January signifies the mid-year point of the school year and a time to review the goals that we set last August for our school and ourselves. Not only is this time of year good for teaching kids, but a great time to get caught up on our observations. I bet that most of you went into school over the winter break to prepare for the New Year, if not at least to clean your office. Would you like to never have to clean your office again over breaks? Be finished with formal observations by February? Have more time for yourself and your family? Read on!
Five years ago I attended training by Malachi Pancoast, otherwise known as the Breakthrough Coach! It energized my principalship and changed my life. The tenets are simple. Coach from the field! Spend more time in classrooms and your students will behave better and your teachers will teach better. The training involves your secretary who becomes your master scheduler and is the only one allowed to touch paper! The first thing you do is clean your office and create a conference center look. The premise being that a good portion of our time is spent meeting with people and we save time by not dealing with office paperwork and clutter.
The week is divided into coaching days and office days. On coaching days, you are not allowed in your office, except for emergencies. You are out and about, either observing in classrooms or being present throughout the school. On office days, you do your assigned paper work, meet with people and Malachi says, you close your door! I never mastered that one! You meet each morning with your secretary to sign any paperwork, receive assignments, go over daily and weekly schedules and schedule what to do and where to be! The attempt is to cluster work time and not chip away at the day’s schedule, as so many people and other outside influences tend to do.
One of the main outcomes is to reduce workload at home and maximize work time at school. Some of the strategies are controversial with staff. Your time is suddenly scheduled and you are not available for pop in meetings. Because you are out and about, you can have quick conversations with faculty and staff and minimize the need for major sit down meetings. Never again will you spend your time over the holiday break cleaning your office nor before you leave for the summer. No files, binders, nor paper is allowed to cross the threshold of your office unless it is in your secretary’s folder! He or she deletes your unnecessary email, opens your mail, filters periodicals, journals, and books and tells you what to do and work on. Formal observations are done by February.
It sounds radical, but it works. Malachi has studied the work of the principalship and created a method that organizes the workload of the principal allowing for more opportunities to be present in classrooms and to do more required paperwork at school instead of at home.
Here is one of the facts that drove me to think carefully about what I was striving for and doing five years ago. I can’t quote the research, Malachi doesn’t allow you to take notes during his seminar, but from memory this is what I remember. The stress from administrative work and particularly the principalship is daunting (I don’t need to tell you that), as a principal leader if you retire at age 55, you have a 30-year average life expectancy. If you retire at 60, you have a 15-year average life expectancy, and if you retire at age 65, about an 18-month life expectancy average. Read, we are literally working ourselves to death. If you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution, this might be the most important one to make of your career! If you are interested, check out the link here Breakthrough Coach or contact me for a personal recommendation!