The Value of Administrator Presence: My #LentChallenge2016

I can’t give up meetings completely, but I also noticed within my tenure as an administrator that I spend less and less time on campuses.
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Zac Chase from U.S.D.o.E pays a visit to our classrooms

Meetings have become part of the necessary evil woven within the fabric of business and education. Some meetings are fruitful, others are a complete time-suck. Many books have been written about how to get the most “meeting” out of your meeting. Having norms, creating agendas, sharing ideas, these are all important parts of making a meeting more productive, but do we ever think about what we could be doing instead of being in that meeting? I’ve started to look into the book Boring Meetings Suck and will try to use some of the ideas within that book to get more out of the meetings I attend. However, that still doesn’t help with the question, should we be doing something else as administrators rather than being in a meeting?

The last couple of years I’ve tried to “give up” something for Lent. Two years ago it was email in my #NoEmail4Lent challenge (that lasted 19 days). Last year I tried to give up search engines. That lasted for 2 days. My first inclination this year was to give up meetings for Lent. While that would be drastic and interesting, I don’t think it actually provides much challenge for me to just not go to a meeting. Also, with some major decisions around devices in our schools, summer professional learning, plus general team-building, I think it would hurt myself and future plans if I just didn’t show up.

So I can’t give up meetings completely, but I also noticed within my tenure as an administrator that I spend less and less time on campuses. It’s true that the old adage of the longer you have been removed from a classroom, the less connected you become. I know it’s an issue when I walk onto a campus and I hear phrases like, “Wow! What brings you here?” or “I haven’t seen you in forever.” These are both statements meant to make me feel missed, but I also hear the subliminal message being conveyed….I am not present on their campuses enough. To make this better I’ve tried tricks like being a Student for a day, subbing for a teacher, and this year giving each Ed Tech a free day off on their birthday while I sub for them.

But it’s still not enough.

When I am on a campus I feel refreshed and re-energized. Sure, I’ll also discover technical problems or falsely assumed intentions that tend to float around when someone isn’t there, but I also feel more a part of the learning community.

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Thank you letters from 1st graders after I spent a day teaching science

So I have two problems here:

  1. I spend a lot of time in meetings
  2. I don’t spend enough time on campuses

And a single solution to help with both scenarios. For the next 40 days, for every minute I spend in a meeting, I will spend an equal amount on a campus. This means I’ll be working remotely more often (this is when it helps to be paperless), but also that I will be physically present on each of our 9 campuses much more than in the past. Being a bit of a data guy, I’ve been tracking my time on campuses and in meetings nightly since the beginning of this semester. Here’s what I found out:

Out of 225 hours working, I have spent 26.4% (59.25 hours) of it in meetings. I have spent 8.9% (20 hours) on a campus.

The Challenge

Starting tomorrow, my goal every week will be to balance that equation. Many of my meetings are pre-scheduled (approximately 8-10 hours a week) so that means that I’ll need to make sure I’m not just waiting until Friday to go hang out on a couple of campuses. To make this work, every time that I schedule a meeting, I’m going to schedule the same amount of time on a campus.

Goals

What do I hope to gain from this experiment?

  1. Be more connected with staff on campuses.
  2. Work more with our amazing students.
  3. Share stories from campuses to the meetings I attend.
  4. Be more cognizant of my time spent away from campuses.
  5. Be more productive during my meeting time.

I’m excited to begin this challenge and I’m hoping that by doing this other administrators around the country will also reflect on the value of their presence on campus. I also hope that a part of this will stick with me going forward even after Easter Sunday and I’ll continue to be more proactive about being on campuses for the rest of my time as an administrator.

cross posted at http://hookedoninnovation.com

Carl Hooker is the director of innovation & digital learning at Eanes ISD in Texas. He serves as an advisor to the School CIO member community, a group of top tier IT professionals in schools across the country who understand and benefit from news and information not available elsewhere. Read more at Hooked on Innovation.

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