Are you focusing on the “means” more than the “ends?”


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 157

How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How do you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers, strategies, and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you face. You don't have to wait to make a difference in the lives of the people you serve. You can turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. Let's get started.

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today, we're going to talk about a tweak that you can make to your vision that's going to make your vision significantly more powerful. And the reason we're talking about this right now is that many of you are wrapping up the school year and you're going into the summer planning season. And I want to share something with you that can keep you from making a huge mistake, and wasting a lot of time pursuing something that really doesn't matter.

Today, we're gonna be talking about whether or not your goals and your visions represent the means or the ends. But before we do that, a couple of reminders, first of all, builders lab. Now, last time I checked, I haven't looked in a couple of days, but we were less than 10 seats away from being sold out at builders lab. And so things are starting to wind up I told you from the beginning that builders lab will sell out and it looks like we are on track to do that right now. And here's why this is so important.

You've got a big deadline looming, you see, if you don't get your ticket by June three, then we cannot guarantee that you're going to get your builders box. And trust me, you want the builders box. One of the things that has made builders labs so amazing during this this this environment, this virtual environment, you know, even when we first shifted from an in person builders lab to a virtual builders lab, what are the things that we were really adamant about was that we wanted it to be a full experience. That's why we call it the builder's lab 360 degree experience. And one big part of that experience is we send you a box and not a teeny little box, we send you a huge box. And it's full of surprises. And so it's a it's a really important part of builder's lab. So if you don't get your ticket by June three, assuming there even any tickets left to you, we cannot guarantee that we can get that box shipped to you in time. So stop waiting, you need to get to builders lab and get your ticket. And to do that you want to go to mind steps, that lab.

Now let me tell you why you want to come to build your lab. It's not just the box, the box is cool, but it's not just about the box. You see, builders lab is the place you come when you want to get very clear about your vision. And when you want to stop fighting symptoms and get to the root cause and build your SAP we do something called micro slicing. And we spend a lot of time doing that, we first show you how to micro slice your school, which is weeding through all of the noise and getting to the root cause the one thing that you need to focus on right now that's going to make the biggest difference in your achieving your vision. It's about finding the biggest challenge that that is the biggest threat to your vision, and then figuring out how to remove that challenge that threat in the next 90 days. But the other part of Bill just lab that's really cool is that we don't just micro slice your school, we show you how to micro slices a classroom.

Now. I am. I sometimes forget how powerful micro slicing can be. I teach it all the time. But I got an opportunity to do this in a classroom a couple of weeks ago, I visited a classroom. And we were there for five to seven minutes. And in that time, we were able to get to the root cause of why this teacher's practice wasn't working. Now this was not a bad teacher. In fact, the teacher was a very good teacher. And we got we were able to pinpoint what would make that teacher a great teacher. And we came back and we have the discussion. And then afterwards, I got to do something I was never get to do anymore, which I actually got to give that feedback back to the teacher and the teacher. She wouldn't when I finished giving her the feedback. She said, Wow, this, this is coaching. If I have this kind of feedback all the time, there's no I can't tell you what I can become. This was so helpful. This is the most meaningful feedback I've ever received. Now that's not because I'm amazing. It's because micro slicing allows do to do that. And one of the things we're going to show you, a builder's lab is how to go into a classroom be in there for only five to seven minutes. But get to the root cause of a teacher's practice. And then craft feedback using the structure that we've designed, so that your teachers are so excited about that feedback that they can't wait to get back into the classroom, implement that feedback and become better.

So that's why you need to come to builders lab, because not only is it going to help you think through the root causes of of why your school isn't where it needs to be, and then help you figure out what you do about it. It's also going to show you how to get to the root cause of why your teachers aren't where they need to be, and not in a punitive way, but in a very supportive way. Give them the kind of feedback support accountability and culture that helps them grow one level in one domain and one year less, and often cases significantly more than that. So again, get your ticket to builders lab by coming to mind steps

One more quick announcement. Right now, builder ship University is closed, we are not enrolling anyone right now we are going through a cohort. It's been incredible. I can't tell you the kinds of breakthroughs people are having a builder's lab, right that I'm sorry, Bill to ship university right now, it's so much fun. And we are going to be opening one last beta core cohort in June. I'll tell you a little bit more about that later. But if you want to be a part of the next cohort, you need to go to build your ship and get on the waiting list. Alright, that's all I'll say for now talk a little bit more about later, we're going to do one last beta cohort. And then after that, we're going to be opening up, build a ship University for everybody in the public and start having these breakthroughs. Even more.

Okay, now, let's talk about your vision. So you may not know this, but every month inside a builder ship University, we do a free vision workshop, and it is open to everybody. You don't have to be a member of builder ship University to come. Now, when we do this vision workshop, the goal is to help you design a vision that can drive the work in your school. But the first step in being a builder is you have to have a builder's vision, you have to have a vision for 100% of your students. And so to help you take that first step, and to build a ship, we offer this vision workshop for free. And there's something that I've been noticing lately as I've been working with people in developing their visions, and also working with some clients thinking about their summer plans and thinking about planning for the upcoming school year.

And that's this, a lot of people create a vision that is really about the means and not the end. 

Let me tell you what I mean by that. It's okay, someone recently and she was saying, Well, I want my vision for you know, I want to get I don't want to have any discipline problems in my school. And so I asked her, I said, Okay, so if you had a school where all of your students, none of your students were suspended or got detention, everybody was well behaved. But they weren't reading on grade level. They, they couldn't problem solve the math, they didn't understand history and context. Would you be okay with that? And she said, No. And I said, Well, why are you going to make your vision, no discipline problems? Why are you going to spend three years eliminating discipline problems? He said, Because discipline is out of control in my school. I said, so is your vision that you want to get discipline under control? Or is discipline being out of control? The problem because it's getting in the way of students learning, she said, Well, it's getting away students learning, I said, then that's your vision. He wants students to learn. And the discipline is just a means it's, it's an obstacle that's in the way of your bigger vision.

You see, sometimes when you are in the weeds, it's really hard to see beyond that your biggest obstacle. That's one of the reasons why we do the microsites and builders lab to help you put your obstacles in perspective, so that your obstacle doesn't become the vision, you get the obstacle out of the way so that you can see the bigger vision. Sometimes people will come to me and they'll say, I can't write a vision, mission or core values until I get discipline under control. And I get it because if the building is out of control, there are some things you're going to need to do just to bring some safety back into the building. But keep in mind that bringing safety back into the building is a means that allows you to get to what you really want to do. Don't get so distracted by the problems that are immediately in front of you, that you can't see beyond them so that you can can really get to the root cause and and and get that out the way so that you can achieve the real vision that you want for students. Sometimes people will say, Well, I just want my kids to be good people. And I say okay, good people. First of all, that's a very nebulous term. What does good people mean? But second of all, I was good people so that they can do what? Do you want them to be good people and keep their goodness to themselves? Or do you want them to be good people because you want them to have a positive impact on the world.

If your vision is really, that you just want them to be good people for the sake of being good people, okay, I understand that. But in most cases, what people are saying is they're saying, I want them to be the kinds of people who have a positive impact on the world. That's your real vision. So when we you're setting goals for the year, whether it's a bigger vision, or if it's smaller goals, you know, a lot of times people will say things like, Okay, I want the goal for the year for all of my teachers to have learning intentions and success criteria up on the board. And, okay, you don't need a whole year to do that, you could get that done in a month.

But if your goal is to just see a learning intention on the board or success criteria posted online somewhere, once that happens, then what you know, I'll say to people, okay, so the teacher has the learning intention posted and our success criteria, but the students are disengaged, or the students are, are, are not achieving, then are you happy? And I said no. So So why are you making this tactic of learning intentions and success criteria? Your whole goal for the year? Why are you writing that into your CIP plan, that's not your real goal, you don't really care about learning intentions, and success criteria, what you care is about is that teachers know where students are going. And the students also understand what they're where they're headed, because that will lead to better achievement. Sometimes people say, Well, I just want more engagement. And I'll ask them, if students are really engaged in class, they're having a good time. They're, they're actively participating. But at the end of the day, they they're no better at solving problems. They're the end of the day, they can't think like scientist and and use that, that that process of experimentation to, to answer questions that they have about the world. If you're if your students can't read, but they're very engaged. Are you okay with that? And of course, they say, Well, no. I said, So then engagement is a means it's not an end,

People will say, Well, my vision is all of our students will be motivated to learn. And I'm like, Okay, what will you get, if they're motivated to learn? Well, then they'll learn, then they'll achieve, ah, well, if there's a well, if they are motivated, then then your real vision is that students are learning and achieving. And you are stuck right now on the motivation piece, because you spent years kind of wallowing in the the lack of student motivation, and you believe that student motivation will solve the problem. Yeah, it may solve the problem. But that's not your vision, that is a means to the bigger end, which is what you really want. So I want to challenge you this week, especially as you are starting to think about your school improvement planning, especially as you are, many of you are contemplating your visions,

Don't make this mistake: don't turn a tactic into your vision. 

Think about what it is you want out of that. I was talking to someone recently. And she was saying that I want to get, I want to get all of our students in special ed or 80% of our students in special ed, I want to get them into inclusion and out of self contained. And I thought, Okay, why what is magical? What is it that you are trying to achieve? By by getting those students into inclusion versus self contained special education classes? What is what is it that you really want? Because the goal is not just to I mean, you could do that tomorrow, that's a scheduling change, you could put kids into inclusion, whether or not it's good for them and achieve your vision. But that's not what you really want.

What you really want is for students to have the skills to be able to be successful, and in the general education class setting, and to be equipped to be able to handle that work and not have to be in self contained settings. If that's what you really want, then say that a lot of times, we get so distracted by the problems and we come up with a solution in our head. And then we wet ourselves to the solution and lose sight of what we were really the problem we were really trying to solve it to begin with. And if you fall in love with the solution, then and make that your vision and lose sight of the problem you're really trying to solve. You could actually achieve your vision and not be happy about it.

How many times have you written a school improvement plan where you actually met the goal but your school is no better? 

Well, builders don't have time for that. So as a builder, our job is to think about the bigger vision to think about what it is we're building, think about that ultimate outcome that that ultimate result that we want to achieve for our students. And then focus our efforts on that. And one of the things we say all the time and build a ship University, is that you have to be stubborn on the vision and flexible and the details, a program, a technique, a teaching, strategy, research based teaching techniques, all those things, those are the means they're not the end, those are the ways to get to the results. Those are the details. They're not the vision itself.

The vision itself is that your students by being in your school are going to achieve something that they couldn't have achieved any other way. For some of you, those are academic achievements, basic reading, writing, arithmetic. For others of you. Those achievements are really about a mindset shift or opening up new possibilities for students or empowering students to set goals and achieve goals or empowering students to think in a particular way. Whatever that is, don't lose sight of that. That's your ultimate goal. That's the outcome you want. When students leave you, how are they better, that's what your vision. Now the tactic, how you get there might change right now it might be that you need to get behavior back into check. Right now, it might be that you need to increase attendance, right now, it might be that you need to focus on expanding the arts programming in your school. But your vision is not expanding the arts program or increasing attendance from 70% to 95%, or all the other kinds of things that we write down. Those remember are the details, those are about how you're going to get to your vision. And that brings me to my second point.

A lot of times, we now understand that this is a means and not an end. But we're not truly being flexible in the details. If we lock ourselves into a particular program, without taking time to think about whether or not it's working and whether or not it's actually moving us towards where we want to be. Doesn't people come to me all the time, and they say we're doing X, Y, and Z, we have this resource that resources resource. A great, I'm happy for you how many of those resources, how many of those programs are actually moving you towards your vision. And a lot of cases they don't know. They know that the they're implementing a program with quote unquote, fidelity, they know that, you know, 80% of the classrooms they visit teachers are using this, but they never stopped to think, okay, in those classrooms where teachers are doing X, are you seeing a difference? Does it does it move your students towards your vision? And if the answer's no, you shouldn't be doing it.

And one of the mistakes we make in education, and I think this is, I mean, it's probably true in other other industries as well. But I think as educators, we are particularly adept at this. And that is that we are very good at adding new programs to the pot without ever critically examining whether those programs are working, and whether or not they need to stay. Sometimes something that was really important at the beginning of your pursuit of the vision is no longer necessary. Because you've you've you've you've overcome that milestone that is no longer an obstacle. And we never take the thing that we put in place to overcome that obstacle out of the equation to make room for what we need. Now, we think we need to do it all.

Again, if you're focusing on the means and not the ends, then you don't think critically about what it is you're doing. If you're focusing on the end, then you can critically examine the means and say, Is this still getting us there? And if not, we need to move it out the way and we need to make room for something that will you know, another Mindset says them that we have is that What Got You Here Won't Get You There. And this is the idea that the things that that that helped you overcome an obstacle, the the means that served you last year, May if they really worked, they're going to not be necessary the next year. I don't feel like I'm saying that as eloquently as it should be said so. So let me try that again.

You know, you try something that works you have a problem, let's say that problem is is discipline or that problem is attendance, or that problem is that you have some some gaps in your programming or that problem is that teachers aren't planning aligned to the standards, and you put some strategies in place to overcome that problem. If those strategies work, then you no longer have a problem. And so now You may not need those strategies, because if those strategies were designed to overcome a problem, and they do overcome a problem, you no longer need it. You know, it's if you take a medicine to solve a medical problem, and the medicine works, you don't keep taking the medicine, eventually you say, alright, I'm cured, I no longer have the infection, I don't need to continue to take antibiotics.

What we do in education is we keep taking the medicine, even though we no longer have the ailment. And that can actually create new problems. And often that happens when you're focused so much on the means that you're not thinking about the ends. So if you're thinking about the ends, you might put something in place to solve a problem. But once the problem is solved, you'll recognize that and you'll realize you don't need that thing anymore. And you'll stop doing it. Because you're focused on what do we need to do today to achieve our vision.

One of the reasons why we spent so much time at doing micro slicing at builders lab is because there seems to be a mindset in education right now that says we're always looking forward, and we're not taking time to be reflective. We are always kind of putting out fires, and we're not looking at how to prevent fires, we're always focused on what's right in front of us. And we're not thinking ahead to our ultimate goal. And builders lab is like a reset. We spend time thinking, Okay, let's get reconnected to your vision, let's get reconnected to what it is you're trying to accomplish. And let's also understand what challenges really pose a threat to that vision. Because not every challenge you face is is that deep, that's serious, some challenges are annoying, but they don't pose a credible threat to your bigger vision. So those are the challenges that you can ignore right now so that you can focus on the ones that really matter. And how do you know, that's what micro slicing helps you do? And then how do you develop a solution, an approach that actually eliminates the problem rather than mitigates the problem? So that you can make progress towards your vision? How do you remove the obstacle, not just deal with the obstacle, remove it, so it's no longer in your way. So I want to challenge you this summer, as you are starting to plan for the fall, want you to think about where you are spending your time and energy, are you spending your time and energy fighting symptoms and not getting to the root cause?

Are you spending your time and energy focusing on the means and losing sight of the bigger end, the bigger vision? 

And if you're answering yes to that, then we have a couple of solutions, one come to builders lab will help get straight and give you the strategies and the tools and the approaches you need so that you can get refocused on the ends and not the means to come to one of our free vision workshops. And you can do that by just going into builders University joining builders University for free will also will send you the links to the vision workshop, if you go to the free level of builders University, it's a it's a version of builder ship University for those of you who may not be ready to join yet, but you want to get access to some of the resources and you want to kind of see what it's about and see how it can serve you. You can go to build a ship and join the free version of builder ship University, you'll find out when the next vision workshop is we do one every single month. And three, you can also do this on your own, you can also just spend some time auditing where your energy and where your focus is.

Is it really on your vision? Or have you gotten caught up in the weeds of trying to make it happen? The resources, the tools, the tricks, the strategies, the things? If so, I want you to take some time this week and ask yourself this question. What is it that I'm ultimately trying to accomplish? That's your vision. And once you get clarity around that, it helps you to move forward in your work with purpose. You have a new sense of focus, you're not distracted by all the shiny objects out there. Instead, you can be clear about what you need to be doing this school year. I promise you, if you can stay focused on your vision, you're going to make better decisions. You're going to start to see all the waste that's in your school right now and you can start eliminating it. You're going to make bigger progress because you're focused on the right work. And your work is going to feel so much more rewarding because you focused on the ends and not the means 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 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 and get started writing your school success story today.

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