6 Steps to to Achieve Transformative Results
Next School Year
(And why NOW is the perfect time to start!)


Note: ​School Leadership Reimagined is produced ​as a podcast and designed to be ​listened to, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that's not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

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

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. Yeah.

Hello there, and welcome back to another episode of the ​School Leadership Reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson, and today we're going to talk about six steps to transform your school and why now is the perfect time to start.

So I want to begin by telling you a story...

It's something that happened to me the other day. I was leading a workshop where I was talking with a group of principals and assistant principals and district leaders. There were a few instructional coaches there and I was talking to them about this idea of ​buildership and how builders think about transformation as an entire process. When one of the participants raised her hand, she was a principal of a school and she said, look, ​Robyn, all this is great, but I'm going into testing right now and I don't really have time to do all this this year.

Is this something that I could wait and start in the summer once things have died down? Well, can any of you relate to that question? I mean, it's. It's a busy time of year right now for most of us. In fact, it can seem like the worst, most inconvenient time to start thinking about next year about transformation, about your vision for next year. It just seems easier to put that off until the summer when you actually have time to breathe. While you can. Of course. I mean the total school transformation process is a process that you can start at any time, but today I want to make the case for why you should be planning your bowl moves for next year. Right now. Yes. You heard me right now. Even though things are busy, even though testing is about to start, for some of you, even though you're used to thinking about next year, over the summer, I want you to start thinking about next school year right now.

In fact, if you don't start thinking about next school year, right now, this year, if you wait until the summer to start, you're going to find yourself seriously behind and you won't be able to accomplish all that you want to accomplish next year. So this episode is all about why you need to get started planning for next year, right now, and the six steps that you need to put into place right now in order to achieve transformational results next year.

Now, before I dive in, I want to tell you about an amazing resource I've got for you today...

It's called the total school transformation quick start and it goes into detail about each of these six steps. Spelling out exactly what you need to do in order to achieve transformational results in as little as 12 to 18 months. If you want to get your next school year off to a great start. If you want to have an amazing off the charts school year, next school year, then you really need this quick start guide and that's why I'm going to give it to you today for free. You can get it by going to ​School Leadership Reimagined dot com slash episode two, or if you're not in front of a computer right now, simply text the word episode,  ​all one word, and the number two. So episode and the number two to the number three, three, four, four, four. 

OK, now let's talk about why you can't afford to wait...

Why you need to start right now? Well, you've got a lot going on right now. You still have things to accomplish this year, so why am I telling you that you need to be starting to think about next year, this early? Well, think about it. The conditions under which you're working right now are a direct result of the decisions that got made last year about this time. So now is the time of year that you're starting to think about two of the most important decisions that you're going to make that will affect everything next year.

And those two things are your master schedule and your staffing and what most of us do is we wait until the summer to start working on a strategic plan for next year. But by that time our master schedule is already mostly set or it should be and many of us are already started assigning teachers to different classes or different grade levels. Plus some of us have already started hiring for next year or will be very soon. So what if you want to do something truly transformative next year? Well, if you wait until the summer, you've already somewhat locked yourself into a particular schedule or a team or a staff and ensure you could tinker with things. But by then you're doing the double work rather than thinking about it now. So that as you're planning your master schedule for next year, as you're thinking about staffing for next year or if you're not an administrator, as you're thinking about your own schedule for next year and how you're going to.

A lot your time as the master schedule is being made and you want to make a case for why you need a certain period off or why you need a group of teachers to have a certain period off because you need to work with him. Now's the time to be advocating for that. So when you know already going into the summer what your strategic plan is going to be for next year when you have a vision for next year already in place, and then you can design your master schedule right now to support that plan. Then you can design your staffing to support that plan. I mean think about it. What if by the time you went to the hiring fair, you already had a vision for next year and you could get prime candidates excited about your vision. So much so that the best teachers were fighting to work at your school or what if at the end of the year you already knew what you wanted to accomplish next year and so you sent teachers home into the summer, fired up and excited to come back in the fall.

I mean, imagine if teachers spent the entire summer dreaming about and working towards preparing for getting ready for day one so that when they came back to work in the fall, they were fired up and ready to go, so that's the first reason why you should be planning your vision for next year now because you are about to go into a season where you're going to be making a lot of decisions that affect next year, right now, and you want to have your vision in place so you can make those decisions. Now. The second reason you should start now is that when you build your vision, now you give yourself a much longer runway in order to take off the next year. We think about it, if you already knew that next year you're going to really focus on rigorous instruction. You could start training teachers right now and give them time to practice now so that they're ready to hit the ground running next year.

You'd have the time now to surface and deal with any objections. You can get them completely on board right now by getting those objections out of the way right now so that everybody starts the year next year ready to go, and by the way, those who don't buy into your vision next year, they have time to find jobs other places, so this is one of the main reasons that so many new initiatives never get off the ground. I mean, think about it, if you announce your new direction during pre-service week when teachers are trying to get back into their classrooms, figure out their curriculum, go over their rosters and set up for the new school year, how much time and energy will they really have to focus on your New Vision for the year? It's. It's just too much. Wouldn't it be better if they left school knowing that the focus for next year was going to be x or y?

I mean, wouldn't it be better if they had the entire summer to get ready to adopt the right mindset, even attend some special training so that they could be ready for the fall and wouldn't it be great if your new teachers coming in? Can get ketchup training during the summer, during the new teacher induction time so that they too were ready to start the school year and immediately implement your vision. Well, it makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Now it's the time to be thinking about next year. Waiting until the summer to start doing that is much too late. So now that you know why you can't afford to wait, let's talk about the six steps that you need to take in order to achieve transformational results. Next year. The six steps are the six steps to the total school transformation process and they are step one, exciting step to explore step three, engage step four, step five, evaluate and step six, extend these six steps.

Usually take about 12 to 18 months to implement fully, but you can start seeing results from them right away. In fact, you can get through at least the first two steps this school year and then use the summer and next school year to reach your goal. By this time next year, you're going to be nearing the end of the process and seeing major transformation happening in your school. I mean, think about that. Imagine that by this time next year, instead of dreading going into this long hall that we have until we get to spring break and all of the testing, you are starting to be so excited. You're excited about going into testing because testing is going to reveal that you've made some results. You're excited about what's happening in school because you were starting to see the fruits of your labor because you got started right now. So what I'm gonna do is I'm going to explain what happens during each of these six steps and then I'm going to show you just how much you can accomplish this school year in order to build momentum now and ensure that you're seeing transformative results next school year.

All right, so let's start with step one...

Step one is excite. Now the excite stage is the stage that everybody skips, and yet this is the most critical stage. If you're going to get everyone on board from the very beginning because the goal of this stage is for us to develop and communicate your vision in a way that gets everybody excited about your vision. So during the stage, you literally get everyone in your school, from the teachers, to the students, to the parents, excited about your vision for the upcoming school year. Now this is not the stage for details. Instead, you want to get everybody excited about your vision for what your school can be calm, but you don't want to get them bogged down in all of the details about exactly how you're going to accomplish that. The goal is to get everybody buzzing about what's ahead and that of course means that you actually need to decide on your vision for next school year and you need to do it now.

Now, if you're a principal, you can and probably should do this alone or at most with your admin team, and I'll tell you why in just a minute, but if you're an assistant principal, well, you'll probably need to get your administrative team involved. Now, if you can't do that, then you can focus on an area of responsibility that you have, like a great level or a particular team that you supervise. And if you're an instructional coach or a teacher leader, you can still do this, but your vision won't necessarily be school wide. Instead, your focus is going to be on your sphere of influence. That means that you're going to develop a vision for a team you work with or a group of teachers that you support. Your vision will feel more personal, but it can be extremely powerful nevertheless, and it can still have this transformative effect on your school and on the teachers that you support.

The idea here is that first you need to think about your vision for the coming school year and then find a way to make that vision exciting and compelling to your school community so that everybody knows where you're headed and they're excited. They're just as excited as you are to get there. Now and some of the upcoming episodes, I'm going to be talking about the exact steps that you need to take to get everybody excited because it's not like you just go out there and announce, hey, we're doing this really cool thing next year. Isn't that exciting? Yeah, that's not how you do. There's actually a real process to getting people excited and I'll share with you how to do that on some of the later episodes, but for now I want you to start thinking about your vision for next year and I want you to dream big.

None of this next year. We're going to make a five percent gain on the number of students who score proficient in reading and math. There's nothing inherently exciting about a five percent gain. I'm sorry, for those of you who have that in your strategic plan. That's what leaders do. That's what you were trained to do, but builders don't limit themselves to five percent. They don't find that exciting. I want you to dream bigger. What would happen if you set a goal for next year to have 100 percent of your students scoring at or above grade level in reading and math, or even if you turn that into a two year goal, there's something about 100 percent that's exciting, even a little scary. That's something that you can get excited about and you can get other people excited about. You're not going to get people excited. About five percent, or how about this?

What would happen if you said by the end of next school year we will have rigorous learning happening in every classroom every day, and that was. That's something you could get excited about. I mean, notice I didn't say rigorous instruction. That's not the point. That's not exciting. I said rigorous learning. That's something to get excited about. So I want you to go for broke here. Dream big. None of this Namby, Pamby piddly goals that we're used to setting for ourselves. Builders don't think small. What's your vision? What would get you really excited? Here's the thing. This stage is called the excite stage for a reason. If You're vision doesn't get you excited, then how do you expect to get anybody else excited? So right now I want you to focus on you first. What vision do you have for your school? What if it happened would be amazing. I want you to dream big.

This is something that you should be doing right now before the end of the school year. You need to get excited about the possibilities. It'll help you think more carefully about your plans for next year and it'll help you pay closer attention to what's happening this year because once you're excited about your vision, you start to pay attention to how things are working and what you'll need to shift and change for next year in order to accomplish your vision.

Now, I need to stop here for a moment and say a little something about this idea of shared leadership. I was doing a workshop recently and I was talking to them about setting their vision and how as the builder you should be thinking about your vision first and that's a private exercise. You're not going and taking that to committee. Principal raises his hand. He said, what about shared leadership?

Now we were always taught that we needed to focus on shared leadership and involve others in creating our vision, and while that might seem like a democratic ideal on the surface, the truth is involving too many other people at this stage. While you're crafting your vision for next year is not a good idea. Here's why, right now it's time to dream and it's really hard to dream by committee. I mean, have you ever been in those meetings before where everyone gathers to set the vision for the year? I mean they could be nightmares. You don't want people killing your ideas and your vision before you've even had a chance to start thinking it through yet so you'll get people involved later on and helping me figure out how to actualize your vision, but for now to start thinking about what your vision is on your own and give a time to breathe and evolve first before you share it with others.

Now I know that I've probably shopped some of you right now by saying that because we've always been taught that you had to involve people and creating your vision or else they won't get behind it. While I'm here to tell you that that's also not true. I mean, how many times have you gone through one of those long shared visioning sessions and come out with a vision and people who were in the room still don't support it? So just because people are involved in the creation of the vision, that still doesn't mean that they're going to support it. Plus by the time your vision goes through committee, it often comes out, water down, less exciting, a less potent version of your original idea. One hundred percent proficiency gets watered down to 65 percent proficiency or rigorous learning. Every day becomes rigorous instruction. Some Dave, it's like that old joke.

What's a camel? It's a horse built by committee. So right now you can get started with the excite stage by thinking about your vision for the coming year, make it something that you can really get excited about and then let it marinate for a while first, before you share with others, protect your vision at this stage, give it time to grow, to actualize, to mature before you take it out there and expose it to other people. Then once you're absolutely excited about your vision, then and only then are you allowed to share it and I'll show you how to share it in a compelling and exciting way and episode number 10. So there's an exact process to doing it so that you can protect your vision and get people excited about it and I'll show that in episode 10, but for now, just start thinking about what will be an exciting vision for you for next year.

And remember, if it doesn't excite you, it's not going to excite anybody else. So that was step one, excite.

Now step two is explore

​Doing the explore stage is where you get buy in from all of your stakeholders on your vision and your plan for executing that vision in the upcoming school year. So are two big mistakes that people make that keep them from getting full buy in. And these mistakes also end up derailing your vision later on down the line. So the first mistake is that people come to everyone with a fleshed out vision for the coming year, but they don't have a fully realized plan that shows people exactly how they're going to accomplish that vision. So they say, yes, we're going to get a hundred percent literacy and math proficiency for all of our students by next year. And then that's it. There's no plan for it.

The second mistake is that people think that just by announcing that vision, people automatically buy in, so they go into a staff meeting and they say they make that declaration a hundred percent literacy proficiency next year and any questions and nobody raises their hand and they walk out and they think, Yay, everybody's buying in, but they don't take time to weed out any dissension in the ranks and make sure that everybody is truly on board before they get started. So the explore stage actually helps you avoid these mistakes. First, during the explore stage, you actually are going to map out how you're going to achieve your vision next year. You're not going to show up with just a vision. You're going to give people a very simple plan that helps them see that your vision is actually doable. Now, you won't have everything worked out of course, but you're going to have a simple framework, something that that can help make your vision feel more real.

Something that everybody can understand and that makes your vision feel achievable. That's why now is the perfect time to start. You give yourself time to work out your plan so that when people leave for the summer, they know exactly what they'll be facing in the fall. Now, of course you're going to invite others to help you refine your plan. That's where you can begin to start sharing the leadership, but giving them a framework, well, you're allowing them something that they can start reacting against rather than expecting them to come up with the solutions on their own. You're giving them a place to start and then second, you're going to deliberately invite pushback. So after you announced your vision, after you show people the skeleton plan, you're going to actually deliberately create an environment for people to push back. You're going to deliberately solicit the objections. I mean you're going to face push back anyway, so you might as well invite it and and put it out in the open so that you can deal with it and nip it in the bud.

Now there's a specific way, but you're going to do this so that you don't create more chaos, but the idea is that you're going to kill the back channel by intentionally surfacing and addressing any objections before they have time to fester and ruin your initiative before it even has a chance to shine. Plus, you're going to be looking out for any kind of hidden signs of toxicity in your culture and then you're gonna. Nip that in the bud too early before that toxicity has a chance to derail your vision, and again, there's a specific way that I'm going to show you how to do this and that'll come in episode seven and eight, so here's where you can get started right now. Once you've identified your big vision for next year, start thinking about how you're going to achieve it. What are the steps that you and those with whom you work will need to take in order to achieve your vision?

What tools do you need? What new skills do you need to develop that will help you guide your vision next year? If you're an administrator, what do you need to do differently in terms of the master schedule or staffing or how you spend your time in order to make your vision work and if you're an instructional coach or you're a teacher leader, what schedule or structure, what best support your work? Now's the time to start thinking about that so that you can ask for what you need for next year. Start paying attention now so that you can start mapping out your path to your vision for next year. That way you can make better decisions now and you can set yourself up for achieving your vision next year. So we've covered excite. We've covered the explore stage.

The third stage is the engage stage.

Now, during the engage stage, that's a time where you're going to provide people with the training and the support that they need to help them move towards your vision.

This might mean specialized literacy training, for instance, to get all of your students on grade level, or perhaps you might want some rigorous instructional training to help every teacher facilitate rigorous learning in every classroom every day. But it also means that you may need to give people the tools and the resources they need to be successful as well. The reason you should be thinking about this right now is because now is the perfect time to start planning professional development for next year. You can start shopping pd providers right now, make sure that they're included in your budget. Maybe you have a couple of big conferences going up and you can be very strategic about what sessions you attend so that you can pick up strategies that you can bring back and use at your school to make your vision happen. You can start reading books to figure out if one might work as a book study for next year.

You can start gathering resources so that you're ready to support teachers in the fall and most important, you can start working on your own pd to develop the skills that you're going to need in order to see your vision through and make it successful. So far, we've covered the first age excite stage. We've covered the explore stage third stage, which is the engaged stage.

So the next stage, the fourth stage is expect

​During this stage you start expecting teachers to actually implement the steps you've shown them and start making progress towards achieving your vision. It's during this stage that you get everyone, even those who drag their feet up until now, you get them implementing your new initiative and making it work in the classroom. So that's something that usually happens down the line. Usually it happens a few months into this process, but you can start getting ready for that stage right now because now is the time that you can start thinking about the criteria for success.

So if your vision is that every student is at or above grade level in reading and math, what are the behaviors that teachers need to be doing to get students there? What are the behaviors that you should be doing to help them get there? What are the milestones? What does success look like? Or if you want rigorous learning in every classroom every day, what does that actually look like? What? What constitutes rigorous learning? Now is the time to start thinking about your success criteria. I mean, what will your school actually look like if everybody was working towards your vision? Now, that may seem like a silly or frivolous question to ask and to be honest, most people skip this step. They don't even bother thinking it through this far, but here's why this is so important. You see, most people start with a vision and they may even have a plan, but that's where it ends and unfortunately that's what keeps your vision just a dream.

If you want to give your vision the best chance for success, you need to go beyond the vision and the plan and make your vision much more concrete. That's what success criteria do for your vision. They make your vision and concrete and in a later episode I'm going to show you how to write success criteria, so stay tuned for that, but if you have a clear vision on what success looks like, you have much more clarity about exactly what you need to do to get there. Plus, once your vision is more concrete, it feels more real. It feels doable, so you stop being content with the way things are because you can clearly see how things could be and will be if your vision is realized. That's what's going to give you the conviction that you're going to need when you finally do share your vision with others, you've been to the mountain top as it where people are able to see it in your face and it'll make them much more likely to trust your vision and a buy into it because you've already seen the other side and you're coming back and telling people, listen, this is what it's going to look like when we get there, so come with me and let's go there together.

OK, I got a little carried away with that, but you get my point. You want to make sure that the success criteria are very, very clear because the more clear they are to you, the more real your vision is to you and that's something that you can start working on right now. So when it's time to unfurl your vision to everyone else, you have the conviction that you need. That makes your vision much more convincing to other people. OK, so we've done excite, explorer, engage, expect.

Now the next stage is evaluate during the evaluate stage.

This is where you get everybody implementing your vision with quality. This is the accountability part of the process, so how can you prepare now to hold people accountable for implementing your vision next year? Well, now is the time you should be boning up on your ability to observe and give people feedback and that means that you are starting to train your observational lens now so that you'll be able to give people high quality feedback next year when it's time to use that feedback to hold them accountable.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, the best way to train your observational lens is through something I call one thing feedback. One thing Feedback is where you go into a classroom and you determine the root cause of why a teacher is either successful or unsuccessful, and by honing in on the root cause, not only is your feedback more targeted when teachers actually address the root cause, their practice gets exponentially better. Now, I won't be able to go into detail about how to use one thing, feedback in this episode, but if you want to learn more, I do have a free Webinar, one thing, feedback, and if you're interested in attending that Webinar or an upcoming Webinar, I'll put a link to it in the show notes and you can just click on that link and sign up and it's absolutely free and I go through what one thing feedback is and how to use it, but the point is for right now, now it's time to start training your observational Lens.

Now is the time to get better at conducting feedback. Conversations. Now is the time to start boning up on your ability to hold people accountable so that you are ready to go next year. That's work that you need to be doing now that way next year when you are ready to move your vision forward, you don't come off like an amateur. You don't let people sabotage your vision and how you're moving it forward because you got ready for it right now. OK?

This last stage is the extend stage...

​During this stage you're going to examine data and determine next steps. Now, you won't actually get to this stage until the last semester of next school year, but that doesn't mean that you can't start preparing for it right now. Let's go back to your vision. What data will tell you that you've actually achieved your vision? You should start thinking about that right now.

Then you can start looking around to see what data you already have available and what data you're going to need. Then I want you to identify a single data point that will tell you whether you're making progress towards your vision or not. That's all right. I want you to do one data point. This is going to be your major data point for the next year. Now, in later episodes, I'm going to talk to you about how builders collect and use data and it's quite different and to be honest, much easier than the way most of us are collecting data right now, but for now I just want you to identify one data point that will tell you whether or not you've achieved your vision. For instance, if you want every student at or above grade level in reading and math next year, then your one data point might be benchmark tests.

That's not the only data point you could use, but it is one and all I want you to do right now is pick one. Let's say for instance, your vision for next year was rigorous learning and every classroom every single day. Then your data point might be an observation instrument that measured the level of rigorous learning in the classroom. So that data that comes from that one instrument, it's going to be the main way that you can tell. Are we there yet or do we still have more work to do? So what's your one data point that will tell you clearly whether you're achieving your vision? Once you've determined that data point, I want you to start tracking it now because that's going to give you the baseline data that you're going to need in order to to refine your vision and to think about your plan. It may even help you make the case for why your vision is so necessary and so vital for your school right now.

All right, so those are the six steps...

​To recap those six steps that you need to transform your school. They are. Step one, you want to excite people and that's where you're going to develop and communicate your vision and get everybody excited about where you're headed. Step two is the explorer step. That's where you're going to secure a stakeholder buy in by intentionally surfacing and dealing with objections and giving everybody a plan that they actually can believe in. The third step is the engaged step where you provide people with the support they need to get moving on your vision and to be successful with your vision step for the expect step. That's where you get everybody consistently implementing your vision and making progress towards your vision. Step five is the evaluate step where you get everybody implementing your vision with quality and when you start actually seeing results and then step six, the extended stuff where you examine the data and determine what your next vision will be.

Now, although that's process usually takes anywhere from one to three years to fully implement, you really can and should get started working on the process right now. Now is the absolute perfect time to get started because now is when you're starting to make all the major decisions that will affect your ability to implement and see success in your vision next year, and this is what separates leaders from builders. Leaders wait until the summer and then start strategic planning after everything is already kind of been already put in place builders. Start strategic planning now so that they can actually move things into place that will best support their vision for next year. So don't wait until summer to get ready for next year. Start now so that you have an even better chance of making next to your success. So that's all for now.

Don't forget, I've got a really great Freebie for you today. It's the total school transformation quick start guide, and it takes you through each of these six steps and shows you what you need to be doing at each stage to make your vision a reality. You can download by going to schoolleadershipreimagined.com/episode​2/, or simply text the phrase "episode​2" episode and the number two, no space to the number three, three, four, four, four. Again, you can text episode2 to the number three, three, four, four, four.

Now, next week we're going to talk about a question I get asked a lot...

How do you hold a teacher accountable for doing what they're supposed to do? Well, next week I'm going to show you four different conversations that you can have with the teacher to help that teacher take ownership and be accountable for his or her own practice. Even if you're not the teacher supervisor. Plus it comes with a really cool cheat sheet that's going to help you choose the right conversation for each situation that you faced. So I hope you'll join me next time for that training. That's all for today. Don't forget, if you haven't done so already, please subscribe to this podcast and if you like what you're hearing, I'll count it as a personal favor if you would leave me a review. Thanks again for listening everyone and I will talk to you next time.

Thank you for listening to the ​School Leadership Reimagined podcast for show notes and free downloads and visit​ ​https://schoolleadershipreimagined.com/

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