Stop Juggling


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 182.

Welcome to the School Leadership Reimagined 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.

Hello there, and welcome back to another episode of School Leadership Reimagined. I'm your host Robyn Jackson, And today, we're going to talk about something that I think has been on a lot of people's minds lately.

I'm seeing a lot of people say, you know, this year has been really hard already. They're feeling finally, you know, the the accumulated stress of having gone through a pandemic, and people are tired people are, are at their wit's end. They're they're saying things like, I can't take one more thing. I don't know how long, I'll be able to continue to keep up this pace. People are asking questions like what else? Can we take off teacher's plates? Or? Or how can we alleviate a teacher's burnout and overwhelm, especially when we're feeling it ourselves? I think that it's showing up in all kinds of ways, the ways that we treat each other in meetings, the snarkiness that I'm starting to see online. And it's not that people are mean, I mean, teachers and educators in general are some of the most generous kindness, self sacrificing people ever. But when you ask people to continually be self sacrificing, when you ask people to continue to, to work really hard and not see the reward of that work, the payoff. And when we keep adding things to teachers plates into our own plates, it can be very overwhelming. And people are saying over and over again, I can't juggle one more thing. Well, today, we're going to talk about the cure to that. And it's not what you think. Because if you feel like you are juggling too many things right now, if you're feeling overwhelmed, if you're feeling under appreciated for all that you do, if you're feeling like like the work, you're working as hard as you can, you're juggling as fast as you can, and you're still not seeing the results that you'd hoped to see, and you're tired, then the solution is really simple.

Stop juggling. 

Now before we get into how to do that, I want to talk to you about builders ship University. Now, right now registration for builders ship University is closed for the rest of the year, we are going to be focusing on getting the new members on boarded and starting to work. You know, the cool thing about builder ship university is that the people who joined in this last intake, by the time we start the new year, they're going to have a one plan that helps them focus on the things that matter most they're gonna have a vision and place a mission, a set of core values.

So when they start out in January, when they come return from winter break in January, it's going to feel like a new school year for them, they're going to see such a difference happening already. And I'm so excited to help them see that in their schools. So we're going to be focusing on helping the people inside a builder ship in university achieved that. But if you want to be a part of the next intake which is happening sometime in 2023, then all you need to do is go to builder ship and get on the waitlist and here's why you want to get on the waitlist because when you're on the waitlist, you're going to find out about the next intake before everybody else so you'll have a chance to reserve your spot before anybody else gets a chance to reserve their spot and from time to time spots open up inside a builder ship University and when those spots open up, we if you're on the waitlist we'll just reach out to you and you have the opportunity to maybe even get into build build a ship University before the next intake so you don't have to wait. So simply go to builder ship and click on the waitlist button and ask add your name to the waitlist and that way you won't miss the next intake. Now let's dive into today's topic and the advice I gave at the beginning may come off feeling a little flippant.

You know, oh, you're juggling too much. Why don't you just stop juggling? 

That is not my intent. intent at all. I don't intend to be flippant. But it really is that simple, not that easy. But it really is that simple. If you find that you are juggling, you have too many balls in the air right now, it's time to drop some balls. And that can feel really, really scary. I get that because everybody is telling you that everything is important. But when everything is important, nothing is important. And so it behooves you to take a step back every once in a while, and make sure that all of the things that you're juggling are things that should actually that actually belong in your school. I'll give you an example.

I was working with a principal recently, and she was telling me what we're doing this, and we're doing that and we're doing this and we're doing that, and then the district is adding this to it. And, you know, I keep trying to take things off my teacher's plates. And what she's doing is she's not removing the work, she's taking it off teacher's plates and adding it to her own plate. And then she's feeling overwhelmed, because now she's got this additional work in order to protect her teachers, what she's done is just essentially a sacrifice herself. And unfortunately, the teachers don't appreciate it, the teachers don't see the sacrifice, because even though she took that thing off of their plates and put it on her plate, they still have a lot on their plates. And so now she's thinking, I can't take anything else off teacher's plates, they don't appreciate what I'm doing. They're still overwhelmed. And you're working harder and harder and harder. And yet, you're not seeing any relief, there's no, there's no benefit to doing it.

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel like you are working really hard, and you are trying to protect your teachers from overwhelming you're trying to do all these things, and you're killing yourself on behalf of your teachers. And they don't appreciate it, they don't see it. Or maybe they do appreciate it. And they say, Hey, thanks, as they're leaving to go home, because you let them out early, but you are the one who has to stick around, you're the one who has to pick up the slack. And if that's the case, everybody's juggling as much as they can. And then here comes a district throwing another ball into the air and saying, Hey, juggle that as well. And you can't keep that up. That's important for you to hear. You cannot keep up that pace, you're going to have to stop juggling. So let's talk about how to do that.

The first thing that we show our builders how to do especially when they come to us and they're saying, you know, we're just overwhelmed is we do an audit of everything that they've got going on. And we don't just go and list everything they have going on and start randomly crossing things off. We first start out with okay, what is your vision? What's the thing that you want to accomplish in the next three years? What is your 100% vision, we just completed a 100% vision challenge where we help people create that we do monthly free vision workshops for those of you ever not and build a ship university because your vision is really where it starts if you don't have that 100% vision. Nothing else makes any sense, right? But once you have that 100% vision, the first thing we do is we say okay, take a look at everything you're doing. And you're going to look at it through the lens of your vision and ask yourself this question. Is this moving our school towards our vision? Or is it not? Don't give any maybes. If there's a maybe it's not? Is it moving us towards our vision? Or is it not? So let me give you an example of some of the things that show that often show up on people's lists. Let's say that your vision is 100% of students will be at or above grade level.

That's a typical vision for a lot of people. 

We just want to get kids all our kids on grade level. So then you start looking at all the other stuff. So you started looking at, you know, your PBIS program, you look at your SEL efforts, you look at your curriculum, you look at the teaching strategies, you look at your expectation that every teacher spend the first five minutes of the learning period on a warm up. You look at your data team meetings, you look at everything that you're having teachers do and you ask yourself this question, is this moving us towards our vision or is it not? Now this is really hard because a lot of the things that you're doing are good things they're they're they're they're important you know, we should be looking at data Yeah, we should be addressing students SEL needs Yes, we we should be finding ways to to help students understand what the learning intention is going to be for the day. Yes, we should be getting into classrooms and and giving teachers feedback. Yes, teachers should be MPL C's, those are all great strategies. The question is, are those the strategies that are going to move the needle for your school forward right now?

I talked to people all the time and they tell me I'm doing this this this Listen, I list all the things and then I ask them the question. All right, how are those things working? How are those things moving into your vision? And then people start stuttering? Well, I mean, I have to do PLCs, do you? I mean, if your PLCs are dysfunctional, you'd be better off not doing them. If your PLC just become great sessions about kids, you'd be better off not having them. Well, we have to do data meetings. If your data meetings, just trap people in a room with a data wall is and force them to look at the data. But that data doesn't inform their instructional decisions, you'd be better off not doing it. Well, we have to have team planning if your team planning meetings are about teachers kind of rinsing and repeating stuff that they've done before without them thinking strategically about how that plan that lesson, that unit is actually going to move students towards where they need to be for your vision, you might as well not do it. Well, I have to get into classrooms. If you're wandering in and out classrooms every day and giving people feedback that is not moving their practice forward that they actually resent. You might as well not do it. So yes, all of those things may be good in and of themselves.

But the question that you need to ask is, are those things right for us right now? 

And in often cases, the answer is no. The some of the things that you're doing I in your school right now, I guarantee you are relics from another era, there are things that made sense when you instituted them, but they no longer makes sense for you, we are very good at adding new things to our plates, we're terrible about assessing our plates, so did to decide whether the things that are on our plates actually belong there. And so most of us have not taken a good look. And and at the things that we're doing, and we have not made those things, earn their spot on our plates, see, everything you do has to earn the right to be a part of your plan. And if it's not pulling its own weight, you need to get rid of it.

One of the hardest exercises that we do and build a ship University, it's not even something you do when you first come in, you have to get some things established first. But once you do that, we do a strategy called system mapping. And it takes a long time to do you go through and you take a look at at everything that you're doing in your school, and you just you map it out. And then you ask yourself two very important questions. The first question you're asking is, is this thing that we are doing, adding value to our students? Is it getting our students closer to the goals that they have for themselves? And that we have for them? Then the second question is, is this thing adding value to our school? Is it making us operate more effectively and efficiently as a staff? Is it bringing us joy? And that's the question that we don't often consider, we're really good at thinking about value to kids. But we don't really consider it whether or not it's making us better as an organization, is it allowing us to serve kids better, and to serve them more effectively and more efficiently? We're willing to take a really clunky process, and impose it upon ourselves on upon ourselves in order to serve kids without really interrogating that process to see, is this the right process? Maybe Yeah, this is the right strategy, but it's the process, we're using the right one for us.

And here's the thing, if it's onerous if it's going to wear you out and burn you out, but it's not good for kids, either. Because eventually, you know, even if it's having an effect, you're gonna give it up because you can't sustain it. And so the two questions you have to ask yourself, is for everything you do, and we break it down, not just random things like, you know, we have an SEL strategy, but what is every single step in that strategy, and every single step in the strategy has to earn its place, or it goes. And by the time you complete that exercise, you're gonna see a lot of stuff that you are doing that you think is working, but isn't.

By the time you complete this exercise, you will know what needs to be taken off your plate and off of your teachers plates. 

because it's not adding value to anybody, not to your students and not to the school. How often do we do that? We're so caught up in the day to day that we don't take a step back. But here's the thing when you're a builder, you realize you're the only person in the building whose job it is to do that your teachers are teaching and serving kids. Your your your support staff is supporting the instruction that's happening in the school, because you're the builder. You're the person who has to step back and make sure that that everything you're asking Have your teachers and your support staff and and of your of your team is something that is going to actually make a difference in the lives of the kids. If you're not doing that, why are you there? Why are you earning a salary and benefits? Said the teachers? If your feedback is not it's not strategic, the teachers could give each other feedback? And if anything else you do is not? If it doesn't somebody else could do when you take a step back and examine the systems in your school to figure out are they serving kids, that's something only you can do. So why is it that we don't spend the time doing it? Your teachers are relying on you to do that work, they're not relying on you to come into their classrooms and give them feedback.

Although feedback is important, they're not relying upon you to plan PD days, although P days or PD days are important, many teachers which is to not have them, the only thing that your teachers really rely on you to do is to make sure that the organization is getting better and better and better. And you are putting things in place to set them up for success and removing things out of their way of success. That's your job. That's what it means to be a builder. So when I say stop juggling, your job is not to keep all the balls in the air, your job is to look at each ball and say is this something that should be in our lives right now? If not, you're getting rid of it. And even though we have a process, we teach and build a ship University, we have a whole system mapping template that we use, and we walk through it with you. And then we kind of you know, give you feedback on at on it as you're doing and help you identify other areas where it could you know, where you where you could, you could some balls that you can drop and let go of and and we we also give you a lot of feedback about how you could take things and improve this system. So it's serving the kids and it's serving the school. Even though even without all of that you could simply right now sit down and take a look at your vision. And then examine the systems that you have in place in your school systems around grading reporting systems around instruction, no planning systems around discipline, sit, you know, like look at, look at all of the things that you're doing every day, look at the system that they're a part of, and examine that system and ask yourself, the question is, is this adding value to the students and moving them closer to the vision and the goals that they have for themselves? Is it adding value to our organization making us better and better at achieving that vision on behalf of our kids?

If the answer is no, it needs to go. 

Now, once you do that, you're gonna find that you've been wasting a lot of time on things that are not adding value to anything. How do I know because I've done it myself. In fact, we regularly as an organization go through and take a look at our systems and do that map. And even though we think we've got it all down, Pat, there's nothing, there's no nothing else we can find. Every time we go through that exercise when we use the same template by the way that we teach inside of build ship University. So we hold ourselves accountable for it to every single time we go through that we find something else to take off our plates. And here's what happens, the more we do that, the more we are strategic, not just getting frustrated, and just sweeping things off the plate. But strategically removing work that no longer serves our clients or serves us, we get better, we get more focus, we build something better than than what we were doing. And we're happier, where we're doing work that really matters that we're seeing a difference in the work. We're seeing a payoff.

The same thing is true for the builders, when they go through the system, you know, the beginning that you can look at that even like wow, this is a lot of just dead weight around here. But that's, that's sobering. And it's also empowering. Because the moment you see the dead weight, you you give yourself permission to get rid of it. You give yourself permission to to take that thing that's not working, and stop doing it. Just Just stop. I mean, it really becomes as simple as we had someone and build a ship University and she went through the system map. And she saw something she was we've been doing this for years. It doesn't work. And so she just made an announcement to our staff. Look, I've been looking at this I can't see how could work. Can anybody see our work? No. All right, we're gonna stop doing that today. Not only does she not see a single difference in in the the the results that they were getting for kids. She She also saw a change and a shift in the morale because instead of dividing people's attention here, here, here, here here, she's now taken one distraction out of the way so they can focus on the things that matter most. And guess what else? She now doesn't have to monitor that system. So instead of trying to make people do something that nobody wants to do, that's not adding any value, it's gone, she has to deal with that anymore. Now she can focus on the systems that work. The other thing that this process does for you, is it helps you see ways to potentially improve systems to make them work better.

You see, what we tend to do is if something's not working, we don't stop doing it. But then we go find something else. And we try to duct tape that one to an already broken system. Because we think that, Oh, if we just get this new thing, this and add it to the thing, we're already doing it, it'll make the broken thing work better. Like I see this all the time, like with data, right? So, you know, we we say we want teachers to look at data we, so the teachers go when they don't know how to look at data, we're not sure how to facilitate that process. So we you know, we make the data wall and do all the things, we look at the red numbers and say, oh, we need to make those turn those green. And, you know, we look at the green numbers and pat ourselves on the back. But it doesn't really inform instruction. So we realize that, so we say you know what we need, we need a data protocol. And so we go get somebody's data protocol. And then we try to train teachers on using this protocol and force them to use the protocol.

A lot of times those protocols create these artificial conversations that still do not change practice. 

Problem is we don't have a good system for looking at data and slapping a protocol on a broken, you know, idea around how to look at data doesn't fix it. But when you look at the like, why? What is our vision? How does looking at data, move us towards our vision? Now you're dating meetings aren't just about Well, everybody has data meetings, people say that's important. So we should have data meetings, and set your data meetings are about, okay, what data do we need to be looking at, in order to monitor how we're doing on our vision and build ship University, we teach you how to create a scorecard. So you're not looking at all the data and drowning in it every single week. But every single week, you've identified a couple of key numbers that let you know whether or not you are making progress towards your vision. And those numbers are mostly leading rather than lagging indicators. Because the leading indicators are numbers, you have the power to change the lagging indicators or or after the fact. So an example would be how many you know how many? How many? How many student goals setting sessions that we have with students this week, versus how many students achieve their goals for the semester. Right? Once how many students achieve their goals for the semester, it's already happened, you can't do anything about all you can do is look at next semester. But if I need to have so many goal setting meetings with kids every single week to keep them on track for their goals, I can monitor whether or not I hit that number. And if I didn't, I can adjust things next week to hit that number. So that's kind of a random example.

But I'll be the difference between leading and lagging indicators. So when you have when you understand what the data meetings are supposed to be about, then instead of looking at all the numbers, you can monitor the numbers that make the most sense for your teachers right now. And if you're looking at those leading indicators, then teachers can take those leading indicators, and compare them to the lagging indicators and say, Alright, that's a lever that I can move next week. And then let me try to move that lever and see if it makes a difference in that lagging indicator. And now your data meetings actually mean something. And by the way, a lot less work. Because you're not just piling through data, you're looking at just one number. And what can we do this week to change that number. Now, it's value to the kids. And it's value to the school because now you have a more effective, efficient meeting that really creates insight for teachers to become better and better and better.

So that's what you need to be doing right now. And this is a great time of the year to do it. Right? You, you started the school year, you have some information, everybody is feeling a little overwhelmed right now. And so now's a really good time not to just randomly sweep things off of your plate or off teachers plates, not to just add something else to your plate, just try to, you know, get it out until the holidays and then take a quick break over the winter break and Gird your loins for the remainder of the school year. And maybe I'll think about it this summer. Do now. Take some time right now. And spend some time looking at all the things you're doing right now.

But I don't want you to just make a list of random stuff. 

I want you to look at those things through the lens of your vision. How is this moving your vision forward? And the things that aren't moving your vision forward? They go right away. You don't have to look at the system. You don't have to it's not moving our vision for it. We just stopped doing it. And the things that you think may be contributing to your vision, those are the things I want you to take a look at and break down a little bit more. You want to take a look at all the steps in the process? And does every step in that process add value to the kids and value to the school. If the answer is, it doesn't add value to either. Maybe you shouldn't be doing that step. If the answer is it adds value to the kids but not to the school, then when you're looking at that step and thinking about tweaking, and what do you take off the plate? Or what do you improve? You want to look at? How do we maintain the value it's giving to kids, while also creating more value for school. And the opposite is also true. If it's if it's great for your teachers, but not so great for kids, how do we maintain the value, it's great it's giving to our teachers, but increase the value it's giving the kids and those conversations actually become really productive. Those conversations actually help you take your systems and make them better.

So not anything, all you're doing is taking your existing systems, and you're getting rid of the ones that aren't adding value to either they're not moving you towards your vision, and the ones that are loved, you're looking at how do we create systems that add more value to everybody without creating additional work. And when you do that, then instead of juggling all these competing priorities, you can focus on what matters most. Now I want to say a word about you know, well, what happens if it's not our system? What happens if the district is making us do it? And we need to do the same thing. This is what we do all the time when people get hit with district initiatives. And and they're forced to do it. You know, we were working with a couple of principals recently, and their district was mandating that they all do PBIS. And they have to do it this specific way.

So how do you take that? What do you do? You know, now we're adding this on to teachers plates. It's nothing wrong with PBIS. And we're not casting shade on PBIS. But, you know, they were saying maybe not this year, we've got a lot going on, and to learn a new program. And to really make it work. It doesn't make sense for us right now. The district said we don't care do it anyway. And so they came to office hours. Well, okay, so how do we do this? We use the same process. Okay, let's take your vision first, what is your vision? And now let's figure out how do we take this program and make the program serve your vision? And then what are all the steps that are mandated? And how do we take those steps and turn them into steps that add value to the kids, but also add value to us as a school? And how do we integrate that into what we're already doing? So we're not repeating work or adding more work? What else are we doing that will fit these steps and when you we did that, we saw so much potential in the program that it didn't feel like, you know, another mandate, they didn't have to go to their staff and say, guys, I know hate to ask you this, but the district saying we need to do it, sorry to add something else to your plate. But you know, I'll tell you what, we'll do a jeans day on Friday. And then, you know, hopefully, that'll make up for this 15 hours of extra work you're going to have to do now instead, by being thoughtful about this process, by going through and mapping it out and extracting value from every single step, they were able to integrate this into their own program, their instructional program in a way that added value to the kids added value to the school and actually made their school better move them towards their vision.

So if you're juggling, get out the juggling business, you don't need to juggle, what builders are doing is they're not juggling at all. Instead, they're being very strategic, they're being very intentional about taking everything that they are being asked to do, and making that thing serve their vision. And when you do that, you don't feel like you're overwhelmed. You don't you don't have that same sense of exhaustion at the end of the day or frustration or futility. Because the work you're doing, you're working really hard and you're not seeing the results. Instead, everything you do is producing results. And that's why you know, the builders and builders should be University are putting up the numbers that they're putting up because they're really focused. And we did this panel at our last builders lab, and we had some people from, you know, some builders and builders University calm and just kind of encouraged that people were just starting to build a ship journey and builders lab, and they were talking about what they were doing. They were talking about how they were achieving these incredible results. And when they left the builders lab when the panel was over, and we were kind of debriefing the panel with the builders, builders, lab participants, people were saying the same thing. They were saying, Listen, I can't believe how come they all were there. It's not that they're not working hard, but they're seeing the results of their work. So their hard work feels like they're paying off, but they're also probably not working as hard as some of you because they have been very intentional about the work that they do. You know, our builders are going home early, we have several builders, who, after going through this process are saying, You know what I'm leaving work early on Fridays, so that I can spend time with my weekend, I'm turning my phone off on the weekends. And I'm not, you know, on on my computer all weekend doing makeup work and catch up, I'm actually able to spend time with my family or spend time doing the things that I want to do, because they've been really, really intentional about their work. And it's not that, that they're not working hard, but they are working in a way that's more efficient and effective. And the results speak for themselves.

So here's my challenge to you this week. I know you're busy. I know, you feel like everything that you're doing is important and urgent. And there's you don't have time to do any of this. But I want to challenge you, I bet if you could find an hour and take a look at what's happening in your school, what are all the things that you're doing start with what you're doing first on it, you know, think about your work, where where are you spending all your time that you have no time to think strategically about your school. And I want you to ask yourself, is that work moving your vision forward? And I know that this may feel hard. I mean, you know, we've had people and build a ship University come to office hours and say, Well, I can't because I'm seven classes. And I think stop subbing Well, if I don't do it, who will? Good question, let's figure that out who else can do it. And when we did, we found a way to get the principal out of the classroom subbing so the principal could be the principal. And it didn't hurt kids. We weren't over taxing other teachers or asking them to sacrifice. You, there is so much potential in your day, that's untapped. There's so many pockets of untapped value and the work that you're doing that you if you just spent the time looking for it. You could a week from now, two weeks from now, not be feeling overwhelmed. You could a week or two weeks from now go to your teachers and say, You know what, we're taking this off your plates. And they actually appreciate it because it's something that really does give them relief, rather than a token thing that you're taking off their plates. 

So my challenge for you this week is really simple. 

I want you to find an hour, just one hour, we need to take a look at your vision for your students. And then I want you to look at everything that's on your plate right now. And we ask yourself a question. Is this moving us towards our vision? If not, it goes? If you're not sure, then I want you to take some time kind of breaking that down. Okay, what are all the steps in this process get is as as as minut as you possibly can. And then for each step, I want you to ask two questions. How does this add value to kids? How does this add value to our school? If it doesn't add value to both get rid of it. If it adds value to kids, but not to school, or who adds value to the school and not to the kids. Think about how you can rework that so that it's adding value to both I promise you if you go through this exercise, you will find opportunities, you will find things to take off your plate and off your teachers play. But more importantly, if you go through this process, you become more efficient in achieving your vision for your school. So I challenge you to do it this week. Don't Don't, don't put it off. Don't say I'll do it another time this week. Do it so that you can stop juggling and start building 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 builders ship University. Just go to build a ship and get started writing your school success story today

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