Effective School Systems

What makes a school system effective?  I'm a critical thinker who is always looking for ways to improve my craft.  As a classroom teacher, I rely on so many others to do my job well.  When the system is working well, the work I'm able to do is fluid, up-to-date, responsive, creative and effective.  When systems don't work, my work is hindered.  From my vantage point, as a classroom teacher, these are the components I desire in order to do my work well.

Vision:  I like being part of the team.  I work well when we have a shared vision based on our collective thoughts, goals and needs.  Vision for the classroom, grade-level, school, and district are all important for effective work.

Time for Collaboration:  Vision takes time.  Planning takes time.  Many view points are essential.  Hence, collaborative time to plan, reflect, create, review and revise is essential.

Communication:  When communication is steady and informative, everyone stays on the same page.  They know what's happening.  They understand the resources that are available, and they are able to line their work up with the work of others.  When effective communication systems are in place, there's less here-say, conjecture, and time spent looking for information -- instead, it's readily available for the taking.  Effective communication systems create cohesive teams with shared vision and enhanced collegiality and collaboration.

Life Long Learning:  The business of education is the business of evolution and change.  Effective educators respond to change by creating timely, responsive avenues for student learning.  Hence, every educator at every level should engage in a learning plan that matches his/her needs, goals and schedule each year.  Continued learning fosters optimal schools that respond to the ever changing landscape of the world.

Leadership:  Like any team, educators need leaders who manage the course and cheer us on.  Effective leaders steer the school system ship toward optimal learning experiences and results for all students.

Idea Management Systems:  School systems that embrace the ideas of all participants are more likely to succeed.  Systems that create idea management systems provide avenues for any and all participants to voice their ideas.  Often the best ideas come from those on the front-line, the ones who work directly with students or by their sides each day -- they know what's missing, and what's possible.  Creating avenues for idea sharing and consideration strengthens the foundation of a school system and fosters greater investment and collaboration.

Scheduling:  The best schools systems are multi-dimensional, dynamic learning environments.  Multiple efforts are occurring at once to best meet the needs of all students.  It's a complex human machine.  That's why detailed planning, prioritizing and scheduling are essential.  A streamlined scheduling process beginning with the events, big and small, that most impact learners should occur each year.  Time for learning and time for the signature events should be given priority.  Consideration of students' developmental levels, outside activities, and learning goals should impact the scheduling process.  The schedule should be posted about a month prior to the school year, so teacher teams and others can then layer their professional schedules and goals on top of the master schedule.  Effective scheduling creates less confusion, conflict and and rescheduling throughout the year.  It also provides focal points for instruction and learning endeavors.

Roles and Responsibilities:  As much as possible, roles and responsibilities should be defined.  As we move toward greater personalization in education, we find that school buildings are filled with many, many educators with all kinds of expertise.  When roles and responsibilities are well defined, then collaborative time is better used and effective time with students increases.  There's greater focus and target with respect to students' needs.

Technology Infrastructure:  I take it for granted sometimes, but the tech infrastructure at our school system is terrific. That allows us to link to experts, information and other resources far and near.  It broadens our ability to teach well with meaning.  Investment in this area is an investment in the future.

I've written about this before in a February blog post.  I'm sure I will write about it again.  I also recognize that I see the picture from my lens as a classroom teacher and parent.  What am I missing?  What would you change?

Optimal school systems create an atmosphere where teachers are able to do their best work so that students can have the best possible learning experiences.  I want to do the best possible job, and that's why I care about the systems that support my work.
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