How many new initiatives, strategies, or programs were kicked off this year at schools? How many of these are in the educational buffet line that teachers are trying to fit on their plates? What are administrators asking teachers to pay attention to this year compared to 2012, 2011, or 2010? What has been implemented with fidelity and is being sustained? Why was something new added?
If a school added two new “things” each year for the past ten years and added two more this year, teachers would be juggling 22 plates. Unlike a restaurant buffet line where used plates are replaced with a new plate, the educational buffet line just keeps adding plates. Or, the well-meaning person in charge of the new “thing” says this new “thing” is the plate; and is the umbrella for the other 21 “things.”
What if educators applied the concept of moderation through portion control advocated by nutritionists for achieving a weight loss goal to educational practices? Proper and healthy portion control is characterized by moderation. Eating moderate portions of food in addition to activity will result in positive weight loss results. We all know this common sense approach works. Whether one acts on this advice is a personal choice; and, easier said than done. Perhaps portion control would be easier to do in education.
What if an evaluation was completed to determine how “things” are working, i.e., are students better off? As in a weight loss program, if people do not evaluate how well they are doing with portion control, they likely won’t achieve their weight loss goal. So how can educators expect to make significant change in education if they aren’t balancing their educational diet by replacing the “things” that are not effective with the things that are?
One solution for achieving balance and portion control is for teachers and administrators to keep a “stop doing” list for use in grade level/departmental meetings or building/district level meetings. The list is a way for the group to collectively determine the non-nutritional or non-value added “things” that could be removed from teachers’ plates in order to focus their time and energy on the “things” that can make more of a difference. Educators can use the district’s vision, mission, and goals to formulate criteria for evaluating what makes sense to continue and what can be discontinued.
Criteria that could be considered in the decision making process are included in the following questions. How is this “thing” helping students think at high levels? If students are asked to do this ‘thing,” will they be doing real world work? Will this “thing” keep students highly engaged in the learning? Will it challenge students’ minds and allow them to be meaningfully involved in the learning or is it simply something that the teacher likes to teach and has difficulty letting go.
Criteria that administrators might think about are included in these questions. Is what I am doing supporting instructional leadership or management tasks? How often am I delegating work that someone else can do in order to create time for removing barriers for teachers and students? What work do I hang on to because I like doing it, but it is not necessarily focused on students’ or teachers’ needs?
What if a first step for achieving portion control is to create a “Stop Doing” Google Doc list for teachers as well as for administrators, share it with other teachers and administrators, and then use the information as real time data to make common sense decisions about what to take off the plate? Followed by actually stop doing the “things” on the list that are non-nutritional and non-value added. Perhaps then, the simple concept of moderation could help schools achieve better results for students.