Keeping District Demand from Derailing Your Progress


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 231

Hey builders. Before we start today's show, I want to let you know that we are opening up builder ship University one more time this year, this is the last time that you'll be able to join builder ship University until next year, and it's also the last time that you'll be able to join be you at the current tuition tuition is going up next year. So if you've been on the fence, if you've been putting it off, he can't do that anymore, you need to go to builder ship and join right now doors close on Friday, November 3 2023. And they will not open again this year. So you need to go to builder ship and join today. Now onto the show. You're listening to the school leadership reimagine podcast episode 231. How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How do you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers strategies and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you face. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Let's get started.

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. 

And today, I'm going to take you behind the scenes of a conversation that we have been having inside of builder ship University. So as you know, when you're part of builders ship university, you get live group coaching every single week. And the last few weeks, we've had several people come in who've been really frustrated because they are trying to pursue their 100% vision. But they're getting a lot of pushback from their district. And we've been talking about some ways to deal with that, that have been really powerful. And I think you would benefit from it too. So I'm going to share some of those, those, those those ways of thinking those strategies to help you if you too, are feeling frustrated, because you're trying to pursue this 100% vision. And instead of supporting you, it feels like your district is is fighting and resisting you throwing roadblocks in your way. So let's get started.

So the first thing that often happens when you decide to be a builder and you decide to declare this 100% vision is that your supervisor, your superintendent, your area, Superintendent, somebody comes to you. And they tell you that 100% isn't realistic, they discourage you from holding on to that 100% vision. And it's often disheartening when you go to somebody who says they want success for all children who's pushing you to increase success for your students. And you say, Yes, I want to do it, I want to increase success. I want to pursue 100% success, I want to make sure every single child in my school is successful. And they say, well, that's not really realistic. It's sad, because you realize that even though they are paying lip service to that idea, they don't really believe it's possible. And it can feel discouraging to you. Because you realize maybe for the first time that that the people who who are are are leading your district don't really buy into this idea of success for all no matter how much they say it. 

So first, you got to get over that because let's be real, most people who say success for all, they don't really believe in success for all that's okay, that's okay. Because you're going to prove them wrong, you're going to show them the reality that success for all is possible. And so that should make you excited instead of discouraged because you are now in a place where you can help somebody who may have started out believing that but as lost their way, you can help them find their way again, you can show them that it is possible. So you should feel excited, not sad, but a lot of times they will try to tell you, you can't say that or you shouldn't say that, you know, they'll they'll they'll give you all the reasons that leaders use for why 100% vision isn't possible. They'll try to convince you to to shoot for 60% or 80% or whatever, you know, they've they've sold their soul whatever number they sold their soul for, right? They're going to try to do that. And this is your offer. tunity, to advocate for 100%, to show them that you really believe it to show them what it looks like to have that kind of conviction. And then after they do that, they may try a different tack, they may tell you that, if you say 100%, and you don't get it, you're actually going to discourage your staff and your families. I've actually heard someone say, use this example. And it irks me every time people use this example. But they'll say something like, Well, if you say 100%, and you're at 25%, and you don't make it, but let's say you grow and you get to 50%, then instead of feeling excited that you doubled your proficiency, people are going to feel discouraged, because you're insisting on 100%. And you're not recognizing all the work they did to get to 50%. Well, this is flawed for a couple of reasons. First of all, you're not going to get to 50% success from 25% success. If you're chasing a 10% incremental gain, you're just not going to get there, the strategies you use to eke out another five or 10% are not the same strategies that you use that it to be able to get to 100%. So first of all, you're never going to get to from 25 to 50, using those same strategies. Second of all, when you set 100% goal, and you start out at 25%, and you get to 50%, nobody's going to be discouraged, everybody's going to be excited. In fact, they're going to be even more energized after that, because they realize that when we use 100% tactics, when we focus on 100%, we can do more, we can double our our proficiency rate in one year, just imagine what we can do in three years, people are going to be so excited, you're going to have so much more momentum, nobody's going to be like, well, we only got to 50%. And now we can't get to 100%, people are going to be like, Look, if we could do that in one year, imagine what we could do in three years. 

So it's just a flawed premise. And so you can show them examples of other schools, we have so many schools and builders ship University, who have have pushed for 100% goal. And when their school makes those huge gains in one year, they they're so excited, there's so much more motivated, there's so much more committed, because they've made those gains. So it just isn't, it just doesn't happen. So when people try to discourage you, it doesn't mean that you're wrong, it means that they are, are used to dreaming small, they have not they've they've let go of their bigger dreams. And so rather than feeling defensive or discouraged, just feel sorry for them, and then feel excited for what you're about to show them in your school. Okay, so that's the first thing that happens, usually, you run into somebody at the district level, who tries to discourage you don't let them discourage you, you know, you are different. The moment you become a builder, you are different than everybody else, because you're a builder, not a leader. And instead of getting discouraged or frustrated, just realize there are leaders, that's what leaders do. And you're a builder, so they're not going to get it. But show them, you know, a year from now, they're going to be asking you to speak to all of your other principal colleagues and tell them, what did you do to get there, and then you get an opportunity to really show people what's possible, you are leading the way you're building, the way you're not leading the way you're building the way and that's super exciting, that should be so encouraging for you. Okay. The second thing that often happens is that you are off pursuing your builder's ship goals, you know, we're in the middle of the October reset free event. In fact, today is day four, and tomorrow is day five. So there's still time, if you have not signed up for the October reset, to go to builder ship and sign up because in the October reset, we're looking at making some very simple shifts, so that we can focus on the work that matters most and stop wasting time on stuff that doesn't matter. 

But as you begin to do that, and as you get that focus, the district can easily throw a curveball your way

The district can, you know, launch a new initiative and then, you know, take away the time that you were planning on working with your staff on your mission, your core values and say, now you have to work on you know, use that time that you have with your staff that you know that rare time that you have where you can bring everybody together. You have to use it to train everybody on a new software or you have to use it to you know, they're going to take half of your teachers away to to do curriculum training. And so you get frustrated because you had everything planned out and the district throws a curveball at you. And I get it it's it's frustrating, especially when What the district is asking you to do, feels so unnecessary so that it feels as if that work is not going to get you to your vision and you're so focused, that it can be frustrating and you get frustrated, and then you don't see the opportunities in it. So when that happens, here's what I encourage you to do the first thing, and the easiest thing to do is to look at whatever the district is asking you to do, and try to figure out how to make it serve your vision. So if the district says you all have to come together, because we're going to train you on some software, can you find ways to leverage this new software to make it serve your vision so that when you are in their training on the software, you're training people on how to use the software the way you need them to use it to achieve your vision. So you're not just going through this road training, you are now excited about the training, because you already know how the software is how you're going to use this software to achieve your vision. Let's say the district pulls half your people away, too. And so you don't have that time together. Well, are there ways that you can work with staff and small groups so that you can still achieve the same thing that you're trying to achieve with everybody together? And then use that time where some people are pulled out and other people are there to continue to work on your vision?

So the first step is always to figure out how do I take this district mandate, and make it serve my vision, because remember, we're builders and builders build with what ever anybody throws at us. So if the district throws something extra at you look at and say, Can I use this to build my vision, my mission, my core values, and if you can, that's the Win win, right? You you're doing what the district is asking you, but you are not wasting your time or your staffs time because you're taking that and you're using it to move you and your school forward towards your vision. Now, if you can't do that, the second thing that you need to do is you have the opportunity to ask for revisions. So if you can't make it work, as is, the second thing you want to do is say okay, what, what can we tweak so that it does work for us? So let me give you the example. Let's say the software training just really isn't good. You can't the software that you're using is not even, you know, the software that is that you that you need to be using, it's not moving you towards your goals. But the district has paid somebody a lot of money to use that software. Well, is there a piece of the software that will work but not the other part? Could you advocate for just using this part, but not using the other part right away, and slowly rolling it out so that you can only use the part that serves you? Let's say that the district is trying to pull everybody for a full day, but you need some time with your staff? Is there an opportunity to use a different day to work with your staff? Is there an opportunity for your staff to attend training online prior to that day so that they stay in the building that day? And you don't pull out? Is there a tweak? Is there something you can do that, that makes that district mandate work for you? And if there is, then I would, I would suggest that you go to the district ahead of time and offer them an alternative.

Now, this only works if you bring the alternative as a way to serve the district rather than a way to serve you. So if you got in a district, you say, I need my staff in the building, you can't take them out the building, well, nobody's gonna listen to you. They just sound like you're whining. But if you can say, Listen, I understand what you're trying to do. You want to get everybody together, because you want to make sure people are doing that. My teachers are already doing that. And if I if we can commit to doing what you're asking them to do, and I can show you evidence that they're already doing that, can they be excused from the training? Do you see the example that the difference? Because you're not asking for you, you're telling the district I want to do what you're asking us to do. I want to make sure that we are doing things with fidelity, if the training is about getting people to do things with fidelity, and we're already demonstrating that we're doing it with fidelity, may we be excused. Because here's what we want to do instead. Now, it may work. But it doesn't hurt to ask. And again, if you're looking at it from the district's perspective, instead of your perspective, you can often get opportunities to tweak and revise as long as the district gets what they want out of the bargain. So that's the second thing to do. Hey, it's Robyn here real quick. I just want to interrupt this episode for just a second because if you are enjoying what you're hearing, then would you mind sharing this episode with somebody else? So all you need to do is just go to your phone if you're listening to it on your phone or your podcast player or, and then click the three dots next to this episode. And I'll give you the option to share the episode that if you do that three things are going to happen first, the person that you shared with is going to think you're a hero, especially if they're struggling with what we're talking about right now, they're going to love you. Secondly, you're going to feel good, because you're going to get the word out about builder ship, and start building this builder, ship nation. And third, you will get my eternal gratitude because I really want to get this out to the world, and you'd be helping me out, you'd be doing me a huge favor. So please share this episode with someone right now who's who's dealing with this same issue, someone you think would really benefit. And now back to the show. 

Now, in some cases, the district is going to say, No, you have to go. 

So the third step is that if you can't make what the district's asking you to do work for you, and you can't get a revision that will allow it to work for you. The third step is, then how can you get it done as quickly as possible and comply, and then get back to the work that matters to you. So, you know, if the district is asking you to do the training, then maybe you don't take all day to do the training, maybe do the training for an hour you talk about you know how it works, you get it done quickly, and then get back to the work that you need to do. And let you know, a lot of times when I say stuff like this paper, Oh, be careful, and I get it, I get it, you have to make sure that you're not doing things that are going to put a target on your back, right. But in most cases, if you are focused on your vision, and you are showing results, then the district is a lot less concerned about whether or not you comply, right? You want to make sure that when you comply, that you are doing it with fidelity, right. 

So you're not, you're not just gonna like, you know, quickly brush through it, you need to make sure you understand what fidelity looks like, and then try to figure out how to get to fidelity as quickly as possible, so that you can get back to work on the things that matter for your kids, your teachers in your school. So I'm not telling you to ignore the district or, you know, just you know, throw you know, they give, give minimal effort, because that's often in violation of your core values, you have to find a way to comply in a way that aligns with the core values of your school. Otherwise, people look at you and they think your your core values aren't negotiable, after all right? If your core values are given our best in everything we do, then if you can't find a way to make the district what the district is asking you work, or you can't advocate for a revision, then you have to do your best and what the district's asking you to do. And then quickly get back to work on what you need to do for your school. Okay, so I'm not telling you to comply in a way that is disrespectful or comply in a way that that violates the core values and culture you're trying to build. I'm saying that you need to if you can't push if you can't find a way to make it work or to ask for a vision to it fidelity. But here's what that does. 

First of all, when you do it fidelity, most schools are not going to do it with fidelity, you really do something with fidelity, then the district leaves you alone, that you you by yourself more latitude later on. And you also by yourself goodwill. So the next time, you may be able to advocate. So go ahead, comply. Do it with fidelity, do it in a way that honors your vision, mission and core values. Be transparent with your staff about what it is you're doing. Don't try to sell something that you really can't sell. Be honest, listen, I don't know how to get out of this. But since we're being asked to do it, let's go ahead and do it in a way that honors our mission, our core values, our vision, and let's do it with fidelity, because this is who we are as a school, you can be as transparent as you want. And then go about and do it. But what you've done is even though you're doing work that you don't really want to do, you don't see the value and you are doing it in a way that cements your culture you're doing in a way in a way that that brings everybody together, you're doing it in a way that ultimately reinforces what matters most in your school. The work itself may not you may not find value in it. But the process for how you do the work, you can extract tons of value. No matter what happens. At the end of the day. The biggest thing that you have to remember is this is your school. It's your school. And a lot of times we forget that when the district ask us to do something, we feel helpless. We feel like there's nothing we can do. There's always something you can do. There's all least something you can do. You know what, once you really embrace your vision, every meeting you go into, then your hat, you have a different attitude. Because you realize this vision is important. It's necessary. It's one of the reasons why your vision in order to pass the vision test, it has to be unset assignable. He can't say, oh, I really wish I could work on my vision, but the district know, you're always working on your vision, no matter what the district asks you to do. 

And as the builder in your building, you need to advocate for your vision. 

So many people have a vision, they know it's important that but then the moment the district says something, they collapse, because we've gotten in this habit of just immediately doing whatever the district says, and not advocating for our school and our students, we feel helpless. And I get it. So many of us are in school situations in districts where in the past, people have been punitive, people have punished. I remember working in a district and people I wanted to do something and people said, if you do that, you will never go anywhere in this district. And the thing that I was trying to do, I remember going to the Associate Superintendent saying, you know, here's what I want to do. And she said, I can't, I mean, listen, you do that it's career suicide. You, you advocate for that, if you will, you know, and I can't go to the superintendent, and do that i because it'll put me in danger. So if you go to the superintendent with this, you're on your own. But because I believe so passionately in what I was doing, I took the risk, I was nervous, I was so sick to my stomach, I couldn't keep any food down. I was terrified. And I went in and the superintendent wasn't known for being the nicest of people. You know, he took pride and he said, I'm a mean sob but I'm the same mean sob to everybody. Like that was something he actually said, this wasn't easy to do. And I, you know, I didn't have any power, I didn't have a position and going in, but I believe so much and what I wanted to do, and, and why it was important, I just said I got to do it. 

So I remember going to his office and, and sitting down and laying out my case. And I was fully prepared to get you know, Costco told off, you know, dismissed. But instead, he heard me out. And I could tell it earned his respect. I didn't just go in brash and say, here's what I want to do when you need it. You know, like that doesn't win any time. But when you go in, and you use the vision story framework, that we teach us how to build a ship university that helps you put yourself in the other person's shoes. And you advocate for children in a way that's respectful, you earn their respect. At the end of the day, he was great. He was like, I fully support that. In fact, I want you to head it up, I want you to do it. And he came out as my biggest advocate, a lot of times, we are terrified. And I know that some of you don't work in situations where you know, that will work. You work with people who are vindictive, and small and petty and, and so you may have to find a way around it. But you but the point is, regardless of your situation, you have to be an advocate for your own vision. Remember, if you don't believe in your vision, if you don't fight for your vision, nobody else will. And because your vision isn't selfish, because your vision is about your students, then you have a right to fight for them, they need you to fight for them. So we have to remember that that is our job as builders, not only to set the vision, but to be the our visions biggest advocate. And a lot of us have forgotten that a lot of us feel like what the district says, this is the way it has to be this is the way it has to be. No, it doesn't. I was talking to a builder and she was saying, well, the district says have to meet with these people. And, and that's okay. 

I mean, I'm not telling you to break the meeting. But the meeting doesn't have to be their agenda. It can be your agenda. You know, when you are sitting down and you're meeting with anybody in the district, one of the first things you should say is like, you know, listen, I'm excited we're about to meet today, I'm really excited to hear what you have to say. And I want you to know from the very beginning, I want to support it. But I also have another agenda because I have this vision for our students. And so as we're talking, I'm not only thinking about ways that I can support, what you're asking me to do, I'm also thinking about ways we can take this work that you're asking me to do and make it serve our kids in this way. So that's that I just want to be transparent. That's why I'm here. So let's talk Most of us don't even take that step, we just kind of sit and nod, okay? Well, you know, whatever you say, because we are so used to just just sitting and doing what we're told, because that's what the leadership model has, it has trained us to do. And think about it as a leader, the leader, you know, sets out ahead, and our job is to follow. But when you're a builder, your job isn't to follow your job is to build and you're all your job is to solicit other people's support in building. So I say to builders all the time, we got to stop asking for permission, and start asking for support. Our job is, is is is not to, to, to go around with a hat in our hands. And, you know, Mother Mae eye, because we're you know, for these kids, these kids are their kids. These are students in our district in our school are the students of the district, our goals are the same. 

We want 100% success they want it too and we forget that. 

So we got to get back to being advocates for our vision. And when you see yourself as an advocate for your vision for your students, then a lot of these district demands, don't throw us off our game. A lot of the district demands Don't, don't make us feel like oh, I've got to set aside my vision because now the district is asking me to do something, they're not mutually exclusive, you can find a way to do both, you can find a way to be respectful for what you're being asked to do by your district, and still achieve your vision. But you can't do it. If you're thinking like a leader, you can only do it if you're approaching your work like a builder. Now, if you want some help if you if you want to be a part of a group of people who will encourage you will help you think this through will help you find a way to advocate for your vision a group of people who don't think you're crazy, who actually believe in you and believe in your vision and believe your vision is possible that I want to invite you to join us and build a ship University. Again, we're closing up for the year after this cohort and now is a great time to join. So if you're feeling overwhelmed if you're feeling trapped if you want to do this work, but you're feeling alone, you're feeling like you don't have the support you need, I want you to know that that support is available to you inside a builder ship University, just go to builder ship and join. Talk to you next time.

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at builder ship University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Inside you'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle, and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join bill to ship University. Just go to build a ship and get started writing your school success story today. Hey, it's Robin here. And I want to thank you for listening to today's episode. And if you have a question about today's episode, or you just want to keep the conversation going. Did you know that we had a school leadership reimagined Facebook group, all you need to do is go to Facebook, join the school leadership reimagined Facebook group. Now there are going to be a couple of questions that we asked at the beginning because we want to protect this group and make sure that we don't have any trolls come in and that it really is for people who are principals, assistant principals, district administrators. So make sure you answer those questions so you won't get in but then we can keep the conversation going. Plus we do a lot of great bonus content. I'm in there every single weekday so if you have a question or comment above the episode, let's continue the conversation.

Join us at the school leadership reimagined Facebook group and I'll talk to you next time.

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