Sunday, January 17, 2010

Some New Thoughts for the New Year

Now that I have graded my school related resolutions from last year, I have been giving some thought to this year and I keep focusing on one thing- feedback.

Right before winter break, we offered the entire teaching staff at Greer to offer up their thoughts in the form of a narrative survey. The survey was of the old school variety: a sheet of paper with eight questions on it and I locked them in a faculty meeting until it was done. We used very specific questions to gauge people's feelings toward our new initiatives like Responsive Classroom, Expeditionary Learning, reading grouping, faculty committees, and then asked people to also write about how communication could be improved. We did not use any numerical rating systems, just qualitative feedback. It was a very powerful experience for me as a leader for a couple of reasons: the quality of the feedback was very high, people really took the survey seriously, and the feedback although quite varied gave us some very concrete and actionable next steps as leaders.

I compiled the feedback over winter break and we shared it with the entire staff. Every planning conversation we have had the past three weeks goes back to the survey. The survey feedback inspired me to try to communicate better and be better at developing and communicating a vision for our school.

It also has gotten me thinking about feedback. How do we create a more feedback rich environment at Greer? How do I improve in giving feedback to people that I work with?

In all honesty, I am woefully unskilled at giving feedback as a school administrator. My goal is to improve that this year. Part of my work toward that goal is to read two books, Drive by Daniel Pink and Rethinking Teacher Evaluation and Supervision by Kim Marshall. Both books get at real and authentic ways to help adults grow and learn in any setting. As I read these books and reflect more, I will try to find ways to make this goal more specific than the incredibly vague "give better feedback".

Another thought I have for this year, not really a goal or resolution, but instead more of a reflective thought is how much time and energy we spend in a school and even more so in a school system on things that have no or little effect on improving the quality of instruction and learning in individual classrooms and for individual students. As I reflect on this, I will try to point out these activities in as diplomatic a way possible, but also try to find ways to eliminate these systems, procedures, behaviors in myself and my own school.

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