Summer Rewind: How To Create Wow Experiences For Your Students And Staff
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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 111
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, then stay tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now here's your host, Robyn Jackson.
Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson. And we are back with another episode of our summer rewind series. While we're on hiatus over the summer, we thought we would go back into our archives and pull some of our favorite episodes and some of your favorite episodes. And one episode that surprised me. And its popularity was Episode 17, which is all about creating wow moments in your school. When I did that episode, I almost didn't do it because I thought oh, you know, it kind of feels more touchy feely. And I'm not sure that people are going to be interested in it. But it has consistently been one of our most popular episodes. And I think I now understand why there is power. And creating those moments, we just completed a workshop with one of our clients where we looked at planning out the first 90 days of next school year thinking about all of the challenges we're going to face as many of us return to full time in person learning, and how we're going to help our teachers who are already overwhelmed and stressed out, navigate that return to school. And I found myself returning to that episode and thinking about how you can deliberately engineer while moments in that first 90 days of school so that you create that momentum so that you bring everybody back so that you get everybody refocused on your vision, your mission and your core values.
It struck me just how powerful these moments are.
So in this episode, we're going to be talking about how you can create those wow moments. And I would encourage you as you are doing your summer planning to think about how you are going to deliberately engineer those moments you're going to bake them in, if not the first 90 days of school, think about just the first 30 days of school, that first month of school, what are the moments that are going to come up? And how can you take those ordinary moments, those things that are just a part of returning to school anyway. But how can you turn them into wow moments that re energize your teachers that that get your students focused on on learning again, that that helps your families feel good about returning to school that that turn your school culture into a healthy and thriving and happy school culture. Now, before we jump into that episode, I do have something special to tell you about. And that is that while you're listening to this episode, we are wrapping up the last day of builders labs. If you're listening to this episode in real time, we are just completing our June 2021 builders lab today's the last day.
But tomorrow, Thursday, I'm going to be doing something really special. And we are opening it up just to a few people. And we have a couple of slots left. And so I want to open it up to everybody who listens to this podcast. So you're gonna have to act fast, because it's happening Thursday tomorrow, it starts at 10am eastern time, we are doing a private invitation only post conference where if you weren't able to get to builders lab, but you've ever been curious about what builders lab is about, we're going to focus on just one aspect of that buildership model, and really do a deep dive and it's all happening for free. So during the post conference, we are going to look at where your school is right now, which is great with their four zones that your school can be in the red zone, the orange zone, the yellow zone, the green zone, and we're going to look at what zone your school is in right now. And what it's going to take for your school to be able to achieve your vision in the next three years. We're gonna go deep into that. So we have an assessment that you take prior to coming to the conference that helps you figure out what zone your school is in. And then once you have those results when you come into the conference, we're going to be talking about okay if your school is in this zone, here's what you need to do. And this is not fluffy stuff. We are going to you all know that we don't do fluffy workshops.
We're going to be going in deep.
We're going to be laying out exactly what you need to do, we're going to talk about the tools that you're going to need to put in place and the things that you need to do this summer. And the idea is that if you come to this post conference, rather than when you leave, you'll have a plan so that rather than kind of try to work on everything, you can focus on the right work doing the right work right now, and making that work, meaningful and valuable. And then saying no to the work that isn't appropriate for where your school is right now, that's going to be equally important and powerful. So we have a few more slots left for this. And so if you are interested in coming, here's what you're going to need to do, you're going to need to go to this episode's web page, this show notes web page for this episode. And so what you would do is go to school leadership reimagined.com slash Episode 111. Okay, I'll say that again, school leadership reimagined.com slash Episode 111. And you will find a link to get to the private invite page to be able to come to the conference tomorrow. So we're doing a half day pre conference, it's called totally virtual, and it's totally free. And we start at 10am. Eastern Time, and we're going from 10am to 2pm. In between, we're going to have a huge break in between, we'll do a half hour break. And so if you can carve out that time tomorrow, you know, you can be there fully present for the entire thing.
We don't do this often. In fact, we've never done a half day free conference before. So this is the first time and we'll see how it goes. We'll see if we can actually serve some people. And if we can, maybe we'll do it again. Maybe we won't, I don't know. So I wouldn't wait. Please don't write and say I can't make it when this the next time you're doing it. I don't know if or when we're going to do this again. But if you can, if you're going to be around tomorrow, if you can carve out between 10am and 2pm. Eastern Time to be in front of your computer, we're going to have this this very interactive session that helps you understand where your school is right now, understand what the right work is that you should be focused on. Understand what you should be ignoring right now because of where your school is, so that you can use your summer productively you can plan and do work that is actually going to matter that's actually going to move your school closer to your vision for your school next year. So again, school leadership reimagined that comm slash episode one one to go ahead and get a link for that invite. All right, now let's listen to the episode 17. The summer rewind, about how to deliberately engineer while moments and take ordinary moments in your school and turn them into wall moments so that you can create a more meaningful experience for your teachers and your students and their families. This coming school year.
Today we're talking about how to create wow experiences for your students and your staff.
So to start out, I want you to think back over the last I don't know, let's say the last month of work. What's the first thing you remember? Well, I'm guessing it wasn't the 15 minutes that you spent trying to get the copier on stuck so that you could finish and copying the agenda for your upcoming staff meeting. And I bet it wasn't even that staff meeting that you just led that stands out. And I'm pretty sure that it wasn't all the paperwork that you completed over the month. Because if you're like most of us, your last month was probably filled with a lot of mundane ordinary moments where you completed your work. And yet, when you think about over your last month, I bet that only a couple of moments stand out. When you think about last month you're not the things that stand out aren't things like oh, yeah, all that paperwork, I've filled out all those mundane, ordinary, boring things. The things that stand out are those moments where something really special happened or, or something really awful happened. I mean, although you probably had 10 or 20, mundane moments for every extraordinary one that happened last month. It's the extraordinary moments that you remember and is the extraordinary moments that define that month for you.
Why is that? Why is it that although we have hundreds of moments every single month, only a few of them actually are memorable or, frankly truly meaningful. Why is it that some moments out while others are barely memorable or noticeable? Well, the answer is pretty simple. You see, some moments matter more than others. And if we don't understand that, and we don't seize those moments, the moments that matter, then we miss a real opportunity to shape our school culture, and reinforce our core values. So on this episode, I want to talk about how you can seize those, those seemingly random moments in your day or in the days of your students and your staff, and turn them into meaningful, even life defining moments. And to do that, I'm going to be using Chip and Dan Heath book, The Power of moments, which I reviewed in the summer reading episode, that was Episode 13. And don't worry, I'll link to it in the show notes. Specifically, we're going to talk about how to intentionally take ordinary moments, and then turn them into wow experiences for your students and for your staff. And here's the thing, we don't have to wait for life defining moments to simply happen to our students and our staff, we can intentionally create wow experiences that can shape and enrich our school culture, they can help us better connect with the people that we serve. And ultimately, these wild moments can help mark your school in a new direction. And here's the thing, all these things can happen in a single moment.
I want to tell you about a wow experience that I've created for you.
It happens to be today's sponsor. So today's episode is sponsored by my on demand training program called the feedback Fast Track formula. Now, unlike a lot of online courses out there, where you have to sit and be in front of your computer screen for a specific number of hours or at specific times, and you have to do outside reading and all of that this training program is very simple. It's just for online modules. And you can take them at your own pace. So if you only have 20 minutes to sit down and do the training, you can watch 20 minutes of the training, get up, go do your work, come back when it's convenient, and pick up right where you left off. And so after you complete these four modules, you are going to have your whole feedback process mapped out and ready to go. And you're going to be able to fast track your feedback. Not only will you be able to get into more classrooms and make getting into classrooms a bigger priority. But you're also once you get into those classrooms, you're going to learn how to quickly figure out exactly what you need to say to teachers how to conduct those post observation conferences, even when they feel awful, and you're dreading them, you're not going to drag them anymore, because you're going to know exactly what to say. And then how to follow up in writing. And to do that writing quickly.
So you're not bogged down taking paperwork home every weekend and trying to slog through doing your evaluations after hours and on your own time. So again, the program's called the feedback Fast Track formula. It's an on demand training program for school administrators like principals and assistant principals and Dean's of instruction on anybody who is tasked with giving teachers feedback. This is going to show you how to give better, more powerful and meaningful feedback. And you can learn all about this online training program by going to mind steps inc.com slash feedback, and I'll make sure that I put a link to it in today's show notes. And by the way, I keep mentioning the show notes, you can find the show notes for this episode, as well as other episodes on the school leadership reimagined podcast by going to school leadership reimagined.com and for this episode, you'd go to school leadership reimagined comm slash Episode 17. All right, now let's jump into wow experiences. And the reason that I'm talking about wow experiences.
At first, I kind of hesitated even doing an episode about this.
A lot of times when people hear while experiences, they think we're going to be talking about something fluffy, they think we're going to be talking about something that's you know, kind of cutesy, but doesn't have to do with the real work of builder ship. But I want you to know that as a builder, you really need to be creating intentionally while experiences because while experiences do three things, the first thing they do is they take something that's ordinary and they elevate it, it helps things stand out there or break from the ordinary. In fact, you can often elevate the ordinary to make it very special and more meaningful by creating a wow experience. So secondly, while experiences are great, because they can reinforce your school's core values. Now this one's really important. And so you're probably going to hear me stating this a lot over and over.
Throughout this episode, because you don't want to just wow for a while, say, you know, that's gratuitous wowing. And, you know, it's often called like a dog and pony show, you're just entertaining people. The thing that makes wow experiences different from a dog and pony show is that with wow experiences, you can take your school's core values, and you can support them, you can reinforce them, you can make them stand out and show people exactly how to live out your core values in your day to day interactions in your school. So let me give you a forensics so you know exactly what I'm talking about. Suppose your school has a core value of leadership, a lot of schools have core values around leadership. And in your case, you believe that every student should leave their Okay, let's say it's a middle school. So every student should leave your middle school with leadership qualities that help them stand out in the world. And this is a non negotiable for you. So what you're going to do is you're going to create wow experiences that reinforce the importance of leadership for your students. So an example of a wow experience might be student led parent conferences. Now, I know a lot of people already do student led parent conferences.
Here is the difference between a typical experience and a wow experience for someone.
So instead of a typical student led conference, you're going to turn this experience into a wow experience. And you're going to do it by doing things like the week approaching conference day, students are going to start preparing their data. So in math class, they're going to be creating charts and graphs showing their progress. And they're going to write up paragraph summaries explaining their data and then an English class, they're going to assemble a portfolio of their best writing to share. And they're going to practice their presentation explaining why these these writing samples are good illustrations of their work and good illustrations of their movement towards the standards. And then say, in science class, they'll create goals for the upcoming marking period. And in social studies class, they're going to create a timeline of their academic growth throughout the marking period and, and the highlight lessons that they've learned along the way. And then on the day of the conference, students are going to dress up, and they're going to carry portfolios with them, and the students are going to run the meeting. So in the meeting, they're going to present their portfolios, they're going to present their data, they're going to handle parent questions, but you're going to set them up ahead of time, so that they can do that in a way that that shows true leadership. And then at the end, they're going to hand their parents a summary of their progress and explain how they plan them improve their performance over the next marking period. And then after that, they're going to invite their teachers to add anything else that they may want to add. And then the students conclude the meeting, that after the conference, parents and teachers give students feedback on their performance, how well they ran the meeting, how well they showed leadership, and then the students will then take that feedback and reflect on that feedback, and use that to help them improve for the next conference.
So rather than just kind of having a student led conference and kind of kids just kind of plugging along through that process, you will create this wow experience that serves to help students kind of reinforce and live out your school's core values. So that's the second thing that while experiences can do so so far, they can elevate ordinary experiences, and make them something memorable, meaningful and special to they can reinforce your school's core values. And then three, while experiences can provide moments of insight, in other words, your wow experiences can actually help people learn something or deepen their understanding of a bigger concept, or equip people to be able to live out core values in your school. So that way, while experiences become even more meaningful, so here's an example of how you can use a while experience to create moments of insight or to help equip people to be able to live out your core values. So a lot of people make a big deal about the first day of school and they go all out the principals and the teachers dress up their balloons. They even roll out like a literal red carpet for students and parents. Maybe there's food. So what why are you doing all of that? What does it really mean? And in most cases, it's fun, but it really doesn't mean anything. So sometimes schools will try to make it mean something. So they'll create a theme for the year like launching into learning and they'll have spaceships and the principal will dress up like an astronaut. Or, you know, another theme I saw was kids under construction. And that's construction with a K for the sake of alliteration. And then everybody wears hard hats and you know, kids come in and you know that that's cute.
What does it really mean? How does it connect with your core values?
How are you going to reinforce that theme throughout the year? And if you don't know the answers to those questions, well then You have a wow experience for a while sake, it's a dog and pony show, it's not a truly wild experience. So here's how you could turn a first day of school into a while experience. So first of all, maybe you choose a theme for the year. And then you make sure that it's a theme that not only reinforces your core values, or your non negotiables. But you also have a plan for how you're going to use that theme throughout the year. So let's say you had a core value or a non negotiable for building lifelong learners, while you might pick a theme, like reading for life, and that could be your theme for the year. So on the first day of school, you have a bookmobile parked right out front of school. And everybody goes through that bookmobile and all the students select a book, right from the very beginning, parents are coming with students, and they're picking out a book together, because they're going to be expected to read that book right then and there. So then you invite the parents and their students into the cafeteria, there's coffee, there's doughnuts, and they are invited to sit for a few minutes and read with their students. And then you get up and then you welcome parents and you give them a reading journal that they're going to be using throughout the year to record what they're reading with their students every single night. You can even create a dialectic journal or dialogue journal, I'm saying that right? where parents kind of write their ideas, and then a teacher writes back to the parents, so that there's this real partnership happening around students reading, and the kids are bringing the journal back and forth, and parents are writing back and forth with teachers about what the students are reading. So that's one idea.
And the other thing you're going to do is you're going to give parents a packet, and it's going to have tips for how to help their students become better readers. And you might even want to include a reading list of really cool books that you think your parents would enjoy, or a reading list of what your staff is currently reading, that might be interesting for parents to pick up. So then after that, parents are going to get to walk their kids to the their classrooms, and as they walk through the hallway, you're going to have all kinds of reading books set up all over the school. And these books are going to be there for teachers and parents. So they can read aloud with their students before school, after school, during recess, etc. And then in the classrooms, teachers are going to have a list of their favorite books that they read over the summer posted somewhere in their classroom. And students are gonna have name tags, and are going to be shaped like books, maybe even with their name, you know, like, first grade by what the kids names that the kids name is what the author's places, you know, you get the idea. And then there's going to be this big celebration the first day of school, and then you're going to reinforce it throughout the year. So every staff meeting, you're going to start with people, you're going to start by sharing something that you're reading, and then you're gonna invite other people to share what they're reading at the PTSA meeting, the PTSA is going to sign parents up for a book club, maybe you do that even on the first day of school, so that the parents are reading books that are helping them support their students and their growth. And so you know what, you get the idea you can, you could take that a really run with it.
I'm not born with a doily gene.
But I know a lot of people are born with a doily gene, they can take anything and make it you know, amazing and fantastic. And what you want to do is come with these ideas to your staff, find your staff members with the doily gene, and then have them just go all out with it and create this huge wild experience. And the difference between this kind of wild experience and the normal hoopla that we create on the first day of school is that the wow experience actually provides some insight into the importance of reading. And it actually equips parents and students and teachers with a tool to help them actually start reading for pleasure and becoming lifelong readers. So you get the idea. So just to kind of recap, while experiences can do three things for you, they can elevate the ordinary so that you make moments in school that are ordinary moments meaningful. The second thing that they can do is that they can reinforce your school core values. And then the third thing is that they can create more insight, equip, and prepare your students and their families and your teachers to be able to live out your core values in your school. So now they have a better idea of what a wow experience is, let's talk about when you can create wow experiences. And there are actually three types of moments that are great opportunities to create wow experiences for your teachers and for your students. So the first opportunity to create a while experience is any kind of transition that's happening in your school. So transitions are kind of natural defining moments already. I mean, think about the first day on a new job as a teacher or the first day of middle school for rising fifth graders are the first day of kindergarten.
You know all of these are our transitions that are naturally defining moments for our students and for our staff. But natural defining moments, they're really big deals. They Mark a period in our lives where we move from before to after, or from here to there. And, and the problem is, is that in most cases, we do a pretty lackluster job of of taking these naturally defining moments like transitions, and truly elevating them so that they're really meaningful, you know, what would happen if we could recognize how important these transitions are, and we can shape them, we can make them even more memorable, more meaningful. And in other words, if what would happen if we were to carefully elevate these naturally defining moments into truly wow experiences? Well, if we did, we could take these transitions, which are going to happen anyway. And we could use them to again, reinforce our core values and create meaningful learning experiences from them. So the first step is to look for transitions that are already a part of the school year, like the first day of school, we've already talked about that, or the last day of school when you know, usually, we're just so relieved to get the kiddies gone, that we don't have any traditions that mark the last day of school where kids are transitioning.
I think it would be really powerful if the last day of school we're given the same kind of importance as the first day of school.
Reinforcing preparing kids for the summer, and creating an experience that that doesn't celebrate How relieved we are that we're finished, but gets them really excited, and to begin their summer and to look forward to the next school year. I want you to think about that. They're also kind of naturally occurring moments that happened in school, like promotion ceremonies, and we kind of make a big deal of that. But are we really intentional to design promotion ceremonies that again, reinforce our school core values? And then I want you to go even further, think about what other transitions are happening for students throughout the school year, like moving from one level reader to the next. We don't make a big deal about that. But maybe we should or are moving from one digit multiplication to two digit multiplication. I mean, I know that sounds kind of mundane. But what happened if we took a moment to celebrate that? Or how about transitioning from one major system in biology to the next door, or one unit to the next, what would happen if we actually celebrated that, you know, one teacher, I know, he has a graduation ceremony for his credit recovery students, each time they complete work for different grade levels. So credit recovery kits are there, they're trying to, you know, you might have a 19 year old who's still in ninth grade, and they're trying to recover credit so that they can earn enough credits to be able to graduate. So in his case, if one of his students completes all of his ninth grade English requirements, well, the teacher will stop right there at that point in the year, and the teacher will have a ceremony and a certificate for that student signifying that that student has now moved to 10th grade English. And I love that because it creates, takes that transition and says and doesn't focus on the fact that you're 19. And okay, great. You finished ninth grade, but you sold my grades to go, it says, Listen, you've accomplished something really important. And we're going to take a moment to celebrate that. You know, I think about that, as a builder.
What would happen if you did that for your kids who were behind? I mean, what what have you celebrated when a student finally started reading on grade level, or moved from one level to the next level, those kinds of transitions, I mean, the The possibilities are really endless. I want you to pick a few major transitions for your students. Things that are that are aligned with the core values of your school. And I want you to find ways to elevate those transitions and celebrate them create while moments around those transitions. Now, although we do a pretty good job already about doing that for kids, I would argue that we don't do such a great job of commemorating those transitions for the adults in our building. I mean, do you, for example, do something really special for teachers who are new to your building to commemorate their first day of school? Or how about the start of testing season or even better? The end of testing fees? I mean, think about what would happen if you created a wow moment around shipping off the last test for the year. Or here's a really big one. I mean, remember in Episode Number 10, where I talked about battle tested interview questions that you could use to recruit and hire the right people for your school. Well, why go through all of that trouble to recruit and hire the right people for your school, only to give them a really mediocre or worth disheartening experience on their first day of work? So what if instead, you created a truly wow experience for welcoming teachers who are new to your school now, I'm not talking about having them come in a day early, listen to a speech by your superintendent and come to your building where they get the Grand 30 minute tour, and then they're left alone in their classrooms for the rest of the day. That that's not a Wow experience.
Here's a WOW experience.
As soon as a teacher accepts the job at your school, they get a personal email from you, welcoming them to your school and reiterating your school's core values. And then a few minutes later, they get another email from their personal school ambassador, which is one of the teachers on your staff who's going to be charged with supporting them during those first few weeks. And the ambassador welcomes them to the school and introduces themselves and gives them the lowdown on things like dress code, and where to park on the first day and even a floor plan or picture of the future classroom. And then what if they also got a package in the mail with their very own school t shirt and other swag from your school that they could wear the first day of school. And then what happens is, when they arrive to your school for the first time, they're greeted at the door by their school ambassador, who personally welcomes them and help them get settled in immediately into their classroom. And then they show them where the coffee machine is and, and where the good coffee is and the staff lounge. And they escort them to the main office where you're waiting there for them with with with coffee and treats the first day and then you mingle with the group and tell them how happy you are that they've joined your team and other members of the administration come out there and they celebrate as well. And then after that, you escort them or they get escorted back to their classrooms and sitting on their desk is a welcome basket with staplers and construction paper and scissors and other little treats that they could use to get their desks set up and they could use to start decorating their classrooms. And then the custodial staff drops by and introduces themselves and and personally welcomes the new teachers and they offer to help them you know, move to file cabinet or get a window unstuck where they show them the trick for working the thermometer, the gauge in their room. And then they show them where to find cleaning supplies and help them just kind of figure out the physical space.
Then later on the business manager starts by their classroom and introduces herself. And she personally goes over paperwork with them. And then other teachers who may be in the building look in on a make sure that they need anything. And then at lunchtime, you order pizza, and you have it in the staff lounge. And during that pizza party. That's when you go over any school policies or procedures and you hand them the staff manuals. And then at the end of the day, they get a personal email from you thanking them for an amazing day and reiterating your school's core values once again. Then the next day when the rest of the teachers return, instead of making each new person stand up and introduce themselves. You've already sent an email to your staff Introducing the new faces in the building so and with pictures of those new faces so that current staff can go out of their way to introduce themselves to new teachers, and call them by name as soon as they return to the building. And then during that first big staff meeting instead of making them stand up and introduce themselves. The new teachers ambassadors stand up and they introduce the new teachers to the staff, and they're warmly welcome. And then as the these teachers who are new to your building, they're working in our classrooms throughout the first week, you make time to stop by personally to each one of their classrooms and get to know them better compliment them on their classroom decor, answer any questions, check on them. And then when the kids arrive after the first week of school you host a little small gathering that Friday in a staff lounge to check in with any new staff members and see how their first week when reiterating the core values, make sure they're okay. And you also commemorate the first week by giving each one of them in a ceremony, a special school hat that says welcome you are finally now a member of our staff. I mean, think about that.
Think about what you could do to make a new teacher or someone who's new to your school feel really welcomed.
What what could you do to make their first few days memorable and meaningful? What would happen if you intentionally designed a first day experience that not only Welcome to new people to your team, but also reinforced your your core values and made it easy for them to assimilate quickly into your school culture. I mean, what would happen if if you offered new teachers to your building and on forgettable first day that that made them happy and proud to be a part of your staff, and also gave them first hand experiences that reinforce your core values and show them this is what it feels like to work here. And that's not just about the first day experience. I mean, think about how you can make every significant transition for both students and for your staff, a wow moment, one that reinforce your core values, one that that helped them to celebrate those transitions and to make those transitions meaningful. It would be amazing. That's what I think I'd love to come work at your school. If I knew that that was going to be happening for me. So the first opportunity for while experiences are transitions. Now the second opportunity to deliberately create a wow experience is to look at milestones. Now, milestones are those moments where we've reached a peak in our experience. So we commemorate them all the time in school, we commemorate big milestone birthdays, you know, when I turned 16, and I'm able to drive or 18, and I'm able to vote or 21. And I'm able to do a whole bunch of things, drink alcohol and rent a car or 50, where it's a big milestone. I've lived 50 years, and we do this kind of naturally. But what if we did it in school? I mean, think about milestones. And we're not talking about these huge big milestones.
Think about the little milestones that can make a big difference. Like, what if we commemorated kindergarteners learning their 100th sight word, or 11th graders finally completing that big 10 page research paper? Or what about a milestone of completing the 100 day of school or something else that is a milestone like crossing the halfway point in the school year? And then for your staff? What have you commemorated the successful end of the first week of school or successfully surviving spirit week in high school, high school teachers, you know what I'm talking about, or that moment when you hit a really important learning target, or even What about a milestone of Do you know, when your teachers work anniversaries are? And are you celebrating that, you know, the thing about milestones is that, unfortunately, a lot of them go unnoticed. So what I want to challenge you to do is look beyond the typical milestones that we normally celebrate in school and think about the milestones that actually again, reinforce your school core values that actually align with your culture, and try to start celebrating those. So let me give you for instance, you know, suppose your school has a core value of showing each person respect. Well, one milestone that you might Institute is a milestone for teachers who learn all of their students first names. In fact, you could even create a competition for teachers to see who can learn all their students names the fastest or first, I mean, that's a wow experience that reinforces your core values, and it celebrates a milestone. Or here's another example, suppose your school has a core value of never stopped learning? Well, you could create a wow experience to celebrate students reading a certain number of books outside of class and teachers to for that matter. Or you could create a milestone around the number of PD hours that a teacher racks up and you can create a wow experience around that. I mean, the idea here is, it's pretty simple.
You can use wow experiences around milestones as a way to celebrate and reward people who actually embody your school's core values.
So let me ask you, what milestones Do you commemorate as a school culture? And how can these milestones reinforce your core values and create a shared sense of identity and meaning for your staff members. And I urge you to look beyond the typical milestones to things like I don't know, 10 days going without a disciplinary referral, if that's a big deal in your school, or are going one week with perfect attendance for kids, or for adults for that matter, or getting five aids in a row and a quiz or solving 1000 math problems, or 100% of their teachers getting their grades in the system one time, you know, the key, of course, is that you're not picking random milestones, you're looking for milestones that directly reinforce your school core values. And then once you find them, you're going to intentionally create while experiences around them. And when you do, not only you're going to support and reinforce your school core values more powerfully, but you're also going to be encouraging people to live out those core values in their day to day interactions, you're going to be weaving them into the very fabric of your school culture. So first opportunity to create wow experiences. We talked about transitions. And then the second opportunity is milestones. And the third one is a little different, because the third one is what Chip and Dan Heath call pits. Now, I think this is the one that most of us myth, and even even those of us who are builders kind of missed this beat. You know, we're really, you know, relatively good in schools about marking transitions and, and celebrating milestones. But honestly, we don't give much thought to pit those. Those moments when when things don't go as planned those moments where things actually go wrong. I mean, pits are the opposite of transitions and milestones, because instead of being positive Pitzer really negative defining moment. And they're usually full of hardship and disappointment and anxiety and pain. And yet, if you're attuned to the power of moments, you can take even a pit and turn it into a wow experience.
You just have to pay attention. I remember, one day when I was a brand new assistant principal, it was early in my tenure, and a student had done something that resulted in my suspending him I don't even remember at the time, probably fighting or something like that. But I called his father. And immediately as soon as I told his father that I was suspending his son, his father started yelling at me. And then he threatened I'm heading up there right now. And he slammed down the phone. And then 20 minutes later, he stormed into the main office, and he demanded to speak to me. And so what I did is I showed him and his son into my office. And then the first thing he said to me before I even sat down, he said, I don't care what you say, My son will not be suspended today. Well, I was quiet for a moment. And then I asked as politely if I could. I asked for a son to step outside so that his father and I could talk. And his father started screaming at me, you don't tell my son what to do. And so I took a calming cleansing breath. And then I looked at him and I said, Okay, you tell him, the father looked at me, like I was crazy. Then he waited a few moments, and then he managed to his son wait outside. And so when his son left, the father started yelling again. And I'll be honest, it wasn't easy, but I let them have at it. I mean, I just figured it was not I wasn't gonna be able to get a word in edgewise. So just let them exhaust themselves. And he finally did. And when he did, I said, something like this.
I said, "You know, we're at a crossroads here, and the issue is not whether or not we suspend your son."
The real issue is, what kind of man do you want your son to be one day? He looked at me like, that's a dumb question. So I repeated my question. I mean, who do you hope your son is going to become, and he was hesitant at first. But eventually he started describing his hopes and his dreams for his son. And I just sat there and I listened. And when he finished, I asked him, do you think that if we let him get away with what he did, he will become the man that you hope that he'll become? And that question, stunned him. And he got real quiet for a moment. And I let it sit there. And then when he didn't say anything, you know, I started talking again. And I told him that I had similar dreams for a son. I told him, what I really liked about his son, and what I was hoping for him. And then I said, Listen, if we don't act now, what is that going to do for his character? I mean, how is that going to help them become the kind of man that I think you and I both want them to become? And the father was quiet for a little bit more. So I just kept talking to him. I said, Listen, if we manage this suspension correctly, and we use it as a teaching experience, we can turn this experience into a really positive one for him. And that's my goal. So he was quiet for a little while longer and and kind of was thinking over what I said. And he said, finally, okay, you can call my son in, you can tell them. And I shook my head. And I was like, No, let's make this a win for both of you. Why don't you call them in? Why don't you tell them because I wanted the father, to not have to look at a son and feel like after, you know, all the bluster before that, now, he was defeated. And I'd want I wanted it to feel like the father had come to this conclusion that I hadn't kind of forced his hand. And so that's what the father did.
The father called his son back into the office, and I suspended him. But instead of it being this horrible experience, we took that pit and we turned it into a wow experience. And in doing so we helped a son take one step closer to being the man that his father wanted him to be. And so we talked to his son about what our hopes were for the kind of man he was going to become. When he was suspended. We got all of his work with him at home, I called the son the the next day and the father to check on them and see how the day went fade. And they said they had other conversations about the learning experience. When they bought the sun back the next day, we had a great conference in my office before we integrating him into class. And then I checked on him at the end of the day to see how his first day was. And so we turn that that awful day into this wow experience. And here's the thing that I learned from that experience. You know, Listen, I've not always been perfect, and not every suspension of mine has gone that smoothly. But that one suspension has stayed with me all these years later, because it showed me something.
It showed me that wow, experiences aren't just about the fun stuff. They're also about the hard stuff.
I mean, this is what builders know what builders know is that if You can take what is typically a bad experience, and you could turn it into a wow experience, then you can intentionally create meaning from the experience. And then you can use that experience to help people grow and Connect and Learn. So I want you to think about your school. And I want you to think about how you are intentionally taking the pits of the day, and turning those pits into wow experiences for your students and for your staff. For instance, what would happen if you were intentional about taking some of the inevitable pits that that students face like the first time a student is bullied, or the first time a student is suspended, or even the first time a student earns a failing grade, and you transformed those pits into wow experiences? Or what would happen if you were intentional about taking some of the inevitable pits for teachers, like a negative interaction with the student or parent or a difficult feedback conversation with you, or even experiencing a personal loss, like, like a death of a loved one, and you turn those pits intentionally into while experiences? You know, so many times we try to avoid bad experiences. But what if instead, we embrace them, or at least, if not embrace them, took them and transform them into wow experiences that that not only reinforce our core values as a school, but but to help people deepen their connections and ultimately learn and grow from those experiences. You know, that's the point of this episode, I want to challenge you to start being intentional about the moments that you are creating for your students and your staff. Because those moments can be so powerful. In fact, I would argue that those moments can be the thing that defines and reinforces your culture. And here's what I mean by that, you know, suppose you had a core value are non negotiable that says, we believe all children can learn, and it's our job to help each student learn. sounds real noble, right?
Except, what happens when you run across a child for who you tried everything, and she's still not learning? Now, this is where the rubber meets the road? Will you give up on her and make an exception and change your non negotiable to Okay, most kids can learn but not all? Or are you going to buckle down and keep working with her until you help her be successful? Well, of course, you would hope that your team would say yes, we're going to keep trying until we find a way to help her learn, because our non negotiable is all students will learn. But what happens when things get tough, and they feel frustrated, because nothing is working? What happens when other students need start to compete with their work with this one student. In other words, what happens when they're challenged in a very real way as to whether or not their core value is truly a core value and a non negotiable. This is where, while moments can serve you really well, because they reinforce your core values, they give people the fuel that they need to persist in spite of the challenges and really live up to your core values. You see, if you just ask people to persist on their own efforts, they may fizzle out. It's not that they don't want to live the core values. But at that moment, when they're tired, and they're hitting a wall, it's just maybe living that core value is really hard at that moment.
If you are intentional about creating wow moments throughout the year, you can make living out your core values a lot easier.
For instance, if What if you marked every bit of progress of that student made in some significant way? Even if she wasn't all the way where she should be at? or what have you celebrated each milestone she reached? And if you told her ahead of time, what those milestones look like she could actually look forward to them. And what have you anticipated or pits those moments where she wanted to give up? And you were intentional about inserting a few wild moments, even at those moments, so that she would continue to persist? What's more, what if you rewarded the team for every milestone she reached, and you intentionally celebrated every transition to the next level or every transition to the next type of support? And what if you anticipated the pits that they would be experiencing and created while moments around those? Well, if you did, that, maybe just maybe, those wild moments would be enough to keep both the student and her teachers fully engaged until they were successful. But that's the power of wow experiences. And that's why you need to be intentional about creating them. Because when you do, you can totally defy the forgettable flatness of everyday work, and you can all of a sudden start to create meaningful experiences for your students and your staff. But not only reinforce your core values, but continue to help reinforce and build a positive school culture.
So let's kind of recap what we've learned for the day. So the first thing that we learned is that wow experiences. They are things that elevate the ordinary in a way that reinforces your core values and creates moments of insight, moments of meaning for your staff and for your students. And there are really three opportunities that every builder has to create while moments for your students and your staff. And the first one is transitions. The second one is milestones. And the third one is pits. Now, if you're thinking about creating, while moments transitions should be marked in some way to make them more meaningful. Whereas milestones should be commemorated or celebrated in some way to kind of reinforce the learning that that has happened and to kind of make people excited about the achievement and the pits should be filled. Your wild moments should go into those pits and fill them up so that people are not devastated by them, you can actually transform a pit into a wow experience, where people learn and grow from that experience. I mean, that's the beauty of while experiences, they happen all the time, you can create them all the time. So when an irate parent calls the office and demands to speak to you, that's a chance to give that parent a wow moment, or when you need to discipline the student.
That's an opportunity to give that student a wow moment.
If a teacher is underperforming, and you need to have a tough conversation with her about that. Well, that's another opportunity for a while moment. I mean, how many times have you dreaded a call from an irate parent and spent the entire conversation defensively responding to their accusations? What if instead, you chose at that point to listen with empathy and to fill their pit? In other words, what if you stepped into that anger, and you created a wow experience that helped them get out of that anger and helped you work together to solve the problem? How many times have you looked at a disciplinary referral is just another interruption to your day? I mean, for you, it's a momentary hassle before that student in his parents, it may be one of the worst days of their entire school career. So you have the power to step into that moment. And to help that student learn from his mistake, and vow never to repeat it, you have the power to show its parents real compassion, and help them navigate the confusing landscape of raising adolescent boys. You have the power in short, to turn one of the worst days of a student's school career into a wow moment. That's nothing short of life altering? or How many times have you prepared for a difficult conversation with a teacher and you just stuck to the script? And if I can channel Dr. Phil for a second? How's that working for you? What if instead, you chose to take that difficult conversation. And instead of worrying about your own discomfort, or even about the teachers discomfort, you chose to turn that difficult conversation into a wow moment that not only helped the teacher understand and the important part except what isn't working in his or her practice. But also you empower that teacher and inspire that teacher to correct what wasn't working and work towards becoming a master teacher.
My point is this, if you look for them, opportunities for while experiences are all around us. And your job as a builder is to stay alert to the promise that moments hold and to seize those moments when they arrive. You know, spontaneous moments of compassion and joy and, and real wonder that's your job moments that elevate the ordinary and cushion the tragic and connect you with the people that you serve. I mean, whether you realize it or not, right now, you have the capacity to make somebody here or break somebody here. You have the capacity right now as a builder, to be the defining moment of somebodies year, this school year, you have the capacity to actually change the trajectory of somebody's life. And it all happens in a moment. So be intentional about creating wow moments for people be intentional about seeing a moment where it could be a pit and the worst day of somebody's school year, and then be intentional about transforming that moment and turning that into a wow moment. That changes the trajectory of somebody here. That's what builders do. And that's how you can create moments like a builder.
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 Buildershipuniversity.com and get started writing your school success story today.
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