As an educator, late July has always been an exciting time of the year. This is the “educational pre-season” and very soon schools across the country will kick off their own version of training camp for staff. Optimism and idealism are at their peak during this phase of the year as goals are aligned, structures are implemented, and the academic year is set in motion. No matter how positive or organized the start of a school year might be, the inevitable challenges of the year can slow momentum and distract us from our goals or action steps. Given the investment of resources during training camp, that’s a problem worth exploring.
How can we maximize our return on investment? Is it possible to maintain a mindset that embodies the spirit of training camp throughout an academic year? The optimist in me says yes, but not without some intentional planning.
Reading the Playbook
What is so special about training camp? For starters, it is grounded in the fundamentals. This is a time when we revisit core values, mission, vision, action steps, and establish collective commitments. Perhaps at no other time of the year is a staff so attuned to a shared understanding of mission and practice. We should never assume that an annual review of the fundamentals is sufficient. Recommendation #1 – Monitor the fidelity of practice and revisit the fundamentals every 45 days.
Running New Routes
Another facet of training camp making it a valuable experience is the time allotted to take risks, to innovate, and collaborate around a problem of practice. These practices should not be restricted to the pre-season. If we fail to structure the year and prioritize time for authentic collaboration and problem-solving, it may never occur. Recommendation #2 – Schedule time in advance for collaboration and problem solving.
Training camp is social in nature and requires a high degree of focused collaboration and team building. Incredible friendships and partnerships can be forged through these networking experiences that improve instructional practice. The pace of the school year should never be allowed to crowd out the time to engage at a deep level with our colleagues. Continuous improvement requires trusting relationships and honest dialogue. Recommendation #3 – Seek out a professional learning network and commit to regular meetings.
Rest & Recovery
Training camp typically occurs under conditions where staff is well-rested and receptive to learning. It’s understandable that those conditions will change throughout the school year. To stay fresh and bring our best every day it’s essential to prioritize self-care and seek to maintain a proper work-life balance. Recommendation #4 – Apply proper self-care to work from a state of rest.
So there you have it, four suggestions to keep the spirit of training camp alive throughout the year. If educators consistently apply these practices, chances are good the benefits of the camp experience can influence instructional practice and school climate well into the new year.