Success Secret #5: Be Intentional


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 218

Hey builders. Before we begin, I have a quick question for you. Are We Connected on social media? The reason I'm asking is because as much as I love giving you the podcast episode every single week, I'd love to take our relationship deeper. So if we're not connected on on social media, let's connect. I'm on LinkedIn at Robin, underscore mind steps. I'm on Twitter at Robin underscore mind step someone's on Facebook and Robin Jackson, please, let's connect so we can keep the conversation going. Now on with the show, you're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 218.

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.

Welcome to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast...

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. And we're going to talk about a success secret that I still struggle with. But I think it's so important, so valuable that we're going to spend an entire episode on it. But before we do that, I want to tell you about something really cool. That's happening I've been I've been teasing it for weeks, I couldn't tell you. But now the cat is out the bag. We are hosting a free summer builder ship bootcamp, this boot camp is going to be an amazing opportunity for you to get some of the most important work done that you need to get done before teachers return to school.

So during the bootcamp, we're going to spend six days together, we're going to start on Sunday, July 30, we're going to go one hour a day plus 30 minutes of coaching and q&a For those of you who might need it, we're going to go on a Sunday, July 30, all the way through Thursday. And then we're going to take a break over the weekend. And we're going to culminate things with a two hour masterclass on Monday, August 7. And during this time, this is not training, this is not sit and get this is actually implementation. That's why we're calling it a boot camp because you need to come ready to work. But every single day, we're going to be knocking something else off of your to do list. Now the focus of this is really about putting systems in place now. So that you can start the year with your entire staff on the right foot and on the same page. And that's just two metaphors, right. But you get my point, you want to start the year with everybody on your staff completely aligned, everybody focused on doing the right work the right way and for the right reasons.

So every single day, we are going to put together and put in place a system that you need so that not only do you start the year on the same page, but you can rely on that system throughout the year. So we're going to build it once. But you'll return to this and rely on the same system over and over again. And the idea is we're going to get work done because I know you're busy. I know this is an awkward time of year, you might be thinking I don't have time for another training. And you're right you don't. That's why the bootcamp is about getting this work done. So during the bootcamp every single day, when you show up live, you're going to get a workbook the workbook will have the templates that you need to put the systems in place. And then during the bootcamp, I'm going to explain how the system works, show you how to use the system. And then together we are going to walk through step by step how to put the system in place so that by the time you're done, you walk away with a complete system that you can install into your school the very next day.

And during that time, you can ask questions, you can get coaching so that you can make sure that you've got it right. 

So when you show up live every single day you get the workbook, we also have some very cool freebies we're giving plus you'll be eligible to win one of our prizes, and we have prizes that are worth more than $350. So we really want to make it worth your while. So if you can commit to showing up for one hour every single day, seven to 8:30pm Eastern time every single day. Then you just shut that's all you have to do you show up. We will help you do the rest. But by the time you're finished, you will have built something that you can actually We use not just once, but throughout the school year, I am so excited about this, this is my back to school gift to you, we've been trying to figure out what we can do and, and how to figure it out. We thought about doing some other trainings. And we thought, you know, we don't need any more training, you've been training all summer, what you need is implementation. And so that's what we are doing. So just wanted to tell you about the bootcamp to register, go to builder ship Builder ship All right. So let's talk about the success secret today. 

And this is something that took me a long time to learn. 

All right. So the success secret is leave nothing to chance. Now, okay, duh, right. But let's talk about what that really means. You see, we're getting ready to go back to school, we're getting ready for our kids. And we're doing a lot of stuff. But we're doing a lot of stuff that needs to be done. But it's not game changing stuff. We are, you know, finishing schedules, we are checking lockers, we are making sure all the classrooms get clean, and that all the supplies have come in, we might be doing some last minute hiring and we might be filling out district paperwork, finishing up our school improvement plans. And not that the work is it's not that that work isn't necessary. That's what it takes to run a school. But because we're so busy doing that, we're not doing the work that really matters. And we end up leaving the most important work to chance. So let's say that your vision for your school is 100% of your kids will be at or above grade level. We declare the vision we you know, we start the school year telling people this is the year we're going to be at or above grade level, we do all of that work. And then we just kind of hope it happens.

You wrote a CIP plan this summer. And like every summer, you complete your CIP plan, you turn it in, you say we're gonna grow in these areas, you might even make a few plans. And then you just kind of sit and wait. And that's why an October, we get the October surprise, where we're like, oh, things aren't going the way we thought they would. And then, you know, in the spring, right before testing, we're scrambling around because all of a sudden, we realize that our kids aren't going to make it. And instead of doing that, this year, I want to challenge you to do things the way the builders do anything you want it to happen in your school, you must deliberately engineer it. So I've been thinking a lot lately about the builders and builders should be University, the ones who have a string of wins, the ones who are really, you know, seeing huge gains. And typically the the builders and builders ship University, see gains anywhere from 10% growth to as much as 25% growth. And we've been kind of keeping track of that and documenting that. And it's incredible. So I've been thinking about that group of builders, and what is what is it that they do differently? How do they get that kind of amazing growth? And they're doing it they did it during the pandemic, they did it in post pandemic years. They're doing it under really tough circumstances. So what is it that they do differently? And what I realized is that the builders who are seeing that kind of growth year over year over year, they're seeing that kind of growth, because they're not leaving that road to chance.

So there's something we do in village University called the one plan of once you create your vision, then we have you sit down and we say, okay, let's just strip everything away, what is the one most important thing you need to do in each of these critical areas in order to achieve your vision, and you're just going to focus on that. And everybody who does that, and sticks to their one plan, they see results. It's really that simple. But but most of us we create these kind of vague plans, and we try to do all the things and or we pick something that that to do that doesn't matter, right? So we say, oh, you know what, I really want all teachers this year to use project based learning. Now, listen, I have no quarrel with project based learning.

But there are a lot of schools who are using project based learning and they have not achieved your vision. 

So It's project based learning really the thing you need to do, or is there something specific inside a project based learning? Or is there some way that you have to design the Project Based Learning program that makes it work? And what we do is we kind of grab strategies, or we use research based strategies, best practices, and we think if I just use this strategy, I'll see results. But when you do that you are leaving your results to chance. If you really want improvement in student work, you need to sit down and do something that we call micro slicing. To figure out what is the one most important thing that we need to do that everybody needs to do that we'll get NTS results. So let me tell you what that looks like. We'll give you a couple of real world examples. One of our builders, she said, You know what the first thing we're going to do, her goal is to her vision is to try to get every student at our above grade level and reading a math, she said, the first thing we're going to do is we're just going to focus on the students, individual learning goals, and we're going to make sure that kids are hitting their learning goals. That's all we're going to do. Another builder said, we're going to do five and five out what are the five most important concepts students need coming in, and if they don't have it, we're meeting we're remediating the five ends. And then we're going to identify what are the five most important concepts students need to have going out of this year. And that's all we're going to focus on, we're going to double down on it, that's going to be on every test, once we teach it, then kids are going to get it over and over and over again. And just doing that she saw a 20% jump in proficiency and passing rate on the state test in one year.

We have another builder, they're just focused on help giving teachers good feedback. She says if the teachers have better feedback, and acted on their feedback, they will individually grow as teachers and they'll improve. She did that she went from the bottom of her district to the top of our district, one builder said, You know what, we're just going to focus on two things, because behavior is a huge issue in our school. So we're just going to focus on helping kids be kind and learn. That's it. That's all the our, our discipline policy goes down to that is it kind are you learning, if you're not, you're out of balance, if you are doing those two things, you're inbounds. And he went from having the highest number of suspensions for his high school in his district to having the lowest number of suspensions in this high school in his district in one year.

Hey, it's Robyn here. Real quick, I just want to interrupt this episode for just a second. Because if you are enjoying what you're hearing, then would you mind sharing this episode with somebody else. So all you need to do is just go to your phone, if you're listening to it on your phone, or your podcast player, and then click the three dots next to this episode. And I'll give you the option to share the episode that if you do that, three things are going to happen first, the person that you shared with is going to think you're a hero, especially if they're struggling with what we're talking about right now. They're gonna love you. Secondly, you're gonna feel good, because you're going to get the word out about builder ship, and start building this builder, ship nation. And third, you will get my eternal gratitude because I really want to get this out to the world. And you'd be helping me out, you'd be doing me a huge favor. So please share this episode with someone right now who's who's dealing with this same issue, someone you think would really benefit. And now back to the show.

So over and over and over again, the people who focus and then just deliberately engineer their success. 

That's how they achieve it. Let's talk about something that doesn't have to do with student achievement or discipline. Let's just talk about things like your culture, people. Right now. I am in a lot of principle groups. And all I'm seeing right now, what's it? Can anyone give us a cute picture of your welcome back basket? Anyone have any great ideas for an inspirational video, I can show my teachers on the first day. I'm thinking about giving teachers school branded umbrellas, does anybody have a good vendor, and everybody's looking for the swag, you are spending so much time on swag. And it doesn't matter? It doesn't matter? Yes. It's a nice to have if you do it. Nobody's mad at you. But that is not what creates a healthy school culture. You know, what creates a healthy school culture, being very intentional about putting in and installing some new cultural habits that you want everybody to do, putting in visual cues about these new habits, putting systems in place to make sure you're monitoring those habits. That's what changes culture.

But instead, we're spending all of our time looking for a great omelet bar to bring in the first day of school. No, look, I love an omelet bar just as much as the next person. But omelet bars don't change culture habits do. So if you really want people to be excited and invigorated. Why not, you know, given the omelet bar, I'm not telling you to rob them of the omelet bar, give it to them. But what else are you doing that first week to create new cultural habits that are you can rely on for the rest of the year. And we we say we complain that teachers don't take ownership. What are you doing to deliberately foster ownership amongst your teachers? You know, what we normally do is on one hand we say I want to just take ownership and then the other on the other hand, we tell teachers what to do down to the minute in terms of what they're doing in their class. classrooms, How can teachers take ownership when we are running their classrooms from afar. So, again, if we want to create a different culture, if we want to create more accountability, we have to be deliberate about engineering it. And this is something I struggle with myself, you know, I want some things, you know, our vision of mine steps is to help every principal, achieve their vision for their schools, their 100% vision for their schools in three years or less. And we're not there yet. But that's our vision. And yet, there are times when I leave it to chance.

And I want principals to have an amazing experience in and build a ship University, I want it to be different than anything they've ever experienced before I want them to feel supported. I want them to feel valued. But if I am not every step of the way, thinking through their entire journey through the program, and putting things in place to make sure that throughout that journey they have they have the wins, the right wins, they have the amazing experience, they get the support they need, then I'm leaving it to chance. So want to ask you, what are you leaving to chance this year? You You Have you sat down and thought about the ideal student journey in your school Probably not right, this is not what we're trying to do as leaders. But as builders, that's exactly what you want to think about. From the day that students walk into your building. What is the I deal experience? Do you want that your kids to feel loved, then you can't rely on teachers to just love on your kids? Everybody has a different definition of what that means? If you really want your kids to feel loved. What does that look like? And how are you deliberately engineering their experience in your school so that they feel loved in the way that you define feeling loved? Do you want your kids to be successful readers? Well, you can't just rely on the curriculum and hope that teachers teach the curriculum, what are you doing as a school to deliberately engineer and experience where kids not only learn to read but learn to love reading? You, you want your kids to take ownership over their own behavior? What are you doing?

You know, I remember I was the assistant principal of a middle school and the sixth grade team really struggled with kids. 

executive functioning skills. So you know, like taking notes go keeping track of their papers, taking more ownership over getting their homework completed. So they're not relying on mom and dad to go through their folder every day, writing down assignments and turning in assignments, you know, sixth grade stuff. And they lamented, and they foster kids, and they, you know, did all these things, and it wasn't working. And finally, one teacher said, We've got to deliberately engineer it. So what does an organized sixth grader look like? They write in their planner, so write all their assignments down to their planners. They keep organized notebooks for each subject, because remember, sixth graders are going for, you know, all these different teachers after having been in one classroom and fifth grade. And so getting organized.

So she sat down, and she deliberately engineered what that experience was going to be for sixth graders. So the as a team, they decided the last five minutes of class, everybody takes out their planners. Everybody writes down their assignment, the teacher walks through the aisles and checks to make sure that they've got all of the assignment. The teacher has a specific format for how she writes the assignment on the board every day. And every teacher in every classroom did the same thing. Then they sat down and I said, What does an organized notebook look like? And they sat down and taught kids how to organize a notebook. They taught kids how to take notes in class, and the difference between how to take notes and math versus how to take notes and social studies. And they went through in their in their advisory periods. They spent some time every single week cleaning out notebooks and cleaning out backpacks and organizing notebooks. And it felt like overkill at first. But they said if we want every kid to be successful, and these are the soft skills that we believe every kid needs to be successful. And we need to deliberately engineer we need to be intentional about it. So at the beginning of the year, they did it everybody grown, it was tough. 

But then starting October or November, the kids got the habit and they took on the habit. Guess what else happened throughout the year the kids were learning and doing and getting better and better at it. They were supporting the kids who were struggling so that by the time kids left sixth grade, all the kids were writing down their assignments. All the kids were keeping organized notebooks. But here's what else seventh grade kids kept up the habit. Eighth grade kids kept up the habit we are from the high school kids continued the habit. So we said it's important as a part of middle school to teach kids how to take ownership over their own learning and to keep organized And then we deliberately engineered the middle school experience to foster those habits. And those kids got those habits and kept them throughout their high school experience, kids will come back to us as adults and say, You know what, I did it in college, that what we learned in sixth grade stuck with me for the rest of my life.

So what's the ideal student experience that you want your kids to have this year? 

Have you sat down? Have you thought about that? Have you discussed it with your teachers? And then have you put things in place to deliberately engineered that experience for students? And then think about your teachers, your teachers are coming back. Some of you have teachers coming back this week, some of you have been coming back in the next couple of weeks. What is the ideal teacher experience that you want your teachers to have? Not just during pre service week, but for the entire school year? Have you thought that through? And it's more than just, you know, pancakes, and a fancy breakfast on the first day, it's more than just another school branded water bottle? It's more than just watching an inspirational video, those are events. What you want to what I want to ask you is what is the experience look like? How do you want your teachers to feel? What do you want your teachers to think? Where do you want them to focus? And then to deliberately engineer the overall experience, think about the entire week, but not just the first week, not just pre service week?

Think about the entire first month of school? What kind of experience could you give teachers that actually helps teachers sets teachers up to achieve the vision that you have for your school? What does that experience look like? How do you know how to use we always think about what we want teachers to do, we want teachers to, you know, turn in their grades on time, post their grades online so that families can see it, create a positive classroom learning environment, have an objective, every single day, plan a certain way, collaborate a certain way. We're always thinking about what we want teachers to do. And then we tell them do this, do that do the other. But how often are we actually deliberately engineering, an experience where those behaviors become natural, they become habitual, they become just the way we do things around here.

That's what you want to be thinking about right now. And again, I'm not mad at your swag. But if you're first, if you're returned to school, it's just about swag and inspirational videos. And then, you know, all the things that you got to tell them about the district and the boring meetings and, you know, scrambling to give them 15 more minutes in their classrooms. And by the time people finish pre service week, they're exhausted instead of excited. What's the point you're wasting everybody's time. And you're gonna have the same year you always have because you've done the same stuff you always do. You want this year to be different. You've got to be intentional about making this year different. So that's my challenge to you. What is it that you want teachers to experience? Who is it that you want your teachers to become? What is the vision and and what will it take for your teachers to be able to achieve that vision? What experience sets your teachers up for success? And then be intentional to deliberately engineer every aspect of that experience, so that your teachers have the best chance at being successful and you can achieve your your vision as a as a coal community as a school, 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, the new need to join Buildership University. Just go to and get started writing your school success story today.

Hey, real quick before you go, if you enjoyed today's episode and you know someone who would really benefit from what you heard here today, maybe they're struggling with a thing that we talked about in today's episode, would you take a moment and share this episode with them? 

You see, not only will it help us get the word about builder ship out to more people, but you're going to look like a rockstar because you're going to give people something they can really use to help them get unstuck and be better at building their schools. Plus, it would mean the world to me. Thanks so much, and I'll see you next time.

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