Listening to the political discourse as of late, it seems that dread, fear, anxiety and even rage are all words that have become associated with the reopening of schools. Surely re-openings are fertile ground for potential problems – but they bring potential opportunities as well. One district in Connecticut for example, used the crisis as an opportunity to make one big “disruptive change” they feel is worth keeping – block scheduling. In a recent TregoED Community of Practice discussion with school leaders, we learned that many districts cultivated new ways to communicate with and engage parents, discovered and fostered new technology skills and techniques for teacher and student engagement, and accelerated innovation in the areas of health and safety as a result of the challenges they faced.
Nurturing a More Positive Mindset
As districts responded to the ever (and still) changing landscape of a global pandemic with new practices and capabilities unique to their community – there were many practices that district leaders would like to see continue. Focusing on “what went right” can help your staff intentionally find, promote, and capitalize on the silver linings of ‘20—’21 to nurture a more positive mindset for the coming year. And planning for the coming year by considering “what would you like to see happen?” (opportunities) makes those positive outcomes more likely!
Cultivating Potential Opportunities
So, how do you ensure that you don’t lose these opportunities and slide back into the old normal? Following these five process steps with guiding questions can help you stay focused and intentional in your quest for maximizing potential opportunities:
- Identify positive outcomes/silver linings from last year: What went better than expected? What do we want to keep doing or do even better?
- Assess the potential opportunities: What is the probability of this practice continuing and what is the positive impact?
- List likely causes: What would make this practice continue to happen?
- Determine promoting actions: What can you do to increase the likelihood that this practice will continue?
- Plan capitalizing actions: How can you maximize the benefits of this practice?
The Benefits of POA
Dr. Bobbie Downs, Director of CST/Related Services and the Educational Services Unit at Burlington County Special Services School District (NJ) shared what she has found to be benefits of using these steps:
- Finding opportunities: Including stakeholders as you look intentionally for opportunities gives you the best shot at finding all the opportunities.
- Finding the cause: Determining the likely cause of the results you are looking for helps you develop promoting actions that increase success.
- Creating a mindset shift: Looking at potential opportunities can cause a positive mind-set shift -particularly after spending time looking at all the potential problems when you are implementing something new or facing a change.
- Providing guideposts for marketing and promotional strategies: identifying positive outcomes makes gives your communication team positive news to share.
- Maximizing the benefits: Taking the time now can help you capitalize on the benefits for this upcoming year and beyond.
The pandemic has laid bare inequities and presented unprecedented challenges, but it has also accelerated innovation and creative thinking to meet those challenges. Asking the right questions can help you develop a comprehensive plan to capture and promote the best practices that have emerged.