Success Secret #8: Don’t leave success up to chance


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 221

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 221. 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're going to continue our summer of Success Series. Now, I would thought I was done at success. Secret number seven and sevens are great numbers, you know, round things out, I thought it was done. But I've been spending a lot of time. We just finished the builder ship bootcamp a couple of weeks ago. And I'm onboarding all of our new members of builders ship University. And I realized there's one more secret that I cannot let go by because it's really critical. You see builders, don't leave success to chance. It is I think one of the biggest differences between builders and everybody else. Everybody else at the beginning of the year, they do all this stuff. And then they hope that they're going to be successful. And by the time they realize that they haven't achieved the level of success that they want, it's already too late. What builders do is they don't just hope, you know, we we don't just kind of leave success up to chance.

Once we've identified what success looks like for us, we are intentional about deliberately engineering that success. And I think a lot of people could achieve a lot more from one year to the next. If instead of just hoping that they were successful, they were intentional. Now some people are saying right now, but Robin, I am intentional, are you because when I'm talking about intentionality, I'm talking about deliberately doing things that will get you to success. A lot of times we say we want to achieve success, we guess about what it will take for us to do that. We kind of sort of do the things that we think it'll take to achieve success. And then we cross our fingers and hope that it works. builders do things differently builders are they don't just kind of pick a whole bunch of things that they think might get them there. Builders are intentional. We work in 90 day cycles, we identify this as the success we want. Then the next thing we do is we say what's the number one thing keeping us from that success right now. So a lot of people don't do that. A lot of people say, Well, this is the success that I want. And then they say, what's the number one thing I can do in order to achieve that success? And then they add something else. So their plate builders are not thinking that way builders are saying what can I take off our plates? What can I get out of the way? So builders say this is the success that I want? What is the number one thing right now that's keeping us from success. And then they spent 90 days getting that thing out the way removing that barrier. And here's what happens when they do that a couple of things happen. First of all, when you work on removing a barrier and solving a problem, once that barrier is removed, once that problem is solved, you never have to deal with it again. So now you have more time and energy to focus on success. Secondly, it's a lot easier to remove a barrier than it is to add something new. You see if there's something keeping you from success and you just let it sit there and you keep adding new stuff. You work really hard but you never ever have removed the barrier. So you still have a success bottleneck you still have something in the way blocking your success. So the way to remove a blockage is not by just throwing something else at it.

The way to remove a blockage is slow down. 

You Get the blockage out the way. And then all the work that you are already doing becomes so much more effective because you've removed the barrier. So a lot of people do is they say, Oh, we want to achieve success. So we need to do these things. Builders are a lot more strategic. They say, You know what we want to achieve success. So let's figure out why we're not achieving success. Let's figure out how do we make it so likely that we achieve success. And then you watch it, it's 90 days, you remove the obstacle, you see what works. And over that 90 days, you learn so much. And then you take what you learned in the first 90 days, and you do the second 90 day cycle, and then the third 90 day cycle, and then the next 90 day cycle, and you keep doing that. And every time you create more success, most people do not bother to understand why they are not successful, they get a quick fix, they jumped to a conclusion, they spent a lot of time and energy working on an untested idea. And they don't ever learn from it. And so that the end of the year, they look up and they're not successful. And then they wonder why builders were not leaving success up to chance we can't afford to. So what we do as builders, is we make sure that we are very, very intentional. The other thing that builders do is we define what success looks like. So we don't just have successes, some, you know, kind of vague thing out there. What does that look like? And we think very carefully about how we can get there. We also ask ourselves a question that leaders and bosses don't ask themselves. You see, once we say we want success, then the next question we ask is, what does our school have to look like in order for success to be possible? I'll use a personal example. You see, when I was a teacher, I wanted to make sure that all of my kids, or achieving that all of my kids were mastering the content. And so I taught, I love a lot of great English, and I taught ap 11th Grade English and I was most concerned about my students in on level 11th Grade English, especially because an 11th Grade English student has had to write the research paper.

Now those of you who've known me for a while you've heard my story about how we re imagined the research paper so that all kids can be successful. But here is the point. We had to redo the research paper, we couldn't just say, well, I want all kids to pass the research paper and make sure they get a research paper done. So you know, let's do more of what we're already doing and hope that it makes a difference. That doesn't work. We started asking ourselves the question, what's keeping our 100% of our kids from completing the research paper. And we realized there were a couple of things at play number one, they were intimidated by a 10 page research paper. Now other people recognize that as well. And so what they did is they cut the paper down to five pages. Well, they weren't getting any more kids completing the five page paper, then there were the 10 page paper because five is still big, especially if most students had never done anything more than a two page paper. What we did is we instead of dumbing down the paper and trimming the pages off and thinking that was going to fix it? Well, we did, as we said, they're intimidated by a 10 page paper, but they're going to be intimidated when they reach that when they reach college. And they have to write a 10 page paper for freshman cop.

So you know, trimming down the paper is not going to help them. It's not it's just kicking the can down the road and it doesn't have any more results. What it's so intimidating about a 10 page paper. And for them, it's something they've never done before and it feels massive, they work hard enough to do a two page paper, how are they going to do a 10 page paper. So what we did is we said we have to re characterize this 10 page paper, and we need to break it down. So what we did is we said you're not going to write a 10 page paper, we are going to write five, two page papers. That's what we did. We broke the research paper down into two page sections, they wrote it two pages at a time, and they turned it in. So all along the way, you're building their success, they already have skin in the game, they do the first two pages, it's harder to check out. Because you've done it, you've gotten success, you've achieved something and then you do the next two pages and the next. And I don't give them back. I just keep the two pages as they're turning them in. I'm giving them some feedback, but I don't want to mess them up by helping them you know, like, Oh, I didn't do well. So I'm gonna give up. I just kept the pages. And then when they turned in the fifth 10 page paper, then I handed them back, I made the fifth two page paper. Then I handed all five pages back at once. And we spent one lesson writing transition paragraphs. And at the end of that lesson has said Congratulations, you just wrote a 10 page paper.

And I still get goosebumps when I think about they're all in amazement that they had done something they'd never thought they could do before. 

And after that. I could ask them for anything for the rest of the year because they'd done something they That was impossible. And they saw how easy it was. So instead of dumbing it down and doing all the other things that other people were doing, our department decided to take that 10 page paper and break it down and make it doable for the kids. And they all of the kids did it. All of the kids didn't we didn't have, you know, we didn't have kids who weren't turning in the research paper, they were just sticking around and passing because they realize that they could write, that's the difference between being a be a leader and being a builder, a leader has a goal. And then if they don't hit the goal, they either dumb down the goal, or they throw everything at the goal to try to make the goal work, without really understanding why the goal doesn't work.

And as a result, they're always hoping and guessing and trying, what builders do is we have a goal to, but instead of dumbing it down or throwing everything at it, we take the time to understand what has kept us from that goal in the past. And then once you understand that, you can re engineer how you do things to make success, likely, you don't leave it up to chance. And so I want to challenge you today, to think about a goal that you have for the school year, maybe you want to increase reading scores. And in the past, you've said all we want to increase reading scores. So let's give kids more time to read. And let's find the perfect sexy reading curriculum that we can use. And let's let's get the teachers training on how to teach reading and, and you do all of that at the same time. And then people get burned out people don't stick to the curriculum with fidelity people, you know, complain about all the training they're going through, and that they don't have time to implement it. People feel overwhelmed, and and then it feels like reading is impossible.

And so all those things get in the way of your goal for increasing reading proficiency. Instead, what you should do is sit down and say, All right, why is our squat? Why are our scores where they are right now? what's at the heart of it? And you might find it something simple. Maybe it's that you're not spending enough time on reading. Maybe it's that you're not pre assessing students, and then targeting your instruction to what students need. Maybe it's that there's some there's something that students are coming to you without some knowledge that they're missing, that if you just taught that knowledge, then they would be able to do it. I don't know. But neither do you. And if you don't know what's causing you from what's keeping you from achieving reading, how can you address it? And how can you remove that obstacle so that you can get there? Our builders have remarkable results. I'm talking about huge jumps, you know, we're talking, you know, the we had a builder recently who reported that she went from 50 something percent proficient in reading and math to 70 something percent percent proficient in reading and math in one year. We have other builders who go from, you know, in the teens to in the 60s and 70 percents in one year. And the reason they're able to do that is because they don't leave success, up to chance.

Hey, it's Robin 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 going to love you. Secondly, you're going to 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. You can accidentally stumble upon a 3% or a 5% gain this year. You could also just as easily, but you know working hard lose ground with your students. And that is so demoralizing and so frustrating. And I want you to know that there's another way. If you do things the builders way, then you don't have to worry will we be successful, you are going to make sure that you're successful.

I'll give you another example. We wanted all of our students and this is when I was an administrator we wanted all of our sixth grade students to you know take on more ownership over their own learning and And normally we lecture sixth graders and we say, you know, you all have to You're in your middle school. Now you have to take more ownership over your own learning, and we scold them when they don't. And, you know, maybe we do a study skills night where we show them some study skills. But then it's left up to each individual kid, and some kids thrive, and some kids really struggle. Well, we decided to do as we said, what do we need to do, so that every child is successful, every child is completing their homework, without prompting, every child is staying on top of their study skills, what do we need to do, and our sixth grade team decided?

Well, let's go take a look at why kids are not doing that. And what we realized is that a lot of kids didn't have the simple skill of just keeping their notebooks organized and writing down their assignments every day. That was the root cause. We found that the kids who did that didn't have issues the kids who didn't did. So instead of just leaving success, up to chance, we spent time at the beginning of the year, helping them organize their notebooks, teaching an organizational system that every child had to use. We also carved out the last few minutes of every class period for students to write down their assignment, and then someone came by and checked. And then we were very, very, very strict on the notebook work so that students could keep up. And here's what we learned. By doing that we had more students turning in their homework, we had very few students who were struggling because they were missing assignments, students began to take more ownership over the work, the system that we taught, our students were going into high school using that system. And so we were hearing from the high school that, you know, our students were so organized, and our students were so diligent about their work, because they were using that same system. I'll give you another example.

We were in the seventh grade concerned about students. 

Studying that seventh grade is a hard year for a lot of students, because that's the, you know, sixth grade is a transition year. But seventh grade is when they really are being there's some higher expectations around academics. At least that was the case of my district. And we were concerned about students making that transition rather than crossing our fingers and hoping that our students would make a good transition from sixth grade to seventh grade, we were intentional about teaching specific study skills, to the point that every time a teacher gave a test, the teacher's last question was, what strategy did you use to study for this test? And how much time did you spend studying and that helped the students put that down. And so if the students didn't get a score on their test that they wanted, the first thing we would do is have a student look at the strategy and the amount of time and we'd figure out, do you need a different strategy for studying next time? Or do you need to spend more time studying, and then students would be able to track their own data to see their own growth and see the value of studying see the value of spending time study, see the value of one strategy over the other and develop their own sense of how they would study. Not only that, but we would intentionally teach. When we have a test coming up, we would stop and we would say, Okay, this test is going to be a multiple choice test. Here are some of the best strategies for studying for multiple choice versus this is an essay test, you need a different set of strategies. So we were intentional about teaching students study strategies, and helping students make decisions about that. As a result, our students learned how to study, we started seeing increases and test scores, we started seeing increases in in and students comprehension from one test to the next, I'll give you another example.

A school I worked with decided that we need to not leave success on our math. This is the high school a success in our math department up to chance. So the entire math department sat down, and they aligned from every single course that they taught in that high school, they aligned the courses so that they could ensure that the students were getting the the prerequisite skills that they needed to go to the next level. And before teachers were kind of guessing about what skills were important. And when we sat down and have that conversation together as a math department, we realized that the teachers in say algebra one, were emphasizing a certain set of skills, but the teachers in geometry, which was the next course needed students to have a different set of skills.

So the first step is we got the get alignment across apart departments together. Then we became intentional. Okay, so we did something called Five and five out, you've heard me talk about that before and we looked at the five most important skills students needed coming into the class. And the five most important skill students we guaranteed all students will have going out the class. So then this math department decided in order to make sure that students are successful. The only thing we're going to remediate are the five ends. So if students didn't have those Five prerequisite skills, we would remediate those, we'd work hard to make sure that students got them. And then, as students learned those five outs, they showed up on every test, once a student learned one of the most critical skills, that skill was tested every single time so that we get track, we could reinforce, we could make sure that students had what they needed. And as a result, we that school went from a 60% passing rate for math to an 82% passing rate in one semester. And they kept going until they got 100% passing rate. And that's because they didn't leave success up to chance. They tried to understand what is it? What is the thing, the one thing that is keeping our students from being successful? And then how do we deliberately engineer that success? So that failure is not likely, I did it in my own class, when it came to student failures.

We had what I call a student success plan. And it's something that I've been teaching for the last, I don't know, 15 years now. And it works every single time. If you make a decision, I don't want students to fail, then you have to say, Okay, I can't wait for kids to start failing, and then try to jump in and rescue them. It's too late, then I have to be proactive about supporting students. So what I did and what I teach other people to do is I set up red flag systems. What are the red flags that let me know the first at the first sign of struggle that a student is struggling, and I set up a couple of red flags. And then rather than my monitoring those because that depends on me being able to pay attention. I made those red flags unavoidable and and hard to ignore. I set them up so they were automatically triggered. I'll give you an example.

One of the things I did was that an electronic Gradebook, and we had to take attendance in that gradebook as well.

 And so I programmed the electronic gradebook to turn students names red, if they were getting anything below an 80%. At any point in my class, every single time I sat down to grade tests, I had two piles of test students at 80% or above, and students who were who were below 80%, the students who were below 80%, were in one stack. And those students when I pass those tests back, they had to it was a mandatory retake. We didn't argue it wasn't. It wasn't a discussion, maybe you should come in and no mandatory retake. Because this shows me you haven't mastered the content yet. But some people might be thinking Robin 80% is too high. But I wanted my students to master I didn't want them to pass, I wanted them to master the concepts. And in my book, if you got anything below 80%, you had mastered it yet. So we needed to rework and reassess. Now, if you do all of that, are students more likely to be successful? Well, the answer is yes. Because I got to the point where I didn't have any kids failing my class, no failures, and they will legitimately earned. We worked with kids, we made sure that they didn't fail. And we, and we did things to make success in evitable. That is one of the hugest differences between being a boss or a leader and being a builder, you have to deliberately engineer success, stop leaving success, up to chance. And be intentional. Be intentional.

Think about what it is you want to happen this year and your school. What success are you trying to get? And then step one, before you do anything, you need to dig deep and understand why you're not successful. And you know, you've achieved that why you found that why when you can say, if we did this one thing, but everything else stayed exactly the same. This could turn this from not successful to successful that's when you know you've gotten number two, after you figured out, okay, this is why we're not successful. You spend 90 days focused on removing that barrier. If the barrier is kids are not studying, you got to get kids studying, you got to teach them how to study it. The barrier is that you don't know until too late that a kid is failing, so you don't have time to intervene, then you got to figure out early warning signals so you can catch kids early.

If the barrier is that there is a misalignment between one class and the next. And so students are coming in without the requisite skills, you need to get classes align and make sure that you are intentional about giving students the requisite skills they need to be successful in the class. What ever that barrier is, you need to understand it. And then you need to spend 90 days focused on removing that barrier. And then here's what's going to happen. First of all, you're going to see more success. But second of all, once that barrier is removed, you're going to see what the next barrier is. There's going to be something else that you didn't even have time to pay attention to. Because you didn't you weren't focused on Got it, and it will start to emerge during the night, the first 90 days, that's fine. That's your second 90 days, then you remove that barrier. And every single time you remove a barrier, you increase, you increase success. So stop leaving success, up to chance. If you are intentional, you can make success for every kid in evitable. Especially when you approach your work 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 were 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 bill to ship University. Just go to build a ship and get started writing your school success story today. Hey, this is Robin and thanks for listening to the show.

Now if you really enjoyed the content, would you do me a favor and share it with somebody else all you need to do is pull out your phone click on the little three dots next to the show and you'll see an option there to share the show. Click that and send it to somebody else who could read The benefit from what you learned here today, not only are you going to look like a rock star, but you're going to be helping out somebody else who really could use this information plus, I will be so grateful. So just go ahead right now click on those three dots and share the show.

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