3 reasons school changes are trash: Reflections on Blueprint's Diving Deeper Level I Training Module
I’ve recently enrolled in the Blueprint’s Diving Deeper Level I training module. The purpose of this particular module is to give an overview on systems thinking and why the status quo and traditional methods of implementing change in a school are not sustainable. I’m taking the course because I want the “turnaround” on my alternative ed campus, which serves grades 6-12, to be sustainable when the inevitable staff turnover occurs. If you want the hard work you’re doing in your school to last watch out for these three reasons school changes are trash.
Too many tasks
The definition of a task is a piece of work to be done or undertaken. Teachers too often are given tasks that are not aligned to a larger vision. These things like turning in lesson plans (that rarely if ever get checked) and common assessments are items on a checklist that can be marked off. However, just like a lot of evaluations that principals give, these are only looked at to see if they are completed. Teachers are tired of doing things that don’t matter aren’t attached to their “why” and seem like busy work. These tasks just become part of the drudgery and do not lead to dramatic increases in student outcomes.
Educationally, initiatives are defined as a specific project or program undertaken to achieve specific objectives in the short term. An example could be a mandate from the district that all 5th grade science students will be doing interactive notebooks. The general idea is passed on and teachers know students will place their notes from the teacher on one page and process the information with hands on activities on the other page. If she’s lucky, the science teacher even gets a one hour district pd in which she is shown how to make one. Later in the year at a union meeting she realizes that she’s essentially played the telephone game and missed a step because of a combination of poor note taking, chatting with her colleagues at the pd and the siloing in her building. Initiatives are often given lip service and get interrupted because of a lack of fidelity. They get thrown out in frustration.
Programs! Get your programs!
Programs are often distributed by the district like a guy slinging football programs at the big game. They go here, there, and everywhere and eventually end up in the trash. Programs are a set of instructions or actions taken to teach skills or strategies in a subject area. An example of this from my district is Scholastics' Read-180. This program helps level up struggling readers. This is a great program that I’ve seen work. But, it’s going away because it’s costly, there was little training in it, and with a new Assistant Superintendent of K-12 Instruction, another program could be coming down the pipe. Programs come and go just like football seasons and you’ve always got to be ready for a new one.
These three common school strategies for impacting students, tasks, initiatives and programs are rarely sustainable. They are relics of past practices and when implemented in a haphazard way wind up in the dustbin of your buildings educational history. There is, fortunately, a way to dramatically impact students in your school. Please stay tuned to the next blog from my studies of the Blueprint Diving Deeper Series Level I where I reflect on systems, system thinking and how that can create the change we’re looking for.
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I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm the former owner of a food venture Hustling Hoagies, the author of the children's picture books Detective Dwayne Drake and the Alphabet Thief, Detective Dwayne Drake and The Case of the Mathematical Misfit and the ebook Making it as a Male Model in Michigan. I've worked professionally as a model and commercial actor......