Since when have the years’ passed so fast? It’s Term 4 already and before you know it we’ll be heading off on our summer break.
You might think it’s a little too early to be worrying about your plans and goals for the new year, but we disagree. Think of it like Christmas shopping — if you don’t start thinking about it early, it can sneak up on you quickly!
Now is the perfect time to start gathering information and to reflect on 2019. By starting now, you’ll give yourself the time to really understand the successes and challenges of this year and strategise the direction you need to take moving forward.
To help you get started we’ve put together the 10 things you should do before you plan.
Schools collect a lot of data, there’s certainly no shortage of it. But when it comes to collating and analysing it, you need to make sure you allow enough time. It’s a tedious, time consuming job and when you don’t have the space to do it properly you can be left with inaccurate information for making decisions.
If you start reviewing your data now, you’ll have extra time to analyse it. You can chase any information that’s missing, or spend more time discussing results with teachers. You may also find that there are things you wish you had measured. This can be a great indicator of where effort has gone and if it was actually valuable. It might also help you to define new key indicators to measure across the new year.
It’s also important to gather some external data. This will help you to make comparison to state averages and benchmark your own results.
When the time does come to start planning, you’ll be thoroughly prepared. You’ll know the trends, performance and achievements for your school and students in 2019. And that’ll make planning for the new year a lot easier.
Chances are you started 2019 with grand plans. If you achieved all you set out to, skip to number 3. If not, spend some time thinking about your challenges and successes. Collect information, talk to teachers and the school community to consider how you tracked to your goals. How can you replicate the things that worked and remove those that didn’t in the new year?
Quantitative information is just as important. Make sure you can paint the picture around the numbers from your data and use your qualitative findings to support it.
It can be really hard to work on what’s most important when you’re snowed under mid-way through term. To avoid it, map out your priorities now so you can be clear on where your energy needs to be focused. There will always be times where smaller, less important tasks creep to the top of the pile, but by setting your priorities early on, you’ll be able to course correct quickly and prevent the big things from falling off your list.
Strong school leadership benefits everyone in your school community. Before you start the new year, consider the structure of your team and how it might change over the next 12 months. Are there some teachers who are looking to step up? You might incorporate some new responsibilities, projects or supports to help them progress. Will you have any new team members in 2020? Make sure you’ve got all of the supports in place to help them succeed in their first year.
No one likes a process that isn’t efficient, or simply doesn’t work. It’s worth spending some time with your staff to evaluate what policies and processes need updating before your stuck with the same inefficiencies in the new year.
Giving people notice of your intentions to update processes will also give them the opportunity to identify things that need a refresh as they come across them. Rather than asking in a meeting and getting hardly any answers because nothing comes to mind. A whole term of review with a digital board where teachers can pin their wish lists may be the way to go.
You might roll your eyes when you hear ‘staff meeting’, but we all know that they’re important. They’re an opportunity to regularly connect and communicate with teachers. But is the timing and format that you’re currently using working? Is a Thursday afternoon really the best time to get the most out of your teachers? Is having one person stand in front of the room and talk for an hour engaging for the rest of the room?
Think about the information you need to communicate and the stakeholders who need to hear it and plan out a schedule, including timings and format, so you can get the most out of your meetings.
While it can be hard, doing your best to map out workflow across the year can make a huge difference to stress levels for the whole team. Were there times throughout the year that you felt like your workload was particularly big? What about your teachers, when do they need extra support? Reflect on your busiest times and think about how you can delegate and share the load in the new year.
Mapping out PD plan before the new year begins is a great idea, but make sure you consider what skills are missing before you sign off on any programs. One way to identify skill gaps is to think about tasks that are consistently hard to get done. For example, if your school has a goal to make Rich tasks part of regular practice, but a couple of teachers consistently fail to implement perhaps they’re not feeling confident and need a refresher.
The school community is vital to the success of the whole school. Although most of your planning will be focused on school and student performance, you should also think about the community. You don’t need to come up with big, unrealistic plans for the new year, but consider small changes or improvements that will make a difference.
As educators, we’re literally in the business of learning, so why not reach out to other schools and learn from each one another? Chances are they’ve faced the challenges that you face and perhaps they’ve come up with a solution you hadn’t thought of. You can share you successes, mistakes and hurdles, and you might just save yourself some time by not making falling into the traps they have.
If you can set aside some time throughout the term to work through the above, at the very least your mind will be on right things before you start planning. At best, you’ll be able to get your whole school thinking about 2020, you’ll be loaded with the information you need and you will have saved yourself a whole lot of time and stress. It might still be months away, but do yourself and your teachers a favour and start now.