Friday, September 17, 2010

Constitution Day and the Repeating Task System

"Constitution Day" was established by Congress in 2004. The legislation establishing it also set forth the requirement that all educational institutions which receive federal funds are required to hold educational programs pertaining to the Constitution on September 17 each year. 

When this legislation was passed, communication flowed as it normally does through the chain of command. Memos went from Washington to each state department of education, who in turn sent memos to school systems, who in turn sent memos to principals.



I was a principal at that time. When I received my memo outlining this annual responsibility, I recognized this for what it was--not just something I would need to handle this September, but something I would handle every September. This was a repeating task, one of the hundreds of items to be handed every week, every month, every year. etc. Without hesitation, I created a task in Outlook to "Plan Constitution Day activity," gave it a start and due date in mid-August, clicked the "Recurrence" button, and clicked "Yearly." Done!

Would I received a reminder each year from our central office? My thoughts were, "Who knows and who cares?" I didn't need someone else reminding me. Nor would worry that I would remember to comply with this pretty simple, straight-forward requirement. Every August 15, a task would automatically appear in Outlook reminding me to make plans.

"How would this same thing be handled other places?" I thought. Would there be someone at the state level taking responsibility each year for reminding school systems of this requirement? Or, would someone at the school system level recognize a responsibility to remind principals each year and follow-through to see that schools were in compliance? In how many cases would principals be on their own? What about brand new principals? How would someone coming into the principalship be expected to know about this requirement?

Constitution Day provides just one example of a reality which exists not only the principalship, but in any job. There are those tasks which must be done on a regular basis. Our choice is to hope that we remember to do them at the right time, or to develop a system which will handle the remembering for us. Every day, things slip through the cracks not because of lack of ability, but for the lack of a system that handles the large number of responsibilities we have.

In the coming days, Eye on Education will feature a podcast I created on the subject of repeating tasks. Check back for further information.


How is communication about Constitution Day handled in your school system? Who holds the responsibility for "remembering" to plan activities? Anybody have a really Constitution Day activity you want to share? Did the whole event "slip through the cracks" for anyone?
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