Tuesday, March 10, 2020

March Madness!!

By Vicki Bechard, LFKS Secretary

March Madness is upon us!  We have been playing the “game” of school improvement all year and those spring OVT (accreditation) visits are about to start.  It’s crunch time!  We want our results to lead to April Achievement and May Magic.   Can we feel the excitement in our halls, our classrooms, our meetings?   Is our team focused on the desired outcomes?  Have we accomplished all that we set out to do?  What do our stats (data) say?  Has our preparation put us in a place of strength as we enter these critical “contests” or face the challenges before us?  Does each player know his/her role?  Does our team (staff) believe we can succeed?  As we assess the competition for now and in the future, what will our team and our game plan look like as we take the court?

School leaders can learn from the NCAA version of March Madness.  While local newspapers may want area schools to compete against each other for “best scores, highest seeded schools, etc.,” the real challenge is competing within our own system to improve from year to year.  Just as college coaches and teams do each season, we start long before March to ensure we are prepared.  We create long range plans that include performance goals and actions which are based on the review of data, ongoing needs assessments from the previous year(s), input from people invested in the team’s performance, understanding of best practices, and a vision of where the team wants to go.  The coaches (building leaders) put the plan into action by ensuring the team is built on trust, has the best personnel in the right positions, understands the necessary knowledge and skills, and is provided ample practice time and support so that the selected strategies can be effectively implemented.  When each player believes in his/her own ability to make a difference and step up when the game is on the line; when the team has bonded, is working toward a common goal, and has learned to trust each other, then the efficacy of one becomes the collective efficacy of the team and everyone wins! 

Upper management (central office) and other invested groups (BOE, Stakeholders) have roles in the success of the team through their financial support to ensure the best resources and personnel are in place, to provide the best learning experiences for the players and coaches, and to be willing to work side by side with the team through the learning and implementation processes.  Maybe just as important are their roles as encouragers and supporters.  Cheering in the stands is a great motivator!

As the team huddles for the last time before the big game, we expect that the game plan is understood by all coaches and players, but we also expect that they realize adjustments must be made along the way.  When individual players can see what needs to happen and have the ability and permission to make those adjustments, the team can be even more successful!   When coaches micromanage and have to call every play, or are overly critical of mistakes that are bound to happen, the confidence and efficacy of their team diminishes.  When change is warranted and coaches or players fail to make adjustments, progress stalls, and the win (improvement) may slip away.  All of this requires continuous reflection and study on what works, what didn’t and what we will do about it. 

The culmination of our “season” begins with March Madness and ends with May Magic!  How is your leadership supporting the challenge of goal achievement?  How is your team competing as the action plan unfolds?  Will the kids be the winners as we “play the game” of school improvement?  Ultimately we are looking to do what works best.  As spring turns into summer, what will we do in the off season to make next year even better?  Team members come and go, and leadership turns over, but the quest to field the best team possible and be competitive in March Madness and beyond is always before us.  And because it’s school and not just one game, we can’t be satisfied with “One Shining Moment,” but we can and should celebrate this journey of many shining moments over time!