Climb Higher: It’s Not All Low-Hanging Fruit
It’s the second semester and Spring Break will be here before we know it. Shortly after spring break, schools will begin state testing, end-of-year celebrations, final exams, and graduation. Teacher teams and school administrators may have started the school year with ambitious goals. In August, this was going to be the year of transformation and change. However, as we reflect on the first semester, we may have picked all of the low-hanging fruit.
There are several benefits to reaching for the low-hanging fruit, including: 1) Small wins 2) Buy-in 3) Momentum 4) Easier to check off the list 4) Requires fewer meetings and communication and 5) Less risk involved. School leaders should reach for the low-hanging fruit because some of the smaller tasks are attainable.
For some educators, the struggle is real. Each year, the school’s leadership team meets to establish Wildly Important Goals (WIGs) or a School Improvement Plan. Due to the changes in education, state mandates, school board policies, district initiatives, snow days, or a lack of focus, school leaders reach the second semester and realize time is running out. A high school student who entered ninth grade in 2014 will be graduating this spring. School leaders cannot afford to spend four years picking the low-hanging fruit. An entire cohort of students will graduate before change takes place.
5 Questions To Ask About Fruit and The Top of the Tree:
What are we committed to accomplishing this school year?
What is so wildly important that we cannot afford to address this semester?
What is one change that would improve student understanding?
What are we doing to eliminate existing achievement gaps?
Does our calendar reflect our priorities? How are we spending our time?
“Change may be the ultimate test of a leader — no business survives over the long term if it can’t reinvent itself” (Kotter, 2012). If your school staff is maintaining the status quo or has not reached for a higher branch on the tree, it may be time to get a ladder and reach higher. The hornbook was a great instructional tool at one point in K-12 education. The hornbook was replaced by textbooks. Several schools have transitioned from textbooks to Chromebooks or other devices. A transformation from hard copy assignments to digital assignments does not immediately shift opportunity to learn and the quality of the educational experience. Shifts in education require more than a attending a conference, purchasing a new product, or writing a school improvement goal. School staff need to identify the immediate needs. The intent of this article is not to avoid the low-hanging fruit. School staff also need to move from cruise control to acceleration.
“We must ask, ‘What kind of future are we trying to create?’ Design of that will take divergent & convergent thinking (Culberhouse, 2018).” Where do you want to be by the end of the school year? What kind of foundation are you building for the upcoming school year?
“Beware the easiest goals. While the low-hanging fruit may be tempting, the true rewards often come from climbing higher and stretching for the real treasure in the higher branches” (Reh, 2017).