Crisis Proofing Your School Part I


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast. This is a bonus episode on how to crisis prove your school.

Welcome to the school leadership re-imagined podcast where we rethink what's possible to transform your school if you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement than stayed tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now here's your host, Robyn Jackson.

Hey builders.

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today I'm here with a bonus episode as a part of a series that I'm doing around how to crisis proof your school. The year 2020 has been an just this crazy year and we seem to be going from one crisis to the next. And so even though our season is over, I wanted to come back and talk to you about some enduring things that can help you navigate your school through the current crises or whatever crisis is coming up ahead. And so today I want to talk about three things that I've learned during crisis that really are important to help you crisis proof through school. But before I do that, I want to talk to you about builder's lab three 60 because we tickets are on sale right now.

It is the first time that we are doing a immersive interactive three 60 experience. And it's something that you can experience from your own home. That's right. We're coming to you from streaming. And I am sitting in the studio right now, recording this podcast, but right outside my door, my team is already starting to build the new stage that we're going to be hosting. Builder's lab three 60 on. So this is not a zoom meeting. This is not, you know, me sitting in front of a computer for three days straight dragging you through my PowerPoint slides. Nope. This is something completely different. It's a totally immersive three 60 experience. And what do I mean by three 60? I mean that we are taking care of all of your senses. We're not just going to have, you know, you listen or watch. We're actually going to be sending you a box and inside the box, you will have things that you can touch and taste and feel so that you are completely immersed in this learning experience together as you and other builders from all over the world, come together to not only hone in on your vision, mission and core values, but then to figure out how do you get everybody in your school committed and aligned to those.

How do you figure out what your biggest obstacle is? 

What is it that's keeping you from your vision, mission and core values. And then how do you knock that obstacle down in the next 90 days? And not only that, but after that three 60 experience, we're not going to just drop you off and say, you know, okay, you've learned something, go out and do it. And good luck. We actually walk with you over the next 90 days to make sure that you are successful. So after the experience is over, you will hear from me every single week with nudges and support. There'll be opportunities for you to have dedicated office hours where you can come back and talk to me about what you're doing in your school and what roadblocks you're facing. And together we can remove those roadblocks. So when you come to builders lab three 60, it's not just three days, it's a three month commitment where for three days you get the training, but then for the next three months, you get the support and you need it now more than ever, we have no idea what school is going to look like in the fall.

And we have no idea what 2020 still has Juarez. So you need to have something in which you can anchor. And that starts with your vision, mission and core values. And it also starts with having a concrete plan that helps you make decisions in a, a confident, but also flexible way. One of the things that you learned at builder's lab three 60 is that you learn how to create a plan that is crisis proof. It doesn't mean that the plan will protect you from crisis. But what it does mean is that unlike the plans that we're taught to create where you have to toss it aside, as soon as the crisis hits, cause you know, it's garbage at that point, this plan will help you navigate through crisis and keep your focus on the goal. It's so flexible and so resilient that you can continue to make decisions through the crisis and not get distracted by what's going on.

I'm inviting you to come join us. 

I don't know that we'll ever do anything like this. Again, this is the first time where you haven't had to travel to us to be a part of builders lab. You can do it from your home, which means that not just you, but your entire admin team can get on and, and, and be a part of that experience and work together and use the tools to really build a resilient school. And not only that, you develop the skills to have resilient decision making so that you know what to do, even when you don't know what to do. And so w if you want to come to Miller slap, and I really hope you do join us this summer, the dates are July 19 through 22nd. So on the 19th, we will have a virtual registration experience.

That's going to be very, very cool, and we're going to have a mocktail party. And then on the 20th, 21st and 22nd, we will have training live training and not only training, but you'll have opportunities to be a part of a mentorship group so that you can have small group mentoring. You have opportunities for one on one coaching, you know, we're going to, I'm going to be teaching. And then after I teach, you're going to immediately start applying it to your school. I'm telling you where we're planning an incredible experience and I'd love for you to be a part of it. So what you need to do is go to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab that's Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab. All right, let's talk about some lessons that the crisis has taught me. And some things that I think would be really helpful for you as builders to think about, especially as you are trying to navigate your school through the current crisis, but also to prepare your school for whatever's coming up next, the first big lesson for me, and it's kind of illustrated in a quote that's attributed to Warren buffet, and it goes something like when the tide goes out, you realize who's been swimming naked.

In times of crisis, you realize which one of your teachers have been essentially swimming naked. 

Which one of your teachers have been getting by on the strength of their personality or on the strength of their proximity to students, which of your teachers has been phoning it in which of your teachers hasn't been anchored and rooted in a clear instructional, um, philosophy and pedagogy, which one of your teachers has not been building relationships with students. It also reveals which one of us has been maybe also kind of phoning it in, or also relying on proximity as a proxy for real relationships, or which one of us have not had a clearly defined vision, mission and core values inside of our mindsets pop up group. We're doing a lot of work with people on helping them clarify their vision. And a lot of people have come to the realization that their vision statements don't serve them.

Their vision statements are useless in times of crisis. So the crisis is revealing to us where we are weak, the areas where we need to shore up. It's done the same thing for me in my own business. It's shown us where we have single points of failure. It's shown us where we've been overly reliant on something that we shouldn't be overruled, overly reliant on. And so the crisis reveals to us our weaknesses. And I take that as a true gift because when we can see areas that we've been ignoring that are not effective or not working, we have opportunities to now do something about it. The crisis is also revealing areas where an equity is, is, is, is, has a stronghold it's, it's revealing areas where our students are not having equal access to an education. It's revealing areas where poverty is really impacting our kids.

It's revealing areas where systemic racism has started to impact
our kids. 

I mean, it's been there for years. We've seen it. So I shouldn't say have started because those things have been there for years, but now in the midst of dealing with a pandemic, those things become more and more obvious. And if we continue to ignore them, then we become part of the problem. But the crisis has given us a beautiful opportunity to come face to face with some things that we may not have wanted to deal with and to deal with them. So the question becomes, how do you take advantage of that opportunity? How do you deal with things, especially things that you haven't wanted to deal with? Things that you've been hiding from things that you have been ignoring, things that feel so big, some things that make us feel helpless, how do we deal with it?

Well, that brings me to my second lesson. And that's this, if you do not have something in which you can anchor like a vision, mission and core values, you will become immediately adrift in any crisis. It's been so obvious to me, the schools that have really spent the time and done the work of crafting a vision that involves and includes every one of their students, a hundred percent vision, the staffs that have come together and agreed upon core values that are non negotiable, the staffs that have come together and really defined a mission that, that, that anchors the why of what they're doing. Those staffs have been able to navigate their schools safely through this crisis, and they're ready for whatever crisis comes next. The schools that haven't done that have been adrift and, and trying to figure it out, and they're grabbing all kinds of superficial solutions and they're going back and forth.

They're just all over the place. 

Now, right now, as I record this in June of 2020, the nation is embroiled in two crises. First, there's still a global pandemic and we are slowly but surely emerging from quarantine without a cure. But in addition to that in the United States and actually across the world, people are really having tough conversations as they grapple with racial inequality, that's happening and systemic racism and institutional racism. That's happening all over the world. And hasn't been happening for such a long time. Both of these are huge global crises. And if you don't have a clear vision, mission, and core values to guide you to help you figure out what to do, you are caught flat footed the number of posts that I've seen on social media lately, from people who are saying, I don't know what to do.

The number of social media posts that I've seen, that people are posting because they feel pressured or obligated to say something, or the posts that I've seen that are nothing more than virtue signaling that says, Hey, look me, I'm really not a bad person. I'm not racist. And I don't see color. And you know, all of these things, those posts that are coming from individuals and institutions, I can tell which ones are just kind of a knee jerk reaction to what's happening. And which ones are rooted in core values, vision and mission is he, if you have a school in an organization that has created a vision, that includes 100% of your students. If you have a compelling mission and you have non-negotiable core values, you don't have to scramble to figure out what to say. When people ask you, what is your stance on institutional racism?

What is your stance on black lives matter? 

Because you have a track record and you have an organizational perspective that is already very clear. People who are saying, I don't know what to say. They're saying that because they don't have a vision, mission and core values through which they can sift the situation, the schools that, that have that they have response, that's ready. And it's aligned with our vision, mission and core values. They didn't have to go somewhere and make it up. They didn't have to hire some sort of sensitivity consultant to come in and tell them what to say. They didn't have to write letters and run them through some sort of PR machine to figure out what to say. They'd simply said, how do we respond to this crisis? I don't know. What's our vision. What's our mission. What's our core values. Oh, that's how we respond.

And so I guess the biggest lesson that I've learned through this crisis is that when you have a vision, mission and core values, and when you've done the work to align your school, to that vision, mission, and core values, you don't ever have to worry about a crisis because you will know how to respond. We have no idea what is coming down the pike for us so far this year, we have dealt with a global pandemic. We've dealt with race, um, protest racial protests, all over the world. We have killer Hornets coming. I live in the Washington DC area. The cicadas are coming. So it feels like I'm living in the book of revelation. And when going through the last plague sometimes. So we've no idea what's coming next. Not only that, but our students have gone through six months of trauma. And when they come back to us in whatever form, they come back to us.

We have a lot of trauma that we have to help heal. 

If you don't have a vision, mission and core values. And if your work is not aligned to your vision, mission, and core values, there's no way you're going to handle that correctly. You are guaranteed to fail some population of students in your care. But when you have a vision that includes 100% of your students. When you're committed to that, when you align all of your policies and all of your programs and all of your, your approaches to that vision, what that vision is backed up by a mission that says, this is why this is important to us in this community. And then when you, when you put your money where your mouth is by declaring these things are nonnegotiable through your core values. You don't have to worry about failing kids. You don't have to worry about what do I say and how do I respond and how, how do I not be racist?

You don't have to worry about those things, because if you're sifting everything through your vision, mission, and core values, and if they are good vision, mission, and core values, you'll know what to do. You don't have to make it up on the spot. They guide you. A lot of people think that those things are, you know, they're, they're, they're nice to have. Why are you always talking about vision, mission and core values? Look, I didn't expect to be talking about this. I want to talk about builder ship. I want to talk about the builder ship model. I have so many other things that I want to talk about, but I keep coming back to this because if this isn't in place, all those other things that I want to teach you, you can't do. How can you develop a roadmap to success when you haven't clearly defined what success looks like for 100% of your students?

How can you give teachers feedback? 

If that feedback isn't anchored in a vision, mission, and core values, how do you provide support for teachers when that support isn't anchored in your vision, mission and core values. If that support is not designed to help people live those out every single day, how can you hold people accountable, accountable to what? How can you, how can you build a culture when you don't have anything that anchors your culture and brings your culture together? So all these other things that I want to talk about and want to teach, I keep having to stop and go back to vision, mission, and core values. I was doing a workshop the other day. I was doing it on, um, supporting struggling teachers and the people I was working with didn't have a clear vision for their school. And so I said, well, how do you even know, teachers are struggling?

You struggling about what you don't have a vision. So who's to say that this is what struggle looks like. So we had to go back to their vision and I'm finding, I'm having to do that more and more and more. And at first I was so frustrated because I don't want to be the spokesperson for vision, but you know, I'm resigned to the role because it's that important. Not only am I resigned every time I do it, every time I work with a group of people and help them with their vision. And, and, and then all of a sudden, when they have it clarified, everything else falls into place. That light bulb moment actually is bringing me joy right now. I know that the kids in that school are going to be safe because the vision for that school finally includes them. Finally draws a line in the sand and says, this is going to be true for 100% of our students.

People ask me all the time, as an African woman, how do you feel about this? 

I have my feelings. I go through, you know, a daily gauntlet of microaggressions, but so what I want you to serve kids, all kids, I want you to do good by all kids. That's all I care about. I don't care how you feel. I don't care what you believe. I want you to do good by all kids. That's all I ask. And your vision says that your vision is a statement that says, I commit to doing good by all kids. Your mission says, this is why I'm making that commitment. And your core value say, because I'm making this commitment. These things are no longer negotiable. You do that. And I don't care if you March you do that. I don't care if you put a black square on your social media profile, do that make that commitment to all kids.

Because quite frankly, that's why we became educators. We didn't do it for the money. We didn't do it for the fame. We didn't do it because we thought somebody was going to throw us a parade. One day, we did it because we were committed to kids that doesn't change. And your vision, mission and core values makes that clear that anybody who comes and works in this school or in this district, this is what we're here to do. And if you did that, if you made that clear to people, then it doesn't matter if it's a pandemic, or if it doesn't matter. If this country descends into chaos, every single day, you get up, you go to school and you make sure that every single kid in your care gets a high quality education by people who are committed to that.

Kid's success. That's all I ask.

I think that's all anybody asks. So the big lessons in this crisis, one, when the tide goes out, you start seeing who's swimming naked. And there are a lot of people who are naked right now, too. If you don't have a clear vision, mission and core values, you're always going to be scrambling with every single crisis. You're always vulnerable to every single crisis. Because every single time you hit a crisis, you have to make up something new. You have to decide, Oh, what are we going to do now? Whereas if you have a clear vision, mission and core values, you say, Hey, we have a new crisis. We never experienced this before. What does our vision, mission and core values say we should do? And then do that. It becomes that simple. And here's the last big lesson that I've learned when crisis happens. Those of us who are committed to children, to committed, to building.

A lot of times we can absorb the trauma. We absorb everybody else's stuff. And because we're strong because we're committed to building. A lot of times, we don't pay attention to how that affects us. And so the last thing I want to say to you is that if you want to make your school crisis proof, not only are you going to have to deal with some of the things that the crisis has revealed about who we are and what we do, not only are you going to have to establish and double down on your vision, mission and core values, but it also means that you're going to have to make sure that you're taking care of yourself. Now, I've seen a lot of posts about self care. I'm not going to tell you to, you know, draw yourself a bubble bath and sprinkle lavender flowers, all in the bag.

I mean, if that's your jam, do it. 

This is not what I'm talking about. Here's what I am talking about. You can be strong. People need you to be strong, but you also have to recognize that we carry our own trauma. And that is just as real as the trauma that we are trying to help other people heal from. And so we have to be very, very mindful of our own trauma. We have to be mindful that when we are acting on behalf of children, that we have to separate our trauma, our personal feelings from the bigger work that we're involved in doing right now. There's a lot of fear. There's a lot of anger. There's a lot of uncertainty. There's a lot of defensiveness and we're all carrying it. And it's starting to leak out in the way that we deal with each other.

The vitriol that I'm starting to see happening in exchanges between two people who are supposed to be committed to serving kids is pretty frightening to me. And sometimes it means that you have to tune out some of those vitriolic voices so that you can focus on doing the work that really matters. Sometimes it means that you have to disengage from battles, with people who are never going to change and stop trying to convince them and get out there and build, you know, one of the things that I say over and over and over again, I didn't make it up, but I love it. And it's become a mantra for me. Is that bosses say, go leaders say, let's go. And whenever we get into a let's go position, we try to convince other people that something is the right thing to do.

We're constantly trying to control and push.

We have these long conversations that are fruitless and people walk away even more entrenched in their original ideas than they were before the conversation. And we spent all this time trying to get people to come on, let's move. I'm here to tell you that. I'm not sure that that's a good use of your time. I'm not sure if that's even healthy for you. That takes a lot of energy. And at the end of the day, you're still standing right where you were at the beginning of that conversation. So also say, go leaders say, let's go builders, filter, say com, stop trying to convince other people to come with. You, go out there and start building. And just like the Kevin Costner movie, if you build it, they will come get out there and start building people who are telling you this will never happen.

This can never happen. Those kids can't these people, can't whatever. I don't want to argue with him anymore. What I'm going to do is start building. And the more you build more people believe that it can happen because they see you doing it. And when you build and you start just doing the work, other people, see what you're doing and they come and they join you. And then you're not carrying it by yourself anymore because other people are builder. Builders make builders. So you get out there, you start building other people will join you. They begin to build other people, join them. They begin to build. And that's how you achieve your vision, your mission, and your core values, like a builder. You build first. So stop wasting your time. Arguing about this.

Stop wasting your time, scrolling through social media and reading. 

Everybody's angry. Repost. Stop posting. If it's draining you, I mean, if it's cathartic and you want to do it great, but if it's draining you or once you put it out there and all the comments happen, and that drains you stop arguing with people about it. Stop getting frustrated because you read something that somebody else says, turn it off, get out there and start building. That's what I'm going to do. So as soon as I finish that recording this podcast, I want to start building the set for builders lab three 60. I'm going to work on building the curriculum for builders lab three 60. I've got something else that we're building right now that I'm so excited to tell you about. At some point, I'm going to get out there and I'm going to start building because that's how you change the world. Thanks for joining me today. And if you want to, you know, talk about this or you have, you know, somebody wanted some ideas about how you can get started building. There are three ways you can reach me. I'm on Facebook at Robyn Jackson. I am on Twitter at Robyn underscore mindsteps Then it's Robyn with a Y and then I'm also on LinkedIn. Let's connect there and together let's all get out there. Let's start building. 

I'll talk to you next time.

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