Next Year?!? I’m Still Working On This Year! The Principals’ Split-Screen View

Next year is here.

At least the planning for next year is here, and has been for a while.  Now that we’re approaching the conclusion of this year, you can know for certain that you need to be planning for next year as well.  To be an effective leader of your school you have to be living in one school year while you are also planning for the next one. 


Here are some thoughts about how to  be effective as the “split-screen” Principal:

  1.  This year isn’t over, so you need to continue to lead in the ‘now.’   Your energy, your direction, your spotlight on doing the right things are critical for this year to end in the way it should.  You need to begin planning for next year, but you also equally need to land this plane successfully first.
  2. Investing time into planning is essential for success.  If you are covered up with today’s frantic deadlines and emergencies, it’s likely that you didn’t make them yesterday’s strategic plans.  What you plan for is less likely to become a fire; what you do at or near the last minute is fraught with potential for trouble.  Some wonderful people who are school leaders never get off the crisis carousel.  They go from one fire to the next one in great part because they have failed to master reflection, planning, and implementing at a higher level.
  3. There is an extended break (for others) during the summer.  You have to manage both ends of that break intentionally.  As you approach the end of the school year, you should ask yourself, what do I need to get from students and teachers before they leave?  what information do I need from them to effectively schedule for next year?  what information do I need to share with them ?  The most effective principals and APs anticipate what they’re going to need to do their work when everyone else is on break.  If you get that information from your folks before they break, it’ll save you lots of time during the summer.  If you don’t get what you need, you spend unnecessary time tracking things down in the summer.  That’s time that you need for other things.
  4. Plan your year-end before your year ends.   What do you want your teachers thinking about as they leave for summer?  How will you cap off this school year?  What will your final meeting of the year be like?  Think about this:  what if you ask each of your teachers to share their highlight of the year?  They could write it down for you on an index card, they could share it on their own, they could send you a picture that represents this school year for them.  Your concluding meeting should serve to remind everyone of the good that you’ve done together and the journey that you’ve traveled together.  That feeling and reminder can help you finish off this year with good feeling that can shape the way your team feels about coming back next year.
  5. NOW is the time to be planning next year’s theme and focus.  This is the time to talk about next year and begin to build an energy of excitement for the next school year.  Yes, everyone is busy and stressed right now, thinking about testing and everything else.  That’s the right time to throw out a dash of hope– the next school year.  Ask your students and teachers what they think would be the right theme for the school for next year.  Getting some energy generated for next year can help this year finish on a high note.
  6. Play chess, not checkers.  As the leader, you should be seeing two, three or more moves ahead, not just reacting to what is before you.  Think about your staff.  Where do you want them to be a year from now?  How do you get them there?  What moves do you need to make to make your team more successful?  Specifically, who needs to improve, and what do they need in order to do so?  It’s not enough to identify your areas of concern; the most effective leaders are good at talent development, not just deficit identification.
  7. Visualize Next Year’s First Meeting  The most important day of the school year for the principal is the first day that teachers report.  This is the day that you capture their imagination for the journey ahead of them, and set the course on how you’ll do it together.  Now is when you need to be thinking about how you’ll deliver your message, and between now and then you need to do everything to prepare yourself and them for that moment. What you are seeing now as a part of this school year can help inform you about that message.



One thought on “Next Year?!? I’m Still Working On This Year! The Principals’ Split-Screen View

  1. Great article even for those of us not principals. The points mentioned are dead on for how I am processing things at this point of the school year.

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