Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Three Questions

No, this is not a discount Passover story (ask a Jewish person about the FOUR Questions). This post is about the Three Questions that I asked staff at the very first faculty meeting of the year.

I've been collecting feedback in a variety of ways from the staff since I began as an administrator. Last year, I happened upon a set of questions that many families use during weekly family meetings (my family started this process at the same time). I decided that these questions can work very well for the school family. So, in August, I asked every staff member to write answers to these three questions:

  1. What things went well in our school last year?
  2. What things could we improve in our school?
  3. What things will you commit to working on this year?

The answers were very instructive. Some answers will seem obvious to anyone who has ever worked in a public school. Others are quite particular to Wolcott Elementary. Still other answers are actually highly personal.

Right away I noticed that the responses are filled with contradictions. For example, there were four comments about how staff interactions went well last year and seven comments about how we need to improve staff community. Six comments about improved behavior/PBIS last year and eight saying we need to improve those areas.

I was particularly pleased that one of the main areas indicated as needing improvement (behavior/PBIS), was an area that we spent a lot of time on over the summer. I spent four days with a team of staff in July and another day in August preparing a whole set of changes to our behavior and celebration systems.

And, of course, there are the perennial areas such as communication. Please see my previous post for ways that I am working on improving communication for staff.


And now for the responses themselves:

I left out the personal commitment answers from question three because many were too easy to identify the author.
Within each question, I loosely grouped responses together. Blanks equal personally identifying information.


What Went Well Last Year?
  • Celebrating children
  • Children seemed happy and valued
  • School spirit
  • PBIS
  • Having _____ available for behavior interventions and guidance
  • Extreme behavior challenges seemed to be under better control with use of interventionists and _____
  • Last year I was with an amazing teacher that taught me so much
  • Collaboration among faculty and staff went well last year
  • Working with the people I get to work with
  • People seemed to get along better children and adults
  • We designed some changes that will bring us to the next stage
  • Decisions to change thing up and head out on a path to improvement
  • LLI now in k - 3
  • Math interventions and planning
  • Music
  • Art collaboration with classroom teachers
  • Spring/ winter concerts with Kristin’s leadership and talent
  • Art integration / art shows and music performances
  • 1st grade parent involvement and k - 2 evening events
  • ASP! More tech integrations
  • I didn’t hurt myself!!!

What We Can Improve?
  • PBIS / expectations and procedures
  • RC and PBIS
  • PBIS
  • Consistent discipline
  • Behavior / school climate
  • Consistency in student behaviors/ expectations
  • Authentic celebrations of success [academic, behaviorally, social]


  • Our focus on academic excellence celebrating academic achievement
  • Community building between faculty and students


  • Our community feeling among staff [more parties, get togethers, camaraderie]



  • We need to find new ways to respect each other
  • We need to improve on gossip among staff
  • Negative energy
  • To make all staff [not just faculty] feel equal
  • Kindness
  • Communication with all staff
  • Communication
  • Communication
  • We could improve our communication with each other
  • Communication between coworkers is something that could improve
  • Better communications
  • Lunch choices
  • Becoming more organized
  • Noise control from hallways/ classrooms that student’s complain about as distracting
  • More planning time
  • Quieter ______ classes for more focused work
  • Curriculum - vertical align, dynamic inst., celebration


I conducted a follow-up staff survey in early November and got lots of good feedback about the new behavior/PBIS initiatives. There were also a few comments about how good the climate was among staff. I will return to this sort of practice again and again as we continue our work.

How is your year going? What needs to improve? What will you commit to improving in your practice? Please leave comments below.




Cross posted to Connected Principals.