When it comes to school improvement, remember where we came from

There’s so much that we can improve in our schools, the trouble is where do we start?

Prioritizing the work that needs to get done in our schools is a challenge in itself, there are competing agendas depending on whose view you take – school leaders, teachers, parents and students. Even teachers, frequently, cannot reach consensus on drawing up a list of priorities.

Working in an international school for some 7 years now, each year I am reminded of what the school ‘has’ and ‘has not’ got in place, as a new group of teachers commence while others move on.

What I have learned is that we do not need to fix everything at once and there does need to be a set of priorities that not everyone will agree with. Not being able to give everyone what they want comes with the territory of being a school leader. What we can do though is to communicate the school’s progress and remember where we have come from.

Leaders need to tell stories of the growth of our schools and we need to ground ourselves to the fact that, overall, if our school is a better than the year before, we are making progress. We do need to be mindful that unless a person has lived through the school’s progress themselves, it is difficult for those newer members of our school communities to comprehend the progress made and appreciate it. This is why the story matters, it is a chance for us to lift our heads, look to the past, present and future with a bigger picture in mind.

In determining the next steps for school improvement, we should feel comfortable in refraining from tinkering with everything – what we may have now maybe just fine for the time being. Too often we stretch ourselves too thinly when it comes to making improvements and unintentional consequences may occur under the strain.

For school leaders, during those times where we may beat ourselves up, feeling responsible for everything we are not doing, let us take time to look back on the journey we have taken our schools and find solace in the progress we have made thus far and are still making.

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