Are The Resources You Provide Teachers Helping or Hurting?


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 135

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 another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today we're continuing our vs series. And we're going to talk about resources that help teachers and resources that hurt teachers. Now it gets a little deeper than that. Today, I'm going to share with you four questions you should ask yourself before you give teachers a brand new resource. And the reason that I want to talk about this today is because this has been a really tough year, and a lot of us want to help our teachers.

So we're giving them all of these resources, but are they really helping or are they creating more stress for teachers? 

So here are four questions that I want you to consider before you give teachers any new resource so that you can actually make sure that the resources you're giving teachers are helping and not hurting. Now, before I do that, I have some really cool things to talk to you about. First of all, we just had our winter Fireside Chat inside of builder ship university with our bu insiders and it was just we always have such a fun time with the party. So what you know when you are a BU insider, we have parties, you know, few times a year, we usually have one in the fall flash winter, we have one in the spring, sometimes we have a summer party. And every time we have a party, we send you a party box with all the things that you need for the party. And it's just an opportunity to get on be with colleagues this time. One of the things that we did the parties, we shared hacks, things that we use to make our lives easier. And what was interesting to me is that a lot of them weren't work hacks, they were they were hacks that made our personal lives more manageable. And unsurprisingly, because we love to eat inside of Bill to ship University, a lot of the hacks were around food. Anyway, it was an incredible evening, I'm so happy that we have an opportunity to do that. I must be honest with you. I love our BU insiders, I think they're an incredible group of professionals are doing some important work. What's really interesting about our BU insiders is that a lot of them come in some of them come in as assistant principals. And you know, after being there for a short period of time they are running their own schools, a lot of the comment is new principals and after being there a short period of time their school start to be distinguished.

These are people who are making it happen. And if you want to be a part of that group to be a part of the BU insiders then just go to build a ship and join at the insider level. And we have enrollment is open right now it's going to be open until the end of January. And then we're going to close enrollment and bring on everybody in and make sure we're nurturing that new group of people. So anyway, that's happening. You can also join builders ship University for free, that's always available to you. And again, you can go to build a ship We just finished our 12 days of builder ship promotion where every single day rereleased a new resource inside of builder ship University. And so you are you get to be privy to that. And if you are a member of Bill builders ship University, we loaded all 12 of those resources onto your dashboard. So they're available to you at all times. And so again, if you missed the promotion, but you want those 12 resources, go to build a ship, and joy. Now, let's talk about builders lab, because ticket sales are happening right now. And what I'm really excited to see is that many of you are coming as a group. And so you're bringing your team with you. And I think that's a great opportunity for you and your team to take a couple of days to really focus on the work that you want to do to build the rest of the school year. And so I'm excited to see the teams that are coming we when you come as a team, then we group you as a team so that you have that time to work. So we don't split you up and make you talk to other people, you will want to talk to other people but we give you that that dedicated time for you and your team to get some work done. So it's really smart to do that. Now if you don't have a team and you're coming by yourself, don't worry because we are intentional about curating a group of people who can serve each other.

There have been some lifelong friendships that have been built inside of Builder's Lab.

So what we do is we try to group you with people who are in a similar situation so that you can share resources. And I'm always gratified by all of the generosity that comes from the people come to builders lab, they are sharing resources and emails and phone numbers and call me I'll send you this. So it's a great way to meet other builders and to connect with them if you're coming by yourself. So whether you're coming along or whether you come in with a group, you need to come to builders lab, and we still have a few tickets available, I need to tell you that as of this morning, we only have two VIP tickets left and then the VIP level will be gone. And we have a think 1818 regular seats left. So there's still time to get your ticket. The next builders lab is happening January 31. through February 2, it's virtual, so you won't have to travel anywhere. I know things are crazy right now. And so we want to make sure that you are safe. So you can attend it is highly, highly interactive. This is not a Zoom meeting. I am not putting slides on the screen and talking over the slides. I'm not dragging you through content. This is highly interactive, we built an entire studio. I see you you see me, we talk people always, you know kind of amazing people is that you can actually see me now like yes, I can see what are you drinking, but what is that that looks delicious. And so we are actually talking to each other. It's very interactive, we keep builders lab small so that we can maintain that level of intimacy and interactivity. So this is not something that you can put on in the background while you do other stuff. You need to be fully present. And so even though it's virtual, you'll still need to take those days off from work because you need to be fully present because this we're you know, we are you're learning something and then immediately applying it, you're learning something else and then immediately applying it if you have questions, you're asking those questions.

I'm asking you questions. I am, you know, when you go into breakout rooms, I'm popping into your breakout rooms and working with you on an individual basis. We have opportunities for coaching throughout builders labs, so that you can bring some of the challenges that you're facing right now and get solutions before you leave. So when you go back to the school, you have answers. And because we have the builders box, everybody gets a box, you are constantly opening things, we have some new things we're putting in the box, this time builders lab is shifting a little bit as as I learn more, you're we're getting you that stuff right away. And so we have some really cool things that we are going to be debuting in January that are designed to make you a better administrator. They're designed to help you become better at what you do. So that you can turn your school into a success story in the next three years with the people and resources you already have. And if you're not a principal, the same thing applies. We have a lot of people come from the district level, we've had superintendents, and we've had department chairs, and they come away with a better understanding of how to run their departments and serve students better or a better idea of of how to run their districts. So it is an amazing experience. You hear me talk about it all the time. I'd love for you to join me in January. So to join, go to mind steps That's mindsteps Okay, let's talk about today, because this is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I am a part of a lot of forums online. And I also work with several districts.

There's something that I'm seeing that is really distressing. 

You know, I was working with a district recently, and the district released a set of curriculum resources, and I happened to be working with the teachers at the time. And the teachers could not make heads nor tails of this, of these brand new district resources. It was hundreds of pages of these curricular resources that the district was given to teachers and saying we expect you to use these resources, the teachers barely had enough time to plan as it was. And now the district is saying, Why aren't you using these resources? We've created all these resources for you? Why aren't you using this? Now, I'm sure that somebody at the district office thought that these resources were amazing. But they didn't consider the four questions that I'm about to share with you, when they release the resources and instead of being a help, the resources have become a source of stress, anxiety, overwhelm for the teachers. And so it's the resources are having the opposite effect of what they were intended to do. Because they are the teachers are not only not using the resources now the teachers feel more pressure, more stress, more distress at being able to do their jobs, because these resources are creating that stress. They're not helping, they're actually hurting. So when you provide resources for teachers, there are four questions that you need to consider. Question number one, will the resource actually help? I know that seems like an obvious question, but how many people leave Think about that, when basically, they a lot of times people see a resource, and they just grab the resource, oh, this will help my teachers. And they just they don't consider whether or not the resource or the timing of giving that resource is actually helpful.

So when you offer teachers a resource, you need to have a very clear goal for what the how that resource will help. I know, when I work with coaches, a lot of times, you know, they say, I need my bag of tricks, I need all these resources, I never know what teachers are going to need, I need all this, you know, you really don't, you really don't, what you need is an understanding of what you want teachers to do. And then a very carefully curated set of resources that can support them. Think about it this way, you would never expect a classroom teacher to have a ton of resources and just throw a whole bunch of resources at students, we expect classroom teachers to understand who the students are, understand the nature of their struggle, and give them the right resource. It's not about the abundance of resources, it's about matching the right resource to the right need. And a lot of us don't do that we don't really think about it could help we think, Wow, this is this is a great resource, because we look at it and think you know, more is better. And so we start handing out resources to teachers, without considering whether or not these resources will directly address teachers needs. So the first question is, will the resource actually help? Now, the second question is to look at your your own motivation around the resource. Okay, so yes, you believe this will be a helpful resource, you need to ask yourself, why do I want to give this resource to teachers? Now, here's, this is the most important question. And the reason that that I'm posing in here. And the reason that I think that a lot of resources go unused, is because the intention behind the resources was not entirely pure.

A lot of us look for resources to give to teachers, because we believe teachers are not doing their jobs. 

So we think, okay, they're not teaching the curriculum, the way that we want them to teach it, let's create new curriculum resources. They're not posting grades, the way that they that we believe they should be posting great. So let's buy a new grading program. They're not planning the way that we want them to plan. So let's institute a new planning template that and require all teachers to use the planning template, what we do is we try to create a resource or find a resource to fix the problem. But in most cases, the problem isn't that the teachers don't have the right resource. The problem is something deeper than that. And we need to address the problem. If your teachers are not planning the way that you want them to plan, no amount of planning templates are going to help those teachers because there is something fundamentally not not working in their planning process, diagnose that, and then address that before you start grabbing resources. We if the teachers aren't teaching the curriculum correctly, based on the resources, you've given them, more curriculum resources, it's not going to fix the problem, because the problem isn't that they don't that they lack the resources, the problem is often that they they lack the time to really delve deeply into the curriculum before they're expected to deliver it to students. The problem is that they may lack some subject area knowledge, they may lack an understanding of the scope and sequence, they may lack an understanding of the standards to which the curriculum is supposed to point. So you need to understand the deeper issue. You see a lot of times we grab a resource so that we can do what I call teacher proof teaching. So you'll see this all the time. All this is idiot proof, or this is childproof.

So the idea is that if we could just find a resource that eliminates any kind of any kind of margin for human error or for human misuse, then we can get consistency across the board. That's a myth. That's a myth you cannot teach or prove teaching. And so if you're, you're trying to find a resource to overcome a lack of skill or will in a group of teachers, you will always feel that resource will always fail you because it was never designed to do that. You see a tool is only as good as the will and skill of the person who uses it. Yeah, you could give me a hammer and I may be able to knock a nail into the wall. But that doesn't make me a carpenter. You could give me a battery operated computerized hammer, and you still put it in my hands and I will find a way to mess it up. Why? Because I'm not a carpenter. What you want to do instead is rather if you feel like you need a resource because your teachers aren't doing something, what you need to do is understand why they aren't doing it, and then address that issue.

What you need to do is build their capacity, build their will and their skill in order to help them. 

You know, I've been learning this lesson the hard way because I've been working with some districts where They're saying we need help with rigor. And they're bringing me in to kind of help the teachers plan with rigor. And I very naively walk in and think I'm going to help them do that. And what I realize is that, that the teachers have a fundamental issue that has nothing to do with they need more rigor, the teachers don't understand their standards, the teachers are overwhelmed, and don't feel that they have the time to be able to understand the standards, the teachers have a planning process that they were given years ago that they're attached to. And we're finding it hard for them to detach from that process that they've been using, even if even though it hasn't been working and adapt a new process mid year. And so I naively thought that if I could just show them the right way to think about rigor, they would do it. And I didn't understand that they were calling me in to solve a problem, that that was different than what my training and my resources were designed to solve, because they had, they had a fundamental will issue among their staff. So bringing in an expert, or buying a new resource, or doing a new book study, with a group of teachers who have low will about the thing you are studying, is not going to fix the problem. Because if people have low will about something, you can give them all the resources in the world, they will find a way not to use them, to misuse them, to abuse them to find holes and reasons why that resource won't work. And so just throwing more resources at the problem is not going to work. So check your motivation.

Are you are you really picking this resource because you believe it can make a difference for teachers and really help them and it's something that they are ready for and able to use, or you try to use the resource to fix a fundamental problem that that your teachers are experiencing right now with regard to will or skill? If the answer is I want to fix my teachers with this resource, the resource won't do it, you need to understand the problem and address that. You know, one of the things that we spend a lot of time doing at builders lab is talking about, we do something called micro slicing, which is really a way to quickly get to the root cause of any problem. So we can microsites a classroom we can microsite, your school. And when we do people always surprised that the problem they thought was the problem is not the problem. It's the symptom. And when they really get down to the root of it, things become a lot simpler that it's you stop feeling so overwhelmed by everything, you're like, oh, okay, this is the issue. And then we show you if once you discover the issue, how do I address the issue, so that when you walk out a builder's club, you have not only a better understanding of the fundamental issues that are plaguing your school, you have a plan for solving them? Well, if you did that, if you spent the time doing that first, before you grabbed a resource, you would probably choose far fewer resources than you're using right now. And you would see that your resources actually help because you pick the right resource to solve the right problem. Okay, so that's question number two.

What's your motive? 

Okay, question number three, is have you set teachers up to successfully use the resource? So once you've found a resource that will work once you've checked your own motives for choosing that resource? The third question is, are you creating conditions under which teachers can successfully use the resource let me go back to the example of the new curricular resources that were developed by the district after the year began and given to the teachers, teachers are already in the middle of the year, they're already trying to struggle through the hundreds of pages of curricular documents that you get, you've given them already. So to give them hundreds of more pages, where you break the curriculum down as a way to help them, you're assuming that the teachers have read the resources, you've already given them and struggled with them. And so these resources are going to help. In most cases, the teachers haven't even had time to read the resources you gave them in the first place. So more resources doesn't fix the problem. So you want to make sure that if you bring in a resource for teachers that you create the conditions around which in which that they can be successful in using that resource. Let me give you an example. I was working with a school recently, and they are working on creating success paths for students. How do you create a plan to make sure that all students are successful? And one of the things that they did is they wanted all the teachers to use our Student Success Plan A success is an acronym for a way to set students up for success and give them the right interventions during instruction. And if you use a correctly that plan will eliminate failure.

Now, I know that sounds like a big, you know, kind of wild assertion, but we've been teaching this for a while and when teachers use this plan correctly, they they're always amazed because they don't have any student failures or if they do have a failure. It's very rare and that's an indication of a deeper problem, but the students just don't fail when you use a success plan. So we're working to make sure that the that we create the success plans and put them in place but rather than spreading Have them on to the staff at the beginning of the school year and say, Hey, we're going to use success plans are in the middle of the school year, once the teachers are already frustrated, they spent the summer creating the success plans. And then they have given teachers time to review and evaluate and how the success plans are working. They've given teachers time to, to reconfigure those plans to make them work better for students, they have given the teachers additional training and troubleshooting options throughout the year. They're not they withheld a lot of other initiatives that they might have started to so that teachers could just focus on these success plans. They've also given teachers time to come back and talk about how the success plans are working. And to give teachers additional opportunities for training based on those conversations.

They're collecting feedback from students around how the success plans are working. 

Using that student feedback to refine their plans. They're doing the same thing with parents. In other words, they are creating conditions around in which the success plan can be successful. What I see a lot of districts doing is they say here is a new resource that we want you to start using. And they never give people time to digest it or understand it or or play with it before they're back in classrooms and checking off. Are you using this new resource? They never answer teachers questions, or even create a space for teachers to ask questions before they're expecting to just use the resource with fidelity, they go straight from here's a new resource to here's how to do it, we expect you to use it with fidelity. One of the things that we teach in builders lab is we talk about what's affectionately known here, and build a ship University as the six E's that when you are trying to help teachers use a new resource or use a new process, or make any kind of change, you have to respect the demands of the change process. And so we talk about those first, you have to give people a chance to get excited about the resource, we just kind of show up. And we've done the thinking and the research. And we know this resource will work. But we don't, we don't give teachers that time to get excited about it. So we just show up and say Ta-da, we have a new resource, I expect you to use it by Monday. 

No, you have to give people a chance to get excited first. And there's a specific way that we teach about how you create that excitement around the new resource. Now the excitement will last for a moment, it's enough to pique their curiosity enough to help them say, you know, maybe I'll give it a try. But then the next step is you have to give people a chance to explore the resource. And this is where you deliberately surface objections. So teachers will tell you things like well, I don't have enough time to implement it dig a little deeper understand what they mean by that, if there's something else they're being expected to do. And this is another expectation, think about replacing one expectation with another so that teachers have that opportunity. Be careful, there's some expectations, teachers feel like, well, I understand how to do this one, I don't understand how to do this new one with a new resource. So this one feels more comfortable. So if you take it away, you actually create more stress. So you have to really navigate that process carefully. But the the the the Explore stage is where you surface those objections and start to deal with those objections. The next stage is then once you've dealt with the objections, and you've created the right conditions for people to get started and be successful.

The next thing is how do I get everybody engaged?

At this point, I don't expect fidelity, I just expect you to try it in your classrooms. And then to collect feedback about how the how it's working. And then the next day, just once you get them engaged, then you can set the expectation that every time I go in your classroom, I can see it. And then after you set the expectation, you're working with them, you're giving feedback to them, you're collecting feedback from them, you're refining the process. And then you set once they're set up for success. And you can see they can be successful, then and only then do we evaluate, you evaluate their use of the resource, you evaluate the effectiveness of the resource, you get teachers involved in that evaluation process, and then you embed and extend. So the parts that are working, start working to embed that in your culture, and then extend that, that that success that momentum into the next, tackling the next issue that you need to tackle in your school. If you use that process, you create conditions for success. You give people opportunities to practice with supportive feedback before you evaluate their fidelity of implementation. You give people a chance to, to really look at the resource and think about how it's supposed to be used and how it can support them, and how they might attempt to use that resource. You get people excited about the resource, you set people up for success. So the last question is, have you done that? Have you have you created the right conditions for people to use the resource successfully?

If you haven't, then you need to wait until you do. Now I get it. A lot of us are feeling a sense of urgency especially as we start we launch into a new calendar year but the second half of our school year. Those tests are coming And we're looking at data and we're not beat may not be happy with the data that we're seeing so far. And so we start getting desperate. And we start grabbing resources to help teachers. Or maybe we're not looking at the data, maybe we're listening to the teachers concerns and complaints. And we really do genuinely want to alleviate their burden. And so we're desperately searching for a resource that will do it. Maybe we've been in classrooms by this point. And we're seeing something that's not working in the classroom. And it's not working across the board. Teachers aren't teaching the standard. Teachers are not asking high level questions of students, there's a lack of student engagement, all these things we're seeing, and we're thinking up, this is the problem, we need to grab a resource not so fast. First of all, you need to make sure that you are addressing the right problem, the root problem. Secondly, you need to make sure that you are selecting a resource that actually works. 30 needs to check your own motives and make sure that your motives are to help teachers get better.

You have to play the long game, not the short game. 

So if your motive is, oh, we got to make some gains this year, or else then it's the wrong motive, slow down, take a step back, and get refocused on your vision. And one of the reasons why we focus on our vision so much in both builders lab and on build a ship University is because it helps you stop being distracted, helps you to stop chasing shiny objects, it helps you to keep focus in the midst of chaos. So go back to your vision. And if your vision is not driving this, any other motive is not pure, you want to make sure that it's about your vision, mission and core values. And then finally, okay, this resource is going to work, I have the right motivation for doing it, I believe it's going to support my teachers. Now, how can you create conditions in which teachers can be successful in using that resource, you do that. And when you give a resource to teachers, you're not going to face the same kind of pushback, you're not going to face the same kind of, of resistance, both passive and active resistance. Instead, your teachers will see you as a resource, because you are careful and choosing the kinds of resources that you give teachers, and you're putting the conditions in place for teachers to be successful. And then you actually see the resource get used with fidelity, and you actually see the results. So before you grab a resource, my challenge to you is this, go through these questions, make sure you're asking yourself these very important questions first. And at any point, you see there's a problem with the resource, go back to zero, there is no rush. So you don't have to rush and get something done right away. Be deliberate, be focused, stay focused on your vision, and make sure that you are choosing the right resources, resources that will help and not hinder. That's how you pick a resource #LikeABuilder.

I'll talk to you next time.

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at Buildership University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. You'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join Buildership University. Just go to and get started writing your school success story today.

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