Alignment of a Different Kind's picture

It is no secret that educators feel overwhelmed by all of the new initiatives, mandates and required training especially, since 2009. Fitting everything in nine months can be a daunting task which is often met with angst and resistance. In order to make a positive shift and change the narrative of "overwhelmed-itis" you must capitalize on the time you spend together as a staff from August to June. Scheduling and planning for the school year must be intentional and aligned with the district and building mission and goals. Each and every meeting you host and/or require must be goal oriented, action specific and include a system of accountability. Holding meetings three or four times a month to give out information and make announcements is no longer productive, especially with today's technology. A meeting with no direction is quickly sniffed out by the staff as a complete waste of time. Pivot your meetings from being informational to being goal and action oriented.

The summer months are a gift of time to reflect and strategically “set the table” for the new school year so that the staff can experience success, feel productive and maximize their time together to best impact student growth and achievement. Creating a staff calendar that is well organized, meaningful and optimizes time on task can be a game changer. Routinely, schools have monthly staff meetings, department chair meetings, department meetings and PLC meetings. There are often committees in play, professional development needs and required training that has to be squeezed into the calendar as well. How you structure and conduct these meetings can make a world of difference in shaping the school culture to honor the time dedicated to meetings as important and highly productive.

To get started, use a whiteboard to list out your district initiatives, school improvement goals, building/department goals and specific areas you and the staff believe are needed for growth. Build out your yearly staff calendar in an order that allows you to constantly communicate the goals for the year and allows you to coach your teacher leaders to carry out the shared expectations for achieving the goals. Create a predictable calendar that lists the type of meeting, date, time and location by semester. The calendar should be communicated in the back-to-school welcome letter so the staff members can make arrangements with their own schedules in regards to child care, appointments, after school activities, etc. It needs to be clearly communicated that the meetings are mandatory unless prearrange with you. You can take it a step further by dedicating the same day of the week for all meetings and delay the start time for after school activities. This will allow ALL staff members to participate in the meetings, stay connected and equally contribute to the work at hand. Holding all staff accountable for meetings and the shared work builds camaraderie, while reducing resentment and burnout.

Below is an example and how you can structure the month of September:

Continue this pattern each month for the rest of the semester and repeat for semester two. Depending on your bargaining agreement, you may be able to build in professional development during conference periods. This will allow you to provide training during the school day by offering the session each hour of the day. Some of the training may be optional, empowering the staff to decide on their own professional development and immediate needs. A well-planned calendar that is aligned with goals, predictable and threads together the mission will strengthen the expectations of teamwork and the ownership of the staff.

Written by Carol Baaki Diglio, Consultant, Consulting by Diglio. Carol is a veteran administrator who recently retired from the Novi School District. She spent many years as a high school Principal and as the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.