However, the deadline for creating this three-year plan is approaching, and we are in the throes of transforming our ideas in the form of SMART goals. In conjunction with our Department Coordinators, my outstanding Assistant Principals and I are working through this transformation with our School Improvement Leader. Our Department Coordinators are working on department-focused academic goals, and the admin team and our SIL are working on our school-wide social responsibility goals of increasing the sense of school and community and social And with the looming deadline, I can feel that each of us is starting to slip into the age-old curse of administration: we are trying to solve the problem.
I think back to one of my previous posts "Why School Improvment Plans Suck" , when I jumped to 'solve the problem' like this in the past (and why I don't think administrators should 'solve the problem'):
"I looked at the last School Improvement Plan that I wrote four years ago, it sucks, and it is MY fault. This is not to disrespect my School Improvement Leader who helped create the plan--he worked incredibly hard. But it was me who responsible for getting stakeholder involvement, and I didn't do a good enough job of it. I put the glossy pictures of happy things and happy kids and happy logos, I wrote the SMART goals and presented them to staff (and to their credit, they mostly went along with them), I engineered the plan! What a backwards way to do things: it is little wonder why I had limited buy-in to the plan. It was (and still is) a static, lifeless document with justifiably little commitment from the very people that were meant to implement it."
Immediately, one might ask the obvious--aren't administrators supposed to solve problems? At first blush, this might seem to be a primary function of an administrative role. However, having attempted to do this on numerous occasions myself, I have come to the conclusion when administrators wade into a situation and 'solve the problem', there is a much greater possibility that one or all parties involved will not really buy into the solution. And having watched the process that we have gone through in developing our School Improvement Plan, I now believe that should a problem arise, administrators should try to facilitate the problem-solving process that involves the salient stakeholders.
Why don't we do this all of the time? I think the answer is simple; facilitating a problem-solving process in which the stakeholders are engaged takes time. More specifically...
- It takes time to gather the group together (and depending on the issue, this could be a large group).
- It takes a great deal of effort to create a mechanism in which the individuals are able to participate in meaningful dialogue.
- Sincerely listening to the stakeholders, coming up with common language and reference points to determine the current state of affairs, the desired state, and benchmarks to determine progress towards the ideal requires an open mind and genuine curiosity.
- Valuing where people are coming from and harmonizing this with a destination where they may be less comfortable going to takes a special set of skills.
- Smoothing over the inevitable bumps in the process involves copious amounts of patience and composure.
- Staying the course and slowing the process down when the stakeholders may wish to charge ahead takes perseverance.
- Following up to ensure that everyone is satisfied that they have been heard and taking the time to celebrate successes requires a commitment to the entire process.
Considering all of this, our admin team will continue to slow the process down to create SMART goals for our SIP. If we wish to continue to authentically engage each of our stakeholders, and this process takes more time than just jumping to a solution, it will be time well spent.
And to be honest, it's kind of nice not to have to 'solve the problem'.