Summer Planning for School Leaders

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It’s already summertime! Managing planning can get chaotic. Amanda Richards, reporter for Possip, explains what you can do as a school leader to meet your summer planning needs! 

I got this question a lot from friends outside of education, “What do principals do during the summer?” The answer to that question is difficult to give a quick response to because of all that school leaders do. However, it just might be the reason a school has a successful school year. There is no right or wrong way to nail summer planning, but it is necessary to have a strong plan of action prepared. We wanted to share a few key topics and questions to think through as you’re preparing for summer planning.

Time Management Tips

Master To-Do List 

Sit down, either with your leadership team or individually, and create a Master To-Do list. I used a shared OneNote document where there are boxes to “check-off” as you’ve done things and can be shared amongst the team. Amy Kate, another former school leader on the Possip team, used a spreadsheet excel document that had descriptions of the tasks, team member assignments, and a “status check” space. Whatever tool you like to use, make sure it is user-friendly and can be shared. If you prefer physical paper, here is a resource that provides various free to-do list templates!

Delegate & Divide Work

One school leader can’t do it all, so part of time management is delegating and trusting your team to do the work, too. Using that master to-do list, you can assign tasks and have weekly check-ins to discuss status and progress towards completion. In those meetings, use some time to look forward and set goals for what they will complete this week and what is coming next week. That will help with transparency, accountability, and goal setting for completing these summer tasks. Each leadership team member is probably different in terms of support and management style, but having a consistent touchpoint with each member will help the planning process.

Plan for Planning (& Learning) Time

If you’re like me, I like to fill my calendar and tend to “overfill” at times. However, setting protected time to plan and have uninterrupted work is crucial to success. Put large work chunks on your calendar or even have two days a week with no meetings that are devoted to your own thinking and working time. 

Similarly, getting to-dos done is important, but summer can also be a great time for learning and big picture strategy. Having a weekly or biweekly book study with your leadership team may be a great use of time.  As a team, you could choose a book that aligned with areas your school wants to focus on or improve based on the previous year.  Those spaces for learning new things and thinking through a vision for change can be a great use of planning time.

Focus on Feedback

Being intentional about receiving feedback proactively and as you progress through summer planning is strong leverage for school improvement and transformation. Here are some ways to get feedback from important stakeholders to build trust and gain investment.

Parent/Family, Teacher, and Student Focus Groups

One of the most important things I did as a principal was invite parents and family members into my office during the summer for small focus groups to learn more about their feedback and what they saw as growth areas. I received helpful and actionable feedback during those meetings. It was a great way to build relationships and trust with families. Not only did this help with families, but also doing similar things with teachers is a game-changer. Invite teachers who are willing to volunteer to come in during the summer at different points to see drafts of policies, plans, or changes for next school year. This helps to get additional sets of eyes on documents and plans. It also improves investment and helps teachers have a voice in planning. This helps leaders understand what pushback or critical feedback they could potentially receive before rolling it out to all staff. 

Collaborative Planning Meetings

Some tasks during summer planning are done best with a team, where additional minds can share ideas and important feedback can be given. Many of these topics were things the leadership team had already received feedback on from the past year (our last whole-staff PD was always a full feedback session on every part of our strategic plan). Independent work time is needed and precious during summer planning, but team work-time can create innovative, unique solutions and plans.

Breathe & Rest

It’s an understatement to say these past few years have been difficult as a school leader. The summer should also be a time for school leaders to rest and take an extended break. You will be a better leader for your school if you are the best version of yourself. Take time to do those things that make you happy and healthy. For me, I always felt restored when I took time away during the summer and rested. Whatever resting and refilling your cup means to you, do that. It will be a benefit to your school’s summer planning in big ways.