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Setting the Table for Success


If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year — especially if it’s for the first time — you might be a little nervous. Maybe you’re running through disaster scenarios in your mind: what if the turkey is too dry? What if Aunt Jen forgets to bring her famous mashed potatoes?

But there’s no need to worry. Running a school district is a lot like hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Both demand an incredible level of planning, organization and coordination; take up a lot of time and energy; and can make you want to tear your hair out with frustration. And in the end, both offer a chance to strengthen relationships and appreciate the year’s achievements.

Here are some specific ways you can rely on the skills you’ve honed at the office to avoid holiday catastrophes and host Thanksgiving without a hitch.

Have a plan.
This should go without saying, and hopefully you already know what you’re making (and when you’re making it) by now. If not, I’m not sure what to tell you. Maybe this article will help?

In any case, there are a lot of things you can still plan for. And you know that data can help you address school district issues before they get out of hand — like not scheduling high-attendance professional development on days with a history of substitute shortages. Put that data-mining experience to work and get familiar with patterns from Thanksgivings past.

That way, you can review what to look for, and what to do if things go south. For example, you can dodge calamity (like a dry, overcooked turkey) by investing in a reliable thermometer and setting reminders on your phone to baste that bird every 30 minutes.

Focus on people.
Having the right people in place — and knowing what skills they bring to the table — makes a huge difference. And you’ll be able to trust them to help you overcome any mishaps that might come your way.

Luckily, you’re well-versed in people management. So double-check your invite list, see who has yet to RSVP and check that your seating chart sets everyone up for the happiest, most successful Thanksgiving feast ever. It’s just like assigning new teachers to a building or classroom, but with more food (and you have to remember that Cousin Joe is left-handed). Plus, your staffing skills help you know who to ask for help with last-minute tasks (and who shouldn’t be allowed near the kitchen at all costs).

Get the tools you need.
Who has time to hand-mash potatoes, slice a couple hundred Brussels sprouts and wash (what feels like) 10,000 dishes in the sink? Not you.

Good thing you’re already well aware that doing things by hand can take up a lot of time, and that it’s useful to have technology that can handle the more tedious work. So, get thee an electric mixer and food processor — and maybe start looking into dishwashers for next year.

Use the power of teamwork.
When it comes to getting people to work together, you’re an expert. After all, collaboration is a key component of your school district’s success. Those teamwork and leadership skills will help you reach your goals — whether that’s supporting student learning or washing all the dishes.

And because Thanksgiving is a time of community, rest easy knowing that you have plenty of smart cookies around to lend a hand when needed.

There — you’re ready to host the best Thanksgiving ever.

“There are three things to remember when teaching: know your stuff; know whom you are stuffing; and then stuff them elegantly.” – Lola May


Annie GrunwellAnnie Grunwell

Annie is a writer and part of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She's passionate about learning, exploring data and sharing knowledge. Her specialties include substitute management, the teacher shortage and best practices in human capital management.