Planning for next school year? Count your WINS!
By: Liza Kostreva, Regional Literacy Specialist, May 2022
It’s May. The end of the school year is fast approaching – and while days are filled with testing, graduations, celebrations, closeouts, and more, this is an important time to take a pause, to slow down, and to reflect upon the past year in order to plan for the school year ahead. For many people, January, the start of the new year, is when they reevaluate practices and habits. But for teachers and leaders working in schools, this period of reflection and goal-setting is happening right now.
As a Regional Literacy Specialist with the Literacy Coach Program, I’m spending these last few weeks supporting my instructional coaches, and school/district leaders in doing just that.
If you are an instructional coach or a school leader that is currently developing plans for the upcoming school year, your mind is undoubtedly swimming with questions such as, “what will PD look like and when will it occur? What will be the structure for coaching and feedback cycles? How will we regularly assess students and analyze this data in order to provide diagnostic and prescriptive instruction?”
In my experience, educators are some of the most goal-oriented and hard-working people – always striving to be better and to do better for their students and school community. There is a mindset that no matter what has been achieved or accomplished, more is always possible and a never-ending opportunity for growth exists. This mindset is further compounded by the fact that the field of education is dynamic and ever-changing based on new (or rediscovered) research.
While this strive for constant improvement is admirable and ultimately critical to success, I’ve also learned that it is crucial to take time in our reflections to acknowledge what went well during the past school year, to celebrate successes, and to think about what actions or structures should be repeated and maintained in the coming school year.
I think of this saying here –
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”
Sometimes in an effort to change and improve, we end up forgetting important actions or steps we took to reach an accomplishment. We put our sole focus on what went wrong, what we want to get rid of or change, and what we want to do differently. We don’t stop to think about what went well, what we need to keep, and what we need to repeat.
Starting to sound familiar? I can tell you that you’re not alone. There is a tendency to focus on the negative in an effort to make changes – we are often our harshest critics. If you find yourself caught in this cycle, take these steps to break it and ensure that your successes are repeated:
- Ask yourself, “What went well this school year? What successes can we celebrate?” – Think both on a small scale and a large scale here. A ‘ success’ could be as small as and as big as getting small group interventions happening in every classroom.
- Then ask, “What did I do, or what did our team do, to make this happen?” Get really detailed here. Think about the discrete steps or actions that you took to achieve this goal. Did you run a professional development series that was particularly successful? Did you implement a new structure for observations and feedback cycles?
- Write it down! – Record these actions and save them in a safe place. These are what you want to turn into habits, the tools that you want to keep in your toolkit.
I encourage you to use this handout as a tool to guide the reflection process. This process can (and should) be ongoing. I recommend having a note somewhere (in print, on your phone/computer) where you can capture thoughts and ideas that come to you at any time, even when you’re not at school.
Think about scheduling a time to do this exercise with a teammate or if you are a school leader, with your instructional leadership team as a whole. This type of asset-based collaboration will strengthen your team and will inject new energy into your planning for the year ahead. Remember, count those wins!