Organizing and improving all of the goals, events, reflections, feedback, ideas, touch points, and priorities that occur in the life of a school from year to year is like drinking from a fire hose. I am constantly seeking out new ways to be more effective and efficient at managing and leading. This Spring I had a breakthrough.
In the summer of 2005, I took a week long course at Oglethorpe University through the College Board for certification to teach AP World History. The instructor was Larry Treadwell. I will never forget him. In one week, my approach to teaching was reshaped. It was a defining moment in my career as an educator.
Mr. Treadwell unchained me from the textbook and empowered me to rely primarily on primary sources. “A document a day makes the DQB okay.” He gave me permission to have ridiculously high standards for my students. I took an entire legal pad worth of notes. I retyped them the next week and shared them with my teammate Elliott Rountree (a master AP teacher, Academic Team coach, entrepreneur (ACE Quiz Bowl Camps), and Jeopardy contestant.
There were countless ideas and strategies that I experimented with and adopted that year (my first year as an AP teacher will make for a good future post – it was a year of tremendous professional and personal growth). And then there was one simple idea: George.
Mr. Treadwell suggested that we get an empty box and label it George. As we created new material and handed out copies (this was pre-Google Docs/paperless classrooms), we were to give a handout to George, too. Thus, at the end of the semester, we would have a copy of our entire work in order, in one place. Simple and genius.
I followed Mr. Treadwell’s instructions and was pleased at the end of the semester to have all of my work for the course in one mostly organized pile. I was then able to develop it, improve it, add to it, delete from it, etc.
This Spring, I adapted and welcomed George to the 21st century. He is now a Google Doc named Gandalf. He is not longer a student in my AP World History classroom who receives handouts. He is now a member of my leadership team who serves as a calendar, curator, and administrative assistant for the rest of our team. Gandalf solves problems.
Interested in having your own Gandalf? Here’s what you do…
1. Create a blank Google Doc and paste all key dates for 2013-2014
2. Go through your endless list of Google Docs (if you’re like me, you receive 2-3 new ones each day from creative team members)
3. Link every single Google Doc to a specific date on the calendar. (ie – Orientation, 1st Pep Rally, Faculty Meetings, etc.)
4. Share the document with your leadership team. Ask them to add their documents by linking them to specific dates.
5. Sit down and review/revise the document with your team to make sure all is included and accurate.
6. As new documents arrive, you must link them into Gandalf or delete them. No stray documents.
Presto! You have just organized your entire upcoming school year in a collaborative way.
* It is a living, organic document whose maintenance is never complete.