Using Folio to Advance Your School’s Strategic Goals: Considering Summer Administrative Retreats

While the end of June will be a time for school administrators to take space from their schools, to allow the fullness of the 20-21 school year time to sink in, July is often a time for important strategic planning work as school leaders begin to look ahead in earnest to the next year. There are several ways that Heads of School could approach these administrative retreats, different themes that could provide the focus for work that connects the school’s use of Folio and its long-term strategic goals. School leaders can look toward these themes or prompts and select what feels like an appropriate direction for their own school and culture. 

Methods for the Approach:

School leaders could simply frame small or whole group discussion around one or more of these prompts. Rich feedback and conversation will certainly follow. However, this might be a time to use a more explicit framework to structure the discussion toward the acquisition of more specific feedback.

  • Using an “Eisenhower Matrix” to help your team consider the balance between importance and urgency for these topics
  • Approaching these topics through a “Plus/Delta” Framework allows your team to consider what is great (and worth keeping) and what need to be shifted or changed


Lean into Collaboration:

From Folio’s Creating a Culture of Collaboration (whitepaper): “Schools that are ready to elevate teachers and teaching are schools that demonstrate through policy, structure, and action a focus on learning, growth, and collaboration. Strong collaborative cultures do not spontaneously appear, nor do they run on “autopilot” on those rare occasions when an organization successfully builds such a culture. Leaders must create scaffolds to systematize the behaviors and routines of effective collaboration, and must nurture and feed the ways of being that enhance the collaborative dynamic within a school. It is necessary to take a strategic and design-oriented view towards inculcating values and behaviors like trust, inclusion, psychological safety, vulnerability, growth-orientation, risk-taking, the embrace of creative tension, and graceful giving and receiving of feedback.”

As you look toward your summer administrative retreats, consider the following:

  • What are the “scaffolds” that you have within your school that “systematize the behaviors and routines of effective collaboration”? 
  • Can you take time in your summer retreat to explicitly name these scaffolds?
  • What is the expectation in your school community for faculty collaboration? How is this articulated and shared with your faculty?
  • What could you do as an administrative team to reinforce and further articulate these scaffolds?
  • Looking internally to how your administrative team works together — How would each member of your team describe your internal collaboration? 
  • When and how does your internal administrative team collaboration take place? 
  • Could your administrative team practice by applying a collaborative problem solving framework to an issue or challenge brought by one member? (This is along the lines of a Critical Friends Group model)

Time: How does our schedule reflect our priorities?

Time and schedule are essential aspects of successful adoption of Folio and the ways it will support your school in making professional growth a strategic priority. The schedule must create space in order to cultivate school-wide conversations about professional development, in order to make the giving and receiving of feedback a widely accepted practice, and in order to create time for reflection practices.

As you look toward your summer administrative retreats, consider the following:

  • Deep dive into your daily, weekly, and annual calendar/schedules as a team, consider what they say about your priorities as a school by the ways they divide up time.
    • What does your use of time indicate is your school’s most important priority?
    • Where is the time set aside for collaboration?
    • Where is the time for giving and receiving feedback?
    • Where is the time for individual reflection?
  • As an administrative team, consider how and where you might “find time” to build these priorities into your days and weeks.
    • What would that look like?
    • What would have to “go” in order to “add” this time?
    • If your school includes multiple divisions or units, how does each unit consider time and where is or could there be more school-wide overlap?
  • Where is the time set aside for important work that is not urgent? How do you, as a team, preserve and protect that time?

Building out a Philosophy of Instruction: What does “Great Teaching” look like here? How do we define exemplary pedagogical practice?

One structural element that can make your school’s use of Folio even more successful is the explicit articulation of a school-wide Philosophy of Instruction. This is an opportunity for your team to reflect on the qualities and characteristics that define “great teaching” and to consider what makes the teaching in your school so special. 

As you consider your summer administrative retreat, you could consider:

  • How does your administrative team define “great teaching” at your school?
  • What qualities and characteristics exemplify outstanding pedagogy?
  • What makes a “Your School Name- Teacher” so unique?
  • How can an articulated Philosophy of Instruction support your hiring practices in the years to come?
  • How can an articulated Philosophy of Instruction connect to school-wide professional development and pedagogy?

That was a good talk! How do develop habits for productive feedback conversations:

Conversations where feedback is given and received with grace take practice and time. It is essential that this skill is modeled from the administrative team out to the full faculty/staff of the school. 

Perhaps in your summer administrative retreat, you could consider the following:

  • How is feedback given and received among the members of your administrative team?
  • How do people with different roles (and therefore different power dynamics) experience the feedback cycle within your administrative team?
  • What protocols and policies could you put into place within your administrative team to cultivate and support a culture of feedback? From your administrative team to each of their direct reports?
  • Take time in your summer retreat to practice giving and receiving feedback gracefully among your team. Have each member make an explicit plan to provide direct, graceful feedback to one of their direct reports — particularly focused on feedback that has been long simmering and not addressed.
  • Partner up for accountability — use the strengths within your team to give each member an accountability partner for these feedback conversations and check in!

Making Goals Visible: How everyone can tie goals to our strategic priorities:

Schools that are successful with Folio are schools where the practice of setting goals is shared by administrators and teachers alike. In fact, the Head of School’s sponsorship and sanction of Folio can be essential to its success and adoption by the faculty.

In your summer administrative retreat, you could:

  • Define your school’s Strategic Goals for the coming year
  • Set individual goals for the coming year as aligned to the strategic goals
  • As a team, develop one or two “Common Goals” that are a part of each individual’s reflection and work
  • Make a plan for how each member of your administrative team will share their own goals with their direct reports