As I begin to bring our yearly focus to life on the first day of professional development, I’ve been reflecting a lot this week on how to have the most productive school year. I have to share that we have some of the best educators I’ve had the chance to work with. They are passionate, driven, and willing to go an extra 100 miles for our kids. As a principal, I often reflect back on my teaching experiences and think, “What did I want from my adminstrator?”
As a teacher, I always felt pulled in too many directions. I have concluded that there are two reasons for this.
Reason One – All schools are under a tremendous amount of pressure to do more with less. A reduction in school funding produced less resources, and government mandated school improvement reforms have produced less time and energy. These requirements and plans also seem to be changing yearly, so by the time we figured one out it was time to learn another.
Reason Two – I continue to research and learn about best practice, and was eager to try something new. This practice is not uncommon, but sometimes as an administrator it’s easy to forget that the best teachers are implementing “improvement initiatives” on their own.
As a leader, I do not have control over either of these factors that contribute to initiative fatigue. So, what’s a leader to do?
I believe school improvement functions as a tree (see attachment). The district improvement plan serves as the roots underground and our school improvement plan is the trunk. We need these as solid as they can be, because without them we all fall. Each staff member is a branch, and we are all rooted back to the district and school improvement plans. Each teacher implemented initiative is a twig off of their branch. Teachers who have been teaching for a short time might have just a few twigs, but those that are veterans will have many twigs that they love dearly.
Let’s do the math. As a district, let’s say we are working towards three initiatives. Then, at the building level we add on two more. Each teacher probably has two or three things they are trying out in their classroom, if not more. That is approximately eight initiatives, at minimum, each teacher is working on. Now, we all know there is no way to work on eight initiatives at a time. Which twigs do you think fall to the ground first?
This year my goal is for teachers to have as few twigs as possible. I am committed to providing staff with the time, energy, and resources to establish a solid Professional Learning Community. We will learn together and establish a community of professionals who are focused on student learning. We will make data driven decisions and prioritize our standards.
How? Stay tuned…