School & District Management Opinion

Three Things to Make Next Year a Better One

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — July 09, 2013 4 min read
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In 2007, Karl Fisch, Director of Technology at Araphoe High School in Colorado, and the author of The FischBowl, and Scott McLeod, widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading academic experts on K-12 school technology leadership issues and author of Dangerously ! Irrelevant, developed the video, Did You Know; Shift Happens - Globalization; Information Age. They surprised everyone with some pretty overwhelming information. This link is to the original version. It has been updated several times over these past six years, but even the original message still rings true. We are faced with a world that is continuing to change at an increasingly accelerated pace and we are charged with leading learning institutions inside of the tornado that has become our life.

Every day there are blog posts and articles that give us (as an example) the “10 most important things to do in order to....” They all have good pointers and are very helpful in helping us manage to keep our feet on the ground and move forward in spite of that tornado that sweeps us off our feet and throws us around. Each of us must choose which applies to our environments and which applies to the readiness level of our teachers and schools. We offer 3 things to do in order to figure out which of the other 10 things are worth doing for your classrooms and schools. If we do these three things, we may be better prepared to handle this next year with more wisdom and preparation than we had in the last.

Take Control of Your Time
As impossible as this seems, we can do it better. In a long ago post, we talked about the work of Paul Bambrick-Santoyo. In his book Leverage Leadership he suggests that controlling our schedules gives us the opportunity to provide “Quality School Leadership.” Certainly this seems impossible with interruptions, a child or parent in need, meetings, Email, phone calls to take and return - especially for building level leaders. Here are some ideas from Bambrick-Santoyo and from leaders we have known, which may work for you. In Part 3 of his book, he talks about blocking out our schedules. Set times for observations, meetings with groups of teachers, teacher-leader meetings, work time, etc. Teaching the people who support and work with us takes time. Secretaries need to be reminded of times that can be used to make appointments and times that must be left untouched. They need to be taught about what constitutes an emergency and what can wait. And we all need to be prepared to stray from even the best constructed schedule when those emergencies occur. Our teachers and colleagues, students, secretaries, even our supervisors can become familiar with our pattern if we stick to it as best we can. It is a difficult thing to do, but an important one that can help us accomplish our goals.

Set Priorities And Stick To Them
With all the things we have to do while implementing the Common Core, new observation and evaluation systems, new regulations and mandates, it is easy to let our local priorities slip away. We could take time this summer to step back and consider what is important in our classrooms, buildings, and districts. Student and staff culture, relationships with parents, curriculum development, attendance, grading and homework practices, new systems of organizations, increasing our use of technology etc. - what ever is on our “local plate” needs to stay as our focus. For some, putting it right up on the wall, on the homepage of our computers, on every page of our planner, in our office and in the hallways, as a footnote on every memo, whatever works to help keep our priorities in front of all of can be of help.

Invite More Perspectives Into The Conversations
We all have committees to serve on or lead. We include parents, teachers, students, colleagues, and community members into some of our decisions, but most often, we invite those who we perceive as supportive and of like minds. If we commit ourselves to being purposeful in choosing people to serve on our committees, to contribute to our decisions, who have divergent opinions, perceptions, and purposes from our own, we can begin (or continue) to broaden the foundation of support in our communities as everyone feels heard, and comes to a common understanding that is always based upon our stated purpose: educating children and preparing them for their futures as adults. This takes practice and courage, especially if we have a challenging year like this last one. The testing uproar alone was enough to invite us to pull back and away from disagreements. But it is working through those disagreements, understanding each other, learning how each other thinks and why that is so, helps to build valuable relationships. And it is on that foundation we can integrate our work and remain focused on what is important to us for the children.

Bambrick-Santoyo, Paul. (2012). Leverage Leadership.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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