An observation at a restaurant last night reinforced a challenge schools are experiencing that’s become increasingly prominent in the past few weeks in the field. While waiting for a take-out order, a bus boy was readying the buffet service table for the evening’s crowd.  He loaded the plate server with a fresh stack of clean china and stooped down to grab the electric plug from the floor where he felt around for the extension cord and made the connection. He then stood and placed his outstretched palm  (yes, the same one that groped around the floor) on the top plate to push them down into the warming well. He walked away pleased that all was in readiness for the night’s service.  I suspect that no patron partaking of the wonderful buffet would be suspicious of that top plate.

But it brought home a challenge that many of our schools are facing and one described so well by Mike Schmocker in his latest book Focus – the competition of competing tasks associated with school improvement.  My thoughts – We’re so good at adding initiatives and keeping all of the balls in the air, doing an excellent job in each separate endeavor but, without being good at stepping back to see how they all work together. How do we keep the plates clean while at the same time getting all of the cords plugged in? Mike’s urging – Focus on just a few important elements (and he highlights what these should be).

Here’s a tip – this is one of the primary roles for administrators both district and building – you must create and provide a coherent plan with explicit road maps for connecting various initiatives – from the state’s new 21st Century Learning plan,  to meeting the state’s school improvement documentation requirements,  to implementing instruction in cross-cutting, core learning standards. Are all initiatives serving the ultimate goal of improving student learning for all or just innovations that seemed promising?  But not connected? Not prioritized?