Reflections on the School Year: What Should We Do Differently?

As we reach the homestretch, principals and education leaders everywhere are beginning to reflect on the school year, asking critical questions like: ‘Was it successful?’ ‘Are my students satisfied?’ ‘Are my teachers satisfied?’ These are important not only for professional development and school progress, but for the health and well-being of staff and students alike. With an emphasis on self-assessment, this final stretch marks the ideal time for school leaders to come together and answer one simple question: What should we do differently?

#1. Did we build a positive school culture?

Creating a positive school culture is always a top priority for school leaders. In an effort to provide a joyful, cooperative, supported learning environment for every student and teacher, school-wide collaboration is key. This means equipping educators with the tools to build a classroom culture that emanates across the entire school. Regular PD workshops is one way to train teachers in the various resources they can use to create a classroom culture that stimulates, engages, and inspires, urging others to follow suit.

#2. Did we facilitate and encourage classroom innovation?

Classroom innovation is now more of a mainstream fixture than ever before. With trends like flipped, blended, and mobile learning continuing to impact schools worldwide, technology-enabled methods are quickly becoming a core ingredient of every school’s curriculum. Adding inquiry, project, and problem-based learning to the mix, a school that consistently supports and facilitates classroom innovation is on a sure path to success.

#3. Did we place enough focus on collaboration?

With increasing emphasis on the 5 C’s of 21st century education, peer feedback and collaboration are playing pivotal roles in student development and school performance. Placing enough focus on collaboration means allocating the time for team-based and peer learning in every lesson, and across school activities, simultaneously making time for regular teacher collaboration and professional development. Working together, a school’s chances at success are greatly improved while students develop invaluable lifelong learning skills.

#4. Did we waste too much time on administration?

Often without realizing it, educators face burnout as administrative tasks continue to pile high. Lesson planning, finding resources, and tracking student performance and progress are all tasks that take away from an educator’s core focus of teaching. What’s more, it’s often difficult to ensure a school is running as efficiently as possible when student data is collected manually. Integrating a learning platform like Fishtree that provides a lesson planner, resources, and performance tracking all in one place, the teacher workload can be cut in half to build morale and put the focus back on teaching and learning.

#5. Were our students always at the center of learning?

With the constant struggle to meet demands and adhere to a strict curriculum, ensuring students remain the focus at all times can be a challenge. With the growing number of 21st century solutions to address this challenge, creating a student-centered learning environment is now a priority for every school. Moving away from the traditional ‘teacher-centric’ approach, student-centered education encourages more independent learning, critical thinking, and collaboration as student voice and choice play a key role in their success.

#6. Did we place too much emphasis on exams?

Despite the pressures of state standards and exams, school leaders must ensure students are given the opportunity to learn outside the curriculum and develop the skills essential to 21st century life. Helping teachers to incorporate alternatives like project-based and competency-based assessment with adaptive technology, education leaders can make a big difference to their school culture while ensuring that essential focus on student skills.

Image credits: Nick Amoscato / CC BY 2.0

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