As anyone who has launched a new school program can tell you, there is no guaranteed blueprint to success. Here’s 5 ways to ensure you stay on the right track.
1. Plan for the unexpected
You may think that you’re totally prepared to start your program but, realistically, you’re bound to run into some hiccups along the way. School schedules can change on a dime, staff can move to different classrooms, and the space you planned to use for your program may turn into the school’s new storage solution.
Remember, schools are complex places and even the most well thought out plans need tweaks throughout the school year.
Be patient, flexible, and ready to roll with the punches. Most importantly, make sure your program is designed to be adaptable, even amidst changes.
2. School staff are busy
This one may seem obvious but have you been in a school lately? Teachers and school staff have a lot going on. You’re probably only one of many programs at the school, and your program is likely not number one on each teacher’s list of priorities—and that’s OK!
Just be sure to make yourself accessible, always follow through on your commitments, and try to design your program launch with as few requirements for school staff as possible. Your program should save staff time and energy so they can focus on the most important part of their job—their students!
3. Find your ambassadors
You did your due diligence over the summer and school leadership has committed to your program. But once the year starts, you’re having trouble scheduling meetings with the principal or getting teachers to refer students (see point #2).
In order for your program to truly be a hit, make friends in unexpected places. Get to know the front desk staff, the crossing guards, the cafeteria staff, and even the people who work at the afterschool program. Make sure they know who you are and that they know exactly what it is that makes your program so fantastic.
You’ll find they can often be your best spokespeople and their support will help you cross off those lingering items on your to-do list.
4. Materials can make or break you (literally)
Do not—I repeat—do not bring a truckful of program materials into a school during your launch. Carrying crates of supplies is a huge distraction and you’ll often find yourself, quite literally, doing all the heavy lifting.
Materials are bound to go missing, replacing them can get expensive, and schools also have very limited storage space. Plus, you don’t want to have to pack up your stuff every time you inevitably get moved around or the school closes for the summer.
Your best bet is to design your program to be successful and impactful with as few supplies as possible. Trust me, your knees will thank you.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Ultimately, no matter how much you do to plan and prepare for the start of the school year, things are bound to go awry. If you find yourself without any student referrals, missing a few materials, or without that one parent permission form, don’t despair.
Give yourself a break, keep on trucking, celebrate the small wins, and when things don’t go your way, laugh it off.
If you’re having fun, students will be engaged and have fun too—which was probably your goal all along!