Don’t Ask Why…

This week’s leadership nudge by David Marquet talks about letting our people fail in a safe and manageable way. His short video describes the correct way to discuss, with our staff, the reasons behind the direction they are taking with their work. His focus is on avoiding the word “why”. Ask them questions about their decision but do it without using “why”, ask them to tell you about their decision. That switch in conversation is an empowering way to get your people to think about what they are doing without them feeling like you are casting judgment on that decision. Verbiage is very important and specific words can make or break a conversation.

Policy Implementation: Scheduling Committee

Blog #2

Reflect on a situation that you encountered at work that was related to policy or law.  Without mentioning specifics (confidentiality!) explain what you have learned in this class that was helpful to you in dealing with it. 

Scheduling Committee

Finding the perfect schedule

School schedules are always a hot button issue on school agendas. Schedules are complicated and finding the “right one” is nearly impossible. As with all schools, we are constantly reevaluating the flow of our day and our scheduling of time. Where can we get a few more minutes for content? What are non-essential bits of scheduled time that we can pull from for more Assembly time? How can we give the students a few more minutes for lunch so that they have time to eat?

These questions are at the heart of the problem. There is just not enough time in the day to accomplish what we feel is necessary for a balance of content and teacher time as well as student recovery and collaboration time. There is always a pull, in every direction, for these precious few minutes.

I am sitting on the Middle School/Upper School Scheduling Committee this year as we try to coordinate the two schedules. The Middle School and the Upper School share facilities and teachers, especially within the arts, and because of this, our schedules have to coincide without over-lapping. This is never an easy discussion however, because each school feels that what they are doing in terms of scheduling is best for their own students and it is hard to come to a consensus with two different driving issues. What both schools ultimately want, however, is what is the most efficient and balanced scheduled that we can provide to allow our students to growth and be successful. time

One of the solutions posed to this committee was to modify our current schedule, a 6-period schedule on an 8-day rotation, to an 8-period schedule on an 8-day rotation. This modification would allow for students to have a determined study hall each day to alleviate some of the work that takes place in the evenings, after sports practices.

The perceived issue with this new policy implementation is that if administration does not require this extra period as “free time” for 11th/12th graders and Study Hall for 9th/10th graders, this could lead to the unintended consequence of early graduation of some of our highest achieving students. If a 9th grader enters the Upper School and fills his/her schedule with core content classes each semester, by the time he/she has reached their senior year, they would have had the opportunity to take 3 additional core or 6 additional electives by the end of their Junior year. Couple that with classes offered in the summer and we will have kids eligible to graduate by the end of their Junior year.

My classwork, through VCU, has allowed me to take myself out of the actual moment and look forward to see what the unintended consequences of policy implementation are. I know this because I was the one that caught this unintended consequence. This is monumental for me because the old Shayna would be so caught up in the moment and the discussion that I would forget to look further and see where we were going. My classes through VCU have given me a completely new lens to look through. Whereas I used to get so heated and bothered by these meetings because I couldn’t understand why others were not able to see why their ideas were bad (I know, I know, I see my fatal flaw here). Now, I am able to un-biasedly listen to other viewpoints, reflect on those in a neutral way, and then add my own opinions in an unclouded and clear manner.

To this end, one of my colleagues even came to talk to me after school this week to tell me how much growth she has seen in me after just one year of this program. She reflected on what I just mentioned, that I am more measured and don’t let my emotions interfere with my opinions anymore. She said that she has noticed this most readily in our department meetings and in faculty meetings. This conversation meant a lot to me because this is exactly what I have been working on so diligently. I think it is important to let it be known that I am not a contentious or antagonistic person, but when I feel that people are not doing what is best in the interest of our students, it used to drive me crazy. Now, I can look at these same situations and recognize that my colleagues (usually) do have the best interest of the students at heart, even if it doesn’t always come out in that way in a meeting situation.

In short, this program has been invaluable for me in my growth as a professional and others are already recognizing this too.