Getting Administrative Buy In for a Classroom Business
At a Glance
Navigating administrative approval for classroom businesses.
Balancing school compliance with student-centered objectives.
Strategies for addressing potential logistical and funding challenges.
Welcome back to our ongoing series on creating a classroom business with a focus on meeting student goals.
In part 1 of this series we looked at some reasons why starting a business might be beneficial to students meeting their IEP goals.
In part 2 we identified some of the forms classroom businesses can take and what types of goals they might be most conducive to meeting.
In part 3 we talked about some approaches to surveying class interests to inform what business might seem like the best fit while staying within the parameters of what is feasible for you as the teacher to ensure it will run smoothly.
In part 4 we talk about turning all we’ve learned into a concrete and detailed business plan that can connect students to roles that enable working toward their goals.
In the final part of this series we wanted to touch on navigating administrative approval and how the steps we have already taken can help us share key information can go a long way toward ensuring the process goes as smoothly as possible.
While everyone operates in a different environment and may think of different positions when they consider who qualifies as a decision-maker, the bottom line is that having those details ready ahead of time can only help your case! So let’s dive into some things to consider when reaching out for approval in your system.
Consider the ways in which your business plan could potentially conflict with school rules or priorities.
When it comes to the priorities of the person making decisions on what school projects to approve, their primary considerations are often ensuring that the school is compliant with the rules and minimizing the risk of liability.
Depending on their position they may also consider whether there is any overlap between a given project and other approved projects at the school to limit conflict.
While you may or may not be aware of every consideration that goes into a final decision, it can help to consider which components of your own plan could potentially raise a red flag. If you want to sell candy, for example, you may need to consider whether other groups at school are already selling candy, whether the space you wish to use can be used for such a purpose, and whether some inventory items could be considered higher risk from an allergy standpoint.
While the mere possibility of a risk does not mean a particular facet of your plan must be discarded, it is a great idea to be prepared for concerns to be raised, especially if you have some basic backup ideas to work with.
Prepare some basic alternatives.
If you have identified some potential points of conflict in your plan, it can be a great idea to consider some basic alternatives to suggest so you can be ready to keep the ball rolling even if there is an issue. Your backup plan need not have all the details of your main plan, but it helps to have enough detail to explain how your functional alternative would work.
For example, if you wish to sell candy in the cafeteria but setting up a table in the cafeteria may not work, you might offer some alternatives of a particular hallway location or even setting up in your classroom during a designated time block. Even if those solutions turn out to be imperfect, having some alternatives ready shows thoughtful consideration and a commitment to making the project work and can make it easier to continue the conversation at a later time.
Identify and reach out to your decision maker.
Whether it is a department head, the principle, or an outside administrator, you likely have a sense in your own environment of who to go to when you need approval for a larger project.
If you are unsure, however, then it can be a helpful strategy to bring it up with someone directly above you and ask who they think you should bring it to. It might turn out they’re exactly who you need to talk to or at the very least can point you in a clear direction!
Share a concise version of your plan with key details.
In seeking out approval for the project all the preparation so far has been important in putting together a strong detailed plan for our own benefit. That being said, when talking about this project for the first time with a decision maker it is not necessary to share every single little detail that the project entails, especially if you are just looking for approval and intend to take care of the cost of the project yourself.
It will be great to have those things handy if the person you are working with has lots of follow up questions or needs to discuss alternatives, but as far as key details in your initial proposal go it is most important to include:
- What you are selling
- How you are obtaining/producing your product
- Additional equipment you intend to use
- Space and time needs
- Any other direct requests for the school
- The duration of the project
Be prepared to discuss how this business model will help students meet their goals.
The reason the above details are most important is because they are most helpful to the decision maker determining whether there are any potential rules or liability considerations they need to make.
Depending on the school and how much of your own resources are going into the project and how commonplace classroom businesses are in that space they may take for granted that it is beneficial to students as long as it is feasible. While you can and certainly should have those details ready if they want to know, the details above are the most helpful to the decision maker in navigating their own decision process.
While the details above are crucial for making logistical decisions, the student goal centered framework offers an incredibly compelling “why” and is a valuable tool to use if you do find yourself in a situation where approval depends on more than just showing that your project is compatible with the school’s day to day functioning.
“Let’s think about it for next year.”
One reality of a big project like this is that even if it is feasible to achieve, it may feel like a big undertaking in the context of everything else that goes on at a given school during the school year. As such, your decision-maker might suggest they like the idea but would rather figure out how to work it in next year than figure out all the details right away.
This is another great time to bring out your student centered framework for multiple reasons! First, it can offer a compelling reason why trying to start this year is particularly beneficial for this group of students. Second, it can help to lay the groundwork for you explaining how the business model might vary year to year depending on the goals of the students who are running it.
Even if you cannot get approval for this year, laying the groundwork for future iterations of this project with a student goal centered framing is still a win, even if it might not be the exact win we were hoping for.
A note on funding.
We have largely covered navigating this process from the standpoint of merely seeking out approval for a project that you will largely handle on your own, and that if you are using school resources it is existing facilities or equipment that doesn’t require new expenditures. However, we also know there are some cases where schools or districts might have some funding available for special projects.
The approval process for funding may look a little bit different from the process of just getting approval and may include more specific detailed questions having to do with the way that particular budget is earmarked.
Here is a great space where showing how your project can connect students to their goals can be a huge asset, and as with the more generalized approval process having a firm grasp on exactly what your project is and everything it needs to run can only help you. As always, you may need to be concise in your presentation but the more detail you know the better!
For some people administrative approval might be a relatively straightforward rubber stamping process and for others it might be the most harrowing part of this whole process.
However you feel about navigating this discussion with the decision makers at your school, we hope this post and this series have left you feeling more prepared to propose one of the more ambitious projects a classroom can take on during the school year.
If there is more you’d like to know about this or other topics or you want to share your own experience starting a classroom business we’d love to hear from you! Just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be back next week as always with a new post.