An Excerpt from Builder’s Bootcamp 2022


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 142

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. Today we're gonna do something a little different. You see, we just finished up our January builders lab was amazing. By the way, we introduced some new concepts. And then we shared those concepts at our builders boot camp, which was a free training that we offered for people inside of Buildership University, who couldn't make it to Builders Lab, but wanted to hear about this new framework.

Although we can't share the whole half day training with you, I thought it'd be really cool to share some excerpts.

So today, we're going to share the excerpt from the first part of the training. And then next time, we're going to share another excerpt from the training, just so that you can get at least a taste of what we're doing inside of builder ship University, and how that Buildership model is growing. And the whole point of both of these excerpts is to talk about what does it mean to be a builder really, and how it's being a builder different from being a leader. So without any further ado, we're going to share excerpt one from our Buildership bootcamp with you right now.

So here's the thing. And this is hard. But almost everything that made you a good leader will get in the way of your becoming a great builder. Say that again, almost everything that made you a good leader will get in the way of your becoming a great builder. Let me show you why. So here's a, here's a leadership thing that we were taught. You can only read success by increments. You know, as a leader, you are taught to set incremental goals, and great leaders set incremental goals, and then they hit and reach those incremental goals every single year. Here's another thing that makes you a great, great leader, you have to work hard in order to reach success. Think about all the great leaders that you've seen. They're at the school first thing before everybody else, they're there after they leave. They are they you see them, they're always working hard. You, they, they they're theirs, they sacrifice for their schools. Another thing that is taught you've been taught about what it means to be a great leader is that the day to day demands will often get in the way of what you do. And you recognize that you try to bat out some of those day to day demands so that you can stay focused on the work. Another myth that you have as a leader is that you can't get much done in the midst of COVID. So you just need to survive.

A lot of people who are great leaders are in survival mode right now. 

They're saying I don't want to wear out my staff. Right now, the best thing I can do, the kindest thing I can do for my staff is we're not going to push towards our goals. So great leaders are are backpedaling on the goals a little bit right now, because they don't want to push too hard during COVID. Great leaders are saying I really need to focus on self care for my staff. So great leaders are putting a new ice machine with the pebble ice in the staff lounge and great leaders are giving hiring Mazouz to come into the staff lounge and give it to a massage day for staff and great leaders are trying to figure out what they can take off teacher's plates right now. So that this teachers can move forward and great leaders are saying, let's not focus so much on academic attainments right now, because we have to deal with SEL issues. And all of that. I mean, some of you are like, but don't we have to do that. Alright. That's what we should be doing right now, again, what makes you a great leader may not make you a great builder, and we're going to talk about that in a second. Great leaders say that we have to get everybody on board before we can get started. So great leaders are working to try to get everybody focused, everybody on board, everybody committed to a vision for students. And that's what they're doing, and they're not going to get started. And so they get everybody on board.

I see this a lot with like people get into new positions at the central office level or even at the school level. A lot of times principals are advised to do the listening tour, make your first year listening tour. Don't make any changes your first year, just listen to everybody else. Superintendents do a whole listening tour their first year they go to different schools and talk to all the constituents and listen, before they move forward with any changes or before they even state what their vision is. Great leaders say sometimes you just have to be a boss in order to get things done. You know, there are times when I can be kind but great leaders, use the carrot and stick approach. Speak softly, but carry a big stick. And great leaders are you know, if I can't get you to move, you know, if I can't get you to move on your own, then I'm gonna have to come in, I'm gonna have to write you up. I'm gonna have to do other things in order to get you moving, because we need to move now. To any of these things sound familiar to you? Is this how any of you were trained to be a great leader? Yeah. So is anyone feeling a little bit of like, wait a minute, Robyn, those? Those do make sense. What's what's there? Is anyone feeling like I'm being a little bit harsh or crazy right now? Maybe a little bit. Okay. All right, well, you're being kind. Because these are the things that we were taught to do.

This is how I was trained. 

I was trained, that you need to go after ineffective teachers. And my goal with ineffective teachers was to get them out of the building. And I could use formal means that I had somebody pulled me aside and said, the formal means don't work, then you can haze them out. You can give them the classroom with a broken heater do can give them five periods of study hall, you can, you know, drop a hint during transfer a fair time and say you know, just want to check and see if you're going to be here with us next year because the transfer fair is coming. You could go in and evaluate them every single week those ineffective teachers and keep writing them up every single time. I was taught that if they weren't going to get on board they needed to get out Building. Here's the problem, you spend all that time going after a teacher. And most of the time, even when you do that you're not successful.

They appeal, the union gets involved. They're back in your building that fall. But now they've got a victory. Now they know you can't get rid of them. But even if you do get rid of that teacher, everybody else is watching. And they're all wondering, Am I next? Even if they agree that teacher should go? Because you have to do what you have to do to get rid of that teacher? Everybody's watching. And they're paying attention and they're baking. Nope, can't cross her. Because if I do, she's gonna come after me next. And you're exhausted. Because you didn't become an educator to get rid of people who weren't doing their jobs, you became an educator, because you want to change kids lives. But you spend most of your time dealing with adult problems. That's how we were trained. What if there was something else? What if there were another way? That didn't require us to do all of that? And I started asking that question, years ago, when I was a school administrator and hating the job, because what I really wanted to do was make a difference in the lives of kids. And I felt like most of my job required me to do something different than that. And when I started asking the question, then things started opening up. And and so it's not about these myths, like, here's another one. 

I don't have the right people or the right resources to reach my vision right now. 

We think we have to get rid of somebody, or we need a programmer, I need funding, I need three more teachers, or I can't get my job done. How frustrating is that when you know what you need to do, but you don't feel like you have the things to do it your waist? You're waiting on somebody else, Mother Mae eye, before I can get stuff done? Well, here's the good news. There is another way. You don't have to be constrained by the mythology that leadership has taught us to be true. That's not true. There is another way, let me give you an example. That myth, you have to work hard in order to achieve success. Well, I started asking, and what if achieving success was easier than I thought? You know, what if I didn't have to stay at work until seven o'clock every single night? And then take work home and get more done before I went to bed? What if I could achieve success and leave work every day for 35? o'clock? What if I could achieve a success and still have dinner with my family in the evenings? What if I could achieve success without having to grind it out for two or three years before things get moving? It's when you're a builder, you start looking at things differently. I remember being in school and my principal would be there till six, seven o'clock at night, he had a wife and small children and he'd stay there and he'd be there on the weekends. And, you know, I thought, Okay, well, if I'm going to be a principal someday, I got to do what he does.

He was a superstar principal in a district, I should follow his lead. Here's the problem. And we're sitting at work until 630. Some days and my work will be done. And I'm like, I'm just sitting here. Like, until like, I like, it looks, it looks good for me to leave. If you can be efficient during your day, why do you need to wait till 630? A lot of people say, Well, I have so much work to do. Is everything you're doing the right work? Should you even be doing that work? And that's what builders start asking. And sometimes the answer is yes. And so then it's like, okay, well, how do I do this work in a way that's more effective and more efficient and serves the bigger vision? Sometimes the answer is no, and builders just stop doing it. But we're not just working for the sake of working. I find so many leaders, you're working for the sake of working and I ask why are you doing that? And while I've always done it, yes, but is that work you should be doing right now? Will that work? Get you towards your vision? I think a lot of times we're hiding in that work. We're holding on to the work, we feel like we just work hard, then that makes us a good principal. What makes you a good principal are your results? And what if you could get those results without having to sacrifice your nights, your weekends, your time with your family, hobbies, recreation, sleep, what if you could get those results without having to do all of that? That's the question builders ask the next one. There's a myth.

We can only read success by increments. 

Well, the first thing the builders are asking as well. increments are not good enough increments leave too many kids behind every year. So what would it take to make a dramatic difference right now? Everybody else, I was talking to a superintendent and she had a goal of 5% growth for, you know, across the district in five years. I said you could probably get that without changing anything else in your district. All it takes us three schools to show geometric growth, and you can show across the board average 5% growth. Why do you? Why are you choosing 5%? She said, Because last time, we didn't even get that. How many of you have set a set plan every year, and you start rubbing away at your vision? Because you set something that you thought was just even a little bit ambitious, and you couldn't hit it? So you go back to what's safe? Rather than asking the question, look, 5% growth, if I do 5% a year, and I'm at 35% proficiency right now, how long will it take me to get to 100%? What if instead, you said, You know what? I want to double proficiency in one year? What would it take? Just ask the question, what would it take? We never, we never speculate as, as leaders. We never say, alright, we are we've never been able to get more than about three or 4% growth in a year. What would it take to get? What would it take to get 20%? Growth? What would that look like? And if your school is already successful, I've worked in schools where, you know, we're struggling to get to 50%.

I've worked in schools where we're sitting at 82%. And everybody leaves us alone, because we're at 82% proficiency. But then when you think about it, 82% proficiency is not 100%. And there's still kids who aren't learning. So what would it take to get from 82 to 100, and often is harder to get from 82 to 100, than it was to get from 25 to 50% proficient? But what would that take? Are you asking that question? Here's another one. The day to day demands are going to get in the way of what I really want to do. Builders ask, How do I keep a day to day demands from getting in the way of what I really want to do? What can I do to make sure that I'm focused on the most important work every single day? When when other leaders are telling you leadership is telling you, you can't get much done in the midst of COVID You need to just survive.

Builders are saying "How can I get the right work done in the midst
of COVID?" 

You know, recently, I was working with a group of principals and their superintendent had just given them a couple of extra days off over the winter break holidays. They were complaining the teachers were around, you know, we're working too hard. This this is really hard with COVID. And everything that's going on, we're just burned out. So the superintendent gave him a couple extra days. I thought that would be exciting, you know, a couple of extra days paid leave. And you know what the teachers were saying, the only reason she did is because she knew she wasn't going to get enough subs to be able to cover everybody, he was already going to take off a few extra days around the holiday. Here, this superintendent thought that she was taking things off teachers plates, but the teacher's perception was very cynical. And then the administrators didn't appreciate it, because they said, so that means that I have to get all of this other work that you want for me done two days earlier, so that I can even enjoy the break so that I'm not working during the extra days that you gave me. This superintendent gave what she thought was a gift to her staff. And our staff didn't see it that way. Why? Because she was doing it from a leadership perspective.

They're complaining, let me give they'll try to solve their complaint. Builders. Maybe two days off is not what people need. Maybe what people need is that they need work that's meaningful, that we need to stop instead of just taking random things off teachers plates, let's take things off teacher's plates that they shouldn't have been doing in the first place. So that we can focus on doing the right work. We understand that COVID is changing things. But everybody keeps talking about getting back to the game back to normal. And it's been almost three years now. Three school years. What if this is the new normal? How can we move forward? Right now, inside of builders University, we have office hours and people come to office hours every every other week. And we you know, we check in with each other and support each other with challenges. And what is really interesting is that when we're in office hours, people are talking about what they are able to accomplish right now.

Learning doesn't stop just because we're having a pandemic. 

A lot of people are saying well right now We really need to focus on SEL needs, not their academic needs as if those were dichotomous. Is there a way and this is what builders ask to support students SEL needs, and still help them move forward academically? Well, builders are finding is yes, there is. But you never ask the question if you accept the mythology that leadership teaches you, which is that it has to be either or we're having a national international crisis right now. People are are naturally burned out. But does that mean that we can't move forward? Does it mean that our teachers can't move forward? Builders are asking that question, here's another one, that myth, we must get everyone on board before we can get started. And builders are asking how do I get started right now remember, builders go out ahead, they start building right now, how can I get started right now? And how can I build right now in a way that the work becomes so compelling that everybody wants to join me, builders are not chasing, checking and correcting people, they are inviting people to step into something greater and bigger. And because you do that, you don't have to force or cajole, or convince people, you just start building.

Leadership tells us, sometimes you just have to be a boss, builders recognize I can get things done without being a boss whole, I can get things done right now, with the people I have without being harsh on those people, without writing people up, without creating an environment in a culture where people are scared, and they're doing things out of compliance, rather than out of commitment and cooperation to the work. Leadership tells us that you need the right people and the right resources to reach your vision. And builders are saying how can I reach my vision with the people I have? If I never get another resource, doesn't mean my vision is any less compelling. We still have to move forward. So how do I reach my vision right now with the people I have right now is when you choose to be a builder, you stop being constrained by these myth view these myths that we've been taught about our ability to get work done, you chose to become a to take a leadership position to, to move out of the classroom and to do something else, because you want it to make a bigger difference. So once you leave, it's so disheartening to get into that, that that role. And being told, you can't make that bigger difference, because you don't have the right people, you got to wait for the right resources, or COVID or anything else.

What Builders are saying is, "I am chosen, and I have chosen to make a bigger difference."

Nothing is going to stop me from making that bigger difference. And I'm going to do it in the way that does no harm. I'm not going to do it in a way where my staff is exhausted and burned out. I'm not going to do it in a way where my kids are exhausted and burned out because I just drilled and killed them until that I can move test scores. Couldn't do it in a way that honors the people I serve. I'm going to do it in a way that is unique that honors my own personality and my own style. But to do it in a way that gives results that aren't just statistical numbers on paper, but actual tangible results because every single child that I serve is getting that same result. That's a difference between leadership and build a ship and that's why if you're going to reach 100% goal, leadership is not enough.

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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