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  • Writer's pictureKjell Fenn, M.Ed., M.A.

How Does a School get in Shape? With a Personal Trainer, of Course!

by Kjell Fenn, M.Ed., M.A.

Ongoing Technical Assistance (OTA) is a school's personal trainer. Diets, fads, and programs abound all over the Internet. Gyms, fitness centers, and workout gurus are everywhere. They all have “the best product ever!” Not only is it challenging to figure out what actually works, but which one is best for me. Which diet, program, or fitness center fits my lifestyle? What is healthy in general and for me specifically, which is most effective for my body type, how do I do it all and lead a semi-normal life, and so on? The questions pile up and the answers are hard to find. The best would be to have a personal trainer who worked on my schedule, knew my lifestyle and schedule, and cared for me.

Similarly, schools are told they must improve, “get in shape” so to speak. Fix that, remove this, rearrange those, and organize these. A thousand programs and gurus are out there with great results and great products. But which works best for the particular school? That’s where a personal trainer or educational consultant helps tremendously.

An education consultant learns about the school (e.g., names, history, etc.),

understands the current strengths and areas of improvement, grasps the culture and climate of the school, knows where the school wants to go and gives voice to teachers and staff. The consultant provides ongoing technical assistance (OTA). OTA looks different for each school, of course. For some, it’s meeting with a small group for very specific training. For another school, it is whole staff training with follow-up sessions on a particular subject. And still, for others, it’s a hybrid of in-person training, virtual sessions, conference calls, and email communication. No matter what it looks like, the personal trainer makes a program specific to the school. The OTA plan is customized.

The Power of OTA: Ongoing, Results-Oriented, Customized

Ongoing. This means the training is continuous, enduring, and open-ended. There is an inherent investment in knowing there will be “a next time.” There is ample time for the consultant to truly get to know the school and personnel in order to formulate a competent plan.

Results-Oriented. There are projected measurable outcomes in OTA. The results are the leading force for training. It is a backward design approach. Regular constructive feedback provides deliberate and gradual movement toward an expected end.

Customized. Because OTA is continuous, the trainer consults with the school throughout the school year to customize the training and feedback to the particular school. The work is contextualized to create meaning and ownership of staff.

So, how does a school get in shape? With a personal trainer, of course! Hiring a consultant for a year or more to provide ongoing technical assistance can transform your school deliberately and effectively.

Authored by Kjell Fenn, M.A. © SchoolRIGHT, LLC., unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved.


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