A Sandbox Kind of Day

It was an early start, as my admin partner and I dove into timetabling.  A challenging task for a school with 34 current classes and the knowledge that we’ll undoubtedly be reorganizing in the fall as welcome new families ~ not to mention the significant unknowns of what “re-entry” to schools in a time of COVID-19 will look like by the time September rolls around.  We know that we will be revamping these timetables even before the first day of school of September.  But at least we have a bit of roadmap and the conversation about how best to support our students is always a welcomed one, as we worked our way through the task.

I’ve always loved the challenge of timetabling as it is the first step in creating positive learning environments for our students.  We take into consideration common planning time, traffic patterns to maximize student interaction and minimize educator travel time and the best times of the day for learners to be active, to name but a few.  We know that we need to stay within the “sandbox” of contractual number of minutes of preparation for educators, but the rest of the job can be completed with an innovative lens to making the minutes match the desired outcome.

Partway through the morning, we took a break as the site manager for portables met me at the school to look at where our 4 new portables were going to be installed and to discuss moving our current long jump pit (commonly known as our sandbox, based on the raised sides and common gathering place for our youngest students) in order to make space for one of the new portables.   I had invited a few staff members, our Phys. Ed specialty teachers, to join us for the conversation.  After all, they are the experts on this. It is their voice that matters.  They had done some research at other schools and knew how to make the most of the conversation and share a site location and the details for the new long jump pit. Their ideas were so welcomed and ones that I would never have considered.  I’m so thankful for their input.

As I returned to the timetabling task, with my admin partner, I received an email about another spring task that we’re currently involved with, which initially surprised me and then frustrated me. The details are not as important (nor for sharing publicly) as the analogy to the sandbox.  With each leadership task that we undertake, we are provided with the parameters (the edges of the sandbox) ~ whether it is procedural language in a Board Policy /Procedure or a Ministry PPM or the language within the contracts for our multiple unions.   Over the years, I’ve become adept at knowing those contracts (such as who you can interview, how many minutes of preparation time, etc.) knowing where to find and how to share Board Policies/Procedures (having had the pleasure of writing some of them) and the importance of the connection of Ministry PPMs to the work that we do at a Board and school level.

But where I find myself getting frustrated is when you play within the sandbox and try to be innovative in your practice (with the intent of building collective educator efficacy and improving student learning) and the sides of the sandbox shrink.