5 Questions You Should Be Asking Before You Close the School Year


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 155

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Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today we are going to conclude our series that we've been doing about some things that you could be doing right now to end the school year strong.

Today we're going to talk about something that you need to be doing, we talked about things that you need to do to kind of get a sense of where everybody else is and create wow moments for people and to collect feedback from teachers.

But today, we're going to talk about how you can start processing some of that feedback and turn that feedback into action. Now before we do that, I have two big announcements. One is that although right now builder ship University is closed, if you want to join bill to ship university, you need to get on the waitlist. And I'll tell you why. This next cohort that we're going to be opening up at the end of May, is going to be our last beta cohort. So if you want to get into builder ship University and lock in at the beta pricing, this will be your last opportunity to do that. And it'll be opening up in just a couple of weeks. And after May you can still join builder ship university, but you'll be joining it not at the beta investment you'll be enjoying, you'll be joining build ship University at its regular investment, it's still a bargain, you will get an incredible experience. But if you're looking to kind of get in and lock in at that beta rate, this will be your last opportunity. So stay tuned, the best way to know when the doors are gonna open for the next cohort is to join the waitlist. So go to builder ship university.com and join the waitlist. So you'll be aware of that. Because once the seats are gone for this cohort, they're gone.

And speaking of seats being almost gone, we are over halfway sold out for this year's builders lab. 

And I told you from the beginning that the summer builders lab always sells out and this one is going on track. In fact, I think tickets are selling even faster this year than they did last summer. So if you are planning on coming to builders lab, you need to get your tickets now go ahead and give us a call at the office and the number is 1-888-565-8881. If you are working on getting a PIO and but you want to make sure that you can hold your slot, you need to be a builder's lab. So you need to get your tickets now. And the reason why things sell out is because we intentionally keep builders lab small. This is unlike any other virtual event you've ever experienced. A lot of times you go to virtual events and nobody knows you're there. And you're just kind of one of 1000s of people looking at it online.

When we met in person for builders lab, we kept it small, we kept the number of seats and that was so that we can make sure that there were this was an intimate environment, we made the decision to do the same thing, even though we were going virtual and, you know, potentially we can open it up to a lot more people. Because we wanted it to be an intimate experience, I want a chance to be able to speak to each and every person who's there to to coach you to to give you support to hear your stories, because builders lab is not about you sitting and getting information builders lab is about getting stuff done.

When you come to builders lab, you're actually going to be crafting your vision, you're going to learn the process for four crafting a mission and a set of core values with your staff. And then we're going to do something called micro slicing. And micro slicing is a way for you to get to the root cause of anything that's happening in your school, whether it's something that's happening in a teacher's classroom, whether it's a cultural issue where you're seeing some toxicity, so that you are able to go in and very quickly assess what is at the root of this problem and then be able to solve it. And in order to do that we need to spend a lot of time you know, talking and exchanging ideas and brainstorming and getting work done. So we keep it small on purpose and because we keep it small the seats go very quickly.

So if you want to come to build your slab and why wouldn't you want to come to build your slab because that's where we're going to get that work done. Then you need to go to mind steps in Think that comm slash builders dat lab that's mind at steps inc.com/builders-lab. Okay, that's it for the announcements.

Let's talk about today and what we're thinking about. Now over the last several episodes, I've been talking about things that you can do to end the year strong. And the things that are a little counterintuitive things that you may not have considered, but will make a big difference.

First, I talked about conducting exit interviews, and those of you who have been reaching out and telling me what an incredible experience those exit interviews has been, that's been so gratifying to me, we all should be doing that because you get information during those exit interviews that you can't get any other way. And it gives you an opportunity to provide real closure for teacher who's leaving, and to get some valuable feedback, because the teachers who are leaving will tell you things that perhaps your staff may not feel comfortable telling you or may not even realize yet. And that information can help you build an even better experience for your staff next year.

Then we talked a lot about creating these wow moments, turning these ordinary moments at the end of the year into real wow moments that reinforce your vision, mission and core values. And then we talked about how to take the the the end of the year climate survey and turn it on its head by not using the typical questions and the typical scoring mechanism. But really using that that opportunity to ask your staff not how are things going? And how can we make it better? They're sick of you asking that they're sick of hearing that? How can what can we do you know, they tell you what you can do stop piling my plate up. And then you're like, Okay, I'll take one thing off your plate. And usually we take the thing off, that wasn't the thing that was making the plate feel so heavy. Don't get me on that rant. But what instead of doing that climate survey, well, you get those kinds of answers. And it keeps you locked in that vicious cycle. We talked about using that into the your climate survey process to really ask questions that relate and reinforce your your vision, your mission and your core values. So we talked a lot about making the experience great for your staff and finding out information from your staff. But how do you take all of the information from those exit interviews from that, that into the year survey?

And how do you use that along with your data and everything else you've been doing this year, to really turn it into action to help you figure out where you need to focus next year. 

Today, I want to share with you five questions that that we've been sharing with our builders inside of builder ship university, to help them really think about the year and about where they need to go. These are questions that you can ask yourself, and in a self reflective moment, or these are questions that you can pose to your building leadership team, your school leadership team, and ask them to reflect on and use this as a way to kind of to take everything that's happened in the year and turn it into action for next year.

So the first question you want to ask is given ever given our vision and the efforts that we made this year to move towards our vision? What is something that we did this year, that didn't work that we need to stop doing? So the first question is, what do we need to stop doing? This is a great question to ask because this is the one that gets everything out? Well, we did we did this and this didn't work. We tried this and this didn't work well we often don't do is we we often don't think about what we need to stop doing. Instead, we just say that didn't work. We'll keep doing that. But we're going to add this other thing over here. When you ask the question, what should we stop doing? It helps you to look at what isn't working and stop it so that you're not piling things on? You can? Those are the things you need to remove from people's plates. Not because people are complaining about it, but because it didn't actually move you towards your vision, mission and core values. So the first question is, what do we need to stop doing? What did we start did what did we do this year that actually did not help us move towards our vision, mission or core values? Okay, so that's the first question.

The next question is, what do we need to do less of? Now? Often, we're good at with this stop doing question. You know, that's probably not earth shattering to you, you probably already thought about that one. But this question, what do we need to do less of we're doing it but we don't need to do as much as pot as we're currently doing. And this question really helps you think about where you are getting the most value for your efforts.

I'll give you kind of a concrete example kind of a silly example. But I remember working in a school once where they were doing a lot of work for parental outreach. They were sending out a newsletter every single week. And that newsletter had five different sections. And they were you know, doing robo calls to parents for every new thing. And they were updating the website and then they were sending emails, they were trying to do everything they could to capture as many modalities as they could so that they could communicate with parents. So this newsletter was taking a lot of time and energy and often the principal was the one who ended up Writing it even though there were supposed to be collecting articles from different teachers in different classrooms. And when the principal's sat down and had a focus group with parents, they, the principal asked about the the newsletter, and the parents said, you know, we liked the newsletter, but the section that we really read is x. And they talked about one section of the newsletter that they read. And there were other sections of the newsletter that they didn't read, they would just kind of glance at them, but the one that they went to was this. So rather than the principal's spending, all this time writing this very elaborate newsletter, the principal cut down the newsletter to the section, the parents said that they only read. And nobody complained, in fact, more people started reading the newsletter, because instead of this big, long, multi page thing, the principal's sending out every week, it was a very short, succinct newsletter.

So that's an example of something that we need to do less of, what are you doing the most of right now that, you know, you went all out? And you want to look at some of those things? And ask, do we need to do this much. And maybe you're trying to tackle a problem. And so you just threw all of your energies around that problem, what parts actually were working and what parts didn't work? So well, the parts that didn't work, so Well, maybe you shouldn't do that, maybe you should, should stop, or either stop doing it or do less of it.

Here's another example. We were doing a lot to, to encourage students to take some AP tests, you know, we wanted to increase the number of students who are taking AP tests. So we were having like study sessions every week, and we were feeding the kids, yes, they were eating the food. But when we asked students what and ultimately influenced you to sign up for the AP test, when you originally weren't going to do it, it wasn't the food. And it wasn't the study sessions, it was all my friends who were doing it. So what we learned is that rather than rather than spending the money and the time and feeding them and, and having all these study sessions and paying people, you know, extra to be the study sessions, we need to spend our time doing kind of like a PR campaign and making an AP test, it seemed like something everybody was doing. When we did that we cut back on some of the other things. And we really focused on, you know, trying to recruit instead of individual students to take the test groups of students to take the test and leveraging that peer pressure to get students to sign up for the test. We got as many if not more signups. But without having to do all those extra after school sessions. Now, once they signed up for the test, then we started thinking about what are the best ways to support them. And one of the things we realized was the after school sessions were nice, and the food was nice. But what really worked was encouraging students and giving them them them a framework for creating their own after school study sessions with people they wanted to actually study with, and giving them the study materials and talking to them about how you guys can meet at a Starbucks and study and how you could meet here and opening up the classroom, not for us to conduct those study sessions, but for students to come and initiate those study sessions on their own. That's another example of when you are thinking we have to do everything and you do everything.

Go back now and look and see whether or not you really needed to do everything. Was there one thing that really worked, keep doing that, but everything else you can backup?

So first question, what do we need to stop doing? 

Second question, what do we need to do less of? The third question is what do we need to keep doing exactly as we're doing right now, this gives you an opportunity to really look at what is working. And a lot of times, we don't ask that we just assume well, just going to do everything we're doing right now. Plus, this is an opportunity you forget to figure out, these are the things that are really working exactly the way we want them to work exactly as they are. And that helps you see where your strengths are in your school, the things that are really mattering the things that are making a difference, which could then spark ideas for the next two questions. The final two questions. The fourth question, Am I on number four? Yeah, the fourth question is, what should we be doing more of? What should we be doing more of?

So once you start looking at what's working, you might see some ideas and say, you know, that's working. But we only do that once a week, maybe we should do it twice a week, you know, that's working, but we only do it in grades one through three, maybe we need to extend it to grades four, and five, because those third graders now rely on it. So maybe we need to move that up into fourth grade or even fifth grade. When you start by thinking about what should we keep doing what's really working in our building. And we never have those conversations and always talking about what's broken, what's not working. But what is working this year, what has worked this year, and of those things that have worked. What are some things that worked so well, maybe we should do more of it?

And then the last question, all right, we've looked at what we should stop doing we look at what we should be doing less we look at what we should keep doing. We looked at what we should be doing more of what should we start doing where are the holes pulls what's missing, when you have that conversation with yourself with your leadership team, it helps you to take stock of the year in a way that turns things into action, not just hey, the data went up two points this year, let's have a party or not, hey, the data looks really depressing. Maybe we should lower expectations for next year or not, you know, it's a pretty good year, I'm just glad to be done. It was a tough year, or rationalizing or making excuses for the year. Instead, you're looking at the year through a very critical lens, and you're you walk out of that meeting with action items, these are the things we need to stop doing for next year. These are the things we need to do less of, these are the things we need to keep doing because they're working. And in fact, these are the things that those are those things that we're going to keep, maybe we should do more of these things, and start doing these other things in order to leverage what is working, when you ask you those five questions of yourself. And when you ask those five questions of your leadership team, it helps you to look at the entire year that you just had, and start to figure out what you can do better.

Remember, the whole goal here is for you to achieve your vision in three years or so. 

And that vision is a vision for success for 100% of your students. And you're not going to get there if you keep doing what you've always done. And one of the challenges a lot of people inside of builder ship University, say and see, especially at the beginning, especially when they finally adopt that 100% vision is that after the initial excitement dies down there a lot of people who are intimidated by that 100% Because they've never seen a school that is achieved 100% They don't believe it's possible in the school that you have right now. And so you start to get people who who start to push back against your vision a little bit. And people ask all the time, how do we handle that, but but here's the thing, if you just put that 100% vision out there, but you're not consistently doing the work to show people how you're going to get to that 100% That 100% is always going to feel intimidating, you know, people say we can't get to 100% with the school that we have right now. They're absolutely right.

So the question becomes, what do we need to then be doing? How does our school need to change in order for that 100% To feel possible? And when you start asking that question, and using the discipline of these five questions that we just talked about, you start helping people say not let's stop doing this, because you know, this didn't work didn't work. For what, let's stop doing this, because this got on my nerves got on your nerves for what if instead, you use the vision as the overarching reason why we're having that conversation, all of a sudden, when you're having this conversation, you're doing this kind of analysis, it's not a gripe session, people start to see, oh, if we stopped doing this, if we do less of that, if we keep doing this, if we do a little more of that. And if we start doing this, ha, now our vision feels a little bit more doable. And when you're engaging people with that conversation at the end of the year, that creates the momentum, you need to go into your summer planning season.

Because instead of just creating a school improvement plan, where you're just kind of throwing spaghetti against the wall, you're armed with this really important information, this data that can help you, you have the data from the exit interview, you have the data from the the end of the year survey the builders version of the end of the year survey. And you also have people who have left school excited and reinforced around the vision mission and core values, that creates an incredible amount of momentum. If then you add to all of that this information here, this conversation here, where you consider this the year that you just had through the lens of your vision and views these five questions to do that. You have an incredible amount of information that then informs not only you know, some of the the little things, you know, the master schedule and implementing some of the tweaks that have come out of that conversation.

But the bigger things around how are we going to reach our vision? What do we need to be doing next? What is the most important work that we need to be doing right now to reach our vision? So I'll go through those five questions one more time. One, what do we need to stop doing? To? What do we need to do less of three? What do we need to keep? For what do we need to be doing more of and five? What do we need to start doing? If you use those lessons to help you consider the year you've just had? And to start thinking about action items that you want to take into the new year. You're going to have an incredible amount of momentum going into planning season and you'll be able to make plans that really do move your school towards your vision because you've processed the year like a belter. 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 builder ship 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. Inside 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 buildership university.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/

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