Feeling Defeated Already?


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 121

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.

Hey Builders,

Welcome to this season of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today, we are so excited to be back. I really missed you. But I hope you've enjoyed the summer rewind series we did this summer, we got a lot of positive feedback about that series about how it went how much people enjoyed revisiting past episodes. And so based on your feedback, we're going to keep that going anytime that we would normally take a break. In between seasons, we're going to do a rewind series and replace some of our favorite episodes, so that you can revisit them be reminded about the content in those episodes. So today, I had something else planned, I have the whole season kind of planned out. And I have this premiere episode where we are going to be talking about something that I've been working on this summer. But last night inside a Buildership University, we had an office hours, and several of our builders came into the office hours, and they were just exhausted, and many of them felt defeated. And one of the things I love about office hours inside of Buildership University is that we have such a supportive community, it's a place where you can come and be truly transparent and vulnerable. And know that your colleagues have got your back, we've got an international audience.

People come to the office hours and they can support each other and you have that support system all over the world. 

So a lot of people came in, they said, I just I just need to fill my cup. And the reason they were saying that is because the school year has just started and already it's becoming overwhelming. And so instead of doing what I planned to do, I thought it would be really important today to talk to you, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed already. And talk to you about how Buildership can help you through that. So that's we're going to talk about today. But before I do that, I've got a couple of announcements. So first announcement is that our next builders lab is happening January 30, through February 2, so make sure that you save those dates, and start planning tickets are going to go on sale for our builders lab it at the end of the month. Now this is going to be another 360 degree experience, we still don't know how things are gonna go with meeting face to face and the 360 degree experience. It's so much fun that we've decided to do the 360 Bl 360 in January. So look out at the end of the month for those tickets, mark those dates on your calendars January 30 through February 1, and it's a virtual experience. And I'm telling you every single time we do a virtual experience, and we've done over a dozen now between our public builders, labs and our private clients, it just keeps getting better and better. And we're already sourcing things for your builders box. So we've got a couple of upgrades coming from the builders box. And so I am already starting to get excited about that. So tickets are going to be available at the end of the month.

The other thing is that we are going to be reopening builders ship University, it's been closed for a while and when we bring people in to build a ship University, we do so carefully. We don't just kind of throw you into a membership site. We want to make sure that the right people are coming because we really protect our community. We want to make sure that when people come they can once they get in, they can feel like they're not being overwhelmed by all the resources. And so we bring people in in cohorts so that you're not alone so that you have a cohort that comes in with you. And that way we can get you acclimated together and the cohorts start bonding within the cohort before they get into the regular group. And so our next co horde of build a ship University, we're going to be enrolling them at the end of the month. So make sure that you stay tuned for that for those of you who have been wanting to come in to build a ship University for a while, then make sure that you stay tuned that is coming. Alright, the last announcement is something that's inside a Buildership University, but I wanted to share with you because I thought you might enjoy it too. So we have started something new this year. 

Every year we do a summer reading list here on the podcast. 

We talk about books that are non education books, but that are of interest to educators. And I'd like to do that because I want to step outside of education and get fresh ideas and, and new ideas that we might not have thought about. But that can really enhance the work that we're doing in our schools. So every year we come out with that summer reading lists, we tell you about the books, but then we never get to talk about them. So inside of Buildership University, we are starting a book club, and we're going to be taking the books from the summer reading list and reading them together. And then we're going to get together and in a, you know, informal environment. And instead of kind of having that book club where you sit around and you just say, Hey, you know, like, I really enjoyed this quote on page 47. And then we read the book back to each other, we're gonna be doing a book club, that's a lot more fun, we're going to come people who come to the book club, we're going to send them you know, some treats, we're going to sit together and enjoy the treats virtually and talk about the book, but the implications for our schools, what are the ideas in the book that are directly applicable to the work that we're doing in our schools.

So we're going to be sharing those ideas and how we're implementing them in our schools so that we can all get better. I'm reading, I'm there along with you, I'm sharing, you know, I read this part. And I thought this would be a great way to manage attendance, or I read this part here. And I thought, wow, this would be really something that would add to our staff meetings and get our staff more engaged. And so when we're finished with the book club, we're going to have a collection of ideas that are immediately applicable in schools. So if you're a member of build leadership University, then you've already gotten an email about this book club selection. And by the way, the book club selection is a book called effortless. And it's by Greg Mikko, and I bet, I think I'm pronouncing that right. But the book is called effortless. And so we are starting that book, and we're going to be meeting in October. So if you're a member, be you make sure that you get the book and get started. And if you're not a member of bu, but you want to still kind of read along with us, then I'm encouraging you to get the book effortless, and maybe I'll share some of the big takeaways on an upcoming podcasts you never know. So that's our book club selection inside of bu for this first book club. The book is effortless, and we'll be meeting in October to talk about it. Alright, I think that's it for the announcements. And now I just want to talk just plainly, I don't have like a big script today.

I am hearing from so many people that the school year has just started and already we're feeling overwhelmed.

It's not without reason, because there are so many things happening. We've got spike and COVID cases. So we've got, you know, some schools that have entire classrooms that had to go into quarantine because of exposure. Teachers who have to stay home because they've been exposed. We've got a teacher shortage happening in a lot of districts where there are some teachers who have decided they don't want to come back to work under these conditions. And they've resigned, and it's left vacancies 123 weeks after school is already open. Sometimes you weren't able to fill all the vacancies because the teacher pool has shrunken as a result of COVID. And so you're having a hard time finding subs and trying to figure out other ways to cover classrooms. Some of some of you are worried about the fact that schools been open a few weeks and already there's talk about going back to virtual learning. You There are also political messes going on right now. You know some of you are finding yourselves in the middle of mask debates, whether it's we want the children to wear a mask or we don't want the children to wear a mask. And then there's this undercurrent of debate that's happening right now around critical race theory and some of you are starting to get, you know attacked about that or questioned and cornered about that. And so in addition to the ordinary back to school stresses, you have these other things that can threaten to take your attention away, it can help you feel overwhelmed, you spent the summer planning thinking this year, it's going to be different, we're going to get back on track.

If you worked with us, at Builder's Lab, you were developing your vision, and you're excited about coming back to school and sharing your vision with your staff. If, if you have been reading, stop leading start building, you maybe you spent the summer putting systems in place, so that when you came back to school, this school year, you could feel like you were finally in control of things that you finally had systems establish. And then all of this happens, maybe you are part of our builder ship foundations accelerator, where we spent eight weeks together, building the systems together, and you're so excited about putting those systems in place. And yet, you feel like I don't have any time to even, you know, drive these systems and, and put these architectures in place. Because I'm just too busy contact tracing, or, or I'm running around subbing for class, because we just don't have subs. And a lot of you are feeling defeated already. Because you want to be a builder, you want to establish that vision and start pursuing that vision. And it feels like with everything else going on, that vision that feels so urgent to you, is getting delayed, it's getting put off, you're not making the progress that you envisioned you would make when you're planning the summer. And not only that, but your staff is worn out already schools only him in session for you know, a little bit of time, but your staff members are just, they're overwhelmed.

They're frustrated, because many of them thought that when we returned to the classroom, then we could get back to normal. 

I should use air quotes for that, because people thought that, you know, things would be over, we're all vaccinated. And now we can go back to the way things were, without realizing that we're probably never going to go back to the way things were. And a lot of people are mourning the loss of, of how things used to be. A lot of people are overwhelmed and frustrated, because we're all experiencing COVID fatigue, and we're all kind of exhausted and and it's just we're weary. And so not only are you dealing with your own feelings of overwhelm, but you're trying to manage the feelings of overwhelm from your teachers. And then your students who many of whom have been out of school for almost two years. And if you're an elementary person, that means that you have students who have never been to school who are now in the first or second grade, and they the things that they would have learned that would have helped them acclimate to school and kindergarten or pre K, or even first grade, they don't know. So you have kids who don't know how to do schools, even if you're in the secondary level of middle school or high school, you know, you have seventh and eighth graders who have never been to middle school, the last time they were in school, they were in elementary school. So they are essentially sixth graders, even though they are they're facing higher expectations. Same thing for high school, you have 10th and 11th graders who have never been to high school and so they don't know how to navigate High School and so you're finding that you're having to spend a lot of time just teaching kids how to do school. And all of this all of this threatens to to to dampen our enthusiasm around Buildership and it almost feels like you can't do Buildership right now that that maybe you have to put Buildership aside. Maybe you have to deal with that later. And let me just get school started first and then then I will be a builder. 

Ah, that's not the way Buildership works. You see a Buildership with only good in perfect circumstances. What good would it be? I mean, that's one of the reasons why we even have this need to shift from leadership to build your ship, as it is because leadership only works in perfect circumstances. And build your ship is something that works when things aren't perfect. Remember, the big promise of build a ship is that you can turn your school into a success story with the people and the resources. And I should add the circumstances you have right now. That means that you can't put builder ship off until your circumstances get better. Buildership is designed to help you work with what you have. So what do you have right now? Well, you have extra stress. What do you have right now you've got probably some teaching shortages. You have some political controversies that you're trying to navigate, you have teacher overwhelmed? Well, you don't put Buildership aside until you get those things fixed.

Buildership is what helps you fix them. That's why we're here. That's why we're making this shift. 

So if you think well, I can't deal with the vision right now, I'll share my vision story later on, you're making a mistake, because it's your vision that's going to get everybody focus, it's your vision that's going to keep you focus. You know, one of our Builders at our office hours last night was sharing how things were crazy at her school. And she was spending so much time contact tracing that she wasn't getting into classrooms. And then she said, but then I started thinking like a Builder. And when I felt like a Builder, I said, my time needs to be spent pursuing my vision, not doing this, I thought, you know, my leadership mind came back. And I was saying, oh, I've got to do all this contact tracing, because I'm the principal. That's not true. So she put some systems in place, she got some other people involved and delegated some of that work to them, so that she could stay focused on pursuing her vision and doing the work that only she could do. Getting into those classrooms, giving her teachers the feedback, the support the accountability, and the culture that they needed to be able to continue to pursue that vision this year, and ultimately achieve it in the next three years. I talked to another builder, and she was saying how she's just her teachers have just been so overwhelmed. But when she sits down and talks with them and says, What is our vision? has our vision changed? Do we still believe in this? Is our mission different? Or do we still believe in the same mission? What about those core values? Are those core values still important to us? And when her teachers had that conversation, they said, yes, no, we still believe in the vision.

Then she said, Well, then our conversation is not about if it's just about how, and shifting that conversation changed the climate of her school. It kept people from feeling defeated, and help them feel empowered. If you're thinking I can't do vision right now, you're making a huge mistake right now is where you need to be doing vision the most. You see, we are so entrenched in that leadership mindset, which says, you know, we anytime some circumstance comes up, we abandon our plans, we abandon everything we're doing, we put out that fire, and then we go and try to pick up the pieces of the thing we abandoned, that's leadership, and it's failed us in the past, we need something different. Builders ship says, No, our vision is too urgent, our mission is too necessary. Our core values are non negotiable. We can't put them aside. Instead, we're going to leverage them to help us navigate the latest crisis. And we're going to put systems in place that that are more about fire prevention, so we can stop spending all of our time trying to put out fires in the first place. Now I know it's hard right now I know that it's overwhelming right now.

As a Builder, we don't say go, we don't say Let's go, we say come. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed, it's probably because you are standing in the wrong place. You are standing in a place of leadership. You are right there with everybody else, looking at the crisis through the same lens as everybody else and you need to step away. You need to to step away. Go ahead, figure out what the path forward is going to look like so that you can invite people out of the mess and into something better. A few months ago, we were in office hours. And, again, we were dealing with, you know, just kind of this collective feeling of overwhelmed. And I started talking about a plane crash, and I'll share with you what I shared with them, which is that, let's imagine that you are in a plane crash, and everybody survived, everybody's alive, but you've got some injuries, you've got to figure out, you know, you're in some sort of deserted place. And so you've got to figure out food, water and shelter. And you have two options. One option is you can stay with the wreckage. And you can get together with people and say, Okay, let's try to figure out and triage the situation and, and who needs bandages. And at some point, we're gonna have to find water and the sun's getting, you know, to the point where it's going to said, we need to figure out shelter for the night. So anybody know how to start a fire, and you can stay there with everybody else, and feel what they're feeling and, you know, make decisions together.

That's one way. When you do that, you don't move forward, you have conversations about it, you experienced the same anx does everybody else, but nothing is getting done. Now, the other option is you can walk away from the wreckage, you can go out and find water, you you can get a lay of the land so that you know what you're facing and what kind of dangers are ahead, you can find high ground so that you can build shelter that safe or you can determine that there isn't a better spot than where you are right now. So we need to hunker down here, and let's find some water, you can get a fire started, uh, go out and collect dry wood so that you can get a fire started. In other words, you can stay with everybody else and try to figure it out from that spot. Or you can walk away, solve the problems. And when they're solved, come back and invite people to shelter and food and water. That's the fundamental difference between being a leader and being a builder. So if you find yourself kind of caught in the weeds, and you're wringing your hands with everybody else, or you're absorbing everybody else's stress, and you think that's helping, it's not, it's not helping them and it's not helping you.

What WILL help, is for you to step away, walk away, figure it out.

You've got a teaching shortage right now you don't have all the vacancies field, you know, what you're used to doing is grabbing a warm body and throwing it in a classroom before the parents start complaining. And all you've done is just invited a problem into your building that will take you years of of heartache and stress before it gets resolved. If you don't get the right person. What the builder does is the builder walks away. They say what are we building, and then they go look for a person, the right person to bring into the community to help build. They step away, they tell the parents we're not putting a warm body in front of kids, here's what we're going to do, they start looking at the situation from all different angles, and they find a creative solution that that isn't obvious in the moment and in the situation. And they can only see it because they stepped away. What a builder does is when the teachers are stressed out and, and and talking about all the kids are just they're terrible, because they don't know how to be in school and I'm having to go back and teach routines. And if I wanted to teach fourth grade, I would have taught first grade, but I'm teaching third grade, but they're acting like first graders and they're complaining all the time. If you sit there and listen to it, you think that's the only way. If you take a step back, you say all right, how do we quickly get the students integrated and teach them how to do school so that they can learn.

If you're a leader, you stay in the COVID crisis every single day just getting buffeted by another positive case or you know, stressing out because you've got another class quarantined. If you're a builder, you step away and you say how do I we configure school to limit exposure. What are our options? When classes are in quarantine? How do we redistribute resources, so we make sure that all of our kids can learn and you figure it out. If you're a leader, you feel overwhelmed by the crisis. And so you put off your vision. And you feel defeated. Because once you've seen your vision, it's hard to go back to the way things were. And so every day feels like, you're going to work and you're letting down kids. And you feel like, well, I don't have another choice, because the district is making these demands, and the parents are making those demands, or I've got these fires to put out. And if I can just get through this period, then maybe I can pick up my vision again, knowing in your heart that the longer it sits, the more stale it becomes. Or you can be a builder. And you can say the vision didn't change, just because my circumstances change. So now that we have these circumstances, how do we how do we fix it? What can we do? You see, there are always going to be problems, distractions. And if you let them they can, they can, they can make you feel so frustrated, and so overwhelmed. And I don't want to minimize what you're feeling right now. It's real, this is hard. What I do want to encourage you is these are the times that you need builders ship the most. Don't abandon it just because you're stressed. The way forward is through eldership. And so I know this is hard, I know it means you're going to have to change the way you're thinking you've been thinking like a leader for so long that the first time you hit a crisis, you just revert to that leadership paradigm.

I want to encourage you to resist that temptation and keep Building. 

The more you do that, the more focus you'll have, the more you do that, the more you'll be able to figure it out. The more you do that the less overwhelmed and frustrated, you'll feel, because you are still pursuing your vision and that pursuit will help you prioritize that pursuit will help you to say no to the distractions, that pursuit will keep you encouraged when there's temptation all around to feel discouraged. And when people see that in you, they become encouraged to. So this week, my challenge to you is this. Whenever you feeling discouraged whenever you're feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, take a step back and look at the situation like a builder. If you do, you can avoid a lot of this frustration, a lot of this feeling of defeat, you can navigate your school safely through the crisis. And when you look up, you're further along than you thought you'd ever be. Because that's what happens when you tackle your problems. Like a builder. Now, I want to say this. You don't have to do this alone. Build a ship University is more than just courses and trainings. Perhaps the most, the most robust, strongest part of builder ship University is that we're there for each other, we support each other. A lot of times when you are a builder, you're the only one. Nobody else gets what you're trying to do. And that can feel very lonely and isolating. But when you're part of builders ship University, you know there's a place where other people get you. You know, one of the things we always say inside of you is that when you become a builder you become a bit of a weirdo and it's true. But inside a builder ship University are other weirdos just like you. And so, if you don't want to do this alone, if you if you want to be a part of a community of builders, who can encourage each other and share with each other and support each other, then I invite you to join us and build a ship University at the end of the month. So that way, you can you can nap negate any challenge that you're facing with a tribe of people who are there to support you, encourage you, and who are going to cheer for you every step of the way. So, for today, make sure that you're approaching your problems like a builder. Look out for Buildership University, which is opening at the end of the month, and 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 Buildershipuniversity.com and get started writing your school success story today.

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