The change that I had written about on my postcard (Click all the things!) is not the one that I kept trying to apply the Heath brothers’ strategy to as I was reading the last sections of their book. Instead, it has to do with a current change we are trying to implement in our school advisory system.
I one of the leaders for our school’s advisory team. It is made up of guidance counselors, grade level lead advisors, and a tech integrationist – eight of us in all. Over the past few months we have been trying shape what students’ PLPs are going to look like. One of the changes we have asked advisors to make is to do a mid year check in with their students and have students reflect on their year as part of their PLP. We asked advisors to have individual meetings with each of their advisees about the school year thus far: maybe discuss grades, talk about new directions for second semester, highlights/lowlights, etc.
The path was shaped – we modeled how a check in could go in a professional development meeting with advisors. The elephant was ready to go – authentic check ins made sense and made teachers feel like they could have genuine relationships with their students and help guide them. The rider knew where he needed to go. However, knowing the demands of being an advisor, I was skeptical that everyone would follow through in making this change.
It has been a few weeks since advisors were given this request. Because I love data, I have started checking in with advisors about how this process went. I have talked to about half of the advisors, and out of about 15 that I have checked in with, maybe two were able to make this switch. As I have been checking in with them I have asked them about the process. For the ones who didn’t, I have heard things like
- I have no time. (During this same time period all students are allowed to check in with their teachers for class related things Monday-Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are supposed to be designated advisory times…where there are additional activities planned.)
- There’s a privacy concern talking about grades of students in a non-confidential environment.
- It feels weird to have this conversation.
- And more to come…
Using the strategies outlined in Switch, here’s how I think we could approach things differently:
- Shape the Path – have teachers set a specific schedule for which students they were going to meet with that day (like setting out the gym clothes).
- Tweak the Environment – make a school wide announcement that on Thursday and Friday students had to remain in advisory (although I think a bigger change has to happen here with our entire advisory structure. Thirty minutes is not enough time to accomplish much and there is a general sense that teachers are being asked to do WAY more without removing any of the requirements.)
- Build Habits – Why should this be a once a year check in? Why not allocate advisory time to five individual students each week? That way you are constantly checking in with all of your students every 2-3 weeks or so and it would be less awkward.
- Rally the Herd – We have professional development times for advisors every few weeks – we could share the bright spots with each other and develop strategies for those who feel they are less successful.
You may be asking yourself, “Where’s the technology piece in all of this?” Well, the outcome of all of these meetings and the whole advisory process at our school is that students create a digital record of all of these reflections, evidence of growth, and transformations over the school year and house them in a Google Site. For some students, populating this site is a piece of cake, unfortunately the majority find everything abhorrently wrong with it and think it’s stupid. Our goal for advisory is to create an environment where students feel well known by an adult at the school, have a sense of self, and are able to share that with others. Creating a strong relationship with an adult is at the root of this process.