In response to the 8/14/12 post, “A LYS Principal Asks… Team Planning,” another LYS Principal writes:

SC,

Excellent post.  This makes a lot of sense and is better guidance than I have given my teams. The direction I have given them has primarily focused on using the four questions from DuFour to guide planning.  I have also worked with them to conduct data reviews on a 6-week basis. I realize that I need to be more hands on and engaged with them in this process.

SC Response The mistake that most principals make (and yes, I made the same mistake when I was a principal) is that we carve out time for team planning and then assume that staff will know how to use it effectively.  They won’t. But here is the kicker; it is not their fault.  The staff can’t see the bigger patterns that motivated you to carve out the planning time (they are busy teaching all day).  The staff can’t come up with an effective group planning agenda on their own (again, teaching all day). And the staff won’t produce the product you envision unless you are engaged in the process.  For all the skills your staff does possess, actual mind reading in exceedingly rare in teacher populations.  Which means, as you have realized, that if leadership isn’t involved in instructional planning, a critical component of school success now hinges on hope and luck.

There is nothing wrong with using DuFour’s 4 questions.  I just believe that the questions are most useful in a low accountability environment.  Given enough time, the questions can move an organization to an improved performance stratum.  The issue is that time is luxury that few schools possess.  We now have to build staff understanding and capacity as we increase the pace of academic growth at an accelerated pace.  The meeting cycle I shared does exactly that.  It is correlated to Foundation Trinity and forces the instructional brainpower of the organization to focus specifically on the Foundation Trinity components that it uses and/or impacts the most.  Those components being a Scope and Sequence, Common Assessments, Teacher Craft, and Data Analysis and Adjustment.

You just have to keep reminding yourself that productive team planning does not occur by accident.  It takes preparation, leadership, monitoring and follow-thru.  In other words, work.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…

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