So, what did you learn in the last school year?

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As many schools, in the northern hemisphere anyway, begin to prepare for a new school year, much discussion is given to planning and setting goals to be achieved. Significant time is spent in team meetings, energised by having had a break and enthused about what we can do to make our schools better this coming school year. It is often a time where new initiatives begin; lots of school leaders have valuable professional development / learning time with their faculty. It is a time where change can begin; often things that we may have put off until there is a right time to set them in motion, which commonly coincides with the beginning of the academic year.

As a few of the blog posts on this site have pointed to, a large number of change efforts fail. While this can happen for a number of reasons, when we fail with change, such as introducing a new initiative, it is very difficult to recover from. Our colleagues do not like to have their time wasted and nor should they. False starts and one and done efforts can be the undoing of a school striving to improve. Leaders can be criticised for failed changes and a lack of confidence in them develops in the school culture.

As team meetings begin in many of our schools, we would be better off starting our discussions about what did not go so well last year and why. This type of discussion would form an important platform for any behaviour changes that may need to occur in the leadership team and trigger vital conversations about school culture, making change and getting it to stick.

We want our teachers to be reflective, look back at that last lesson and use the evidence from it to make the necessary adjustments going forward, so that student learning improves. Leaders must do the same. Time has to be given to reflection and what went well last year, celebrate it again and highlight the reasons for what made it so successful. With the goals we had that we did not achieve or those change efforts that fell over, cast a critical eye over the causes and learn from them.

Use the learning that we have from last year and those before it to ensure that the same mistakes do not happen going forward and we can achieve the improvement and success that we so desire in our schools and for our students.

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