Whether your last day of school was before Memorial Day or not until the end of June, by now every educator has finally shifted into summer mode. Whether relaxing by the beach, hitting the trails, or just spending time in the garden, the final weeks of summer are a perfect time to reflect on the past year and plan with anticipation for the year ahead.
Sometimes we drive ourselves to distraction with the continuous improvement cycle. There are always so many things to do in a school that it is easy to become overwhelmed with lists of things to focus on. Taking some time during the summer months to thoughtfully reflect on the past year is an important step to process what has passed and think intentionally about what is to come. As you’re enjoying the summer sunshine, take some time to think about the past year—what worked, and how can you build on that for the year ahead?
Focus Your Attention
It’s important to focus on a few specific questions to help target priorities for the upcoming school year and prevent that overwhelming feeling of trying to solve too many problems at once. Here are some to consider:
- What were the goals you set last fall? Did you accomplish them? If so, what helped—and if not, what obstacles prevented forward momentum?
- Did you accomplish your building’s student learning goals? Why or why not?
- How can you systemically address some of the obstacles that prevented success?
- What worked, and how can you build on that success?
- What kind of professional development opportunities were offered for your teachers? Did you receive feedback from teachers on those opportunities? What worked and what did not work for your staff?
- What are the underlying issues for your building that never seem to go away? How can you take a different approach to address those issues in the year ahead?
- How was your school budget spent? Do you feel your students received a good return on those budgetary investments? If so, how can you continue that trend in the upcoming school year? If not, where might you need to reprioritize?
- Are your school’s grading practices reflecting the intended information to parents and students?
- How can you set up your new teachers for success and support them in their teaching careers?
- Are your discipline and behavior practices achieving their intended goals?
- What kind of leadership opportunities exist for teachers in your building? Can you create opportunities to share leadership and responsibility to empower staff and free up some of your time for instructional leadership?
Avoid Long Lists
With the pressures of national trends, district expectations, and building priorities for students and staff, it’s easy to come up with a long list of things to improve. However, the longer the list, the more likely nothing will get done. Take some time to develop a few realistic goals. I would recommend setting no more than three goals for the upcoming school year. Once you have your goals in place, develop an action plan and timeline.
As part of your summer routine, invest some time in thoughtful reflection to help set yourself up for success in the next school year. And in the short time you have left before a new school year starts, be sure to take some time for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.
Erica Schnee is a National Board-Certified Teacher who has been a high school educator for the past 22 years. She was recognized as the 2018 Montana Assistant Principal of the Year and is currently an assistant principal at Bozeman High School. She will be principal of Gallatin High School when it opens in the fall of 2020. Follow her on Twitter at @MsSchneeGov.