Well, I can’t. Not really. However, scheduling school-wide activities and taking them from an idea to a reality can seem impossible. But with a little ‘preventative communication’, accomplishing the impossible just may be possible.
Today’s story takes place at the beginning of December, 2011, when Ms. W. (my principal and ‘Upper Management’) was at a conference for a couple of days, leaving me in charge (I know, I have the picture of the Mom in The Cat and the Hat leaving for the day in my head, too) .
As those of you in middle management know, few decisions can actually be made by you. Everything has to be run by the Upper Management before you can give an answer to the Staff. But when you are put in charge for a couple of days, and you have talked and talked and talked with all your school’s stakeholders until you’re tongue-tied, look out!
On that day, my revolving door never seemed to find the ‘closed’ position, so I never really spent any time in my office. In and among the two sets of parents who came in to conference before school started, the ad hoc Girls’ Group called in response to reports of fuss on a morning bus and mediated in order to avoid Further Drama by teaching some needed skills in conflict resolution, the parents called both in response to situations and other parents called as ‘insurance’ on potential incidences, the students conferenced in the hallways, classrooms, and front office, I decided to schedule a Holiday Assembly and a Spring Talent Showcase. The Holiday Assembly would feature all sports teams, band, chorus, drama club, cheerleaders, dance team, all of it. Oh, and it would happen in 6 school days.
“Impossible!” you say.
Not my usual M.O., certainly, but quite easy, really, considering all the prep work I had already accomplished. While I hadn’t done any prep work on these two school-wide activities per se, the relationships I had worked very hard to cultivate within my building gave me the groundwork necessary to pull it all off. And all these relationships had been built by talking – by talking, listening, talking some more, and then listening a whole lot more.
Normally, I would have had a lengthy planning conversation with Upper Management, hashing out details and negotiating over content. Calendars would have been consulted, and just about every ‘what-if’ examined. But, meeting averted! I visited with the Athletic Director in between classes and received his support and an offer to plan the Assembly. Next stop was the band director and the chorus teacher. I received the band director’s support during arpeggios, and during the next passing period, the chorus teacher pledged her chorus’s performance. Check, check, and check. The teachers’ lounge was next, where I was able to talk to the entire 7th grade team at once. The sixth grade teachers could be made aware by talking to one key member whose kids were writing busily by themselves. Team eighth grade is another monster altogether. They have to be approached carefully. So I texted one, emailed another, and spoke to a third, all within the next ten minutes. Everyone on board. Big check.
Scheduling the Talent Showcase was in response to repeated student requests from a determined lot. But I had already spoken to many of the key players in a ‘potential’ talent night, so it wasn’t a surprise. The surprise was on the faces of the students when I called the two leaders into the office during their lunch period. What started off as expressions of fright at having been called in by the Asst. Principal turned into excitement when I officially OK’d their request for a Talent Showcase. Like I had knighted them or something. Of course, I already had the details outlined in my mind, but we brainstormed and chatted, and they came up an outline remarkably similar to mine, and a rather lengthy list of tasks they needed to accomplish by our next meeting (funny how our two lists matched!). Complete ownership and buy-in by the students. Next stop was the computer to email the staff a quick FYI email letting them know what was happening. Great responses continued to fill my inbox for the next couple of days.
All in all, it was a great day of buy-in from many people. Our Holiday Assembly went off without a hitch, was appreciated by staff, parents, and students, and will likely be a tradition. The Spring Showcase still needs to happen, but I know the students well enough, and had laid sufficient groundwork with the staff before I’d even OK’d it, that I can already tell you it will be a success.
Nothing like a little preventative communication.
P.S. The look on Upper Management’s face when I told her the news is worthy of a later post.