a significant impact?
  • How will I update classroom websites to better communicate with colleagues, students, leaders, and family members? How will I enlist the help of the learning team in this endeavor?
  • When and how will my students, colleagues, and I create and communicate a list of yearly events that support vibrant, engaging student learning?
  • When and how will I create goals for the year ahead? How will I enlist the support of the learning team in this endeavor? 

I look forward to this analysis in the days to come, an analysis that will help me to move my own work forward.

*Our system has standards-based reports at the elementary level where I teach. Students receive checks related to mastery for a large number of standards.