I LOVE the scheduling process. It is a challenge and a fun puzzle that I enjoyed being a part of during my time in education. We had the old school “whiteboard” mentality when it came for building the master schedule, and then we scheduled students 1 at a time, by hand! We had a small population but we did not trust the scheduler to customize the schedule with the best interest of the school, students, AND teachers in mind.
I recently read an article by Katrina Schwartz that sparked my interest in how a school’s master schedule can foster growth and change. The power of the master schedule cannot be underestimated and it is often overlooked. I see this ALL the time in demonstrations where people quickly point the finger to those who are responsible! You know what I mean. It is similar to when someone brings up state regulatory reporting and everyone defers to the few people who deal with it on a daily basis! The master schedule is much more than a laboring, tedious project.
“The master schedule is to a school, what grading policies are to teachers and classrooms. It reveals the true beliefs, attitudes, values, and priorities of the school. The school’s master schedule is looking at an MRI of the inner workings of a school. It is the window to the soul of the school.”
“The Master Schedule: A Culture Indicator.” – NASSP
Chew on that thought for a moment. (No really, think about it for a minute or two!) The quote takes all that finger pointing that I described above and turns the finger to yourself. Yes, a few people might lay the master schedule out, but it takes all stakeholders involved to fulfill it and satisfy the main objective: giving students every opportunity to discover their love, passion for learning while providing them all the experiences they need to prepare them for their future.
3 Tips to Prepare Yourself for Scheduling Season:
- Decide what your vision as a district/building/campus is and what skills you want them to possess when they leave. This is the start and honestly, you cannot go to 2 and 3 before ironing this out. I know it is late in the year to start drastic changes, but it is not too late to take baby steps. The other positive is that now you know where you want to be in a year so you can analyze this schedule process for 2017 and really start to iron out where you want to be in 2018. Rome was not built in a day and neither will your scheduling masterpiece!
- Analyze your course catalog and consider revising their names and descriptions. It is all about the foundation and your course catalog is just that: The foundation of all learning that will occur in your school. I have talked with many districts who are in love with the idea of change, personalized learning, flipped learning, 1 to 1 technology, BYOD, etc. BUT have had issues with getting others to buy in. While reviewing your course catalog, take time to ask yourself if the course titles, descriptions, objectives match your district vision. If yes, move right on to number 3! If not, this is your chance to foster change and encourage growth! Take time to rewrite the course titles and descriptions to match your vision and encourage your teachers to provide their input. You may discover that teachers are already meeting the standard and would welcome a chance to define their own course.
- Find a product that supports your scheduling needs, goals, and objectives. This is a crucial part because if you hand schedule like me for 150 kids it takes about 2 ½ days, but if you are doing it for thousands, well, get some coffee and buck up! Finding a program that will allow you to customize how your schedule is run is crucial so that you can be sure that you can break the pedagogical model and re-define the process. (Contact SunGard K-12 to see how we can aid you in this journey)
So who is ready to embark on a journey for change at your school, district, or campus? Remember, this cannot happen overnight and that this is a project that can easily take a year or more, but why not start now!?
Get your group of advisors together, discuss your vision, analyze your course catalog, find advocates for change in your district, get your messaging straight, and find a program that fits your scheduling needs and let’s rediscover (Insert your district name here)! Good luck and best wishes!
Here is a video that highlights how Henry County School in Georgia is doing this very thing.