Friday, June 15, 2012

5 Time-Saving Tips to Focus More on Learning

The most valuable resource any organization has is time, and all leaders recognize that. Highly effective leaders go a step further and make specific plans to use all members of the team to decide how the campus will best use time so that the organization is efficient, effective and ultimately successful. Here are 5 ways that leaders can guide their PLC to create more time to focus on learning.

1. As a Team, Reflect on Last Year's Campus Calendar - Many organizations fail to look back at last year's calendar to see what worked and what didn't work. The team should evaluate every event and gauge its value and necessity for meeting the campus' mission and vision. Teams should identify events/activities that stole valuable time from instruction and make changes as necessary. Moving events around or allocating the specific amount of time for events will create more time for instruction. Including everyone ensures success in improving time management.

2. Collaboratively Make your Yearly Calendar Now! - Now that you have evaluated your calendar, have your team list every event, assessment, celebration, parent event and activity and place it on the calendar. Look at your instructional pacing guides and ensure that events do not take away from instruction. Hang post-it chart paper in the meeting room and list each month and day. The team should collaboratively schedule every event for the entire year. Make sure that the team uses last year's calendar as a guide and schedules events in a way that minimizes loss of instruction.

3. Publish your Calendar Now! Post your calendar on the website ASAP so teachers can reference the calendar when they are planning for next year. If your staff knows what events are happening and how much time the events take, they have a head start in planning their instruction more efficiently.

4. Norm your Meeting Time - Set days and times for meetings. This will help staff members prioritize their time for planning and organize their week. On our campus, PLCs plan together on Mondays and/or Tuesdays. Wednesdays and/or Thursdays are reserved for special program meetings and intervention meetings on individual kids as needed. This weekly structure ensures that PLC planning time does not conflict with important meetings on individual kids. Each month, Leadership Team meetings are designated on the 1st Tuesday of the month, and Vertical Alignment Meetings are on the 2nd Monday of the month. By scheduling our priorities at regularly scheduled intervals, instructional alignment and academic effectiveness are maximized.

5. PLCs Norm their Time to Protect It. - Within our campus meeting structure, PLCs must have the autonomy to structure their planning and instructional time in ways that will help them reach their team's goals. Teams norm time for planning, instruction and intervention so that the work gets done with focus as well as minimal interruptions. These norms come with the understanding that flexibility must be allowed because learning requires flexible time. The schedule is published for all to see and protected so teachers can focus on preparing and delivering instruction efficiently and effectively.

As leaders, the most important thing we can do is bring people together for a common purpose. Our common purpose is 'Learning for All'. In order to guarantee that all learn, we must structure our time in a way that is proactive. We must go further by scheduling our time with laser like precision to ensure that all teachers and students are guaranteed the necessary time to make 'Learning for All' a reality and not a dream.

Leaders who fail to create detailed and effective systems fail to protect campus time which is the most valuable resource. Instead of spending their time focusing on learning, they will end up wasting their time wondering why they don't have enough time to help students learn.

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