You Can’t Do Everything. Here’s How to Decide What to STOP Doing Now

“Overwhelming” seems to be the adjective that educators are using most often to describe the 20-21 school year.  The shift in education has been a drastic one, and educators are working long, grueling hours just to keep afloat.  

At it’s best, the pandemic has forced us all: parents, teachers, administrators, and students alike, to make some much-needed changes.  But, change is HARD, and in order to maximize teacher retention, increase student engagement, and decrease teacher burnout, it is critical to use a systems thinking approach when analyzing instructional classroom practices and campus culture.  It is unrealistic to expect educators, on any level, to do all that they’ve done in the past and take on new responsibilities as an educator during a pandemic crisis.  School systems are definitely doing more this school year, but have they considered what could be strategically abandoned?  

engage2learn founder and CEO, Shannon K. Buerk, writes in her White Paper, Strategic Vision Methodology, “Engaging in the technique of strategic abandonment provides the structure for ongoing updates and creates the space for change, iteration, and implementation.”  We follow through with this practice within our own company, and when we collaborate with school districts to develop their Learning Innovation Framework.  We are constantly asking these questions: What is working well?  What changes do we need to make to keep up with the current system?  What isn’t working that we need to abandon?  

The Stop, Start, Continue method challenges us to think about what isn’t effective, what needs to be started, and what should be continued by collecting and analyzing feedback.  

Step 1: Solicit Feedback

Requesting feedback from all team members creates an open, comfortable environment where everyone feels valued and safe to share.  Consider the purpose of this process and whether it would be beneficial to invite students to give feedback.  Allowing students to participate in the process will diversify the perspective and enable the team to look at the issues from multiple lenses.  This feedback also allows you to find commonalities that are and are not working, as well as opening the discussion to possible solutions that hadn’t been previously thought of.  Feedback could be collected through a survey or could take place in a collaborative meeting.  You can also use the Stop, Start, Continue handout linked below.

Step 2: Analyze Feedback

Now that faculty, staff members, and even students have had time to share feedback, then analyzing data would be the next step.  It’s important to look for patterns, trends, and commonalities within the data.  Utilizing user-friendly tools like Padlet, Google Forms, Jamboard, or using digital word generators such as WordClouds are efficient tools to collect anonymous feedback and quickly identify trends.

Consider appropriate implementation plans, and if there are any quick wins that can be accomplished, then prioritize those first.  Doing so will validate everyone’s opinion and prove that the process was valuable.  Communicate results and next steps to everyone involved.

Here are a few examples of what the Start, Stop, Continue method could look like for a classroom teacher and at a campus level:

Stop, Start, Continue Method
Example 1
Stop, Start Continue Method
Example 2

Step 3: Activate your Plan

It’s time to follow through with a plan after feedback has been analyzed, prioritized, and communicated.  There are various methodologies for setting goals and following through with them.  At engage2learn, we practice the eGrowe model to ensure goals are met, and this model can also be used when identifying what things should be abandoned and what should begin as an organization.

Here’s a quick exercise that you can use to determine if your district or campus next steps are actionable:

  • GOAL:
    • What is the goal?
    • Who does it affect?
    • What is the purpose?
    • How close are we to reaching our goal?
    • What are we currently doing that aligns to the goal?
    • How will this be implemented?
    • Who will be involved?
    • When will this be implemented?
  • WILL:
    • Is everyone involved committed to the plan?
    • How will we measure success?

Start Stopping Now

The Stop, Start, Continue method is an effective way to reflect on current practices and open a space to think outside of the box.  An Instructional Specialist that I was coaching this year was sharing how heavy her load felt and that she never felt “good” at anything because she was spread so thin.  Not only was she responsible for everything she had been responsible for in the past, but now she was managing virtual learning for her campus and was the family liaison for virtual learning, too.  She was working around the clock but never felt like she could get anything done.  She set a goal to complete a Stop, Start, Continue, and found three things that she was able to abandon because they were either ineffective or irrelevant and one new idea that helped her simplify her work.  

Now, more than ever, it’s time to take a look at what’s working and what we need to leave behind.  What’s going well on your campus or classroom?  What changes could be made to yield a high return on investment?  Let’s not be afraid to make some impactful changes.

Every success story is a tale of constant adaptation, revision, and change.

Richard Branson |