Establishing your SYSTEM for back to school

green-zone-bagd_1302889849This week we had our C&I administrative retreat to help kick off our back to school season.

Our superintendent began with an illustration and an explanation.

The green zone is an area in Baghdad. It is heavily fortified and known as the “safe place” for any journalists, travelers, and US citizens. The Green Zone is completely surrounded by high concrete blast wallsT-Walls and barbed wire fences with access only available through a handful of entry control points, and has been referred to as “the bubble.”  He went on to say that if civilians ventured out of the “green zone”, military support couldn’t guarantee your safety. 

The assistant superintendent then crystallized the meaning behind our district “system”. Dr. Stone walked us down memory lane, and what steps had been taken to arrive at the place where we are now. There is a system in place. It has been thought through, fought for, and put into place to help everyone within it. In the same way the walls around the green zone protect the US citizens in Baghdad, the SYSTEM we work in is designed to protect us. She held up an egg. Imagine if we, or one of our students, were this fragile egg. The day to day green boxdecisions, are like sheets of paper, dropped against that egg. They aren’t deal breakers, they aren’t enough to harm you. But big decisions? Boulder tough decisions? You need a SYSTEM to keep you safe. She brought out the most simple of illustrations, a green tool box, and inside, placed the egg.  No matter what fell against that box, the egg was safe. The system keeps you safe, the system protects you. You still have freedom within that box, but are protected from the outside factors, complications or obstacles that aren’t clear.

Please note, in a year where the Dallas Morning News published an article stating that STAAR scores across the state were stagnant, ours saw an increase. Our system is working. 

I had goosebumps. The concept paralleled the environment that we WANT to see at our schools. Our campuses are the green zone. Our environment, our structure, is all built around the predication that we want our students to feel “in the green zone”. We are there to keep our students safe. Not locked away from the outside, but to help them navigate through the muddled waters of life, while still holding their hands. We want them to feel backed, to feel empowered to make decisions, and know that we support them. That alone happens when they trust & believe in your system…when the fidelity is made clear. Is your system trusting and sustainable?

There are so many factors that you can’t control, especially within a school district. Choose to create your own mini system, whether it be within your classroom walls, or a building. Perhaps Angela Maier’s tool kit is what you need, or Joan Young‘s ASCD Arias on Encouragement in the Classroom. Angela Watson also has written Awakened, a guide to transforming your mindset in the classroom.

system-ly safe,


This post is also posted on my website, Technically yours, Teamann.


  1. I’m looking forward to creating a classroom system where it’s safe to be who you are, have the family and friends you have, engage in interests that motivate and inspire you, and where mistakes are embraced and used as building blocks to learning. Thanks for the encouragement, Amber.

    August 3, 2014
  2. Kathleen McCreery said:

    Enjoyed the illustration and the explanation. This certainly matches one of the five tenets of ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative.

    August 13, 2014
  3. Pamela Good said:

    That is why I like AVID Elementary. It is a system that supports student Schoolwide through instruction, culture, leadership and systems. It is the green zone around a school that works to prepare kids with the strategies and skills to be successful in the 21st Century.

    August 15, 2014

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