This guest post comes from Bill Carozza, principal of Harold Martin School. You can find more insights on his blog Principal Reflections.
Summer is a bonus for school administrators. We are given the gift of time to accomplish tasks that simply cannot be completed during the school year commotion.
But with adrenaline flowing out of our bodies by the end of June, we have to be careful to make the most of our more flexible time. Here are 10 tips to best use the summer months:
I encourage teachers to find time after a lesson or when the day is done to take 15 minutes and reflect. What worked in my lessons and what would I change? Sadly, I rarely find time myself to meditate on the value of what I accomplished during a day, but I can use the summer to reflect. As one way to reflect, I would encourage you to develop a blog for the first time. I have some hints for you on finding time to blog, 5 ways to increase hits on your blog posts, and 5 reasons educators should blog.
2. Become Paperless
I went nearly 100% digital a few years ago and this was an organizational game changer. To have every document I need at my fingertips via Evernote on the web, laptop, tablet, and smartphone, is not only peace of mind but pushes me into a higher level of productivity. I have scores of examples just in the last week…just yesterday, the Fire Chief was in to do the annual inspection. The Department recently moved their offices and he could not find last year’s inspection document. It took me less than a minute to call up the doc and print it out. Here are some of my previous thoughts on going paperless.
How many professional books, magazines, or digital books do you have stacked on your nightstand waiting to be consumed? Once the day is done at 5 PM, assuming you do not have a night meeting, how many of us (after checking email and planning for the following day) have time to read? But, we do have time in the summer if we can remain disciplined. We need to read in order to reflect. We have to feed our intellect as change will not happen in our schools unless we add substance to our own vision. We can’t possibly grow the vision of our schools without formulating the vision first in our own spirit. As food nourishes our body, the printed word nurtures our understanding. It’s a year old, but this is an example of my professional reading from last year.
Given the hectic nature of our jobs, it is critical that we develop a work flow for efficiency. Summer is the best time to develop good productivity habits. The best known productivity expert at the moment is David Allen, the creator of Getting Things Done (GTD). The philosophy is supported by strong task management tasks such as Omnifocus, Remember the Milk, or Evernote. In fact, you can check out my workshop resources on Evernote, here.
5. Review of Data
Summer is the time to review a year’s worth of academic data. Perhaps even more crucial is developing a solid system on how to collect and warehouse the data you collect so that it can be easily accessed by teachers and data teams. We developed a tool using Google Docs we call the Kid Grid which allows us to share data on all students with just the right educators. Our PLC leaders can add and sort data easily with this method.
6. Meet with Staff
As part of our teacher’s CBA in my district, teachers are required to spend a day in the summer planning their professional learning for the upcoming school year as well as meet with their Principal. This is the perfect time to talk informally about the year to come as well as reflect on the year past.
7. Inspect Your School for Safety
There are certain late afternoon days in the summer when I’ll wander the building alone and view things I won’t normally notice in the heat of the school year. Yesterday I wanted to ensure that all of our downstairs windows had pull down shades for safety purposes in a lockdown. I’ll look for egress issues around doors and of course, I’ll check the playground equipment for obvious problems. It was a summer day years ago that I decided to plan a few minutes a day during the school year to walk the perimeter of the building, ensuring that each door is locked and observe anything out of place.
8. Hone Your Communications System
Is anything more important for success than how effectively we communicate with our staff and the community? Summer is the time to adjust the web site, your parent email list procedure, and your regular communication with the staff. It was in the summertime years ago when I developed the Sunday Blast, a weekly blog post to my staff.
9. Reconnect with Your Administrative Colleagues
While your teacher colleagues are in and out of your building, your fellow district administrators share your summer schedule. Reach out to have lunch with them and discuss the issues you didn’t have time to chat about during the school year.
Vacation doesn’t just mean working from home or even taking day trips. If at all possible, clearing the mind might mean getting away from anyone who knows you outside of your family. It is also crucial to reconnect with the family that supports your crazy schedule for 9-10 months during the year.
I’m sure you can add to this list. Any other summer tips?