The D word (Documentation)

The D word. Documentation. Maybe it’s my particular kink that I like documentation, I wish I had more time for it, and I wish my staff had more time for it. Schools, for better or worse seem to run on adrenalin and drama. Child A has a meltdown in the learning support unit, parent B is having a crisis in the front office, Community member C wants to come in and display their numeracy-through-puppets show.

CC photo via

But where’s the bread and butter?

Systems allow large groups to accomplish large and complex tasks. You’d be forgiven for thinking this includes schools. Alas, schools are full of teachers who are really good at shutting their doors, pulling up their drawbridge and just teaching their class.

Except they’re not, they’re getting in the numeracy puppet show, and holding the hand of the parent in crisis and not sure what to do with the upset child, but eventually they’ll calm down. So all’s well that ends well?

If it reads like I’m trying to blame teachers here, I’m not. It takes a lot of courage for school leadership to look at a school and say “The documentation is crap and we’re going to have to (re)do it.” It seems like a very inwards looking approach. You can imagine the conversation with the inspector/network leader/departmental head:

Principal: I want to revise the school’s documentation

Head-cracker: What?

Principal: I think that if we work on job descriptions, formalise people’s responsibilities…

Head-cracker: Good grief! Where’s the wow factor?

Principal: The what?

Head-cracker: The wow factor! People want something they can see! Like a fete or a policy launch with children eating fruit or something! Documentation isn’t glamorous, and how long until you see results? One year? Two? Three?! Half your staff will have turned over by then!

Principal: How about a sun-safe photo shoot for the newsletter with giant sun character?

Head-cracker: I have the suit in my car!

Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but I can’t imagine anyone getting excited about ISO 9001 certification in a school. Which is odd, because as professionals you’d think we’d want our resources, our records, our lesson plans, our procedures and our policies written in a consistent way that facilitated teacher access and student achievement.

Or we could spend our spare lesson trying to figure out where the excursion form is and how to fill it out.