Over the years I have had occasion to speak with school leaders on the large and small changes that can be made to move students in a more modern direction. One of those changes is as simple as the schedule. From my travels, I have seen a number of different approaches to school schedules but the most concerning piece is that it seems to be the least intentional part of the school structure. Sometimes the schedule is the way it is because that is the way it has always been. When I ask leaders about their schedules they are often at a loss to explain the logic. The other possibility is that there was intentionality, but with poor implementation. Neither of these situations yields a desirable outcome.
So, a few thoughts…
- Schedules serve the mission and vision of the school. Just like technology serves the learning, so does the schedule. If you are looking at your schedule and wondering why it is the way it is, most likely it is not a manifestation of the mission and vision of the school. Be intentional about your choices and make the schedule serve the learning.
- Be transparent about priorities. The school schedule can serve the priorities of the school very intentionally. You want small class sizes more than anything else, then you maximize the amount of teacher/student contact minutes. You want common planning, you bend the options in the schedule to prioritize it. You want it all… don’t we all… but your schedule probably can’t deliver it ‘all’. That is why priorities are so important. Know what your schedule says about what you are prioritizing.
- Invite all ideas. Many people in the school community are at a loss to explain how the schedule happens, how decisions are made or why they happen in the way they do. Have a frank discussion with members of the school community in order to make transparent the process and invite comment. You never know where a clever and unexpected idea might come from.
- Be willing to think creatively. I was helping my cousin restructure the schedule for her small charter program. At the peak of frustration, I suggested they let go everything they knew about the ‘hours’ and think about what they wanted to schedule to deliver each week – in terms of total minutes – and then go back to the board. This was the ticket to cracking into a more creative way to solve their scheduling issues. Stop thinking assembly line, start thinking holistic experience. How is the process you are using, dictating the ability of creativity to permeate the scheduling protocols?
I love making master schedules. They are like puzzles. I think that the organic process of understanding a school mission/vision and then looking to bend the angular nature of a schedule to a more elegant form… one that intentionally speaks to the unique needs of a school community is kind of fantastic. So, I invite you to take a look at what your schedule says or doesn’t say about your priorities and be more intentional with one of the most pervasive structures in a school community.