Leading Your School’s Strategic Growth Plan: A Flexible and Responsive Approach

Cindy Blackburn
2 min read

As a new PYP coordinator, I experienced firsthand the challenges of not having a clear strategic plan in place. The team was enthusiastic and full of great ideas, but we struggled to make progress because we were all rowing in different directions. We would try one initiative only to abandon it shortly after in favour of another ‘shiny object’. This lack of focus and direction led to frustration and burnout and ultimately prevented us from making the progress we wanted to see.

A well-developed strategic plan can help to avoid ‘shiny object syndrome’ by providing a clear focus and direction for the school. It allows leaders to make informed decisions based on data and evidence, rather than simply chasing after the latest trend or buzzword. It also enables teachers to focus on doing the small things right. The strategic plan provides a framework for prioritizing initiatives and allocating resources, ensuring that the school is making the most effective use of its time, energy, and funds.

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I developed this simple annual process for strategic planning to make the process clear and accessible for all – leaders, teaching teams, parents, and other stakeholders. Its organized into four parts:

Part I: Reflection

  • Gather evidence and invite all stakeholders to contribute to the start, stop, continue around growth.
  • Vote on the major theme for the year as a group.
  • Craft the central idea collaboratively

Part II: Yearly goal

  • Invite all teachers to read through, unpack, and truly understand your school’s chosen standards and practices.
  • Work in mixed groups to hear all voices regarding needs and challenges.
  • Avoid overloading the plan with too many standards.

Part III: Individualized goal setting

  • Use this opportunity to learn more about assessment and model best practices.
  • Encourage creativity and passion when selecting goal areas.

Part IV: Monitoring and documenting 

  • Use this section to assess current professional growth practices or create new policies.
  • Clarify budgets and available resources.
  • Gather feedback from teachers about their preferred learning methods.
  • Align the purpose of classroom visits behind growth rather than evaluation or punishment.

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What you’ll need to dive in:

  • Any Standards and Practices your school is currently using (IB, CIS, WASC)
  • Prior action plans and reflections
  • Evidence of your growth and areas of development

Creating an annual strategic plan is an exciting opportunity to connect and align with your team, celebrate successes, and identify the next steps for your school’s journey. It empowers teachers with agency to grow their practice and helps create a culture of collaboration. Our strategic planning template provides processes and thinking routines that can spark meaningful conversations among your team and help to drive positive change in your school. By engaging in this process together, you can create a shared vision for your school’s future and work towards achieving your goals.

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Cindy Blackburn
Cindy Blackburn
Cindy has a Masters of Education in Teacher Leadership and has worked as an PYP educator and coordinator internationally for the past ten years. She currently works as the Director of learning and engagement at Toddle and specializes in developing resources to support teachers and leaders in honing their practice and understandings, to make the PYP simple, actionable, and above all else, joyous.
Disclaimer: Toddle’s resources seek to encourage sharing of perspectives and innovative ideas for classroom teaching & learning. They are not intended to be replacements for official guides and publications. Views and opinions expressed by the authors of these resources are personal and should not be construed as official guidance. Please seek assistance from your school’s coordinator and/or refer to your school's or district's official documents before implementing ideas and strategies shared within these resources in your classroom.