How can schools embrace more systematic effort to effect better results?
School Year Analysis
In many cases, school year frameworks need to change to effect better systematic effort. For example, I believe that the big decisions should always be made multiple months or years ahead of implementation. Examples of this include the following:
- Structural supports should be in the planning phase years ahead of need. Administrators need to be mindful of the lifespan of facilities, and when those facilities will need updating, revision, or replacement. In the system where I teach, I imagine the potential of an elementary school campus that mirrors and supports modern approaches to holistic teaching/learning. If that were to happen, initial planning would have to begin now for implementation about 10 years out.
- Goal setting should happen well ahead of the start of the year. Teachers should arrive at school with ready-to-go new goals, goals built on the past year's experience, efforts, analysis, and reflection related to informal/formal data.
- Purchasing should occur well ahead of projects, and I support regular purchasing throughout the year rather than one-time big purchases which I feel may cost a system more money and time. I am a fan of systemwide purchasing agencies and protocols that are responsive to ongoing teaching/learning needs as well as to budgetary and time concerns.
- Curriculum planning and implementation should include a continual development path where teachers are always working in parallel paths of implementation and assessment as well as research and development.
Inclusive, transparent, timely paths of communication assist systematic decision making and effort. For example, if future efforts are shared in a timely manner, that communication affords the learning/teaching team time to assess the issue with care and iron out any problems that may occur. On the other hand, when efforts are shared and planned at the last minute without inclusion or transparency, that opens the door for rumors, lack of support, and other potential problems. I am a firm believer of regular communication from all parts of an organization on a weekly basis. I am very happy that our state's department of education sends out a weekly communication as that keeps every educator in the state on the same page. I always tell the story of how my husband's former boss and now Governor of Massachusetts sent an inspiring weekly memo to staff, and that memo served to connect all of the staff in a meaningful and effective way.
Priorities and Goals
Too often we all get lost on our paths to good work. It's much less likely that one will get lost if he/she has taken the time to prioritize and set goals. The same is true for organizations. When organizations make the time upfront for authentic, meaningful, inclusive, and transparent goal setting, people tend to achieve better results. On the other hand, when that goal setting process is late, inauthentic, and lacks a systematic approach, it's likely that the results of the individuals, groups, or organizations won't be as good.
Of course as I write today, I'm thinking about my own teaching and learning in this regard. I just spent a good deal of time analyzing a host of data related to the school year program, and to take my own advice, I've got a lot to do including the following:
- shoring up the classroom structure and organization--it's quite good, but I can see some room for betterment.
- goals are created, and now I need to start a regular routine of revisiting those goals and assessing progress on my own and with colleagues.
- with regard to purchasing, I want to be more thoughtful about this so I'll start by making a spreadsheet of purchasing I do to support the classroom program. I'll include all the useful information so that when our yearly purchasing time occurs, I can be more thoughtful and prepared.
- with regard to curriculum planning and development, there are formidable structures in place, and the goal is to deepen the teaching/learning within that structure. I also want to forward a second level of tech advocacy in the months ahead, and I am thinking about how to do that as I believe our current school restrictions with regard to technology may be hindering the success of some students in some specific ways. I think this is particularly true for ELL students and students who need greater accommodations and tech access to learn.
- with regard to communication, I want to think strategically about this, and combine this thinking with the work I do with curriculum development and planning.
There's always room for betterment, and how we get there is a good challenge for all of us to think about regularly on our own and with others.