How to Plan for the Summer


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 107. 

Hey Builders, 

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson. And today we are continuing our series on the difference between bosses, leaders and builders. And I'm sad to say we only have about three more episodes this season, including this one. And so we're going to start wrapping things up. Today I want to talk about how bosses, leaders and builders are thinking about the summer, because I know many of you are starting to think about this summer now. Next week, we're going to do an episode where we kind of wrap everything up about bosses, leaders and builders. And then the first week of June, we will do our annual summer reading podcast. And then this season will come to a close now that doesn't mean I'm going to leave you without anything. We have something really interesting planned for you over the summer. So we'll start working on that as well. Before I jump into today's discussion about summer school, I do want to remind you about a couple of things.

The Mindsteps pop-up group is happening right now. 

If you are unfamiliar with a pop up group, we offer a free group where you can come in, you can get coaching, you can get free training, it's kind of a foretaste to what builder ship University looks like. And it's absolutely free. We call it a pop up group. Because some months we pop up and then some months we pop out and right now we're popping up we'll be in existence until at least through June. We're going to stop right before we have builder's lab. And so it is a free group to join, all you need to do is go to mind steps And you can join the pop up group, we have a couple of really good things happening this week. We just had a vision workshop yesterday where you bring your vision that you're working on, and you get my coaching on it. And it's a first come first served basis. You know, I talk in the very beginning about how to develop a vision statement. And then you come in and you say okay, here's my vision statement, and I give you feedback on it. We try to do those vision workshops pretty regularly, because those have been the most popular thing in our pop up group. So if you have a vision statement you're working on you want to do that, come to the pop up group. And then tomorrow we're going to be having office hours office hours are where you get to ask me anything. And again, first come first serve basis, but you come in you bring your question or your challenge, and then I coach you through it. And did I mention it's all free. So join the pop up group because we have a lot of great PD and coaching happening inside and you get to be a part of this huge community of people builders who are working on developing builders ship in their school. So join the pop up group at mind steps

Now I mentioned builders lab, it is coming up. Our next one is happening June 28. through June 30. We are about two thirds of the way sold out. We still have some tickets left. So if you're planning on coming to builders lab, you really do need to get your tickets. In fact, the deadline is coming up for tickets very shortly because you need to get your tickets for builders labs so that we can we have time to send you the builders, mops and builders box i'd love this box. In this box we have everything you're going to need for builders lab plus several things that help turn this from a virtual experience into a 360 degree experience encompassing all of your senses. So to get your ticket, simply go to mind steps slash builders dash lab, that's mine steps slash builders dash lab. Alright, let's dive into the summer because I know many of you right now are starting to think about what do we do this summer and this summer is unique because for many of you, you are using the summer to start planning for the return of full time school.

What's the difference between the way bosses, leaders and builders think about the summer?

Well, bosses you know by now they're gonna go with whatever the district mandate is they're waiting for the district to make those decisions. They're going to abide by whatever Decisions the district makes, and they're not going to do much else for it, they may think about some of the logistics and the pain about dealing with those, but they're not going to do much else. That's because bosses kind of sit back, they wait for stuff to happen, they react to things. And so you don't want to be a boss. Because if you do that, if you just go into survival mode, you're not setting your school up to be really ready for the challenges that are going to happen in the fall. And a lot of times bosses do that. Because they want to be able to blame somebody else when things don't work out the way that they want them to work out. And I get that, but you don't want to be a boss, you want to be more proactive. And so a lot of people, they understand that. And so they decide we're not going to be a boss, we're going to do what leaders do. And what do leaders do while this summer, they're going to convene their teams, they're going to have all these planning sessions, they're going to make a lot of plans.

In fact, right now, leaders all over the world are looking for strategies and resources. And you know, they read this book, and this sounds good. And oh, john Hattie says these strategies need to work. And they're making all of these plans, but they are making those plans inside of a vacuum. They're thinking about learning loss, or maybe they're there, they are making the term learning loss prettier and calling it No, it's not learning loss. It's really about learning leaps, and how do we help students make learning leaps, but the intention is still the same. They are automatically preparing for students there, they're believing that students are going to be behind. And they're thinking about what do we do to deal with students who are behind so they are scrambling for resources, they are scrambling for any kind of tool that they can use. And they're building their plans around how to deal with the anticipated learning loss, or how to address the learning loss through learning leaps. And so they're thinking about summer school, and they're thinking about when teachers get back in the fall. And they're also in the back in their minds thinking about what are the district mandates that we're going to have to deal with.

A lot of leaders right now are scrambling and they're feeling a little bit stressed or overwhelmed. 

They're reaching for something that they feel like they can anchor in something that will give them some surety, so they're going to default to anything that's research based leaders are going to default to anything that has some sort of proven track record. If somebody else says this works for me, then a leader might say all that I need that to a lot of leaders are going to be spending the summer doing a lot of reading, and attending a lot of conferences and trying to come up with the answer. They are trying to anticipate all the challenges that they're going to be facing this year, all the pushback that they may be getting from teachers, and they're going to try to address that ahead of time. They're trying to preempt a lot of the challenges that they're facing. And so the wearing themselves out. And here's the the setup, if you do that, if you if you try to preempt everything, your I used to say all the time. And in fact, I've worked with a principal who used to say this all the time, she said I'm looking to the east, and they're coming for me from the west, you cannot anticipate every challenge, you cannot mitigate every challenge, we have no idea what the return to school is going to look like.

We know that there are some challenges that are likely and probable. But we don't know we I mean, who anticipated that we'd be out of school this long, who anticipated that we'd be doing remote learning for this long, so you can't anticipate and preempt every challenge. And if you try to do that you shore up things over here, and you leave leaks on the other side. So as a leader, if you're trying to do that you are setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. Because you're not going to anticipate everything, you are setting yourself up for a lot of stress. And you're putting yourself in the position where you're making yourself responsible for everything for the success and failure of everything because you are doing everything. So being a leader and thinking about the summer that way, not gonna serve you very much. Here's how builders are thinking about the summer before they do anything.

Builders always start with their purpose. 

So the first thing that builders are doing is that they are anchoring in their purpose. They are starting out with revisiting their vision and and reaffirming that vision for 100% of their students. They're looking at the past year and they're looking at the data not through the lens of oh my goodness, what do we need to fix her? Oh my goodness, we fell here. Oh my goodness. We lost two points here. They're looking at the data and they're asking themselves, what does the data tell us in terms of how we are pursuing our vision If your vision is that 100% of your students will pass algebra by eighth grade, how many of your students did that this year? And why? If your vision is that 100% of your students will, will graduate employed, enrolled or enlisted? How did you do? And what was the difference in y? So they're looking at their vision and their data. And they're trying to ask the question, how are we doing in pursuing our vision? They're not beating themselves up. They're not making excuses. They're just looking for the answer to that question. The next thing that builders are doing is that they're looking at their mission. And they're asking themselves as we pursue our vision, are we keeping the work on mission? This is really important. It's a, it's a question we often ignore, and it gets schools into a lot of trouble. You see, when you pursue your vision, 100% of your students will do this, that or the other. You can pursue it a lot of different ways.

Let's say that your vision is every student will be at or above grade level in reading and mathematics. You could do that by drilling and killing students, you could do that by giving students the answers to the grade level tests, you can do that by giving students meaningful learning experiences that increase the level of their rigorous thinking, you can do that by teaching students soft skills, you can do that by you know, teaching students having students work on their fluency and their accuracy. There, you could do it by purchasing a program there, they're 10 million different ways you can get to that vision. But your mission creates guardrails around your vision. It says, when we are pursuing our vision, how will we do it? Why will we do it? What is the why that's driving the work? And so the second question that builders are asking themselves right now is, as we pursued our vision this year, did we do it in a way that aligns with our mission is the work we are doing right now on mission is the work that we are considering for next year, also on mission? And that helps, that helps keep you from chasing every shiny object that shows up. That may be cool, but does it align with our vision and mission? If the answer's no, then I don't consider it.

It frees up a lot of mind space for you to focus on what's important. 

Sifting everything, every possible curriculum, every possible program, every possible strategy, through the lens of your vision and your mission and your core values keeps you from chasing something that doesn't serve you that helps you stay focused on what's really important. And then the last thing that the builders are considering is, how are we doing with our core values? Is the work we're doing right now aligned with our core values. Are we in alignment with our core values? And that shapes your summer plans? You look at your vision, you figure out, okay, what's holding us back? And what do we need to be doing next year? What is the next best thing that we need to be doing in order to pursue our vision? You look at your mission and say, Okay, what can we do that remains within the confines of our mission? What how do we keep our work on mission? And how do we make sure that our work is in alignment with our core values, and you're sifting everything through that? Once you've done that, then you begin to think about planning for the summer. And for the for the upcoming school year. You take a look at at what your students need. And then you you start thinking about how can we provide that for them this summer. A lot of people are considering doing summer schools that are really focused on remediation in an attempt to reteach the entire last year of school. And if you do that it's a largely futile exercise. It may make you feel better. It may make you feel like you're doing something but you're really not.

In fact, you may want to consider thinking about instead of trying to remediate students over the summer, what can you do to accelerate them to prepare them so that they can walk into school in August or September prepared for on grade level work? So some of the builders I'm working with right now they are reconsidering summer school through the lens of their vision, mission and core values. And they want students on grade level right now, a lot of their students are not on grade level. So what they're doing over the summer is they're trying to figure out what are the high leverage strategies skills, background knowledge, vocabulary that prepares students for the coming grade, rather than trying to reteach the prior grade. So I'm not going to take my rising third graders and try to reteach second grade. Instead, I'm going to look at the third grade curriculum and figure out what are the key prerequisites that that my second graders need and I'm going to make sure that I spend summer school teaching those students that if I'm in middle school, and I'm thinking about my middle school, As I might be thinking about my rising sixth graders, or my rising ninth graders, and thinking about, they're walking into school, and they're probably not as prepared as they should be, so what do I need to do to get them ready for middle school level work or high school level work at the middle school, it's really about creating, making sure that they understand those organizational strategies, making sure that they can they have some some some numeracy skills that they that they walk into middle school with a with a fair understanding of fractions, working on their literacy skills and their writing skills and making sure they're ready at the high school level, probably something similar.

So what will it take for your students? 

What will the students need coming into my school in order for us to achieve our vision for that student before they leave? And then how do I how do I structure summer school so that my students have the prerequisites so that when they walk into the classroom in the fall, they're ready, that's a very different way of thinking about summer school. But when you think through the lens of builder ship, you start to look for those, those possibilities, you start to focus on your vision and what it will take to reach your vision rather than focusing on all the deficits. You know, one of the things I'm really worried about for the fall is that a lot of people, even if they try not to do it, a lot of people are using a very deficit mindset, when they're starting to think about and plan for the fall, they are already assuming that the students are not going to be ready. And they are already in a catch up mode rather than thinking about, okay, given that the students may not be fully prepared, what can we still do to make sure that we are making steady progress towards our vision? That's the way builders thing. The other thing that builders are thinking about is what do I need to do with my staff, a lot of people are not even considering their staff. And they know that their staff is overwhelmed and burned out. But they're not considering the fact that if we're going to pursue our vision, if we're going to start day one in the in the fall, pursuing our vision, that our staff needs support, too. And they're not considering what their staff might need.

Remember, not only have your students been home for a year and a half your staff has been home to or even if they're in the school they've been they've been teaching differently. Now's your opportunity to start thinking about building a skill set and a mindset amongst your staff that prepares them to step into the school in September or August, and be ready for the challenges that they're going to meet with our students. So what are you doing about that? So builders are thinking about summer PD? Not you know, I've got to do it or I can't do it, because the union won't let me or whatever you're thinking about what the whatever bosses and leaders are thinking about and set builders are thinking about, what does my staff need in order to be able to pursue our vision, this school coming school year? And then what are the ways that I can provide it within the constraints of the contract or the constraints of time? It's not always about paying staff members to come in and do more work. What else can I do? And builders are getting creative. They're doing things like one builder inside of builder ship University, she created a professional development podcast for her staff members, and the staff members get the playlist and she's doing a lot of training through a podcast medium, and also backing it up with some video so people can listen to the podcasts, people can watch videos. And the trainings are short, actionable trainings that help equip staff members with the skills that they need to be able to pursue the vision in the fall as she's creating that that podcast so that people can listen to it over the summer, and that they can create their own playlists not only over the summer, but throughout the year. And over time, she's accumulating this this repository of trainings that she can now deploy not just over the summer, but for any new staff members and year over year over year.

She is thinking like a Builder. 

Another Builder is working on creating reading groups for staff members over the summer so that they're reading work and and thinking about that other builders are setting up time for staff members to come in and do real work thinking about focusing on acceleration. Other builders who don't have access to their staff members over the summer, they're developing a 30 day plan so that when staff members come back in August, there they have a plan for the first 30 days of school that all staff members can follow. So when you're thinking like a builder, you you're not confined by the things that leaders and bosses are confined by because you are thinking about your vision and that opens up all kinds of of creative ideas when the vision is dry is your driving focus not the contract or or or what the district is asking you to do or your own fears when your vision is pulling you forward. Then you can begin to get creative about how you use the Summer for your students and your staff members.

The third way that builders are thinking about summer differently is that typically in the summer, that's the time that you develop your school improvement plan, a plan that you're going to commit to for the entire year. Well, builders know that you have no idea what the entire year is going to look like. So what builders are doing over the summer, is they're not developing a school improvement plan that they're going to commit to for the entire year. Instead, builders are thinking about the next 90 days. So builders, as you know, think in 90 day cycles. So we start in January, January, February, March, that's the first 90 days, the next one April, May, June. So at the end of June, they are finishing their second 90 day cycle. And so what builders are thinking about is they're already thinking about what is our third 90 day cycle going to look like what is July, August and September going to look like. And so they're planning is really about thinking about July, August and September. Now the beauty of that is that covers the entire summer, and it covers the about the first month of school. So rather than putting a lot of pressure on yourself to think about how are we going to handle the entire school year builders are only thinking about how we're going to handle the first 30 days, because they know that sometime in September, they're going to be sitting down, taking a look at how things are going. And they're going to plan for the next 90 days, October, November and December. So rather than having all this pressure to kind of imagine everything that could possibly happen in the school year, builders give themselves a break, they recognize that there's so many unknowns that are that are going to be happening, especially at the beginning of this school year.

Instead of trying to figure it all out, we just need to plan for the first 30 days.

That way, that gives us enough time to get back, get settled, start the school year strong, learn from all the things that are going to come up and develop an even better plan with more information and more skill and more knowledge, because we just gone through the first month of school for the next 90 days. The other thing is that if you create a plan in the summer, and then you get to school, and you realize you know what, that wasn't the right plan, you almost have to go back and rewrite your whole CIP plan. If you work in these 90 day cycles, you recognize I don't have to commit to something for the whole year, I can change I can iterate as I go. You've heard me say it before new level new devil. And so you don't know what new demons you're going to be facing at the end of that next 90 days. And so you don't worry about it, you just worry about getting through this 90 days and learning as much as we can. And then moving to the next one. So builders when they're meeting the summer in July, they are thinking about July, August and September, they are thinking about things that we need to set up now to put us in good stead to give us information that we need so that we come together in September to plan the next 90 days, we will have all the information we need will have the data that we need, so that we can plan for October, November, December, and we can make progress.

The other thing is what's the victory builders are planning for victory that first month. Remember, when you plan in those 90 day cycles, every 90 days, you have a success every 90 days, there's another victory there's there's something else that you've overcome. So builders are thinking about the beginning of the school year and giving teachers a win early in the school year. And then using that wind to create momentum throughout the year. So with everybody else is going into the school year thinking oh goodness, it's going to be a long slog. And all you know right about the end of September, that's when the reality sets in and you start realizing that your plan isn't going to work. They're planning for that feeling of failure at the end of September. But builders are planning for this victory at the end of September. Instead of going in expecting to fail builders are going in expecting to win builders are already thinking about what is our first win that gets you excited about going into the school year rather than dreading the school year. There's a lot going on this year.

Summer planning this year is going to be way more complex than in years past. 

If you walk into the summer, if you think about the summer for your students, for your teachers, and for you for what you are going to start creating, if you do that through the lens of being a boss, or being a leader, you are setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment and hard work and failure. But if you go into the summer, and you sift everything starting with your vision, your mission and your core values, you sift everything through that you anchor in that and you use your vision, your mission, your core values to make to make your plans to determine your direction for the year. Rather than creating a lot of extra work rather than trying to anticipate everything that could go wrong and failing rather than setting yourself up for disappointment. let you create a solid plan, you create a plan that is unique to your school, you unleash your creativity to tackle the challenges that are ahead and you create momentum, instead of dreading the year you look forward to the year because you've planned for success, rather than failure you've planned to do to accomplish something rather than survive something. I hope you've heard throughout this season, the big difference between bosses and leaders and builders, it boils down to a mindset.

When you're a boss or leader, a lot of what you do creates problems rather than solves them a lot of what you do moves stunts momentum, rather than builds momentum, a lot of what you do fosters a lot of disappointment in you and your teachers, rather than creating anticipation and hope and faith in the future. When you're a builder, just having that mindset helps you take the same situation, the same scenario that a boss and a leader is facing the same situation that they found impossible you see the possibilities, the same situation that they find frustrating, you find you find encouraging, because you find a way through the same situation that, that that that they find discouraging and overwhelming, you find encouraging and and and creates energy for you because everything can be material for what you were building for your school. So I want to challenge you this week, as you as you begin to think about the summer or as you are already thinking about the summer.

Test yourself and test your thoughts. 

Are you viewing the summer through the lens of a boss or leader, and all you can see are problems and challenges and, and overwhelm and, and you already are starting to kind of accept defeat. And while there's only so much we can do? Or are you looking at what's ahead the summer in the school year ahead through the lens of a builder. And all you see here are possibilities. All you see are are opportunities to move forward towards your vision, your instead of being overwhelmed, you're excited, you've gotten creative, you're figuring stuff out. And if you aren't seeing things through the lens of a builder and and you want to develop that lens, then I encourage you to join us a builders lab, that's what we're going to be doing this summer is helping you kind of look at the school year, the upcoming school year through the lens of a builder, we're going to be creating 90 day plans with you. A lot of people are bringing their entire leadership team so that they are using builders lab as as their three days of summer planning because they're going to get that plan done. And then we're going to walk with you over the next 90 days to make sure that it happens. So when you leave builder's lab in June, you will have a plan for July, August and September. And then we walk with you through July, August and September to make sure that your plan happens. If you're stuck. If you're feeling like not sure what to do, we do have all these students who are struggling and we have students we can't find and the district is making us do that. All those challenges. Bring them to builders lab, we'll figure it out. But don't, please don't.

Don't set yourself up for a lot of frustration and heartache and pain by thinking about this summer. And using the summer the way that you may have been typically trained to do it. This year especially can't afford to do that. Instead of a lot of frustration and overwhelm and then problem solving and useless planning creating plans that you're not going to be able to follow through on why not spend this summer creating and, and growing and, and looking forward to the fall. Why not spend the summer #LikeABuilder.

I'll 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 Buildership 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. 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 Buildership University. Just go to and get started writing your school success story today.

I'll talk to you again next time.

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