Thinking Outside of the Box

Brenda Hamm, Eric Temple & Nat Conard | April 02, 2023

Creative thinkers will be the ones who will see more variation in possible approaches to issues, big and small. Like the teacher who used ChatGPt to her advantage in her 6th grade classroom. It is easy to fret about plagiarism with AI technology like ChatGPT or to focus on punitive responses to its use. But this teacher flipped the script and considered the positive possibilities of AI.

Working in class on how to write effective thesis statements, developing their understanding and ability took time. When ready, each student wrote a thesis statement, with paper and pencil, also in class. The teacher then used ChatGPT to write essays using the kids’ thesis statements, a process that took very little time. Next class, the teacher handed back the statements with the accompanying ChatGBT essays and had students edit their respective pieces. They refined the essays and discussed if the outcome was what they intended and adjusted the thesis statements as needed.

Teachers are often required to think outside the box in order to engage students in effective learning.

What about administrators?

Let’s take a look at several helpful out-of-the-box ideas for school leaders to use.

Don’t Add, Subtract!
Brenda Hamm

I knew a head of school who never saw a problem that new programming couldn’t solve. They loved splashy initiatives with marketable names. These programs tended to generate initial enthusiasm but then quickly left faculty crying out for a stop to continually adding more! Well intentioned administrators want to improve situations and their natural response is to add a new program. Maybe it’s time to consider the opposite?

One of the best examples of addition by subtraction is the 4-day work week study conducted in 2022 in the UK which is making big waves. Greater outcome requires more time spent to create the outcome because more time means you are working harder. That’s how you get ahead, right? Not true. “A trial of a four-day workweek in Britain, billed as the world’s largest, has found that an overwhelming majority of the 61 companies that participated from June to December will keep going with the shorter hours and that most employees were less stressed and had better work-life balance. That was all while companies reported revenue largely stayed the same during the trial period last year and even grew compared with the same six months a year earlier, according to findings released this week.”

Who would think we should be working fewer days rather than more? It’s natural when faced with a problem for us to add things. Not only is it easier to consider additive solutions, particularly when they can potentially invigorate alumni or donors, but subtraction is harder for leaders to embrace. There is no “named program,” nothing to hang your hat on, nothing for everyone to easily refer to and talk about. When you take away programs, requirements, or anything else, there is no recognition garnered, no positive attention. It might take years to realize the beneficial impact not doing something has had on the school. Subtraction also requires some evaluation of systems, programs, and status quo ahead of time because it asks you to consider what is necessary and, more importantly, what isn’t. Where are there inefficiencies that are detrimental to people or the organization? Or redundancies? Do we already have the components we need in place to address many different future concerns, even those we can’t predict now?
Bottom line, when adding seems to be the answer, consider subtracting. And prompt others to think about subtraction as a possibility too.

Here are some additional links to resources regarding the concept of subtraction:

Trustee Onboarding: Get Out of Your Seats!
Eric Temple

How do you efficiently and effectively help new members of the board connect with the school’s culture and understand their role within the organization?

The usual approach when thinking about new trustee orientation is to gather everyone around a conference table, share a presentation, answer questions, then have a bit of discussion. While efficient, this approach may not be as effective as you’d like given the limited amount of time you have to get everyone integrated. Instead, get out of the conference room and walk around the school in a directed way. Travel from office to office, to classrooms and athletic facilities. Meet the people who are responsible for the area of school you are visiting and let the new trustees learn from them what happens, and why, in their department. For instance, have the new trustees meet in the development office to learn about advancement at the school, then they can travel to the admissions office to hear about the ways the school attracts and retains its students. A stop in the business office where the budget and finances are covered can be followed by a walk to the administrator’s office who is in charge of curricula. Include a meeting in a classroom to discuss faculty recruitment and professional development.

Getting trustees out of seats and into the spaces around campus helps them learn about the school in deeper ways. They meet more people, see where the work of the school happens, and gain a greater sense for the culture and environment of the school they hold in trust. Give it a try!

Here’s a link to why this works:

Email: Keep it Out of Your Inbox
Nat Conard

Thinking outside the box can have a powerful impact inside the box as well—specifically, your email inbox. Email proliferation is a challenge for everyone, and most guidance on managing your inbox starts with the assumption that the messages have already arrived. But you, as a school leader, have the ability to take inbox management outside of the box. In our next newsletter, some thoughts on how to rethink and reshape your school’s use of email to everyone’s advantage.

Interested in learning more about how we can help?