Are you carrying your entire school on your back?


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 203.

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.

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today, I want to talk to those of you who are feeling like you are the only one in your building, that you are the only one who's a builder that you are the only one who's doing this work, that you are the only one that's pushing the work forward, I want to talk to those of you who feel like you can't take any time off. Because if you were to take some time off, the school would fall apart, I want to talk to you if you feel like you are the hero in your building. And I want to tell you what you need to be doing instead, deal. Now before I do that, I gotta tell you about something cool happening next week. I'm so excited about this. I've been working on this for months now. And I've been designing a course around how to build what we're calling a 100% culture, a culture where everybody in your culture is focused on success for every single child you serve.

And this is not a course where I talk about, you know, the big thing about why you should have 100% culture, although in the introduction, I'm going to do that a little bit. This is a course about how this is a course about the exact steps you need to take to do it, I'm going to be breaking this down for the first time in one place, and creating this course for the people inside a builder ship university. But because I think this content is so valuable, and so important, I want more people to have access to it. And then I have a selfish reason to, it's really hard. Being in a studio and recording something like this with it's just me direct to a camera, I do much better when I have a live audience to interact with. And so I thought it'd be really cool to be able to share this information with as many people as possible and to do it for free. And so we are going to host a live filming of the course and live filming of the course that means that you'll join me every day on Zoom, we're going to we're going to film two modules per day so that it doesn't get tedious. And you can join me live on Zoom. And that way we in our studio we have you know, the all the monitors up so that I can see you I can see your reaction in between takes, we can talk you can see me you know we're going to be recording this live. So I'll mess up I'll you know, but when you're there to cheer me on and tell me Hey, it's okay, that's great, too. And then I'll also be building in some time to answer your questions to, to take to do some coaching with you directly so that as you're learning, you're getting real time feedback and support live during the filming of the course.

Now once the course is over, we're going to put the course inside a bill to ship University. And so it'll be available for everybody and Bu But it won't be publicly available. But when you join me live every single day, you get to experience the entire course live. Plus, if something comes up in the middle, you have to take care of something because we're going to be doing this during the day, right. So if something comes up in the middle of the filming, and you have to take care of something, we're going to give you a 24 hour replay. So every day we'll shoot the course alive. If you can show up live, that's what I really want. If you can show up live a part of the time they have to step away, don't worry, we'll post the replay every single day. And you can watch the replay later on in the day when you have more time. Or if you watch the live filming, and you got something out of it. And you want to go back and revisit the best parts, you'll be able to do that in that 24 hour replay. And so it's kind of a win win situation, right? Like you get an opportunity to experience what's going to be one of our premier courses inside of builder ship University. And you get to experience that for free. I get to have a live audience and to be able to interact with you to hear your questions and that's going to actually help me make this course even better. So it's a win, win. All you need to do is you need to go to builder ship University dot com slash culture builder ship And that'll give you the Zoom information allow you to sign up, we'll send you reminders every single day. And then, of course, on April 18 19th, and 20th, we're going to go live, and we're going to film this course, I'm a little nervous, I'll be honest with you. But I'm also really excited that I get a chance to interact with you that I get a chance to, you know, kind of, I feel like it's going to create a different kind of energy to be able to to do this course live. So again, build USHIP Alright, so let's dig into today's topic. 

And it's really, for those of you who are feeling like you are the only one in your building, right? You've caught the vision you believe and success for 100% of your students. But nobody else around you. Does. Anybody feeling that way right now that even though people pay lip service to it, they always have a yes. But sure, I would love for everybody to be to offer all of our students to be successful. But what about special ed, I would love for all of our students to be successful, but the students have to want to put in the work and they're not wanting to put in the work. I would love for all of our students to be successful to reach 100% of our students. But if the families don't support us, it's not going to happen. And so while people say they believe in 100%, do they really? Are they always giving you a yes, but and then there are others of us who we put out that vision 100% And everybody kind of Pat's us on the face and says, Oh, you're so cute. Oh, I love your naivete. I love your your, your your, your your heart for kids. It's so adorable. But you know, that's not going to really happen, right? And so while everybody says it's a good idea, 400% they're very few people who believe it. And it can be really tough. Working in a school where you are the only one it can be demoralizing, right? You go into work every day, really focused on how do I reach 100% of students. And everybody around you, is just giving you a reason, after reason after reason about why it can't happen here in this place in your school. One of the things that we talk about on builders ship University all the time is that there's going to be a point where your 100% vision is going to make you the weirdo people are going to look at you and they're going to think it's cute, or they're going to think it's naive, or they're going to think it's stupid, or they're going to think it's lip service. They won't directly oppose, right, because as educators, we're supposed to believe in 100%. So they're not going to directly fight you about your 100% vision. But they don't really believe it, either. And so as a result, you get a lot of pushback, and a lot of that pushback is overt, and a lot of it is passive. 

So here's what the overt pushback looks like. 

You're going in, you're saying we need to do this for 100% of students. And everybody is dragging their feet, everybody is telling you, we can't do it. Everybody's telling you, you're pushing us too hard. We can't go for on 2% We've never seen it, it's not real, it's not gonna matter. And they push back against you. And they make you the villain for believing in 100%. They make it out like you are the one who's wrong, that you're pushing too hard that you want too much. When in reality, everybody should be wanting that for their students. Right? Now the passive way they do it is they're like, Yeah, well, you know, I believe in 100% If only but, and then they start talking about all the reasons why 100% can't work all the reasons why in this place. 100% isn't realistic right now. I mean, they start bringing up COVID And they start talking about we're still trying to recover from COVID I mean, how long we're gonna be recovering from COVID in schools, y'all. It's been three years and I know COVID was big, but they are kids don't have three years to recover that, you know, three years goes from first grade to third, fourth grade. That's a lot of ground to cover for us to just kind of write it off. Right. So they start bringing up COVID They start you know, talking about Well, I think we need to work on their social emotional skills first before we start pushing for academic success. And yes, I think SEL work is important but it's not they're not mutually exclusive can get is it possible to help students with their social emotional needs, and help them learn? Absolutely, and Fact, isn't the reason we're interested in SEL needs in the first place so that kids can learn. And people have lost sight of that. And they make SEL the goal. And the only goal and so while we have kids who may be happy, and and, and and motivated and, and feeling good about themselves, if they still can't read, how long is that going to last? Right? So I think you've got to do both. 

But people want to separate it out and say, Well, no, we're gonna focus on this right now. And then we'll focus on 100% success, then you have people who say, Well, what does success mean, success looks different from that for every kid. While that is true, in terms of their long term outcomes, it's not true in terms of their short term outcomes, right? In second grade, the purpose of second grade is to help students master second grade material. And if students don't master second grade material, you can't just say, well, success is going to look different for them, boom, the whole point of second grade is to do that, that doesn't make any sense right now, maybe success in the long term means some kids go to college, and some kids choose a trade and some kids choose the military, sure. But I want those choices to be legitimate choices. And when I can't read, or when I can't, I don't understand math, those choices, those options are not all equal for me, right? If I can't read and do math, college is not going to be necessarily an option for me. And, and maybe not even a trade or maybe not even a military. So I don't know what the kids outcomes are going to be in success. It looks different from them long term. But success looks pretty much the same short term. Now, y'all might want to fight me on that, I get it. But I'm just saying, school is suppose we have a job to do at school and the job is laid out, this is what needs to happen. We can't pick and choose which kids get to master that material in which kids we say, well, you know, they have a different pathway because they're in school, and that's what school does. Now, there are a lot of people out there like, oh, well, you know, I don't believe in standardized tests. You can not believe in gravity, but gravity still happens. So, you know, at some point, we have to, we have to while we're changing the system, we have to work within the system we have, we have to be practical, and your belief system may be cheating kids have opportunities. All right, I'm getting off my soapbox anyway, you get that, you know, kind of overt resistance to 100% success. And you also get the passive resistance to 100% success. And then you go home at the end of the day, and you start to wonder, Am I the weirdo? Am I being unrealistic? 

Is 100% success really possible? 

What makes it harder is that many of us have never seen it. We don't know anybody who's actually achieved it. What makes it harder is that we don't really know what steps we need to take to achieve. And while we might believe and want it to happen, we don't really understand how to happen, how to how to make it happen. And so as a result, we feel vulnerable when people attack us because we don't have all the answers and people looking at us and thinking, Well, if you don't have all the answers, then then I'm right. And you're wrong. 100% isn't possible. And the thing is, people would rather tear down your 100% vision than do the work it takes to achieve it. Because it can stay comfortable. When you say 100% It makes everybody else uncomfortable, right? Because they know that's what they should be believing. But they don't necessarily want to do the work or know how to do the work to get there. And so it's easier to tear down your vision so they can stay where they are, than it is to step up to your vision and to where your vision is calling you too. That's why being a builder. It's not about go or let's go it's about inviting people to step outside of their mediocrity and into something better. So what do you do? Right? If if you're the only one, what do you do? Well, I've got an answer for you. But it's not an easy answer. Because you can't reach 100% success by yourself. You just can't you need other people with you. And so part of your work is a builder especially as you're inviting people especially as you know built bosses say go leader say let's go build your say comm part of that invitation is how do you build a culture that believes in 100% success? How do you build a culture that that buys into that vision and owns that vision just as much as you do? One of the reasons why we are doing the culture course we're calling it the culture cure you like that. That's cool name right? 

So one of the reasons why we're doing the culture cure, which is about how to build a culture where everybody is focused on success. For every kid is so that you don't have to do this work alone anymore, that you can build an entire of culture, entire culture of folks around you, who are just as invested in 100% success as you are. And when you do that, you make the work exponentially easier. Because rather than you being the only person pulling rather than you, being the lone person involved and pushing the division forward, the entire culture is is is is gathering around that vision, the entire culture is investing in that work, the entire tire culture is is dealing with the naysayers, instead of being alone, you have an entire culture behind you. And I think people underestimate that they, they want to fight the culture that they have, rather than building a different culture. And I think the reason why people get themselves into that position is because we don't know how to build culture, we think that culture exists, and you have to deal with it. Or we try to change culture by, you know, doing the doing the superficial things like, Oh, if I could just find an inspirational video to show teachers or if I could just find the right teacher appreciation week gift, then people wouldn't be so burned out. And then maybe if they weren't so burned out, then maybe they will, they will start to work harder towards his vision and see that it's possible and the maybe if they see that it's possible, they will change their behavior. And that's a lot of maybes.

You can be intentional about building culture, there are things you can do. And the first thing you have to understand is that if you want to change culture, and it's not really changing culture, because as my mother always says, Nobody likes to be changed, but a baby, it's about building a 100% culture, and inviting people to step out of the culture, they're in and into a new culture. And there are three things that you need. The first thing is that you have to have, you have to have a clear understanding of what the culture is you are building, right? So a lot of times people say, I just want a healthy culture, but they don't know what a healthy culture looks like when I say, Well, what does healthy culture look like? And I'm like, well, basically, people aren't complaining anymore, right? Well, okay, that's not a, that's not a healthy culture, that's just a you're just you just want relief from the pain that you're feeling.

But if you really want to build a healthy culture, what does that identity look like? 

Now Lucky for you, you're a builder. So you already know what that identity looks like, right? Because your vision, your mission and your core values define what a healthy culture looks like, your vision is 100% of students will write your mission is because so 100% of students will achieve x because your y your collective y that's your mission. And then the core values create boundaries around that they they tell you how you're going to achieve it, what's non negotiable in the work towards achieving that? If you have those three things established, that defines a new culture, then you can start to say, Okay, does this work that we're doing now does this the way that we're handling this, does that fit with who we say we're going to be who our vision mission and core value say that we now are. And the mistake a lot of people make is they want to change culture, before they have established the identity of the new culture that they want to build. So they don't have a vision, they don't have a mission, they don't have core values in place. In fact, they make the mistake of thinking, I've got to change my culture before I can even have a vision mission and core values. You can't change your culture, unless you have a vision, mission and core values. 

That's why that's the first work we do and build a ship University and build a ship University. We start with Vision, Mission core values, and getting things in alignment to that before we then go and build our culture. So you got to have at the nucleus of your culture is your cultural identity. And you cannot have a new culture unless you have a new cultural identity. And so you have to do that first. And the way you do that very simple vision, mission core values. Now, here's the added benefit of starting with vision, mission and core values. Because if there is toxicity in your culture, it's going to come up. If there are fears that are keeping people from believing in 100%, they are going to come up and so you can start to deal with those things and heal those things. As you were building your new culture. If you just ignore those things, then those things look under the surface and you try to build a foundation on that shaky surface and your culture is going to collapse. But when you are establishing a new foundation through your vision, mission and core values, part of doing that work is unearthing all those things that are that are that are interfering with your progress, all those fears, all those feelings, all those those past you know Have wrongs and hurts that people are still carrying. You can earn those, get those out the way excavate those, and then build on a solid foundation. So first thing, vision, mission and core values. Now, once you have that established, the next thing is you have to understand the culture formula and other culture formulas to parts. Your culture is made up of your, your organizational habits, and the stories you tell about them. 

Think about any culture you have. 

Think about the things that are happening in your culture right now, let's go for some toxic things. Maybe your teachers are telling you why you can't serve 100% of students? Well, in the past, the habit has been not focusing on 100%. But focusing on what what, you know, bubble kids, or what kids can we move so that we can keep everybody off of our backs. And the story we tell about it is that that the best we can do. And so that now has impacted your culture. And so your culture has 100 different little habits that you have created as an organization. And the culture has several stories you can tell about yourself. You know, you think about your school right now what story your school is telling right now. And a lot of you are in schools that are telling stories that we're a school, that's a tough school, and not all kids are going to make it we're in a school where our parents don't care. We're in a school where, where the teachers don't get along. We're in a school where everybody's clicky, we're in a school where the kids don't do homework and don't show up. We're in a school, that is a crime school, you've heard my story about the first high school I started with, when I got there very early on kids, parents, teachers all told me the same story. And what the story they told me was, this is a ghetto school. And so people behaved with that story in mind, that story drove people's behaviors. I remember seeing some kids run through the hall, I was like, Hey, slow down, stop. And they said, Oh, come on, you know, we are ghetto school, you know how we do. And the kids were using that identity, that story that that that had been being told about our school to justify their behavior. I remember when I was getting going to the district office to get my paperwork. And the person was helped me to oh, what school are you going to? And I told her the name of the school and she goes, Oh, and so Oh, what's yours? Well, you know, that school is, how shall I say, very diverse. But what she meant was ghetto. And so she even that story at the district level, that story set me up as a brand new employee excited about teaching, to walk into that school with my guard up. So stories are really powerful, we underestimate the power of stories. 

And so the second thing you have to do is you have to start a new story, you have to start telling a new story. And when build a ship University, we show you a whole process as a framework we use, I didn't invent it. It's a framework that has been around for a long time. And it's it works people you know, the thing about it is that when you start telling this new story, people start seeing themselves differently, right. So you can't just get up in front of people and say, Hey, we're now going to be a school, where 100% of kids are successful, because everybody hears the old story in their heads, everybody hears a story about, we've never been successful. We're ghetto school, or this or that. And those stories sound like excuses, but they're more than excuses. That has been people's reality, the story shape, how they see the reality. And so part of reshaping your culture is that you have to write a new story for your school. And you have to start, you have to tell that story in a way that helps other people see themselves in the story. Believe in that story, and adopt that story. We have so many great builders and builders ship University who have started this process. And what's really cool is they say the first time they tell a new story for the school, people start crying. People get inspired. You know, somebody recently was saying that she told her story or vision story to her staff. And she said for the first time in a long time at our staff meetings, nobody was scrolling their phones. Nobody was, you know, looking at something else. No, there weren't sidebar conversations. People were so enraptured in that story, because they could see themselves in that story that they afterwards said, this, that was amazing. That was so inspiring. I'm so excited about this work. Instead of telling her Why 100% wasn't possible. 

They could see how it could be possible. 

They could see how they could make it possible. And it changed how they saw themselves and how they saw the school. The school didn't change. Nothing else has changed in the school. But by changing the story you change how people see you how people see the school, how people see the work, and that changes people's behavior, and that changes the culture. And then the second piece, then addition to changing the story and in the course, I'm going to talk you step by step on how to do that, I'm going to give you the story framework you need to use, I'm going to talk about the work you need to do afterwards to actually change that story. And so you can see it, you have it there, it's a, it's not, you know, this is not like some pie in the sky have got to be this great or Raider, you can do this with whatever personality you have. And it works every single time. And that's what makes it powerful, right? So we're going to do that the story is one piece. And then the next thing you need to do is you need to change the organizational habits. But not all of them. Right? So a lot of times people say, oh, you know, our culture is so negative. So we got to change how we look at data. And so they go into, you know, we're gonna do a new data protocol. But people bring the same stories and the same habits into that data protocol. And then the data protocol doesn't work. And you're like, oh, nothing's gonna work. Well, no, you changed a process, but you didn't change the habits. And the habits are those things that we don't even pay attention to the things we don't even realize we do. But they those habits, when they're misaligned with a story, those habits begin to pull your culture back into the thing that's always happened. So we have to be really intentional not just about changing procedures, but really about identifying what are those organizational habits that are keeping us stuck? And how do we shift the habits. Now, lucky for us, there's a lot of research on how to change habits. And so we're in the course, we're going to walk you through step by step exactly what you need to do to change habits, we're going to show you how to find the right habits to change. And then we're going to take you step by step. And we're going to use research based strategies to be intentional about changing habits to deliberately re engineer our culture.

So the combination of the identity, and then the stories, and then the habits can reshape your culture. And, again, this is not theory. We are watching builders inside of builders ship University, and they're always so amazed, right? So we have this thread called the wins thread. And people are like, I can not believe how well this worked. Right? They because it's not until you do it and you see it happening in your own school that you really can get can you truly believe it, you know, like you hear it you like unless your work in theory. But then when you trust the process and actually do it, and you see the change, you should see the shift, then you're like, Ah, okay, now I'm a believer. And so what, here's my challenge for you today, you got to stop being a superhero, it can't just be all you, you need help you need other people in your organization to get on board. But the way that you get them on board is you are going to need a different culture, you're going to have to shift the culture. The good news for you is that there is a way to shift the culture. And there are three parts. This guy, you got to change the identity, you got to change the stories, and you got to change the organizational habits. And so when you do those things, you shift the culture and other people get on board. It's not just you anymore. And here's the beautiful part of what happens. The work gets done even when you're not checking. Other people come in and start to complain, but because your culture has shifted, their complaints don't get any oxygen because everybody else in the culture is moving forward. And so when people complain, you don't have to address it, somebody else addresses it before you even had a chance somebody else shuts it down before you've had a chance. Instead of running around and chasing and checking and correcting people, people police themselves, because the culture is different. You've heard me say before culture eats strategy for breakfast. But the opposite is also true.

When you have that strong culture, it accelerates your strategy. 

And what's wonderful about it is you don't have to be the only one pulling anymore. There are other people pulling with you. There are other people building with you. And as you start joining, and other people start joining and other people start building, they begin to take ownership of it. So it's not just your vision anymore. It's our vision. It's not just your mission or your core values. It's our vision, our vision mission, our core values. It's not just what you are doing in your work, it's our work. And when the culture shifts that way. It's magical because you're not the only one pulling anymore. You're not the only one doing the work anymore. Everybody is doing the work. Everybody is moving the work forward. So you get to step back and then Joy, the work starts being such a slog for you, because other people around other people are contributing, you don't have to come up with the all the all the ideas other people are making and contributing ideas, you don't have to be the one who's checking people are checking themselves. And instead, you can step back and enjoy what you have begun to build. 

So my challenge for you this week, you got to shift from being a superhero, to being a culture builder, you got to shift from being the only one, to making sure that you're getting everybody involved. And you know, I'm right, because many of you are exhausted, because you're the only one. And I'm telling you now that's not sustainable. If you really want to get to 100%, you got to bring the whole culture along, you've got to build in 100% culture. So I want to invite you again, that's exactly what I'm going to be teaching in the course. And again, very practical, because this is not, this is not a course, this is what this is what I'm teaching instead of building up University, right.

So this is a course where we're teaching people how to put these building blocks in place step by step. So this is not, you know, like a lot of free courses, which kind of give you a taste, but don't give you the full thing, this is the full thing, because this is this is in builder ship University. So I'm going to be breaking this down step by step they're going, you know, people and builders should be University will ultimately use this course, to actually start reengineering their own cultures. So it's going to be very practical, very useful. And you can get it for free. If you show up live on April 18 19th, and 20th. And again, go to builder ship So, here's my challenge this week, my challenge for you is, I want you to take a look at your culture, I'm sure you can see all the things that are wrong with your culture. But instead, this time, I want you to imagine, what would it feel like if everybody in this building were focused on 100%? Success? What would that look like? How would the work we do be different? How would it feel for me as a builder, to to be to have a culture where I wasn't the only one other people were pulling other people were building as well. Just want you to imagine that. And then that feels good to you. Let's get started. Deliberately reengineering your culture so that everybody is focused on 100%. 

Let's get started building a 100% culture like a builder.

I'll talk to you next time.

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

 Just go to and get started writing your school success story today.

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