There are two kinds of writing critical to your success as an instructional leader:
- Documentation: Written evidence and feedback from classroom walkthroughs and formal observations
- Correspondence: Emails and other writing you do to communicate, such as newsletters
And if you're looking for a new job, writing your application materials is a third type—you won't even get an interview without a good cover letter—which makes sense given how much of the job involves writing.
But writing well is hard and time-consuming.
The more pressed you are for time, the harder it is to write well…
…and on the other hand, the higher a standard you hold yourself to, the longer your writing will take.
But what if better writing didn't take longer?
I have been thinking about this problem for a long time, and I wanted to share a few tips to help you succeed with your written work this year.
1. Re-use your writing
First, don't reinvent the wheel. Save and re-use your best writing.
Plan your evaluations by team/department, so you can re-use any writing you do that fits more than one teacher.
A great way to do this is with our free Evaluation Organizer Spreadsheet, which will also help you keep track of your progress in completing evaluations.
If teachers are performing at similar levels in similar areas of practice, you can simply copy and paste, and customize a bit for each teacher—especially the specific evidence you include.
Let me be very clear: teacher evaluations do NOT have to be 100% unique.
Do not let guilt or a sense of obligation make you feel like you have to craft a from-scratch “love letter” evaluation for every teacher.
Customize as needed—especially the evidence.
But reuse your writing without guilt. Download the Teacher Evaluation Organizer »
2. Use text expansion
Many devices and programs have “text expansion” built in. I personally use TextExpander for Mac, which saves me hours each month typing common phrases, as well as information like my email address (“jpc” is my abbreviation for [email protected]).
Similar features are built into iPhones, and a variety of programs are available for other devices.
(On iPhone, this is under Settings » General » Keyboard » Text Replacement)
Simply save a common phrase and give it a shortcut, and your writing will be much faster.
3. Use writing templates
Last but not least, a full-fledged template can be a huge time-saver.
People often use templates for their design and layout, but I'm talking about a template for the text itself.
For example, here's a template for replying to a parent email regarding a discipline or bullying issue:
Your approach to discipline situations is probably very consistent, even if the circumstances differ.
So your email to the parent can be largely the same each time.
However, each situation calls for a slightly different:
- Proper nouns
- Pronouns, and
- Messaging at key points
That's why I'm proud to present Repertoire Content Creator:
Since 2015, Repertoire has been the best tool for documentation—for taking notes during formal and informal observations, using the language of your instructional framework.
The “Snippets” feature makes it easy to pull up specific language you've used before, e.g. key phrases from your teacher evaluation framework:
You can build your observation notes phrase by phrase using Snippets, and you can save Templates to structure your overall writing—so you can re-use your existing writing at multiple levels.
But Repertoire is now Repertoire Content Creator, because we've added an all-new feature:
Documents allows you to build your own communication templates, complete with multiple-choice Phrases.
Each phrase can use one or more Fields:
If you've ever tried to re-use an email, you've probably felt find-and-replace anxiety.
You know what I mean—the worry that you'll forget to change a key word (like a pronoun or name), making it obvious that you re-used the email…
…and possibly even sharing private information (like the name of the last parent who emailed you about the same topic).
But Repertoire Content Creator eliminates find-and-replace anxiety, because it uses Fields to automatically fill in the right word, every time it's used in the template.
For example, you don't want to accidentally address Mr. Smith as “Mr. Jones,” which is easy to do when you've used the parent's name more than once—especially if the wording is different, like “Mr. and Mrs. Jones” which a normal find-and-replace might miss.
Phrases and Fields fix all of this—simply update the fields, choose the right option for each Phrase, and you're all set. It's just one click to copy the message to the clipboard, so you can paste into your word processor or email.
If you have requests, I'm actively writing templates now. What would be helpful? Let me know here.
And if you're ready to give Repertoire Content Creator a try, you can sign up here.
Repertoire Content Creator is available exclusively through the Instructional Leadership Association, our main membership program at The Principal Center.