First Semester is Over! Now What?

Intended Audience: New school leaders, workaholics, and those who support/love them.


You’ve Made it This Far

Congratulations for having made it through the semester! Whatever challenges you might have faced at the beginning of the year may or may not have been fully overcome, however, you are here now at the end, with time to read a blog,  ready to fight on another day. Soon the New Year will roll in and you will find yourself greeting staff, teachers, students and parents on the first day of the second semester. Until then, you have some time off. Take it! You deserve it! You need it! And, like it or not, the school will be there (fate willing) when you reconnect to the world.

I am not suggesting that there aren’t still at least a couple dozen things at the top of your end-of-year to-do list that must be attended to before school resumes. The pressures that you must be feeling to prep for next semester, even as you are meant to be preparing for your respite, must be huge. So, instead of trying to conquer that whole seemingly endless list of must-dos, I challenge you here and now to whittle that list down to five things that you can do by end-of-day today. After which you will shut down your work email and work brain, and finally disconnect for the remainder of the year. You can do it.



Decide which are the five most high-leverage actions that you can take today that will lead to a more successful second semester.

Questions You Might Consider:

  • Who is this action affecting?
  • What is the desired outcome of this action?
  • How will this action benefit the second semester?


My List

Of course, each of you will have a list that reflects the priorities in your school and your current situation. I currently coach school leaders and my responsibilities are very different from when I was running or supervising schools.  However, I will share my thoughts on what my choices would be if I were still in a school leadership role as well as those on my coaching role.

todo list

Item 1: Complete Any Unfinished Business

If I were still running a school, the task would most-likely be something like – Finish all teacher evaluations and turn them into HR by end-of-day. The evaluations would probably be a week or so late (with an approved extension from the HR director, of course) and not completing them would not have been an option. Currently, however, one of the last tasks that I have for the year is to complete this blog and get it posted. Just like with the evals, I have already exhausted my extension and… Need I say more?

  • Who is this action affecting?
    • This action affects me (my work obligations) and my colleagues who are counting on me to post something this week on our website.
  • What is the desired outcome of this action?
    • Contribute to the collective wisdom of my organization and hopefully inspire someone to read/act.
  • How will this action benefit the second semester?
    • Once I have finished writing this blog, I can focus on the other tasks on my list that are investments in having a successful second semester.


Item 2: Review of First Semester Data

Each school has or should have its own set of data that is available for review at the end of the first semester. If your school does not have a practice of collecting and analyzing data at the end of the semester, please check out this blog from Ensemble Learning’s data expert, Dr. Leigh Mingle, to help you get started. Reviewing your data can help you see what is working for your students and school, and what might need some fine tuning to get you to where you want to go.

It helps to review the data with your team, if you have one, to get input from multiple sources as you analyze your work. The data for my current work involves coaching logs, PD evaluations and reviewing recorded coaching sessions. Whatever that data might be, ensure that it is relevant, that it is at the necessary granularity and that it comes from a variety of sources.

  • Who is this action affecting?
    • Reviewing the data not only helps me reflect on the impact my work is having on the leaders I support, but also helps our coaching team strategize on how to improve our work.
  • What is the desired outcome of this action?
    • To look for areas to celebrate and adjust in my/our work to increase impact with the leaders I/we work with.
  • How will this action benefit the second semester?
    • Continual adjustment and improvement in my/our work.

Item 3: Personal Recognition of Team and Clients

As principal, I would write messages to my staff and faculty letting each one know that I appreciated their work. I would also always try to connect with the staff over a celebratory meal during breaks after the students and teachers were off campus. At mid-year, it is important to let your staff/faculty know how important they are to the mission of the school. With the current teacher shortage situation and increased competition among schools to hire capable, competent staff, personalizing the work and the work environment might be one more reason faculty and staff decide to stay on at your school. If you have anyone that comes to your campus to provide services to your school community, now would be a time to let them know you appreciate them as well. Happy service providers provide services happily. (Hmmm)

In a previous blog, I championed celebrating those around you. This is a reminder for me to walk the talk and get to sending out those cards that I have sitting on my desk – right after I finish writing this blog.

  • Who is this action affecting?
    • A personal touch makes people feel appreciated and want to work with me. This action affects me, my colleagues and my clients.
  • What is the desired outcome of this action?
    • Enhancing relationships with all of those I work with.
  • How will this action benefit the second semester?
    • If the people that work with and around me know that I appreciate them and their work, it makes my job easier which will set me up for a better semester.


Item 4: Laptop Maintenance

Principals receive an insane amount of emails, PowerPoints, PDFs and other electronic files. It can almost be a job in itself – managing and responding to all of the requests, demands, and general information that come through on your laptop. I had to learn the hard way through missed meetings, deadlines, and events, that keeping up-to-date with my email and other electronic files was one of my primary duties as school leader. Experience has taught me that regular laptop maintenance is part of that job.

These days, it is rare that I have unread emails by the end of any work day. I do however, have to regularly go through my Google Drive to ensure that all of my files are in their correct folders and to trash all duplicate files. I like to keep a lean desktop as well, so I will have to purge any unwanted screenshots or files that might have ended up there over the last month or so.

  • Who is this action affecting?
    • Having a clean laptop, thinned out inbox and organized files will make me an overall more efficient team member and coach.
  • What is the desired outcome of this action?
    • Increased efficiency and reducing the stress of a cluttered desktop and a full inbox.
  • How will this action benefit the second semester?
    • Less stress = Better work and personal life.
    • Organization makes me a better worker.

Item 5: Self-Reflection/Self Care

Working with school leaders is a rewarding job. I am constantly inspired by the work that is being done by the insightful, careful, dedicated and hard-working individuals that I am lucky enough to  engage with. These leaders are becoming better leaders because they take the time to reflect on their actions. They are not afraid to admit that they might need to level-up in certain areas or course correct in others. I also see  the amount of energy it takes to maintain the rhythm of leading schools in the various communities that all of my leaders work in. This can be draining. It is important to take time to reflect on the good that you are doing. What is the “why” that brought you to the work in the first place? What brings you back day after day even when situations seem insurmountable?

Self-reflection goes hand-in-hand with self-care. I sometimes have to remind myself that I need to take time for myself to be the best me I can be. Taking time to be mindful and deliberate about self-care is just what I need as the year is coming to an end and I am finishing up the last of my work tasks for the year. An end-of-the-year meditation class and massage are now on my calendar for next week.

  • Who is this action affecting?
    • Me and all of those who come in contact with me. A reflective and mindful me is a better me.
  • What is the desired outcome of this action?
    • Increased efficiency and reduced stress.
    • Reflect on the past but live in the present
  • How will this action benefit the second semester?
    • Less clutter in the brain makes me more sane (Hmmm)


Bringing it to a Close

Finishing these last paragraphs will shorten my to-do list by one. While writing, I was able to book my massage and register for a meditation class tomorrow. That leaves me with only three things to do before completely checking out from work for until the new year. I feel lighter already. This was a good exercise for me, and I hope it will be for you too.

I wish everyone Happy Holidays and a safe and fun New Year! Thanks for taking the time to read our blog.

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