How We Unintentionally Create Resistance
Note: School Leadership Reimagined is produced as a podcast and designed to be listened to, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that's not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 129
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 today, we are going to be starting a new series on the podcasts. I'll tell you a little bit more about that in just a second. But first, I want to tell you a story. A few years ago, I was working with a school and a high school and they were really trying to increase rigor and help students to be able to achieve at grade levels. So we were looking at the courses really trying to help the courses kind of the teachers teach to the standards on grade level, but help us students be successful. So our goal was to help students meet or exceed grade level standards. And we were making some progress. And then we hit a snag.
The snag was that the students weren't doing their homework.
It wasn't all the students, when we really looked at the data, it was really located in the biology class. And so we were trying to figure out what was going on what to do about it, how to help those students start doing their homework. And so the teachers came up with ideas about helping the students you know, read their textbook and giving them note taking sheet. So they were teaching them the Cornell note taking method and trying to get students every night to do their homework, because most of their homework was really about reading the text and coming to class kind of prepared, so that they can have discussions and participate in Labs, but they needed that background information from the text first. So the teachers were saying, Well, maybe they're not doing their homework and reading the chapters, because they need a better note taking system. So they taught them, Cornell notes, no change, then they said, All right, we need to make the consequences for not doing homework stronger. So they were penalizing students or holding them after school or making them go to detention.
When they didn't do their homework, actually, more students resisted. And it was creating just, you know, real, this real tension between the students and their teachers, and no homework. They tried things like giving them motivators. So they try it for the students who did their homework, they gave them extra points, and they highlighted them in class. And they did all these motivational talks about the importance of doing the homework and giving them strategies for doing their homework and an extra, you know, kind of, you know, we can get 100% class completion, we can have a pizza party, no change. So they were at their wit's end, and the only thing they could come up with was while these kids must not really care. And so when I got to the school, I said, Well, have you talked to the kids? They said, Yeah, they just say it's hard. And that sort of thing as well. I mean, let's sit down. And let's find out from the students why they aren't doing homework. So I pulled a random group of students from the biology courses in the school lose more than one. And we sat in the main office conference room, and I did a student focus group. And for those of you who want to steal my student focus group method, we'll put a link to the episode where I talk about student focus groups in the show notes. But anyway, we did a focus group. And you want to know what the kids told me.
The reason they were not doing their homework was because they didn't feel like lugging home, the thick biology book every day.
That was it. I said, What do you mean, so many of the students, this was a school in a city, and the city had city wide enrollment. So many of those students were riding the bus every day, 45 minutes, the public bus transportation, getting on subways, getting on buses, trying to get to the school, and it was a 45 minute commute for those students. And they were carrying their backpacks. And they said, that book takes up so much room in their backpacks and is so heavy, that they often choose to leave it at school. And they were trying to do the reading before school or you know, kind of before they left to go home or, you know, grabbing 10 or 20 minutes here or there in order to not have to take that book home. So I shared it with a biology teachers. They were using a book that was really thick by an author named Campbell. And so they started trying to see if there was another book in the system that they could use instead. And they found out that there was a book that had been nicknamed the baby Campbell, which had the same information in it as a very thick book, but was half as thick. And so they researched all over the district. They found some baby Campbell's sitting in a warehouse somewhere. They reached out they got those baby Campbell sent to them. They gave them to the students. Homework increased.
It was a simple solution. They were doing all of this work to try to motivate students to do their homework, when all they had to do was remove their biggest source of friction. The students started doing their homework. So today, we're going to talk about the difference between the way that we are traditionally taught to solve problems, and the way that actually works. And this is the beginning of a series that we're doing called the vs series. So you may remember or recall, over the course of the pandemic, people started doing these versus battles online, they would take two old school rappers and have them battle and play their music and, you know, a trip down memory lane, but also a way to kind of look and see who was better. And they did it with r&b legends, and so they still have them from time to time. Well, I thought it would be really interesting if here on the podcast, we did our own versus battle. But instead of comparing rappers or r&b legends, we will look at some of the things that we these ideas that we were taught about how to improve school, versus what actually works. And so today, we're going to start with the first one. And I got this idea by listening to a podcast called Hidden brain. And they just did a whole series about or a whole episode about, about how we tend to try to solve problems. And they compared it to the difference between fuel and friction. And the idea was that a lot of times we are taught that if we have an idea that we want people to adopt a we have a change that we want to make an organization, we take that spark of an idea, and we think that the only way to make that idea spread is to throw fuel on it. But oftentimes, when we try to address a challenge with fuel, we end up creating more resistance, we end up making things worse, and never really solving the challenge.
That's how we were taught to do as leaders.
Whenever there's a challenge that we face, whenever there's something that we have to deal with, we were taught to throw more fuel on it, students aren't doing their homework, let's add another program, let's teach them how to do note taking and give them another note taking format, which by the way, makes their home doing their homework even harder. Let's let's let's add more incentives, let's add some consequences, throw all that fuel on the problem, and then we don't solve the problem. And to be honest, I think that's why so many of our teachers right now are overwhelmed. Because after dealing with a pandemic, and coming back, we now are seeing all of these learning gaps that we're trying to close, we are trying to redefine what school looks like. And what we are doing is piling more and more and more fuel on the fire. And instead of creating and igniting this movement, we're dousing everybody's enthusiasm, and we are dampening their their their choices, and we're creating this feeling of overwhelm What these authors suggested instead, and what what we've been talking about for a long time here, at at mind steps and a builder ship University, it's different, because instead of throwing fuel on your problems, or trying to ignite an idea by throwing fuel on it, we think that you should instead focus on removing friction, you see, and the example that I just gave you, when the teachers tried to throw fuel on the fire, they were actually reducing the amount of homework that students were turning in the moment, we identified the friction and remove the friction. All of a sudden, students start doing their homework, every single night, they started reading the textbook, they showed up for class prepared, problem solved.
We didn't add anything else to the students plate. We didn't add anything else to the teachers plates. Instead, we identified the piece that the thing, the friction, the thing that was holding them back, we removed the friction, and all of a sudden the floodgates open. This is something that we spend a lot of time talking about at builders lab, we have something called the Builders Blueprint. And the whole point of the Builders Blueprint is to help you do just that. Instead of taking a challenge, whatever your biggest challenge is right now in your school, and adding another program, another tactic, another technique to what you're already doing, and also creating more work and, and more friction for everybody. We help you identify what is the thing that's holding people back? What's the friction, and how do we remove that friction.
When you remove that friction, you open up the floodgates and things start to happen.
So let's talk about that today about the way we were taught fuel and the way that actually works, removing friction. And I mentioned builders lab before I should stop here and talk about it really quickly because tickets are for sale right now to our next builders lab. We are having our next builders lab January 30 through February 2 2022. And we've removed a lot of the friction you don't have to travel to come to builders lab. Instead, we are doing it entirely virtually through our BL 360. Experience. And the reason we call it a 360 degree experience is because even though we're doing it virtually, it feels like you're right there in the room, except we're here somewhere comfortable, you're somewhere, you know, in your home or in your office, you don't have to get on the plane and travel. But it feels like you're right there in the room, you get a lot of attention and personalized attention, we keep it small, we have built an entire studio so I can see you and you can see me and we can talk back and forth. And there is so much time built into the schedule for the day for you to actually take what you're learning and immediately apply it to your school, that when you leave builders lab, after three days and go back to school, you have so much work done. One of the big things that we do in builders lab is we spend a lot of time doing exactly what we're going to be talking about today on this podcast, we don't pile more stuff on to your teachers, instead, we look and figure out what is the number one thing holding your school back right now.
And I promise you it's not what you think it is, well, we have a strategy and a methodology for helping you to figure that out very quickly. And once you understand that, instead of adding something else to your plate into your teachers plates, we show you how to remove the friction in the next 90 days. So the entire focus of your time when you come back from builders lab as you walk out of there, understanding what your source of friction is, and having a plan for how to remove it. And then over the next 90 days, we follow up with you, we provide you with very specific supports, we send you emails once a week that give you more tips and strategies to help you based on where you should be in the process. We have a community that you're a part of where you can come in and get support. So once you get back to your school, if you run into some challenges, you can bring it to office hours. And you can get additional support and coaching from me so that you can go back into your school the next day and solve the problem and keep moving forward. We give you additional trainings and templates for all of the skills that you need to be able to remove the friction. So we don't just tell you remove the friction and then send you off on your own. We walk with you so that at the end of 90 days, you have identified and removed your biggest source of friction for your school right now. And your school is better off, things are moving, you've opened the floodgates, and you haven't added one more thing to your teachers plates. Instead, you took something off their plates.
Maybe you're thinking January, that's such an inconvenient time for Builders Lab.
Actually, it's the perfect time because you're in the middle of the school year right now. And you're in the weeds, you are so busy working hard on everything, that now's the time for you to kind of take a step away, because it's so easy to get overwhelmed by everything that's happening in your school, that you lose sight of what's really important. When you come to build your slab, you take three you take three days and step away from your building so that you can really look at what's going on. And that means that when you go back to your building, because we do work in builder's lab to move you forward. And because we work for the next 90 days, when you return yes, you're gone for three days. But over the next three months, you can make dramatic change happen so that you can see real results this school year. So if you want to join us at builders lab, then all you need to do is go to mind steps inc.com/builders-lab That's mind steps inc.com/builders-lab. So let's talk a little bit about the way we're trained versus what really works. And what we were trained to do is that anytime we see a problem in the data, the student scores are down Are we our attendance is down, our graduation rate is down. Our first step is we need to find a program or a tactic or a strategy and add something else to what we are already doing in order to solve that problem. So I see schools doing this all the time they do that data dive and they say okay, reading scores are down.
What does John Hattie say? John Hattie says that these are the high leverage strategies, instructional strategies we need to see in every classroom. Alright, teachers, in addition to everything else you're doing, we also now want you to add these strategies to what you're doing. Well, what they were doing, clearly wasn't working. So now we're going to add more to that? Or we see we say we need to buy a program. We need a program. We go to a conference, we hear somebody speak, we hear something that's working in another school, and we say, oh, okay, in addition to everything else we're trying to do right now, we're going to add another program. Oh, but wait a minute teachers in that I know you you're complaining about not having enough time. So I tell you what, we're going to give you an extra half hour to now integrate all of this into what you're already doing. Really? And so are we not surprised that our teachers are burned out Are we not surprised that we're not seeing the results that we want to see, all we're doing is we keep piling on something else, over top of something else, overtop of something else. And then we call ourselves taking some things off their plates. But are we really, it's giving people a half an hour back in when they're already overwhelmed. When when they were donating the half an hour anyway, because it was beyond their 2d day to begin with, they're already working beyond their duty day to begin with, is that really enough to compensate for the hours of work and thinking it takes to integrate a new strategy mid year. While they're also also dealing with all of the other challenges that they're facing this year, that are even greater than what they faced in previous years?
Is that really a compensation? Of course not.
So what we're doing is we're piling on and it's not just our teachers who are suffering, we're suffering to, because for every new initiative, that's another monitoring tool, that's another thing we have to look for in the classrooms, that that's another complaint that we're going to get back from the teachers, that's another source of stress for us and for our staff. And we can't move forward, if that's what we are constantly doing just piling things on. And yet, that's exactly what we were trained to do see your problem in the data, add a new solution to solve that problem. And it doesn't work, it doesn't work. In fact, in many cases, when you try to throw more fuel onto something, you can actually create more resistance. You see, when you try to push people to do something, and we try to kind of kind of make people do something, a lot of times what you push on will push back. So the harder we push on teachers, the more they feel like they need to push back. It's not because they're lazy, it's not because they're resistant, it's not because they don't want to improve, it's because we keep pushing on them at some point, they push back. And that can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. I bet many of you are seeing right now some teachers who have been taking on things and usually kind of doing the work and actually maybe doing a good job, just losing it all of a sudden, you know, there's some email that gets sent out or some new mandate that comes down the pike, and then they just say enough, and it's not the teachers who are struggling who are pushing back now now we're seeing of our best teachers saying Enough, enough.
So when we push, when we add another thing, when we continually do that, at some point, everybody hits their breaking point. And we can actually create resistance, and people who are not normally resistant, because we keep piling on. Now, some of us understand that. So we try to take things off people's plates, we try to, you know, work on the the culture and the morale of our of our school, we do things like giving teachers Starbucks gift cards, or we send them notes and say how much we appreciate you. And you want to know what that's doing absolutely nothing. Because if we continue to pile on the positive, but we don't take away any of the negative, then the negative is always going to outweigh the positive. Think about it, you could have all of these great experiences, and it just takes one experience to ruin everything. Well, how do you think your teachers feel? Right? You're piling it on, you're saying okay, in addition to everything you're doing, I want you to also do this. And then I want you to also do this. Oh, and here's a Starbucks gift card for your appreciation. And some teachers aren't even getting that I posted something on Facebook last week, and someone said that her for all of her hard work last year, her district mailed her a pen. Are you kidding me? So even when we try to make it better, even when we try to give them, you know, so we try to pile on the positives, if we're not removing the negatives, then people will look at those positives, and they will see it through the lens of the negative and though it will cancel out any goodwill that you could have generated from the positives. So what do we do? What do we do?
The reason that we were taught to do this, is because it kind of makes sense, right?
Big solutions are way sexier than than the smaller tweaks that we're going to be talking about now. I mean, it's it's much splashy, or to say you know, we saw deficit in this area. So we added this new thing, and voila, we have have solved the problem. It feeds our kind of inner hero to feel like we've come in with a solution to the problem. It's not a sexy to look at something and say, hmm, maybe we just need to get them a thinner book. There's nothing sexy about that. It's better to say we taught them Cornell notes, and now they're taking Cornell notes, and let's look at their note books and see how well they're taking notes now, and now they're, they're ready for college, and they're getting higher scores on the AC T's and, and they're showing up for class every day. And they're way better students and they can handle rigor. You know, one is, is the stuff that movies are made of. And the other one is the stuff that actually changes outcomes for kids. So I get it, I get it. We were taught to do that. And it and it speaks to our our desire to be able to swoop in and have the solution. It just doesn't work. So what do we need to be doing instead? Well, the first thing that we need to do is that rather than focusing on finding the solution, we need to be focusing on finding the friction. You see, often, it's not the thing that we're asking people to do that, that it doesn't work. The problem is that there's some thing there, there's others a source of friction, that's getting in the way of people actually doing the stuff that they should be doing already.
What we do is we say, yeah, they should be doing it, but they're not. So let's add this other thing to their plate to make them do the thing they should be doing in the first place. Instead of asking ourselves, why aren't they doing it? What Why aren't they doing it in the first place? Like, I remember that. We were working with a group of principals, and we were trying to help principals develop teacher dashboards. And we were getting a lot of pushback. I mean, granted, there were some other things happening in the district that contributed to that. But we were getting a lot of pushback from principals. And they felt that the dashboard was one more thing, they didn't see the value in the dashboard. And frankly, the more than I pushed, the more that I tried to convince them of the value of the dashboard, the more people push back, and did everything that that I was taught to do stuff that I know doesn't work. But you know, I just kind of got stressed out and nervous because the dashboard thing wasn't working. And so I started showing them all of these examples of dashboards and how they worked. I started showing them all these cool things that the dashboard can do for you. I started creating different versions of dashboards, oh, your brain doesn't think that way. Well try it this way. I tried to doing all those things, and nothing was working.
Then I realized, I'm trying to add fuel, rather than remove friction.
I wonder what the biggest friction was for these dashboards. The dashboards were built on Google Sheets. And most people did not know how to make Google Sheets work. So what we did is we started having work sessions, people started coming in one by one two by two, and they bought their dashboards and I said, What do you want it to do? And once they told me what they wanted it to do, a show them how to make Google Sheets, do it, dashboards done. In some cases, people couldn't show up to those one on one sessions, principals who were really adept with Google Sheets, went and worked with the principals who weren't adapting Google Sheets and show them how to make it work. And people started using it. Instead of piling it on talking to them about why you need a teacher dashboard, why it's so powerful, showing them exemplars holding them accountable checking when they we went to the schools, show me your dashboard, you know what people were doing, we were saying show you show us your dashboard. They were just making up stuff on a dashboard to appease us. But I don't want anybody just appeasing me, there is real value and merit in the dashboard for moving teachers practice. I don't want you to make a dashboard for the dashboard sake, I want you to do it, because it gives you a way to systematically help every single teacher grow one level and one domain and one year or less.
If you're not doing that, I don't care about the dashboard. But people weren't getting that. And even if we said it, they weren't getting it. The moment that we removed the friction, they spent an hour getting it done with me or with a colleague, and then it was forever done. And then people could start seeing the value of it. People got excited about it because they weren't worried about well, if I push this button, nothing happens. Or this work feels redundant because I can't make these two programs talk to each other. Just solving their technology issues and removing technology is a friction point. Got people using the dashboards the way they were supposed to rather than just creating the dashboards out of compliance and building resentment towards the dashboards because they never wanted to do in the first place. So even I fall victim to this all the time, where you know, my natural inclination is to throw Fuel on something rather than removing friction. I'll give you another example.
There was a school that we were working with, and the culture was just turning completely toxic.
I was working with the principal, and she was talking about how toxic the culture was. And so and the teachers were resisting this new curriculum that the district was pushing. And so they were pushing on the teachers to get the curriculum done. And they really felt like the teachers were just didn't care. They were clinging to the old curriculum, and we were trying to figure it out. And after sitting down and talking to the teachers, do you know what was the problem, it had nothing to do with the curriculum, what was happening was the school building was under construction. And because the school building was under construction, there were teams that used to work together who couldn't get to each other. And so they were feeling more and more isolated, the construction was dragging on, and the teachers were just tired of working in a construction zone, had nothing to do with the curriculum, the principal had come up with this whole kind of plan for all of this PD around curriculum and holding teachers accountable for unpacking standards. And it wasn't that the teachers didn't want to do that it was just that they were so burned out from the construction happening in the building and not being able to get access to the resources. And having been having to be thrown out of their routine for so long. And not being able to have the same kind of access to other teachers in the way that they were used to. That they were just fighting everything.
Once we understood that if we stopped piling stuff on around the curriculum and dealt with a real issue, there was nothing we could do about the construction. But what we did do is try to figure out how to make navigating that construction easier for teachers, and how to shield the teachers from some of the real big inconveniences of the construction. And once we did that culture shifted. In most cases, we are piling fuel on problems thinking that that is the solution when in fact, the real solution is there some source of friction. And I guarantee you it's probably not what you think it is. But there is some source of friction there that if you spend some time investigating it talking to people really listening to what they have to say, they'll tell you what that source of friction is, and it's going to blow you away, it's going to be something that you never even considered something so minuscule something so inconsequential that you're going to really say that's it. But that is it. That's the thing that's holding them back. And the moment you discover the source of friction and remove it, you get further towards your goals, then if you continue to pile on all of this stuff, that's it doesn't matter. You know, one of the things that we do in builders lab, we started day one, we work on a day two, and we finalize a day three is we use something called the Builders Blueprint. And in the Builders Blueprint, we start out by figuring out, first of all, every problem at its root, it's going to be an issue around vision, mission or core value. So we start there with is this problem, this challenge, does it have its root cause in one of these three areas, then we look at the data.
So we always start with vision, mission and core values, even before we look at the data.
We're not looking for the lowest number, we're trying to interpret the data through the lens of our vision, mission and core values to find the most important number. And often it's not the lowest number. But it is the most important number that we look at that data, we try to figure out what's driving this, where is the source of friction, and we have a process that we show you to figure it out so that you're not guessing you you have a systematic way of thinking through it's not root cause analysis. It's nothing like that. It helps you find the weakest link, we call it finding your 150. Once you understand that source of friction, that weak point in your plan, then we figure out how do we remove that source of friction. And the moment we do that the people who do that, that's when they start seeing the results. And I can tell you story after story, a builders who are working really hard to get something done. And they discovered that went through this process and they were able to discover the real source of friction. And instead of working hard over here to get that done, they worked hard at removing the source of friction. And they got more done and more accomplished in a shorter period of time than if they continue to try to to attack the problem by adding and pouring on and piling on another solution on top of another solution on top of another solution. We've got to stop doing that. Because it's wearing us out and it's wearing our teachers out and stead we need to be focusing on finding the source of friction.
Now I want to end this podcast today by talking about how do we start if you're not coming to builders lab, what are some things that you can do right now to to locate the source of friction. So the first thing is that you have to understand that people are used to, even if it's a bad thing, people hate change. My mother always says nothing likes to be changed, but a baby. And that's because when we go in and we say up, the data says that you guys are really not doing a good job with reading. And so we're going to come into your classroom, and we're going to give you a reading strategy. And all of you have to use it, or the data says that you all are not doing a good job of creating assessments. So we're going to give you common assessments and you have to now use these are the data says that you're not doing a good job of differentiating. So we're going to give you a differentiation strategy. And all of you have to use it. Well, that's a recipe for failure, you've tried that, you know, and you get all this resistance. And then what we do is we talk ourselves into the strategy.
So the more they resist and push back on us, the harder we push on them.
Then we get to start thinking, well, they just don't care, or they're fighting this change when it's the right thing for students. And we get really righteous, what it has nothing to do with, with what your strategy whether your strategy will work, maybe it would, right. But there is a source of resistance, there's a reason why teachers weren't doing it in the first place. And unless we uncover that reason why teachers weren't doing it in the first place, no solution is going to work. So if your teachers are not differentiating, do you know why do you know what the friction point is? Before you add on another differentiation strategy? You see, what we do is we go in and we try to teacher proof teaching, we're saying, all right, we let you do it. Your way. It's not working, the data showing it's not working. So now you're going to do it my way. And you know what happens when you do that, at best, you get compliance. And sure, maybe, you if you force it hard enough and get people doing it, you can nudge up your test scores 5%. But that is an expensive 5% Move. And it's a costly 5% Move. Because it kills your culture, you're wearing yourself out. And oh, by the way, that's about all you're going to get because you got compliance next year, you've got to replicate it, which means you have to push harder or find another magic strategy in order to move the needle another 5%. Is that really how you want to be spending your time? You see what builders do is they don't just rush in with a solution before they understand. Where is the friction point.
So if you believe that the challenge is differentiation, then we need to figure out well, why aren't teachers differentiating? That means you need to spend some time in classrooms, not with your evaluation instrument, looking for things to check off, but really spend some time your classrooms micro slicing. Alright, I'm in I'm in Fred Flinstones classroom, he's not differentiating, what's what's holding him back? What's the source of friction. And then I'm going to go to Barney rubbles classroom, and I'm going to do the same thing in every teacher's classroom in my building. And what will happen is I'm going to start to see a pattern. There's something they don't know how to do. They're there, there's something there's a perception that they have about kids. There's a misperception that they have about what differentiation is there something maybe they don't understand the technology, maybe they're relying too much on the technology because they think that's the source. But whatever it is, I'm going to investigate. And I'm not looking for the solution, I'm looking to understand the problem and the source of friction. Because the more that I do that, though, the more that I understand the source of friction, the more I can improve the system.
People don't really truly become committed to something unless they feel like they own it.
You know, one of the reasons why we have designed the vision mission and core values creation process, the way that we have, is because when you create that process, you create a common ground, where everybody has committed to this the school purpose, your vision, your mission and core values. And you can always anchor in that before you ask people to do something else. So rather than going in and saying your data is horrible, so do this. Instead, we're going in and we're saying, here's our vision, here's our mission. Here's our core values. So we still agree about that. Yeah. Okay. Well, right now, we're not achieving it. I think I know why I think there's something getting in the way there's this friction point. So let's talk about how we remove the friction. How do we remove it for ourselves? How do we remove it for our students? And when you do that, you get further along. So I'll tell you one last story. When I was a teacher was I was trying to increase the diversity of my AP class and I was also trying to increase my numbers. And you've heard my story before. And you know, I was trying to kind of open up the gates to AP and get more kids and AP, and particularly more kids who are underrepresented in a Well, I started out doing all the traditional recruitment things, you know, I was looking, I said, we're going to open up the gate. So I thought the big barrier for for for kids who had been impacted by poverty students of color, I thought the big barrier for them was that there were so many gates to AP. So I said, Okay, let's remove this source of friction. Let's open up the gates. And I opened it, I convinced my principal to open up the gates, we got it approved by the county, because at the time, AP was a gated course. And nothing happened. We announced it to everybody. The gates are now open, everybody can join us in AP, nothing happened.
So then I said, Okay, maybe the kids don't know. So I started talking to kids in particular, I started asking teachers, do you have a kid who's in your class? Who's Who's maybe not taking AP right now, but you think they'd be really good an AP, maybe if the if the students had a teacher recommended them to AP, maybe they would take me up on the offer? Nothing happened. So then I started talking to kids one on one, it's well, let me talk to the kids. I'd pull up, I pull them out of class for a few minutes. Hi, I'm Robin Jackson. And I teach AP Language and composition. I think you'd be great for my course. And the kids would listen to me politely. And then they'd say, No, thanks. Now, I have done everything I know how to do I've removed the gates, I've gotten teacher recommendations. I've talked to them personally. And nobody's joining. And then I realized, okay, I started thinking about what is the friction and the friction for these students, it's because AP was had a perception around it, that it was a class for for upper upper middle class to wealthy white students. When people walk past an AP class, and they looked in and they saw that class and how different that class look from the rest of the school, they had an unconscious idea that AP was just for them. And it's not for me. Not only that, but they were in classes, they were doing well, they were comfortable, where they were, they were with their friends, in order to join a P, they'd have to leave their friends and go into a classroom where they were different. You know, a lot of researchers at the time, were saying that students were scared of going into AP students of color, because it would feel like they were acting white, but it wasn't an issue of acting white. The issue was for the students, especially when I talked to them. And I really thought and reflected on what they were saying the issue was that they would be the only one. So we remove their source of friction.
Instead of in recruiting students one by one, I started recruiting students by groups.
So I went to the step team practice. And instead of talking to each girl individually, I talked to the whole step team, the ninth graders to 10th grade 11th. Grade is 12th grade. It's everybody in the step team. I talked to them about AP. And then at the end, I said, Okay, who in here is a 10th grader going to 11th grade, put your name on a sheet of paper, and they all did. And I said, Put your guidance counselor next to your name. And they all did obediently. And then I said, Congratulations, all of you're going to mean AP next year. And they said, Wait, what No. And I talked to them about it. And I said, You guys are going to do this together. We're going to try to get it so your schedule. So you're all in the same class, when you come to step team practice, the first half hour has to be focused on homework anyway, this is where you're going to do your AP homework. And after I talked to them about how they'd be in it together. They all agreed. And so that's what we did. We scheduled them into three sections of AP, so we couldn't get them all into one section of AP. So we split them up into two groups, so that they were there together. The step team coach said during practice, I'll make sure they work on their AP homework. So they all came to AP and worked on it together. You know, that did a couple of things. First of all, the girls didn't feel alone, we removed the friction. Secondly, the girls who were in the on the step team, but who were rising ninth graders are rising 10th graders saw those 11th grade girls working on AP, and they started to think well, that's just what you do. When you join the step team. When you get to 11th grade, you take AP, so the next year, they all enroll together, because that's what you do. We change the culture by removing the source of friction.
We did the same thing by going to different groups of students. We had students enroll as groups as friend groups rather than individually, and we remove the source of friction, and we increase enrollment. I bet right now in your school. There's a problem that feels intractable, something that you've been working very hard to solve, and I want you to stop instead of solving problems, instead of coming up with another solution. What I want to challenge you to do instead is to take a look at the problem from a different angle and try to figure out not what is the solution to this problem. But what's keeping people from using the solutions that already exist? How do we help people do the thing we want them to do? How do we Remove the source of friction. And if you want to help with that, go ahead and come to builders lab because that's exactly what we're doing in builders lab, we are helping you identify your biggest challenge or your score now, identify the source of friction, and then spend the next three months removing that source of friction, so you never have to deal with it again. That's the builders way. But that's what I want to challenge you to do this week, stead of looking for the solution instead of pouring more fuel on the problem. Find the source of friction and remove it. I bet I bet if you did that, you're going to see much more explosive growth with a lot less stress and knitted and then pushback from your staff than you've ever seen before. So that's our first versus next time we're going to do another one something that you were taught versus something that actually works, but for this week, stop trying to solve the problem. Find the source of friction and remove it like a builder. 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.
Thank you for listening to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast for show notes and free downloads visit https://schoolleadershipreimagined.com/
School Leadership Reimagined is brought to you by Mindsteps Inc, where we build master teachers.