After the frantic pace of May subsides, and you catch your breath during June, the principal begins to reflect on successes, failures, and near misses. Ultimately though, one begins to think of the next year, and what levers he/she needs to pull to continue the school’s improvement.
The summer provides an excellent time to do this in a more relaxed atmosphere. Yes, there is year-end close-out, vacations to take, family to be the focus after 10 months of, sometimes, feeling neglected, but the principal thinks about the opportunities and challenges the next year provides. Planning really begins in February or March, but with the current year in full-swing, one does not always have the time to sit and think. The summer provides that time with a quieter office, a more casual dress code, and less fires and distractions that bombard principals during the school year.
Begin by brainstorming on your own. Sketch out ideas. Some people prefer lists, others prefer webbing on a whiteboard in a vacant classroom, and others prefer their computer in a coffee house. What are some goals you have for the school year? What year are you in, in your long-term plan? Is the school on track or where it needs to be to get to your end-goal? Is it time to go back and address some areas that have been neglected for a year or two? Does your school district have some initiatives coming out next year that you need to plan for to make those initiatives roll out smoothly? Contemplate and then brainstorm? Review survey data from students, parents, or staff. What is the feedback from people about your leadership and the school? Are there procedures or polices you need to address to address those feedback items?
As your brainstorming finishes, you need to think about getting feedback on your ideas. This point in the summertime thinking process is an excellent time to bring in your closest circle of advisors. Maybe it is your assistant principal, instructional coach, counselor, and team leads, but it should be the people that you go to throughout the year to bounce ideas off of. Have them in for a mini-retreat at the school, or even meet in an available meeting space off-campus. Reach out to friends or even parent’s that could let you borrow a conference room in their building. Get your crew together and show them your ideas to date. Then listen to their feedback, and most importantly, listen to their ideas they have thought of and how they can meld with your plans. Just like you, these vital staff members have gone through the time of reflection and planning too.
At this point, start to lay out the implementation steps and even start to notate who might handle the roll-out of specific initiatives. It is vital that these are captured in writing. So, whether it is someone taking notes, or writing on chart paper, you want to be able to walk away with artifacts that you can refer back to later when typing up notes or planning in-service. If the items are written on a white-board, make sure you take a picture with your cell phone! The last thing you want is for a custodian to come in and wipe away the work! Keep planning and preparing for how these ideas will be implemented. They will continue to go through a tweaking process as you think about them.
One last important idea- treat the people who came in, often un-paid, to lunch! It is a simple, but authentic gesture to say thank you.