Are you tweaking or are you transforming?


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 171. 

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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 talk about some very practical ideas about what you need to be doing during the first four to six weeks of school to ensure that you you establish yourself for a very strong school year. 

Now before I share that I do have some exciting news. We have our next cohort, it is open right now for builders ship university, but that cohort closes tomorrow. So if you've been thinking about joining builder, ship University, and you wanted to join, but the cohort was closed, now is your time You have until tomorrow if you're listening to this in real time to close to join that September cohort. Now here's why you should we've been talking we've been doing a lot of vision Free Vision workshops this month. And we've been talking to a lot of people who are wanting to get started and to build a ship journey. But they're they're not sure how to start, they may have read the book or they may be, you know, listeners of this podcast. And the challenge that they have is they they love the idea of builder ship, but it still feels so overwhelming. And that's why the cohorts can really help you because, of course, you can become a builder on your own, we have so many free resources and tools out there.

But if you're feeling overwhelmed and you're feeling alone, then buildership university is a place where you can come and get support. 

And the support you get to build a ship University is really incredible. When you join a cohort, we take you step by step through the entire process of builder ship. So when you first join the cohort, the first thing that we do is we help you develop a success plan. What is your path look like for you, every school is is is has some unique features, and you are unique. And so we want to make sure that we pick a pathway that works for you.

The second thing we do is then once we have that pathway, we walk you step by step through the process. So when you start out in the cohort, the first thing you're going to do is you're going to start getting an email every single week. And that email is going to tell you one thing that you need to be focused on for that week, so that you can start establishing things to become a builder. So first, we're going to help you get your vision straight. And we're not going to stop until you have a vision you love.

And then we're going to help you facilitate the mission and the core values work in your school with your staff and give you feedback and support. troubleshoot with you if things don't go exactly the way you thought they would the first time making sure that you have those things established, we'll finish up by creating a one plan for your school, which is a streamline school improvement plan that helps you focus on the right work and allows you to ignore the work that isn't the right work so that you can stay focused, and then developing an alignment architecture to make sure that everything you do this year is going to be in alignment with your vision, mission and core values that's just in the first three months after that, then then you'll move to the next level and that the next level will help you start putting systems in place. We're going to start with a feedback system making sure that you are getting into the right classrooms not just more classrooms, the right classrooms, that you're giving teachers feedback that they will implement and welcome. And then the next thing we're going to do is we're going to say okay, now that you've given the feedback, how do you follow up with the right kind of support?

And how do you do that without working yourself to death, but making sure that everybody has the support they need. So then you'll put a support system in place. And then after that, we're going to show you how to build accountability into your school, we're going to help you find the accountability leaks in your school and help you fill those leaks. And then we're going to help you audit your culture to find out where there might be some toxicity lurking in your culture and help you address that toxicity before it gets out of hand.

So just think about it. 

The first 90 days you're going to have a clear sense of purpose, you're going to have that alignment, you're going to have that clarity, the second 90 days you're gonna have all the systems in place to build the will and skill of your people. And that's just the beginning we we still have the next 90 days and every you move to a new level every 90 days and every 90 days. We're Helping you do something very specific for your school. So this is not theory, this is not Oh, I'll read an article and feel good about it, this is actually putting things in place. And in fact, we believe that it takes you about one year to establish everything that you need to establish as a builder. And we'll be walking with you step by step.

 Now, not only are we doing that, but you're getting feedback, all of individual feedback along the way. So every once in a while, you'll submit something. So if you're, and we're showing you how to build a feedback system, then we're going to take a look at that system that you're building and give you feedback on it so that you can make sure you're doing things right. We have office hours every week, so that when you get stuck, you can come and ask questions and they don't have to be about your the work you're doing. It can be about anything in your in your practice, because we know things come up, we have study halls, where if you are struggling to find time to actually do this work, you can come to a study hall and do the work alongside of us so that we can talk you through everything along the way.

And then of course, we have builder ship University comments or bu comments where you can it's our own private, dedicated, you know, support system where you can come in and share your wins, ask questions, meet other builders, it's it's not Facebook, so it's not going to be out there. Or it's not a Facebook group so that other people can infiltrate. This is truly protected space, where you can be with people who are like you and are building like you. Anyway, I can't say enough good things about builder ship University. And if you want to join September cohort is open, we are going to be starting the first week of September right after Labor Day getting started building right away. So all you need to do to join us go to builder ship And you can join there. 

Alright, let's let's dive in today to some things that that that I want to suggest you consider tackling during the month of September, in order to not only set your whole school and your year up for success, but in order to make sure that you're making positive momentum right now.

And so the first thing is that if you have a vision for your school, now it's time to anchor it that vision. 

You see, a lot of times we go through the work of creating a vision, everybody gets really excited about the vision and then we never talk about it again, you should be a broken record about your vision. And at the beginning of school, you should be reminding people about your vision, you should be re anchoring in your vision, you should be realigning the work to your vision, reminding people, this is what we're building. And if you have a mission and core values in place, then you want to anchor in those two, this is what we're building vision. This is why it's important mission. This is the role that we all must play core values. And when you do that at the beginning of the year, not just for your teachers, but for your students and for your families that you serve. You remind people that this is not going away. You get people to get refocused re energize you, you help people see what work is really important. And you give people an understanding that helps them explain to themselves why you're doing the things that you're doing. So you will find that you will have to explain yourself less and less and less, the more that you anchor in your vision, mission and core values.

So one of the first things you need to be doing this year is anchoring in your vision, mission and core values. The next thing that I suggest you do is try to get into every classroom at least once in the first month to six weeks of school. I know that's a tall order, because I'm sure you're very busy, you have a ton of other things that you need to be doing right now. But here's why this is so important when you get into those classrooms, and you use something called micro slicing. And so those of you who have been in a world for a while you know what micro slicing is, it's when you go into the classroom for five to seven minutes. And you try to determine the root cause of why a teacher's practice is either working or not working. So you only need five to seven minutes in each classroom. We're not talking about half hour observations and you're not writing anything down. You don't need to document anything, fill out forms, you're just acclimating yourself to the teachers in your building. But you're also micro slicing and identifying teachers one thing and this becomes really important because if you can get into all those classrooms and identify a teacher's one thing at the very beginning of the year, then when you have goal conversations with teachers, when you are determining PD needs for the year, you have that information, you're not going just based off of what you saw last year, or you know, based off what the teachers are telling you alone, you also have some ideas to contribute to those conversations.

Now, bonus points if in addition to getting into every classroom, you also build your teacher dashboard 

Because the teacher dashboard is one of the most powerful tools you have and I almost hesitate talking about the teacher dashboard because I hear a lot of people say all I'm using a teacher dashboard but what they're using is just kind of some spreadsheet that helps them track how many observations they did. That's not what the teacher dashboard is for the teacher dashboard is for you to have a place where you are tracking teachers progress on their one thing. So if you can get into classrooms and take a look at their one thing and understand every teacher has one thing in the next four to six weeks, then you can record that on the teacher dashboard and look at where they are with that one thing. And that that dashboard will then tell you what kind of support the teacher needs in order to grow one level in that area this year, because you've identified this one thing is the most important thing that the teacher needs to work on right now. Then you can look at what level the teacher is currently performing in that one thing. And then your dashboard helps you figure out what do you need to do? What kind of support do you need to give teachers right now to help them grow at least one level in the thing that you identified? So the dashboard is really less about kind of paperwork and, and about the teacher and more about helping you stay organized and helping you stay focused? Because every single week, once you have this dashboard established, you're gonna take a look at that dashboard. And you're gonna say, all right, how are teachers doing and you go teacher, by teacher by teacher, and that's going to help you realize, oh, I haven't been to see this teacher in a while I need to get back. I'm giving the support to this teacher. And it's, it's not working the way that it should. So maybe I need to consider a different kind of support. Oh, I see a teacher making progress. Let's celebrate that. And let's identify what the next step for that teacher is going to be. This dashboard is going to if you use it right, it's going to be golden for you. Because once you have this set up, then your observation practice becomes just a matter of sitting down with your dashboard for 20 minutes or so every single week. And taking a look at that and figuring out what you need to do next week. When you go into classrooms, you'll be showing up at the right time with the right feedback. And you're going to see exponential growth in your staff this year. So if you could get into every classroom in the next month or so, and micro slice every single teachers practice to understand what their one thing is, and then record that one thing on the dashboard and start getting in the habit of sitting down with your dashboard every single week to plan the kind of support and feedback and follow up you're going to give teachers this year, you're going to have a much more productive feedback and support cycle going and a much more productive and less crazy making year.

Trust me, this is a game changer. 

So number one, you need to re anchor in your vision, mission and core values. Number two, you need to get into every single classroom in the next four to six weeks and build your teacher dashboard. The third thing that I would urge you to do is that you want to by the end of September be creating your next 90 day plan. So you know by now that as builders, we focus on a 90 day planning cycle. And if you've gotten out the habit of that 90 Day planning cycle, this is a really good month, September is a really good time to get back into that habit. Because the then you can focus on the fourth quarter of the year, October, November and December. So spending the time during this month, preparing, gathering all the information you need to sit down and create a 90 day plan starting in October to be able to take you through December.

Now here's the thing about 90 Day plans that I think a lot of people don't understand, you're not just planning work. Your 90 day plan is saying what do I want to address? What obstacle do I want to completely remove and eliminate from our pathway? What success do I want to experience by December 31? And then what you do? Is you back Matt from that success. So it's not just oh, we got to do some work? And hopefully, you know, we'll make some progress. No, you are you're starting your 90 day plan from a tangible success event. And with builders that success event is usually by identifying the biggest obstacle right now between the US and our vision. And then thinking about how do we remove that obstacle in the next 90 days. So this is a great time to start paying attention to some of the obstacles that you're experiencing right now some of the challenges that that your staff is facing and to start thinking about, okay, if what can I do to remove this obstacle? And then what will my school look like if we were to remove this obstacle by December 31? What would that then allow us to do this school year? What kind of progress can we make the school year? Obstacles might be anything from we realize that we're letting down our special education students and the way that we have been doing inclusionary practices in our classrooms isn't working. And we need to revamp that an obstacle might be that we have a lot of students who had the you know, by December they've already given up because they've been you know, they come back to school. They are all Ready in a cycle of failure, steal from the fault the previous year. And they come right back and get into those same habits. And by December they've given up. And it's just a slog from from January to June or whatever we finished our school year.

So what can we do to prevent those students from ever hitting that freefall of failure in the first place? 

An obstacle might be that we have the reading program that we're using, we're not implementing with fidelity, and we need to go implement it with fidelity, because if we don't, we're not going to ever hit the progress goals that we want to make this year. Do you see what I mean? Look, instead of thinking about another thing to add to your plate, use your 90 day planning process to start thinking about what do we want to take off our plates? You know, our teachers have told us they're overwhelmed. And so we just randomly grabbed something off their plates. But what you want to think about now is you want to think about what are the what is the biggest obstacle that's getting in the way? And how do I remove this obstacle. And when you do that, and if you can focus on that for the fourth quarter of this year, here's what you have, you go into the next school, I mean, that the next year, not the next school year, when you go into the next year, and into that testing season with a lot of momentum, because you have a victory, you have you experience a victory before you send teachers away for winter break, you create this sense of momentum that can carry you through the rest of the year. Oh, and by the way, you remove an obstacle that is in the way of your vision. So instead of waiting and saying, Oh, I'm not gonna see victories until next next year, towards the end of the school year, why not create a 90 day plan that deliberately creates a victory right now?

Okay, so you've done three things, you you have re anchored in your vision, you've micro sliced all of your teachers practices and created a teacher dashboard, you have started thinking about your 90 day plan, and then you're going to complete that 90 day plan by the end of September to start, so you can start working on it, October one. And then the last thing that I would encourage you to do, this one is for you, if you need to spend some time, cultivating some partners, and I was about to say accountability partners, but I don't think that accountability is what you're looking for here.

The one of the things that I'm noticing is happening to a lot of the builders I support is that your confidence is under attack. You know, you're you have a vision. Right now, you're in the honeymoon period of your vision, you know, you've announced it, you've re anchored in it, everybody's excited, you have had a successful reopening, people are excited to be back, the work is before them. But somewhere around the end of September, beginning of October, you have what I start calling the October surprise. And it can be a real blow to your confidence because the the initial excitement of the beginning of the school year, always, always, always wears off. And we all know that and yet we never are prepared for it when it happens. And we start taking it personally and we start to see our own confidence crumble.

So one of the things that I want to encourage you to do right now is to find some people who can help you protect your confidence. Now, that may be another colleague, and a lot of you are doing this by yourself. Find another builder. So we have a couple of places where builders hang out. So if you're looking for a builder to connect with, one of the places you can find builders is in the school leadership reimagined Facebook group. So if you if you want to go there and look for some builders you can the best place of course is to find builders inside of builder ship University, either the free version or the paid version. Because that those are people who are committed to doing this work just like you are, it is so incredible to me to see this happening on our vision workshops where people come and they're struggling with their vision and other people are jumping in and supporting them and helping them it's even more gratifying for me to see that inside a builder ship University, when we have office hours and study hall people come and they're very vulnerable about the challenges that they're facing the blows that their confidence is taking, and we build each other up. It's not just me, although I'm there doing the building with everybody else. The other builders surround this person or the whoever is struggling, they they send them resources they they they share their own experiences. They tell them that you know you're not crazy, this can happen. They support each other. And if you don't have somebody that can support you. And if you are not establishing those relationships before that October surprise hits you, your competence can take a real blow.

And so one of the things that we often don't think about we you know, we have our two checklist, beginning of the school checklist and all these things, the thing we don't think about it. So we don't think about taking care of ourselves, protecting our competence. We forget how hard this work can feel sometimes. Because if you're the principal of a school, then you're getting squeezed from both sides of districts coming down and you and you're getting beat up at the district level, the teachers and parents are squeezing you from the other side. And so you're kind of stuck in the middle, the same thing, it's also true of your superintendent, or yet the district office, you're getting squeezed, you've got the board on your back, you've got the teachers and the parents and the families, you know, kind of pushing on the other side. And it can be so demoralizing when you are giving your best every single day. And there are people who don't appreciate it, there are people will complain about it, there are people who poke holes in it. So you need right now, while the honeymoon is happening, while the Back to School High is still in the air, you need to prepare yourself for that October surprise, because it's coming. Even if it hasn't come in October, your confidence is going to take a blow, you're going to hit a setback, somebody's gonna complain about something, a parent's going to come and cuss at everybody, a student you've been working with for a long time, gives up on him or herself, a teacher or group of teachers starts to complain about this vision that you you're launching and and they start pushing back on your vision because it means that they have to adjust what they're doing. And they don't want to do that. Whatever that blow is, it's coming.

And so I want to encourage you right now to be intentional. 

You know, when I was an administrator, I had a group of other administrators that that used to hang out with, we would get together once a month and have really great coffee. And we would just take turns okay, you and we talk about what was happening in our school, the things we're struggling with the crazy stuff, stories that we always have, we share and people can laugh with you because they get it. And we were very intentional about doing that I still remember Nicole and Valga. And Donna, we would sit together every single month and do that. And that support, that level of support helped me to go back in the ring the next day that gave me what I needed to be able to do my work. And so if you are not intentional about doing that, you will find yourself more and more isolated. And I know everybody's busy. We were busy too. But once a month, we would get together after work, we'd go and spend a couple of hours in a coffee shop somewhere and just be able to relax around each other and share our stories. If you're not doing that if you're not being intentional about getting with other builders and spending that time creating your safety net, your support network. And yes, I know you have families, yes, I know you have other obligations, but you got to take care of you too. And the trap that we often fall into is we're taking care of everybody else. And we leave a little time for ourselves. And so, you know, I know I hear self care, and I'm not gonna bash self care. But this is not a bubble bath. This is not, you know, this is not a massage, those things are great, but they were off, putting yourself around, other builders won't wear off. And so be intentional about creating your network.

So let's go ahead and just kind of recap, four things that I think you really ought to be focused on for September, the number one thing is that you need to re anchor in your vision, mission and core values. And if you don't have a vision yet, then I really want to encourage you to go to builder ship And sign up for the next free vision workshop. We are doing free vision workshops all the time, you can come back as many times as you want, I will work with you personally to help you get a vision, it's absolutely free, you need a vision because that's what you're going to anchor in it. It starts with your vision.

So number one anchoring your vision. Number two, make sure that you try to get to every classroom in the next four to six weeks. And use micro slicing to determine each teachers root cause and get your teacher dashboard set up. I'm telling you if you do that now, the rest of the year, your observation process, you're the it's going to be so much easier. But also you are going to see so much growth every principal I'm working with right now who has a teacher dashboard and we're going through that teacher dashboard together. It's incredible to see how quickly teachers are growing and how much more receptive they are because they're getting the right feedback and support that they need in time and in the right way.

So number two, make sure you're doing that. 

Number three, make sure that you are thinking now about your next 90 day plan and by the end of September. You have your 90 day plan in place so that you can finish this calendar year strong and create a victory that will give you the momentum that's going to take you into The second half of the school year. And then number four, get you a builder group of group of builders who can be your support network. And make sure that you are being intentional about setting aside a time. If it's every month, if it's every week, you want to kind of make sure that you have a rhythm of time that you're getting together with builders.

Now, of course, you can do that on your own. If you join builders ship University, that's a part of our rhythm we have we get together every single week. Plus we have a quarterly party social event. So you will have plenty of network, you know, plenty of time to be able to network with other builders, but you need that network, because that's going to bolster you up and protect you from the October surprise. So this episode is a little different couple of just little tips and strategies for how to you kind of make sure that you go into this next month to six weeks and with some intention and that, that you're you're thinking about the right things, but I hope it's been helpful for you today. Because here's the thing, when you become a builder, you are much more intentional and deliberate about doing things now to save yourself time, energy effort, heartbreak later on. And so I would encourage you to take these four ideas seriously, put them in place, so that you can not just start strong, but set yourself up for a really successful school year. Like a builder. I'll talk to you next time.

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

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