I get to travel a lot and visit a whole bunch of schools in a year’s time and what I know to be true is this: successful schools do the same things over and over again. I also know that less-than-successful schools do the same things over and over again.

Successful schools do the right things repeatedly and unsuccessful schools do the wrong things repeatedly. (And by wrong, I mean the things that don’t get results for kids!)

One of the hallmarks of successful schools (and inversely for unsuccessful schools) is the time they spend preparing for next year AND how they spend that time. You know, even with the most transient student population, most of your students will come back next year which means that you ALREADY KNOW what you’ve got on your plate in 2014-2015. It’s really no mystery.

As I’ve collaborated with successful schools, they take the time to thoroughly discuss with last year’s teacher what this year’s kids are all about. They don’t waste their collaboration time lamenting how awful the kids are, how ill-behaved they can be or how ridiculously unsupportive the parents are. Why? Because spending time talking about those things only sheds negative light on THEM. I mean, after all, if I have a horribly behaved class, that is MY problem, not the kids’ problem.

(Please don’t email me with, “You don’t know my kids” or “You must not have been a classroom teacher” – I do know poorly behaved kids and I have taught them in an actual school. I know that a highly professional teacher with great management skills nips that in the bud within the first 2 weeks of school. I’ve seen teachers manage the heck out of kids and make it a great year, despite the students’ past performances!)

My mission in my education life is to help you make every year the best year you’ve ever had. It starts with making up your mind that the 2014-2015 school year is going to be AWESOME! Here’s the thing: you don’t have to know one thing about your incoming kids or their parents or their attendance rate or anything in order to know that the school is going to be awesome!

So now that we’ve got THAT settled 🙂 let’s get to those three questions that you need to know about your incoming class:

  1. How much did they grow from Fall to Winter and Winter to Spring last year in Reading on benchmark assessments?
  2. What special instruction, interventions, programs did they get and what materials were used?
  3. What was the most effective instructional technique, intervention, material, resource for the student last year and how do you know it was effective?

See, what these questions do is focus our attention on the TEACHING. That’s really all we have control over anyway! These questions also focus on the data, not just my feelings about the student. When I can focus on what I have control over (the data and the instruction), then I’ve already set myself up for success for next year by gathering data on what is in my control. I can start the next 2014-2015 school year by planning my instruction…I don’t even need the kids to show up first to get a jump on that!