Next school year will be my fifth at my current school. The school is a PS to 12th grade private independent school in Northern Virginia. I serve as its Head of Middle School (grades 6 - 8).
During my tenure, two of the more challenging issues on which I have worked to adjust are creating a daily schedule that supports a commitment to project based/active learning and establishing a team of teachers who are working solely in the middle school division. Each year we have made some adjustment to the middle school schedule and teaching assignments to move closer to making each a reality.
For next year, we are once again making an adjustment to the middle school schedule. Without going into the minutiae, the new plan calls for a predictable rotation of longer blocks (to allow for more project based learning) and a core subject (English, History, Math, Science) teaching staff that teaches only middle school classes. While there are still a few kinks to work out, the faculty response to the new ideas has been quite positive.
Quite, not completely.
I say, "quite" NOT because there are those who are against the idea. As a matter of fact, nobody has voiced complete (or even average) opposition to the plan. I say, "quite" because in one of my many conversations about the plan, one person said, "Isn't there any concern that changing the schedule every year sends the signal that we don't know what we are doing?"
I found that point of view interesting. For one, I don't see change as a sign of ignorance. After all, I work in education - which is supposed to be about changing lives and making a difference. I also believe that making a change because it supports a way of doing things better outweighs keeping the status quo because it is comfortable. After all, each year Apple has a big reveal on a new iPhone or iPad. They make the changes because, I have to assume, they are constantly working to improve the product, attract new customers, and better serve current ones (oh, and of course, make more money).
We live in a world that is becoming less and less interested in doing things the same way - for the sake of doing them the same way. The world is shifting towards the expectation that organizations adjust their operations to better serve their customers, especially when the adjustment can be made swiftly and without compromising its mission.
In making yearly adjustments to our schedule, we have demonstrated our commitment to always seeking a better way to serve our students. The fact that we have been able to do so without spending more, hiring more, or sacrificing our mission is a testament to the outstanding people who join me each day to serve our community.
Do we set out each year to change the schedule? No, we do not. On the other hand, we are also not afraid to move forward with good ideas when we have them.
So, another schedule change? Yes! Not because we can, but because we can do it better.
1. The person who offered the suggestion that a change may signal a lack of understanding qualified her statement before hand as "playing devil's advocate." She was not expressing her personal opinions.
2. To read more about whether organizations should do more because they can or because they can do it better, read this post by Seth Godin, The essential question to ask before extending your brand.