Success Secret #4: Question Everything


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 217

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Hey builders. Real quick. Before we start today's show, I want to make sure that you heard the incredible news. I announced it on Monday. But in case you weren't there, I want to let you know that we are going to be doing something for the first time ever. For the first time ever, we are going to be hosting and live summer Bootcamp for builders. And you are invited, the bootcamp is absolutely free, it's virtual. And during the bootcamp, we're going to show you how you can start the year strong by getting your staff alive. You know, this time of year is so crazy, right? So we are busy trying to get our master schedules together trying to make sure the building is right. And the rooms are assigned. We're we have a ton of things on our plates. And the thing that we often neglect our teachers, sure we have a theme for the year, maybe we even went so far as to get them some swag. And we have a beautiful back to school breakfast plan for them. But after the pancakes are done, and and we clean up, then we're off to the races, we're trying to get ready for the kids. And oftentimes we we miss the opportunity to get our staff aligned on board committed, cohesive, and we just run and get the work done.

This boot camp is going to make sure that doesn't happen this year. So what we're going to do during the boot camp, is over the course of six days together, we are going to help you put the systems in place, you need to make sure that you not only get your staff align, but you make sure that your staff remains committed to doing the right work the right way for the right reasons. All throughout the school year. Notice I set the word systems. These are not tactics. Instead, every single day when we come together, we are going to be working on building systems that you can rely on throughout the school year. This we calling it a boot camp because we are not about sitting get in the bootcamp, you are going to get work done, you come together every day, we do the work together, you leave with a system that you can immediately installing your school the very next day, and then that work is done. That work is over. You don't have to think about it anymore. You can move on to all the other things on your plate and know that your staff is being taken care of.

So here, here are the dates. We're going to be doing it July 31 through August 3, that's Sunday through Thursday, we're going to take the weekend off so that you have a chance to kind of regroup and then Monday we're going to come back Monday August 7, we're going to come back for the final event. It's going to be a two hour masterclass where we're going to take everything and put it all together and celebrate the work that you've accomplished over the course of the bootcamp. To sign up. All you need to do is go to build leadership It's so good. I wish I could tell you more about it. But we gotta get to today's show. So make sure you go to build leadership camp, all the details are there, including the fact that if you can't make it for every single day, don't worry, we're going to record it for you. So you can watch the recording at your leisure or you can rewatch it if you were there. Everything's there for you at builder ship Now, onto today's show. You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 217.

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

Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson. And today we are continuing our summer of Success Series by sharing another success secret with you today we're going to talk about success. Secret number four, and success. unique secret number four is really a secret that builders use to make sure that they don't feel overwhelmed to make sure that they're not wasting time doing work that doesn't matter. Builders reject the status quo. Now, I know that sounds political and it's really not. And it's not even all that revolutionary. It's quietly revolutionary. And you'll see what I mean in just a moment. 

So I want to tell you a story. 

And it has to do about, it has to do with a time when I was a teacher. So I, for those of you don't know, I taught high school English for many years. And one of the things that I did as a high school English teacher was, I have my students keep journals. Now, journal, this is back in the day, you know, I'm dating myself, but we use physical journals, you know, actual notebooks, every student had to have a notebook. And they wrote in their journals every day as a part of the warm up. And then once a week or once every other week, I would collect their journals. And I would read their prompts, and I would give them feedback on it, and they will get a journal grade. And although it sounds like a good idea, because I taught writing, and I wanted kids writing all the time, it was the bane of my existence. So here's what always happened with the journals, right, I would collect the journals, I had, what 150 kids, maybe 160, kids, something like that. So I'd collect 160 journals, right, I'd put them in one of those big sturdy Canvas teacher bags, I'd you know, stay late at work grading journals reading through every single prompt and trying to give students meaningful feedback. And then I put those journals in those teacher beds, and I take them home, loved them to my car, the end of the day, and take them home fully intending to spend the evening finishing up so I could return them to students, the next day, I'd get home, I'd be so tired that a lot of times, I would drop those bags at the front door intending to get back to them be so tired, can't stay awake, eat dinner, get ready for the next day, watch those journals judging me from that corner, go to bed, get up the next morning, put them back in my car and take them to school. So instead of, you know taking them home and being productive, I just basically gave the journals a joy ride to my house and back to school. And then I'd spend my planning periods trying to catch up, or I'd apologize to the kids and to get the journals back tomorrow. And anyway, you get the point. It was the bane of my existence. 

But I thought that's what I had to do. That's what it took to be a good English teacher. One day, I'm in my car. And I am driving back to work feeling so overwhelmed. And so guilty, because even though I took those journals home, and even though I, you know, I spent, I stayed up very late grading them, I still didn't finish them. And I promised the kids that I was going to get them back today. And the quality of my feedback was was diminishing, the longer I was spending kind of grading those journals trying to fly through the journals as quickly as possible. And I still didn't finish and I had more to do. And I was sitting in traffic, and I caught a glimpse of those journals in the backseat of my car in the rearview mirror. And I said to myself, What is the point? What is the point? And then I thought about it? What, what is the point? I mean, the point of the journals was to give students practice, the point with the journals was to help students record important concepts and an insights that they needed for the class, you know, because we also use those journals as like notebooks for them to take notes so that they could stay organized, and they could have access to those notes later on. So then I said, Why am I grading them? That's the point. While I can't even why you can't even really great a journal, if it's a journal entry, the students are writing their own thoughts, what am I going to do correct the grammar on their thoughts when I tell them to be free? That doesn't make sense. And then I thought, but if I don't grade them, they won't do it. And then I thought, if the only reason I'm grading them is to make them do it, I'm doing it wrong. 

Then I came up with an idea. 

And so I thought about I thought about it as I can't, this can work. This is right. And I got to school, and I was so excited. And I remember passing back those journals to the kids. And the kids eagerly flipped to the you know, the last page to see their grade and the kids were looking at it. And they were like, wait a minute, these these aren't graded. And I said, No, they're not. In fact, I'm never going to grade your journals again. And after I said it, and after the applause died down, I said, here's what we're gonna do. I'm not gonna collect your journals, your journals are yours. And then I explained to students the reason why we kept journals in our class, because there was value in that. I wanted them to know why. So I talked about that we use journals for three things. Number one, we use journals to give them opportunities to practice writing, because the more you practice writing, the better you become. And really it helps you become more fluid as a writer. It helps you get your thoughts down and learn to capture your thoughts in really important ways. Number two, the journals were there to keep important notes, things that they needed to remember because those things were going to support them later on when we did summative assessments. gave them a place to keep everything organized. And then the third reason was because the it wasn't just about individual notes and individual writing. 

The journal really gave them a record to help them see how they grew as writers to be able to track their trajectory as writers throughout their, their, their time in the class. And so I explained it to them and the kids were like, okay, all right, get to, you know, Where's the catch? And I said, so instead of writing in journals, we're going to do a journal quiz. They're going to be random, they're going to be pop quizzes, and like, roll and they said, I knew there was a catch. I said, here's the thing. The quiz says one question, and it's a pass pass quiz. And they said, or what do you mean by pass pass? I said, Well, you can pass it in class. Or you can pass it at lunch or after school. Confused? I don't, I don't know what you're talking about. They, they looked at me blankly. I said, here's the way it's gonna work. Because your journal is for you to keep things organized to collect things to practice your writing, I am going to from time to time call a pop quiz. And I'm going to call out something that should be in your journal. And then I want you to hold it up, you've got 30 seconds to find it in your journal, find the page in your journal or the piece of material in your journal, hold it up and hold it in the air. If you can do it in 30 seconds, you will pass the quiz in class and I'll just stand there with my gradebook. And right over, you know, write down, everybody's great, he's holding it up and you fast. If you can't hold it up, it means that your journal is incomplete or disorganized. And so you have to come and work with me during lunch or after school that day. And we get your journal organized. If you show up and do it that day. And we get your journal organized, you'll pass then it's an okay, so can we're gonna try right now journals out, everybody ready. And then I called out something and the kids scrambled and looked around and and some are holding it up, and some couldn't find it. And I took down that the students who had it at the end of 30 seconds. And the rest of them I took their names down and said okay, I'll see you at lunch today. Yeah, lunch, those students showed up, we got their journals organized, we got the materials that they were missing, and we put it in their journals made sure they had everything they needed, they were more organized, they understood the value of the journal. And then we began to use the journals, it wasn't about just collecting them and grading them. 

The Journals became this, this this valuable tool in our classroom. And it helps students learn organizational strategies, they begin to share strategies with each other about how they can their journals organize, they begin to own their journals, because I wasn't collecting them and grading them and, and and requiring that they have to have their journals organized a specific way. And those journals became instead of the bane of my existence, they became a valuable tool my students use to grow as writers. Now, why do I tell you that story? Because there are a lot of things that you are probably carrying in your metaphorical bag right now. Everybody has a Journal story. There's something that you are doing right now, as you are scrambling to get ready for school in a few weeks, that you don't really know why you're doing. You're just doing it because the person who was there before you did it, because everybody in your district does it. But it doesn't make sense. It doesn't have value. It feels like busy work. And so that's why this time of year can feel exhausting and overwhelming. Because you're doing stuff and you don't know why you're doing it. And if you thought about why you were doing it, you wouldn't do it the way you're doing it.

Hey, Robin here and I just want to break in real quick to ask you a huge favor. You see, I want to get the word out to everybody about builder ship and I could use your help. If you're really enjoying this episode. Would you mind just going to your podcast platform and leaving a quick review? You see the reviews get the word out they tell other people this is a great show other people who have never heard of school leadership reimagined before can hear about it. And you'd be sharing the word about builder ships. So would you mind just leaving a quick review? It would mean the world to me. Okay, now back to the show. One of the most valuable things that you can do right and how to ensure that you don't feel overwhelmed that the work you do does have meaning and purpose and focus so that you are making sure that you are spending your energy and your time which is not inexhaustible. Doing the right work is to reject the status quo.

Alright, when I was an English teacher, everybody did journals. That's what you did. That was a sign of a good English teacher. But instead had i It's not that I threw away the journals. I mean, I could see the value in the journals. I understood the logic behind the journals. But I just rejected the way that everybody taught journals. Because it didn't work for me. It didn't work for my kids. And by rejecting it, I found a better way one that did work for me one that did work for my kids. It meant less grading for me more value for my kids, when, when there's work you're doing right now. And you're doing because you've always done it that way. And it makes no sense. You are creating schedules for Hall supervision. Because everybody does schedules for hallway supervision. If you change classes, you need teachers in the hall. That's the conventional wisdom. But why? I mean, the whole reason that you want teachers in the hall is because you feel like more adult supervision will cut down on students misbehavior in the hall. But does it? Or do kids just take it underground? Do they just find other ways to harass and bully each other outside of the adult gaze? is, if your goal is to teach kids to be good people to stop bullying, then policing is not the only way to do that. And policing means that I just try not to do it in front of you. It doesn't mean I don't do it at all. 

So what's the point? 

And is there another better way? To get to the point? You don't ask people all the time, they're doing something? And I say, why are you doing it? And they see because because we have to because Because Because and then they start getting flustered. But you really need to ask why. You need to ask why more often than you're asking it. Right now, you're probably you know, doing your master schedule a particular way or you got lockers, you're assigning or you're trying to figure out playground duty, or all the little tedious things that we do every single year. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself, why do we do things this way? Why did our master schedule look like this? Why do we divide up supervision and Hall duty like this? Why do we do for lunches? Why do we do for lunches the way that we do for lunches? Why is it that teachers have to do chaperone to games every single year? And when we put the chaperone listen of teachers sign up? Is that the right way? Or should we do that? Were there other other teachers who would be great and love chaperoning but there are other duties they hate? Could we have the teachers who hate chaperoning do the duties those teachers hate? Or does it have to be equally distributed where everybody has to do two of these and five of these, regardless of whether or not they're suited for it? And the more you begin to ask why, the more you will realize that there's so much that you're doing that makes no sense. But that is when it gets really empowering. Because if it doesn't make any sense, you shouldn't be doing it. You can do it a different way. There's so many things that that that we waste time trying to make better that we should just throw out. You know, if I had if I had spent my time with those notebooks saying, Well, maybe if I grade every other page, or maybe if I just focus on grading one assignment, or maybe if I stayed after school two hours and didn't take them home, or maybe you know finding ways to simplify a system that was stupid to begin with a system that wasn't serving me to begin with. All I'm doing is refining something that I should be throwing away. And I bet you're doing the same thing. 

So this week, I want to challenge you, we're going to this one's a pretty short episode, because you know why multiply words? I bet I guarantee there's something that you're doing right now to get ready for the school year. And you're only doing it because you've always done it. Not because it makes sense. Not because it's the right thing to do. So here are the steps to thinking differently to rejecting the status quo, the first thing you're going to do, take a look at something you're doing that you don't see and you can't see the value in doing it. You just doing it because you're going through the motions and you've always done it. And I want you to ask yourself, what is the point? What's the point? And really get to the point. Don't think about well, we've always done it this way or we need to do this, or this. You know, I want you to ask yourself, why do we what am I really trying to accomplish? You know, one of my mentors always asked me this question, and at first I hated it. But now it's such a good question. He says what problem are you trying to solve here? Well, I need to get no that's not a problem. That's what you're saying. What problem are you trying to solve? Hear. And when you ask yourself that question and really think about it, then the next question you're going to ask is, does this solve the problem we're trying to solve? Or is there a better way? And that's when it gets really fun. Because you start to come up with solutions that that seem extraordinary and amazing. And how did you come up with that? That's so cool. This is how innovation happens. And so you come up with solutions that serve you. 

You know, one of the things that we do inside of Buildership University is we spend some time in level two, taking a good hard look at the systems that you have in place in your school. Because a lot of the systems that we have in place have been in place, and they've been unquestioned for a long time. And so we spend some time looking at those systems. And the most revolutionary part about the way that we look at systems as builders is we're not looking to tweak and improve the system in a vacuum, like, oh, I can make this, you know, more efficient this way. Or I can add this step this way. No. Instead, we're looking at the system or asking two questions. How do we make the system better serve our kids? And how do we make the system better serve us? And that last question makes people uncomfortable, because we've been taught all it's all about the kids is all about the kids, we got to we sacrifice for the kids, I get that, right? I mean, it is your way deep that your vision, your mission, your court, everything is about the kids and better serving the kids. But that doesn't mean that it can't also serve you, it can't also serve your teachers, right? If you are going to actually reach 100%, you're not going to reach it by killing your teachers, by working your teachers to death by making your teachers exhausted, you're gonna reach 100% and sustain 100% vision, because people like doing the work. And so you got to think about how do we take this thing that we're doing, and make it better serve kids, but also better service? And trust me, there is a way, but you have to ask the question first. 

So here's your challenge this week

I want you to look at everything left on your to do list, everything that you have, that you still haven't done, you know, you've gotta have a breakfast for your teachers, or you the district is saying you gotta have a staff meeting to talk about some new thingamajiggy that they want you to do this year or new, you got to share the new policy. And you feel like well, okay, so we'll do the staff meeting, we'll share the policy, we'll do it the way we've always done it. I want you instead to say does that have to be that way? Could this be an email? Could this be a rolling staff meeting? Do we have to because you know, when you do the staff meeting, the first, that pre service week, everybody's mad at you, right? Because they want to be in their classrooms? So does it have to be a meeting? Could you explain it in a video, that message that you send to everybody or an audio message that people can listen to while they're commuting? Or while they're in their classrooms? Putting things up in their classrooms? Could you be explaining this new thing to people so that they hear it and get it but they're also they're cutting out all the things they need for the bulletin boards. There's so many other options out there. Get ask yourself first, what's the point? And then can I solve this? Can I can I can I can I do this? Can I achieve this? 

Another way, one that serves the kids and us one that meets the requirements of the district but also meets our own individual needs for being able to get ready for the kids, then I want you to take one thing, and dare to do it differently. One thing that's all I'm saying one thing, dare to do it differently. Because if you do it once, you'll see the freedom and the joy that comes with it, you'll see how easy it becomes how you can take something that was the bane of your existence and turn it into something really valuable and meaningful. And by doing that you upgrade your work. So your work doesn't feel as tedious your work feels more meaningful, your teachers work feels more meaningful. And I trust me you do it once, you're going to start looking at everything differently. So I just want you to try this week. Take something on your to do list something you hate doing that you don't see the point. Ask yourself, what is the point? What problem are we trying to solve? And is there another way and challenge yourself to not add other steps or try to streamline What's there to take that completely off the table and do it completely differently? When a way that serves you and in a way that better serves your kids and you will see that when you begin to for j At the status quo, you can find better ways to serve your teachers better ways to serve your students, better ways to achieve your vision, 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

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