DATE: May 25, 2022 | AUTHOR: Denise Pontrelli
Superintendents are constantly under pressure to find solutions to school problems. From school board meetings to safety protocols that keep kids safe and healthy, superintendents always look for information to make effective decisions. However, you don’t have to make these decisions by yourself. Inviting suggestions and ideas from faculty, staff, parents, and other members involved in your school will allow for proper insight into the challenges facing your district.
The most successful superintendents understand the need to listen to their community. Whether you’re a new superintendent looking to make connections and show your transparency, or you’ve been working for your school for decades, engaging in active discussions about your district will demonstrate to your community you are proactive and care about your students’ success.
A listening tour is a series of active conversations to collect valuable information about perceptions, needs, and experiences that impact student achievement. These tours welcome all school community members, including parents, staff, teachers, volunteers, alumni, and everyone in-between, district stakeholders to use their insights to help drive success in your district.
These events are more than a slide deck that details information about your school, although that information is valuable in planning and executing the tour. Instead, these are opportunities to gather community opinions and spark active discussions about solutions and ideas to improve the school and promote success.
To conduct an effective listening tour, you must plan well in advance. You’ll need to create questions that relate to the gaps you’re noticing in your existing results and relevant data and present the information to promote productive discussions.
You could begin by creating surveys, making an anonymous suggestion box, holding a staff meeting, or inviting parents to list any questions and concerns they have. After you’ve gathered a collection of topics to discuss, you should look through any school information that supports or addresses those issues. Your budget, past reports, formal complaints, goal progression, and other documents can detail areas that need improvement. Evaluating and processing all of this information may take some time, but your tour is about gaining a deep understanding of ways to improve your school.
Being transparent is vital to your tour’s success. You’ll need to communicate the event to everyone you want to attend and be honest about your plans to implement changes. Keeping everyone up to date on the success and goals of your projects will let them know that you value their input and are taking the necessary steps to create a more efficient learning environment.
Before planning your superintendent listening tour, you’ll want to evaluate the data you already have. Review your budget, achievement levels, enrollment data, and any other information affecting your district’s success. You want to assess the assumptions about your school, needs and staff because these topics will drive your tour and determine its agenda.
Setting precise goals is also essential to an effective listening tour. Clearly defining the topics you hope to understand, clarify, or discover will aid you in transparently presenting the information. Furthermore, you can use the data you’ve gathered to find the gaps you want to discuss. As you work through your data, you should write questions you have and plan to bring those questions to light on your tour.
Once you’ve decided on the content, you can plan the event. Create a list of everyone who would add to the productive discussion. Some discussions may benefit from having specific sessions within a listening tour series, such as inviting parents to discuss their children’s engagement or skills and inviting teachers to discuss school culture and initiatives. You will also want to dedicate time to the school board because school board member support can bring many unique perspectives to the conversation and aid in your decisions.
Once you’ve compiled all of the information you need and determined who you want to attend, it’s time to announce and promote your tour. Explain the goal of the discussion and the importance of listening to those you invited. Then, create flyers, draft emails, share the information with the newspaper, post it on social media and do anything else you need to in order to get the information to your stakeholders and encourage attendance.
Successful listening tours have a well-planned agenda and an audience willing to listen and engage in the conversation. Creating an agenda which details your goals and discusses updates or results will continue to drive engagement.
Your agenda should focus on the challenges you recognize and incorporate time for questions the stakeholders in attendance. The importance of your tour is the conversation you generate because the process s will encourage innovative ideas, and stakeholders can present their unique solutions to school issues. This is how you can turn challenges into an opportunity for growth.
Be sure to utilize various channels for communication to accommodate those comfortable offering their opinion in public, while also accommodating those who may wish to submit feedback anonymously. Furthermore, utilizing an online platform will encourage more participation and give you a convenient way to refer to data and identify trends.
A school leadership listening tour will only be as successful if you review the opinions and feedback from the event and create a plan to implement those suggestions. You should be able to determine the trends and create an effective strategy to address those concerns. If you note additional problems that you didn’t initially anticipate, you may need to gather additional information about that topic to create an effective plan.
After reviewing the data and trends, you can evaluate how to implement changes. You’ll need to look at your school’s goals, values and needs and determine the best way to incorporate the required adjustments. Being transparent about the solutions you’ve reached will help build trust and show your community that you are a listening and proactive leader.
Some of the changes you consider implementing may require a phased approach. Fostering a school culture that works for your district does not happen overnight, and logistical aspects — such as budgeting — can affect how quickly you can bring your solutions to life. To show the community you are actively working towards solutions, you should continue to update everyone on your progress. Communicating frequently and clearly about your intentions and actions will show the community you value their input and ensure them your values align with theirs.
School leadership teams make consistent decisions that positively impact the community and create a thriving learning environment. For additional resources to aid you in making those crucial choices, you can consider educational leadership training with School IQ.
School IQ leadership professional development will help your educational leaders recognize their strengths, ensure your system is working efficiently and supporting all of your students and promote growth and advancement in your institution. You can choose to utilize School IQ resources for one, two or three years to expand your knowledge as much as you need. You can also receive custom plans that our Thought Leaders tailor to meet your specific needs. Our workshops cover a range of topics, such as collaboration, decision-making, team building, time management, data and assessment, cultural proficiency, customized pedagogy for future-forward learning spaces, and more.
School IQ is a cohort of past educators, board members and superintendents who have sat in your seat and understand the intense challenges you’re facing. Our team walks alongside and partners with their K-12 colleagues to provide valuable insight and effective advice.
We listen to your challenges first, collaborate, and then create fully customized solutions that fit your district’s needs. Our strategies are innovative and give you a fresh perspective from people who understand the answers you’re looking for and from people who are passionate about what they do.
School IQ can assist you in building community and becoming transparent in communication. Contact us to learn more about what we can do for you to promote growth, success and long-lasting relationships in your community.