Archive for September, 2015

The Rubik’s Cube and the 10,000 Foot View

I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in facilitating what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some students in my school district over the last four months or so, and it has really opened my eyes to the level of complexity involved in planning and implementing school events.  The experience itself is a topic for a future post; in the meantime, I’ll reflect a bit here on the process.

As an instructional supervisor, my job responsibilities lie largely “behind the scenes”.  I’m good with that, as I’m a bit of an extroverted introvert by nature.  In this particular situation, the opportunity was brought to my attention by one of my elementary music teachers, and together we brainstormed how to make the experience accessible to as great a number of students as possible (as opposed to limiting the experience to students in his building).  While it was definitely the right thing to do, that’s where things got complicated.

As a teacher and school psychologist, I rarely had to get involved in the logistical aspects of school operations.  I didn’t have the 10,000 foot view of all that goes into such things because, well… I didn’t have to.  Engaging with this project a few months ago has thrown me headlong into that perspective since I’ve had to coordinate the efforts of a great many people, including (in no particular order):

  • Four elementary school principals – to get their consent and cooperation in making this happen
  • Four elementary school music teachers – my awesome staff was only too happy to help, but this was another layer of communication and schedule coordination, especially as it required them to make some very fast decisions and home communications in the last few weeks of last school year.
  • Our Director of Curriculum & Instruction – my boss is super supportive (both of this project and in general), and served as a sounding board to help me shape the ideas I discussed with the teaching staff as well as arranged for payment for transportation when necessary.  Speaking of which…
  • The Transportation Department – these folks arranged to get some individual students from one school building to another for small group workshops during the day, as well as provided transportation to get the entire 3rd grade (about 300 students across four buildings) to our middle school for a midday concert.  Speaking of which…
  • Building secretaries – My mom was a secretary; you underestimate their knowledge and power at your own risk.  Our phenomenal building secretaries completed all the necessary transportation paperwork that I wouldn’t have the first idea how to complete on my own (although I made it a point to ask lots of questions and learn from them, rather than just delegate to them) and booked all necessary facilities reservations.  But the transportation would not be necessary without a destination; enter…
  • The middle school principal – who very graciously gave us a central location for a midday show when our high school auditorium was not available, shuffling some of her own classes around in the process.  But I still found a way to involve
  • The high school principal – part of this project involves a free evening concert for our community.  This will happen at the high school the evening of October 1, thanks in part to the efforts of
  • The high school maintenance/grounds staff – who will prepare the building and the auditorium for the potentially 500+ community members that night.  Also there that night will be
  • Our district audio/video coordinator and his student staff – to provide lights and audio service for the evening show at the high school, as well as to record the performance for broadcast on our district TV station and YouTube channel.  But who, outside of our school district, would know about any of this if not for the efforts of
  • Our district Operations Manager – she took care of press releases, regular communication blasts to our community, and all media contacts (including the one that got this reporter into one of our elementary schools earlier today).  Finally, of course, there is
  • The Princeton Symphony Orchestra – whose Executive Director, Mr. Marc Uys, initiated contact with our district last May, and communicated with both me and my staff to make this concept a reality.

It’s exhausting me just re-reading that list, and I’m sure as soon as I click “Publish” I’ll remember someone I left off (apologies if that someone is you).  Perhaps the most complicated part of all of the above is that so many things depended on two or three other things falling into place first – like a Rubik’s cube, the slightest change to any single component sets off a ripple effect that then has to be corrected or allowed for in other ways.  In that regard, the chain of events was less linear and more like a spiderweb, and I was the center of the web through which all strands flowed and overlapped.  No pressure, right?

The experience of organizing this has been as educational for me as a school leader as it has been daunting at times, but knowing that this was good for kids was what guided me through it.  I can’t wait to see and hear the final products to come of this experience on September 30 and October 1, and I’ll look forward to writing about what happened next time.

It’s always good to remember, though, that it’s hard to have a what without a how.