Monday, February 03, 2020

Flexibility Challenge

Early this weekend, I reviewed the plans for the school week ahead. Confident that I was ready for a good week, I reviewed the school calendar only to find what looked like a staffing change that affected my homeroom. I was perturbed as I had planned for what I thought was the plan only to find out that the plan was different. In real time, that meant an extra 1/2 hour of work prior to my 7:45 meeting--ugh!

Changes happen in schools all the time, and one of the most challenging aspects of teaching is the fact that we have to be flexible and ready to react to change with positivity. Yet, are all those changes necessary? Is there a way to avoid last minute changes for the most part? I want to think more about that.

Unexpected changes that one can never plan for are generally not too hard to respond to, but changes that you think might be avoidable are more difficult. What can we do to avoid those kinds of last minute changes?

Many schools operate with not enough staffing to do the job well. That makes teaching well challenging. For example, are there teachers in your school who are not replaced by a substitute when they are absent? If they are teachers, and they are not replaced, who does their job for a day and what students lose out on their services? In my opinion, any full time teacher or assistant that is absent, should be replaced by a substitute teacher. System leaders may say, "But we don't have the money for that," and my response is we need to well fund schools--we can't expect schools to run without ample staffing.

Further, due to the low pay of many teaching-related jobs, sometimes it is difficult to get people who are well trained and ready to do the job, thus it is on-the-job-training which in some cases works out just fine, but in other cases, does not work out well at all. I believe that all education jobs should receive ample training, preparation, and support--we can't just expect people to be dropped in a school setting and know what to do. We can do better in this regard.

Long Term Planning
It is essential that school teams engage in long term planning in order to alleviate scheduling and other changes that can be avoided by long term planning. In the best of circumstances, calendars for the school year are created the spring before that year and all main events are scheduled. Then as people schedule new events, they can work around the main events.

The same is true for scheduling. Schools should provide ample lead time in the summer and during the first days of schools for staff to schedule services and main areas of teaching. Beginning the year with a good pattern of services and programming ensures that we teach that which we prioritize to be most important for the students.

Good Communication
The principal at our school sends out a daily newsletter. I LOVE that because it keeps everyone on the same page with regard to expectations, special events, and school-wide planning. Good communication helps us to avoid unexpected changes--the kinds of changes that interrupt what we have planned and add extra time to our schedules.

There will be unexpected events in school. We do have to be flexible to be good educators, but we can work with our school teams to create structures that make undue change a rare occasion rather than a daily event. This matters when it comes to teaching children well. Do you agree?