In September, we are all our most motivated, clearest thinking selves. We enter the school year with optimism and intent. The year’s potential is before us, a yellow brick road of learning about our staff and students and implementing the plans that have been brewing all summer long. The sun is shining; the air is crisp. Our students sport new haircuts and school clothes, and a fresh attitude, and likely, so do we. How is it then that by Thanksgiving we wind up crawling to the doorstep of that four-day weekend parched, with no sign of our lusher September selves?
September’s potential has transformed into November’s disappointment because enough time has gone by for us to realize that we have overreached-- set too many goals, fueled by unrealistic optimism. To mitigate against this disillusionment, we need to start off the year with fewer goals, and set ourselves up for micro successes as we pursue those goals. With each success, our sense of efficacy grows and fuels our next steps, allowing us to sustain our energy and motivation as the year progresses
When our DS team does PLC trainings in schools, we often advise PLC teams to “focus on one thing.” Decide on a student learning target; measure student growth around that target, make changes to practice when that target is not met, and celebrate like crazy when it is met. By articulating a single student achievement goal, and defining from the outset what success will look like in measurable terms, teams can meet their goals, fueling powerful feelings of efficacy. That feeling of collective efficacy within a school community is, according to John Hattie, the single most important factor in student achievement.
By expanding the “pick one thing” model to school-wide initiatives, leaders can make a powerful difference in schoolwide adult culture and ultimately student outcomes. Asking staff to fully invest in one, or maybe two major initiatives for the year gives them an area of growth to rally around, and build shared understanding. Constructive dialogue and professional development provides a platform for relationship building and professional exchange. Help staff coalesce around your focus initiative by firmly rooting them in how the work benefits students, by clearly articulating outcomes, and setting tangible short and long term markers for success that the whole staff can celebrate. Those shared victories will keep the glimmer of our September Selves present for the benefit of our students and colleagues throughout the entire school year.
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