You are working hard to keep everyone focused on instruction, but it seems that the distractions of your time are growing even larger. There are observations and evaluations to complete. Testing is about to begin. It’s also the start of the hiring season. By the way, there is also a full slate afternoon and evening events that commemorate the end of the year. You had been keeping up by doing a lot of work at home, but now you are going to these school events almost every night, so keeping up is getting harder.
Welcome to March, Principal!
The school year has its seasons, its energy, its flow. There’s the beginning of the year, from August until somewhere in early October when the newness of the journey naturally brings enthusiasm and excitement that keeps things going well. This is a time when new ideas are prevalent and nearly everyone is forward looking and forward thinking.
Act Two of the show is the holiday season. From somewhere around mid-October, we begin to see the attention of our students (and teachers as well) be cast towards the events of the fall and winter… Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The community’s calendar is driven by occasions and events around these dates. At school, while we work to keep the focus on instruction, the calendar often drives the thinking of our people. This isn’t always a bad thing as this part of the year can be known for creativity, engagement, and shared celebration.
We’ve just completed one of the most arduous seasons of the school calendar. Winter. Whether its a warm winter as this one turned out to be (at least here in Georgia) or a more traditional one, this part of the year can be a challenge. Returning to school after a long break isn’t always the smoothest transition. January and February can also turn into a grind if you haven’t built in some energy boosters along the way.
That brings us to now, the final, critical stretch of the school year. The “March to May!” It’s one of the busiest (if not the busiest) segments of the school year. Transitions are coming. Students and their families will move to your school; others will leave your school and transition on to their next stop. As mentioned in the opener, there’s testing, observing, summative evaluations, interviewing, hiring, awards, field day, graduation, concerts and celebrations.
With all of this in the air, it’s easy to lose focus, but it doesn’t have to happen. If the school leadership insists that school keep going until the final bell on the final day, that’s what will happen. If you aren’t so insistent, results may vary.
The school year should end on a crescendo, not a thud. It’s literally up to you which way it goes. As the leader, you set the pace: what you prioritize will get accomplished.
Here are seven tips to keep the momentum alive throughout the school year:
- Establish that “finishing strong” is a part of your school’s culture.
- Work to develop a mindset among your faculty and students that every day is a great day for engaged learning.
- Ask your teachers to replace their “countdowns” in their classrooms with previews of what awesome things are yet to come in their class.
- Keep observing teachers and classrooms even after you’ve completed the summative meeting. Give feedback. Show them that your presence was always about their growth and improvement and not just for compliance by showing and giving meaningful feedback beyond the requirements.
- Be more visible instead of less. Sometimes the volume of work that principals and APs have at the end of the year drive them to their office more during the end of the year. That can lead to lower engagement in classrooms, more behavioral issues, more referrals and more to deal with on your plate. Be proactive and preemptive and get out there even more than before.
- Lead your teachers in deeper engagement at the conclusion of the year than more shallow. Share with your teachers the notion that this is the time to do more challenging work, not acquiesce to doing less. The students should be at their most prepared and developed of the year. If the lessons are engaging enough, the students will rise up.
- Show what your students can do and what they’ve learned through capstone events. Bring in families, other classes (the next grade level can see what they can do after a year of learning), publish it on YouTube. Have capstone events where students demonstrate their learning. This is engaging, summative, and intentional. It demonstrates our commitment to learning much more than watching Shrek.