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The Top Three Systems for School Leaders

Last week, I presented a couple of sessions at TEPSA. Both sessions were packed, and I felt great about the content I shared. During these sessions, I must have said the word "systems" at least 100 times. It's my key to success – systems are how I think and operate.

I was surprised by how many people approached me afterward, curious about these systems. It seems the concept is either new to many in the education setting, or they hadn't heard it emphasized so much in a short span of time.

I want to explain my top 3 systems and why they are so important to me.

1. Master Calendar

I've made a video about this and spoken about it many times. To me, the Master Calendar drives almost everything. Starting with the approved district calendar and State assessment dates, it helps maximize instructional time, plan targeted professional development, schedule fundraisers, formative assessments, celebrations, meetings, pep rallies, competitions, and everything else that creates a positive school culture.

When completed, your teachers can see how many uninterrupted days they have to ensure they cover the necessary instruction before state assessments. Parents can plan vacations and childcare, the PTA can support events, and business partners can align their resources.

All of this happens because of my #1 system, the Master Calendar.

wall of monthly dry erase calendars from September to May

2. Meetings and Agendas

Most people hate meetings. However, if you knew they were going to be run efficiently, had a clear purpose, and would achieve that purpose, you'd likely see them differently. Weekly Office Staffings and Leadership Team meetings solve 90% of all communication problems and proactively correct any scheduling conflicts due to last-minute changes.

Add in a monthly faculty meeting, team leader/department chair meeting, team/grade level meeting, and a few minor meetings, and you’ve given every staff member a chance to compliment, complain, advocate, and listen. All with a few regularly scheduled, efficiently run, and productive meetings. Win/win! (You can check out our Free Resources page if you'd like to download recommended meetings and agendas.)

3. Data Analysis

I call this the 9th Wonder of the World. The deeper you dive into data, the more you see. The more you see, the better adjustments you can make. The better the adjustments, the more students learn.

Think of System #1 (Master Calendar) – if you know you're giving a formative assessment (unit exam, end of 9-weeks exam, district benchmarks, state interim, etc.), these will be on the Master Calendar. Then, you can decide on the dates to analyze the data, discuss it, and provide time for teachers to make necessary instructional adjustments. That’s what I mean by data analysis.

Advantages of These Three Systems

If you want to proactively solve 90% of your communication problems, have people look forward to meetings, and design a better plan to ensure students learn, these three systems might benefit you.

Want to learn more about the power of using these systems? Check out any of these self-paced courses I've created in partnership with Responsive Learning: Designing a Powerful School Year, Systems Management for Educational Leaders, When Everything Needs to be Fixed, Communication and Culture, Systems Based Thinking for Assistant Principals.

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