Saturday, August 6, 2016

THINK BEYOND - Goals for the new school year

August is such a time for renewal for educators and students! Students move on to the next grade, excited about new experiences, opportunities, and content. Educators anticipate the new group of students they will get to teach about their subject matter and so much more! 

Most educators I know reflect on their previous year(s) and set goals for the new school year, and today I want to share mine because 
          1) I'm super excited about the new year, 
          2) as part of my accountability, and 
          3) we're better together. 

What do I mean by #3? My goals may inspire you just as many of you inspire me daily. Also, once you know what my goals are, you may be able to provide support during the school year, just as I want to do for others. Also, there may be goals that we can work on together. (Feel free to reach out to me on twitter or via my contact form!)

My last post was about some of my highlights from summer. As I look back on the summer break, I realized that even the things that didn't relate to education make me a better educator. I did sharpen my problem-solving skills, tapped into my creative side, and had FUN! I hope to take these three characteristics into the new year to make it one of the best for our staff and students.

In May, I had the privilege to travel to Phoenix, AZ where two of our students were competing in the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair. Their teacher and I traveled to AZ for a quick trip to see the awards ceremony, visit the exhibitions, and cheer on our students (who placed 3rd in their category!). 

The theme for the Intel international science fair was "Think Beyond." Those two words say so much about what I try to do as an educator and school leader, so I've chosen to use that phrase to drive my actions and goals during the new school year. 

This year, one of my goals is to think beyond our school walls and nudge, encourage, and facilitate our teachers in collaborating with other classrooms across the country and/or globe. I've reached out to another administrator already, but I will be looking for other schools and content areas where we can collaborate.

Another goal is to think beyond how we honor student voice. Our administrative team has an open-door policy and our student organizations have a heavy input in many of our functions at our school, but my goal is to find other ways to give individual students a way to be heard about their learning experiences. I truly feel like our school is a great place and has many opportunities for students with diverse interests. I hope to find a way for more students to connect in and out of classrooms and feel like they have contributed to our wonderful school. 

I also have a goal to think beyond how to support teachers as they collaborate with each other. Most of our teachers work well with each other, and they value the face-to-face time they have with each other in their Professional Learning Communities. Some teachers are so used to acting as "independent contractors" in charge of their classroom that they don't know how to work collaboratively. I am going to work to break down those barriers as much as I can.

Areas where school leaders can Think Beyond...

Think beyond discipline. Are the consequences working? Are we being consistent? Are we being proactive?

Think beyond PD. Administrators have an opportunity to model for teachers what they want to see in classrooms. Are PD sessions interactive? Are they sit-and-get? What messages are you sending to your teachers? Is there a more effective or creative way to deliver content? Do you value teachers as adult learners?

Think beyond your office. Are you making time to get into classrooms? What messages are you sending to teachers when your office work has priority over visiting their classrooms where teaching and learning is taking place?

Areas where teachers can Think Beyond...

Think beyond traditional hierarchies in the classroom. The teacher can be a facilitator of learning in a partnership with students, not just a content expert who delivers information. 

Think beyond learning as a race. Do we want students to learn content by a certain date, or want them to learn it? Period. Teachers will also have to think beyond traditional pacing guides and lesson design in order to honor this mindset.

Think beyond what has always worked. Kids are different every year, with different influences and cultures. Teachers must grow with the times and stay relevant. This includes trying new strategies and deepening their knowledge of teaching and learning.

How else can we "Think Beyond" as educators? I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below or on twitter.


  1. Good post, Jennifer. It reminded me of something Dr. Persall would say at Samford: "Imagine future possibilities."

  2. Great post Jennifer!

    I also think that Teachers can Think Beyond by going beyond the traditional hierarchies of the leadership structure in the school. Teachers can be leaders even if they don't have a title. Admin have to allow teachers to take risks, be innovative, and take on leadership opportunities when they present themselves. This is something I have been thinking about since I started teaching two years ago.