Effective Practices : Community Life
Calendars and the Rhythm of the Year
Community Life Section 3
1. Does your school have an individual or group that is responsible for creating the school calendar? Attach a copy of the individual’s job description or the committee’s mandate if available.
2. How is your calendar developed? What are the basic steps in the process, and when do they take place? What types of items are listed on the school calendar? Attach a copy of your annual school calendar if available.
3. Is your calendar published to the parent community in advance of the school year? If the calendar is not published in advance of the school year, how are parents notified about key dates and activities in the life of the school?
4. Does the school create other calendars in addition to the general community calendar? What is the purpose of these calendars, who creates them, and why are they separate from the general community calendar?
5. Describe the key elements of your school’s philosophy in relation to its calendar.
6. What about your school’s calendar is particularly effective?
7. If there were something you could change in relation to your school’s calendar, what would it be and why?
Does your school have an individual or group that is responsible for creating the school calendar? Attach a copy of the individual’s job description or the committee’s mandate if available.
The typical calendar of events and activities at a Waldorf school is chock full, and all of the schools surveyed have identified an individual or a group to manage the task of coordinating all of the demands for space and attendance that this full calendar creates. In some schools the responsibility for the calendar is assigned to a single individual, others split the tasks between just a few individuals, and some have fairly complex structures for managing the calendar. The two biggest factors that influence how a school structures its approach to managing the school calendar are the school’s biography and the presence of one or two people who are called to this particular work. The various approaches are outlined below:
Single Individual - One school noted that a single individual handles responsibility for all calendar coordination for the school. She originally handled this task in her role as the faculty chair, and continues to serve the school in this area quite capably although her term as faculty chair has ended.
Two Individuals - One school has the administrator and a faculty member who share this responsibility. Calendaring is a task that these two individuals have volunteered for rather than something that has been formally assigned.
In another version of the two individual approach the school manager produces a bare bones calendar that shows the days the school is in session and notes any half-days, holidays and major school events. The school’s guidance mandate group (school manager, college chair, and faculty chair) provide some feedback on this calendar before it is published. Then the school manager guides the faculty in setting dates for class meetings, plays and trips. The Office Manager takes up the task of managing the calendar once the school year begins. She keeps her ear to the ground for additional events and activities that are scheduled and add them to the calendar. She publishes updated calendars at regular intervals throughout the year so as to keep the entire community as well informed as possible.
- Calendar Committee - Another school has a calendar committee. Members include the administrative specialist, the facilities use manager, the administrator, and two faculty members.
- Complex Structure - One school has divided the responsibility for various aspects of the calendar between two committees and two individuals. While organizationally complex, this approach has the advantage of giving each person or group a very clear, defined and manageable task that it is responsible for.
- Scheduling Committee - Handles academic scheduling for the grade school and high school — has operated for years without a formal Mandate. The articulation of a formal Mandate is in process.
- Calendar Committee- Mandated by the College to set the yearly calendar for the whole school. This is a two or three person committee with members selected by the Council (the administrative staff, most of which are on the College, plus one teaching College member). This yearly calendar includes just key dates such as the first and last day of school, holidays, teacher in-service dates, and key events that are related to a holiday.
- Admissions Director - For some reason, perhaps habit, our Admissions Director has set the schedule for assemblies, enrollment events, festivals, etc. She has no formal mandate. This work fell into the “someone needs to do it” category and she always has. We are in the process of shifting most of that planning to the Grade School and High School committees, so the Admissions Director will be left with responsibility only for the enrollment events.
- Front Office Administrator - Keeps the Master Schedule of all of the above events plus others that are added to the calendar along the way such as parent nights, class trips and field trips, photo day, non-school individuals/groups using the school’s facilities, and so on. This person also keeps track of the schedule for the school’s two vans.
How is your calendar developed? What are the basic steps in the process, and when do they take place? What types of items are listed on the school calendar? Attach a copy of your annual school calendar if available.
The starting point for all calendar creation is the basic outline of the year. Whether this outline is created by an individual or a group, the first step is to identify the first and last day of school, all holidays and any half days, professional development days, and parent teacher conference days. Establishing these key dates for the calendar often takes into consideration what other schools are doing in the community, and is mindful of the legally required number of instructional days.
The next step in the process is to gather all of the requested events and activities and their requested dates. These include dates for class parent meetings, class plays, concerts, all school meetings, Board meetings, Parent Association meetings, fairs, fundraisers and festivals.
Inevitably there are conflicts between events, with stakeholders for various activities sometimes requesting that their events be held on the same day and time. To help solve this issue most schools have come up with some method of prioritizing which events receive first consideration. One school described their prioritization process this way:
- Class events have first priority on the calendar.
- All school events such as fairs, fundraisers, general parent meetings, and Parent Association meetings have the second level of priority.
- Requests from outside the community for space rental receive the lowest level of priority.
Any events in the same level of priority that are in conflict (for example, two class teachers want to hold a parent meeting on the same night) are negotiated between the two requesters, and a reasonable alternative is usually readily available.
Is your calendar published to the parent community in advance of the school year? If the calendar is not published in advance of the school year, how are parents notified about key dates and activities in the life of the school?
Every school publishes at least a basic calendar prior to school closing in June. These calendars will list the first and last days of school and will note all holidays, half days, and teacher professional development days. Many parents plan vacations well in advance, and the publication of these key dates is a necessity.
Some schools have finished their detailed calendaring process before the school year ends, and if so the full calendar is made available to parents at that time. Virtually every school publishes their detailed calendar before school starts, mailing it to parents in August and making it available on the school web site as well. (See: Sample Calendar 1 and Sample Calendar 2)
All schools use their weekly bulletin to remind parents about upcoming events, typically publishing a section that previews the next two weeks worth of activities. (See: Weekly Bulletin Calendar)
Does the school create other calendars in addition to the general community calendar? What is the purpose of these calendars, who creates them, and why are they separate from the general community calendar?
In addition to the general school calendar that is published once a year, all schools use their weekly bulletin to notify parents of upcoming events. Some schools only show events coming up in the next two weeks, while others also flag significant events of broad interest in the community much further in advance. Schools also use the calendar section of their web site to keep parents up to date on upcoming events.
Many schools also keep a building use calendar. This calendar can be kept in the form of dry erase boards for the upcoming two months or be a large planning calendar kept in a prominent place in the school office or faculty lounge. The purpose of this calendar is to note all room usage commitments. It shows all reservations on spaces such as the assembly hall or eurythmy room for concerts, plays, rehearsals, festivals, parent events and rental events. These calendars also are used to book classroom space for smaller activities such as music lessons, tutoring sessions and parent conferences.
Some schools also keep an internal calendar of administrative issues. These calendars are not published to the general community as they deal with government reporting issues, due dates for reports, the rehire process and the re-enrollment schedule.
Yet another calendar is posted in schools to list class outings. This calendar is filled with dates throughout the year. It serves as a means of communicating times when classes will be away from campus, and is especially helpful to subject teachers so they can adapt their schedules and lesson plans made accordingly.
At times various groups on campus publish their own calendars with a small selection of events. For example the Adult Education Committees in schools often publish attractive calendars that include descriptions of their various offerings.
Describe the key elements of your school’s philosophy in relation to its calendar.
A healthy rhythm is important. We want a healthy work schedule for the teachers and a good rhythm for the children.
It’s important not to overload the community. We look at the whole picture of the calendar, rather than at each individual event.
We are sensitive to local events in the community, and try to adjust our schedule with these events in mind.
People need to be informed, and they need to be informed in multiple ways. Communication of calendar items in three or four forms is helpful.
This is a small activity that is very important for the school community. It’s important for community members to feel that there is a reasoned pace to the year, and that important meetings and events are not scheduled on the same date or in close succession.
Paying attention to these administrative details helps to support parents’ confidence in the classroom activity. Parents don’t see what happens in the classroom so they often judge the quality of pedagogical work by the quality of administrative work. A detailed and accurate calendar can be a real aid to parents. Conversely, nothing is worse than showing up for a meeting that has been cancelled or moved to another date or location. Worse yet is missing an event all together because timely communication of the event did not take place.
Dates, places, times and phone numbers are critically important. We work hard to get these details right.
It’s worth the time to solicit information from teachers and others in the community so that a full and complete calendar can be created and shared with the community.
The benefits of a good calendar are planning and accountability. The whole community functions more smoothly if there is a plan.
The calendar is an expression of respect for those whose attendance is expected at various functions.
The administrative calendar enables the school to hold itself responsible. It is a clear yardstick that lets the school see if it is doing its work on time.
Organizing the calendar well in advance forces a school to be precise, and helps move the school into a new level of professionalism.
The calendar is a tool that allows people to be free within a given form, a framework that allows creativity within certain boundaries. The calendar works best in an environment where the assumption is that everyone will work responsibly to ensure that all committed dates are met, rather than assuming that people will fail to meet their calendar commitments.
The way in which the calendar is created works to create an environment that feels inclusive. The teachers feel good about the process, don’t feel dictated to, and are able to make free choices about what works for them and their classes.
It is freeing to plan things in advance. Everyone can breathe and can plan their lives around the calendar without concern that events or activities will sneak up on them.
What about your school’s calendar is particularly effective?
The timeliness with which the calendar is created and published is very effective.
Although some people would say that the calendar creation is a time intensive process, it works well. The committee is able to get its work done in three meetings a year.
It is a very complete communication tool for the teachers and the parents.
The calendar is rather complete, with about 90% of the meetings and events for the school year being included.
We don’t change the calendar once it’s published. Things that have not been well thought through in terms of timing are changed the following year - we never inconvenience people by changing dates to meet our needs because we failed to think something through.
A key of our calendar is the assurance that we meet the state-mandated number of instructional days.
We pay a lot of attention to this. We put in the time up front so that people are as informed as possible about what’s going on at the school.
The school errs on the side of redundancy when notifying people about events.
We try to have the calendar held by two people in the office, so that events are only scheduled through these two. Although it doesn’t always work, the school has found that this is a good system for ensuring that class meetings aren’t held on the same night, and that other scheduling errors are avoided.
Tradition is a key element of the calendar’s structure. There is very little change from year to year. People know what to expect.
The school starts each year after Labor Day and ends at Memorial Day. This is achieved by scheduling fewer vacation days during the course of the school year, but people appreciate the consistency with which we open and close the year.
Key dates are published far enough in advance so that vacation planning can be done with a minimal impact on school attendance.
If there were something you could change in relation to your school’s calendar, what would it be and why?
We would like to have an earlier release time on faculty meeting days, but we have not been able to schedule this.
The ability to more easily change things on our web site will further help our ability to keep people informed about the many events and activities taking place at our school.
The school is hoping to create a shared calendar for all the Waldorf schools and the various anthroposophic initiatives in the area.
We would like to better develop our web presence, and to include more calendar information on our web site.
Our school calendar is not beautiful. It is utilitarian only. It would be wonderful to add an element of beauty to the calendar.
The school is planning to move to a two-year calendar. This is being driven by requests for outside rental that want to be booked more than a year in advance.
Before we had a high school, it was important to be in synch with our public schools because we had a large number of families with students in both systems. We question the importance of that coordination now that a parent has a choice to keep all children at the same school through high school. Waldorf schools are so intentional about everything they do, but at our school we do not give ourselves the same permission regarding the school calendar. What would our calendar look like if we created it to optimally support the rhythms of our program-year as well as provide reasonable respites for the faculty and staff, thereby making them better able to serve the students? We suspect it would look very different and wish we had the courage to explore this.