How to Build True Staff Alignment Part 1


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 243

Hey, before we begin today's episode, I want to tell you about a big announcement I made this week, we are hosting a free challenge called the staff alignment challenge. During this challenge, we're going to take you through five days and every single day, you're going to build another piece of the entire puzzle to get your staff aligned around something very specific that you want to accomplish this school year. So this is not just for people who are facing pushback or foot dragging or complaints. This is for people to who have staffs who may be satisfied with the status quo or staffs who may be cooperative, but everything falls on you.

During this five day challenge. Every single day, we'll get together you're gonna get free training, there'll be a workbook, but the workbook is designed to help you build a piece of the entire staff alignment system, so that at the end of five days, you have everything in place, you need to get your staff on the same page, doing the right work the right way and for the right reasons, so that you can accomplish something that you want to accomplish this school year. To sign up for the staff alignment challenge, go to build leadership That builder ship Now on with the show, you're listening to the school leadership reimagined Podcast, episode 243. 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 a conversation we started last time where we talked about how to unbudle neck yourself from your school. We talked about that in order to have true staff alignment where you're not the bottleneck. Instead, everybody is focused on doing the right work the right way. for the right reasons, you needed four things, the first thing you needed was ownership, your staff had to feel a sense of ownership over the work. Next, they needed to feel empowered to do the work. Third, they needed to be in alignment with the goals of the work. And then fourth, your staff needed to have a sense of engagement in the work so that the work could continue until completion. And I promised you on last episode, which if you haven't heard it's episode 242. But I promised you last time that would go into detail about how to achieve those four things, how to achieve ownership and empowerment, and alignment and engagement. And this week, I'm going to break down exactly how you do it. Now I'm going to try to do it in one episode. But if it gets too long, we'll break it up over the next two episodes, so that you will have the roadmap to what true alignment looks like. And I want you to stick around to the end of this episode, because I have a really cool tool that we just launched last week, and I think you'd really like it and it can really help you. Okay, so let's dive into today's episode. So let's start with ownership. I hear all the time, people are saying they want kids to take more ownership over their work. But they also want the adults in the building to take more ownership over their work. And I said last time that if you treat people like renters, you can't expect them to act like owners. So how do you create true ownership? Now there's a lot of conversation around ownership. And people say, Well, you've got to give them this, you've got to give them that the moment you give something to somebody, the very idea of giving something to somebody indicates or implies that you own it, and you're giving it to them. And that doesn't foster ownership. 

So a lot of times what we think is giving people ownership is really just giving people more work. It's not true ownership. Your ownership gets to say I decide what work I need to be doing. I decide how that work gets accomplished. I if I own something, I get to make decisions, I have the freedom to make decisions about that. And that makes a lot of principals nervous because if people truly get to decide what to do, then how can you make sure that everybody's in alignment? What if somebody decides to do something thing that is that is not aligned with what you're trying to do as a school, how then can you truly have everybody deciding for themselves and still be able to move your school in the direction that your school needs to go in? And so it's a real dilemma. And it's something that I struggled with a long time, especially as I was mentoring and coaching principals, because I didn't have a good answer, I would always say you needed to create ownership. But I didn't have a really good answer for a long time about how you create that ownership without everybody going rogue, you know, how do we create people who truly feel like they own the work? And how do we treat them like owners, if that might mean that they might choose to do something different than what we've done what we need, we feel that the school needs to have. And so I struggled this for this for a long time until I came across builder ship, because when you are a builder, you don't have to worry about people taking ownership. In fact, you need people to take ownership in order to build something bigger than what you can build by yourself. That's, that's the power of being a builder. And so you're not worried about people going wrong, because you put some things in place. Of course, you all know what I'm gonna say next, right, the first thing you have to put in place is a strong vision, mission and core values. Once those are in place, those create the foundation to the work. But the next part is equally as important. Once you have the vision, mission and core values in place, the way that you can ensure that people take ownership and make good decisions without feeling that they're going to go rogue and make decisions that run counter to what what your school needs at a particular time is something that you might not consider, as, as powerful as it is. And that's feedback. You see the way that we've been taught to give people feedback, it's, it's become a chore, right? We give people feedback, so we can help them improve their teaching. But the entire feedback process does not create ownership. 

In fact, it robs people of ownership over their own practice. 

Think about how we were trained to do feedback, we were trained to take a rubric that we barely understand. Go into a classroom, either by invitation, or just when walk in at a random time. With a checklist, we decide whether or not that classroom passes muster, we decide whether or not that classroom meets the requirements of our rubric, the rubric that we hardly understand ourselves. And then we have the post observation conference. And I cannot think of anything that is more. That leaves people feeling less like they have ownership over their practice than the way that we were trained to do post observation conferences, because the principal or the observer has all the power. And so a teacher comes into a post observation conference, and they're just waiting for the hammer to swing. How can I feel like I owe my practice when the determination of whether the what I did in that classroom that day? Was any good? Rest completely outside of me? And then they asked that first question. So how do you think that the lesson went today? And it's always a setup question. All right, there's no good way to answer that question. If I talk about how I think the lesson went, honestly, then the evaluators gonna share their opinion anyway. And so then they're gonna say, Oh, you thought that was good? Well, let me show you what the rubric says the rubric says it wasn't good. And then that's what gets us kind of mired in these conversations where we say, What do I do about a teacher who's, who thinks they're doing a good job, and they're not doing a good job? Well, I mean, the way that we've been taught to handle that is we tell them that they, you know, they think they're doing a good job, we tell them through the rubric, they're not doing a good job. And who wins we do because we have the power because they don't own. They don't have real ownership over the practice. Then after that post observation conference, we write it up, it goes into their file, and that file gives them a designation about what kind of teacher they are. Often that's tied to compensation and opportunities. How can I feel like I'm a true owner of my own practice? How can I be truly accountable for what happens in my classroom, when everything that happens in my classroom is determined by the district and judge by the district? Well, I can hear I hear somebody out there right now saying, But Robyn, what's the alternative? I mean, people need feedback. Of course, they need feedback. 

But we don't have to give feedback in a way that that removes all the ownership from the teacher. We can give teachers feedback in a way that leaves the ownership firmly with them the responsibility firmly with them. And so the way that builders give feedback is first of all, we create an environment a culture where we're always in and out of classrooms where people are not surprised to see us where the classroom is a place where the teacher is doing work. And when I walk into the classroom, teachers aren't nervous about what I'm going to say they they're excited, they're welcoming to me, because we are having an ongoing conversation in a partnership about how they can become master teachers. So instead of seeing me as a threat, they see me as a resource, okay. And that same thing is true for you, as a builder, you have to create a culture where when you walk into the classroom, people don't say, Okay, now this person is going to come in and tell me what my classroom should be and how my classroom should look. Instead, this is a person who's coming in as a part of an ongoing conversation about how I can be a better teacher. And so it doesn't feel like I am doing something to them, it feels like I'm doing something with them, because they are firmly owners of their own practice. The second thing that builders do is that the feedback conversation looks very different. Now, I know that we are all it required or expected to use a particular rubric. But builders interrogate that rubric, they firmly understand what that rubric is saying. And then before they ever go into the classroom, they're having conversations with teachers about what the rubric is, so that we have a common and shared understanding. It's not me going in and saying, Here's what the rubric says, and here's what you need to do. And here are the hoops you need to jump through. Instead, it's about us coming together taking a look at that instrument and asking how does that instrument inform instruction in our building? What does this look like? What does it mean for me as a PE teacher, versus what does this mean, for me, as a math teacher versus what does this mean, for me, as a social studies teacher, we're asking those questions of the rubric. 

That's why we call it interrogating the rubric. And we are coming to a shared understanding of what that rubric means before I ever come in the classroom. And then when I come in the classroom, I'm not looking to see how well your practice aligns to the rubric, I'm looking to see the impact of your practice on kids, the kids that we all say we want to serve the kids that we have all committed to serving through our vision, mission and core values. And so afterwards, I'm giving you feedback, not because I am the authority, and the arbiter of what should and should not be happening in the classroom. But because I'm your partner, and I can see things that you can't, because you're busy teaching. And so I come in, and I talk about the root cause. And I share with you what I've observed during your practice, to help you see that root cause. And that's guided by different conversations based on where a teacher is and what a teacher needs to do most in order for them to grow. And the conversations are not about my coming in and passing judgment on the classroom. The conversations are really about what can I do to support this teacher in their journey to become a master teacher? What's the next best thing? And the way that I gauge that is not again, you know, looking at a rubric, the way that I gauge that is the impact that that teacher is having on the classroom? Does that teacher does do the behaviors and the choices that that teacher is made for that lesson? How do those those behaviors and choices aligned with the vision, the mission, the core values that we've all agreed upon, and I give the teacher that feedback. Now, I'm not going to tell the teacher you should be doing this or you should be doing that, I'm going to say, here's what's holding you back from achieving our vision, making sure that your work is on mission, making sure that you are in align with the core values, and we have a conversation about it. And then I follow that up that conversation up by offering the supports and resources the teacher needs. And we talk about those and then the teacher has the decision, the teacher makes a choice. 

So let me give you an example of what I mean how that's different from the way that we were trained. 

The way that we were trained is more like we go through the rubric and we give teachers a laundry list of things to fix. What builders do is they they spend time sifting through that laundry list and looking for the root cause and sometimes they're doing that with the teacher. And sometimes they're doing that for the teacher, but they're looking at the all the things that are in that classroom, and the ultimate goals for that that teacher has. And they're saying, This is what I think may be holding you back. The teacher then takes that information and that teacher has a choice. So rather than saying, Okay, you need to do you need to include more manipulatives in your in your in your lesson. Instead, you're saying that your students were struggling in the lesson, because they were having a hard time conceptualizing it. So one of the things that is holding you back from being entirely successful in the classroom and achieving the vision, mission and core values of our school is that when students are really struggling to grasp the concept they need, they may need more concrete things to be able to do that. That could be manipulative. It could be other visual models, it could be something else. And then you leave it to the teacher to figure it out. Because if you go in and tell the teacher to use manipulatives, and then the teacher does what you say, and the lesson is still awful. It's your fault, because you didn't help the teacher understand why you were telling them to use manipulatives. As a builder, you go when you talk about the why this is what kids need. 

Now, here are various options for doing that. And the teacher gets to choose what works best for their teaching style for their classroom for the resources they have available. I don't care as long as at the end of the day, students are able to to grasp those concepts, and be able to demonstrate that they know those concepts, then I don't really care. And so the ownership stays with the teacher, I give the teacher feedback. But the teacher has the choice about how they respond to that feedback. We've already agreed this is the vision, this is the mission, these are the core values. So I don't have to worry about policing the teacher, I don't have to worry about the teacher ignoring my feedback and doing something completely differently. Because the teacher has already committed to the vision, mission and core values. So they are they win, if they ignore the feedback, and they don't do anything about the class and the class stays the same. We're not having calm conversation around, you didn't take my feedback, we're having a conversation around, we if you made a commitment to this vision, these miss this mission, these core values. And right now, your practice is outside of that. So we need to have a conversation that goes back to do you still believe in the vision, mission and core values? Do you believe it? Can you see how your practice is outside of that? So then what can we do to get your practice back in alignment, and then one of two things will happen. Either the teacher will say I no longer believe in the vision mission and core values, I'm going to go somewhere else. Or the teacher will say, I believe in the vision mission of core values, but I don't see how my practice is out of alignment with that. 

Either way, the power and the power is equally distributed, the choice stays with the teacher. 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 turn your phone on 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 gonna feel good, because you're gonna 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 if the teacher doesn't see how their practices in or out of alignment, that I gotta get better at my feedback. So we go back, we do other things to help them see that once they recognize that their practices in that their practice is out of alignment with the vision, mission and core values, then they have a choice again, do I choose to get my practice back in alignment? Or do I choose to no longer believe in the vision mission and core values? 

Do you see the difference? 

I'm not chasing checking and correcting people, I'm not ringing people, you know, into to submission. With my feedback, I don't have to convince a teacher that they are ineffective, I don't have to make sure that I use the hammer of my rubric to make teachers do something I want them to do. The choice always stays with the teacher. I'm simply giving them information. And that creates true ownership. But it creates ownership that I can trust. It helps people be responsible owners, it helps people use my feedback in a way that moves us towards our vision, mission and core values. And then, if I'm giving people the right kind of feedback, not only do they have a sense of ownership, but they make the choice to get their behaviors in alignment with something bigger our vision, mission and core values the purpose of our school, and they do that without me having to push and cajole and force. And that's powerful. Okay, so we've talked about creating ownership. The corollary to that is that we also need to build empowerment, like even if I own my practice, and I know I have choices around what I do and I can recognize that my practice is not in alignment with where we are trying to go as a school, I may not know how to fix it. And that's why we need to empower teachers to act on our feedback. 

The way that we retrained, it's often so disempowering that, even if the teacher accepts our feedback, it's often hard to act on it. Look at the typical scenario, a teacher sits down with a rubric that they barely understand, and we barely understand. And I give them feedback. And usually that feedback is littered with all kinds of educational jargon. And you know, we hide behind that makes us feel like we're, you know, we're doing our jobs by using that jargon, to give them feedback to justify our feedback. And at the end of the day, we say so we need to fix it. And then we might offer the teacher support, you know, maybe I'll plan with you, and I'll show you how, or maybe you need to go observe Mrs. So and so are here are some resources that you can use. But the teacher may still not know how to take what they see and Mrs. So and so's class or what you show them or take those resources and turn them into something that really improves their practice. A lot of times when we quote unquote, help teachers, we are just teaching teachers to perform what we are showing them good teaching looks like, rather than teaching teachers how to think, like master teachers, which means that the next time they're faced with a teaching choice, they don't know how to make a good decision on their own. Instead, they just go to the stuff that they were told whether or not it's appropriate, because we've never empowered them. If you really want truly empowered teachers, it's not about just giving them a resource or modeling something for him or scent telling them what to do. It's about helping them begin to think and act like master teachers. Because when they do that, it doesn't matter the situation, they're able to make better decisions.

When you show them how to think and act like master teachers, there's not a scenario or situation that's going to throw them off, because they understand teaching. The way that we provide support can either empower teachers, or it can be disempowering. And this one's hard for a lot of people to get because most of us are well meaning when we're providing support. But then we get frustrated, because we say I've given teachers this support this support this support this support, and they're still not getting better, we get frustrated. But we have to ask the bigger question, are we giving people support in a way that empowers them to take what we're helping them learn how to do and do it on their own, without our help? The same thing that we want to look for with students, if our supports, do not help students, master the material so that they can make choices and decisions around that material on their own, then it wasn't support, it was a crutch. The same thing is true for our teachers. If our support does not empower teachers, to make better decisions going forward on their own, unprompted in multiple situations, then our support is not true support. It's a crutch. And so we have to make sure if we want our teachers to truly feel empowered, then we have to make sure that the supports we give them empower them, we have to make sure that how we give support helps set them up for future success. So what does that look like? The first thing is that we have to give teachers the right level of support, right. So a lot of times we come in with someone who's struggling, and we teach them strategies or techniques that are really strategies and techniques of master teachers when they're not ready for it when they don't understand how to do it. 

Instead, our support should be developmental, it should be helping teachers just get to the next level. 

So if I have a teacher who's struggling, and at the lowest level of my evaluation system, they're not going to get to mastery in one support conversation, what I want them to do, and this is why understanding your rubric is so important is I want to help them get to what is the what is the one or two things that they need to do to get to the next level. And then once they're at that level, then what do I need, then I provide a different kind of support tab and get to the next level. So I'm, instead of support that expects you to go to zero to master teacher and one support conversation. I'm having a series of support conversations that help them step their way up to mastery, because then I know I can trust it, then I know what in less than I know. It's not just a trick, but it's really a change a transformation of the practice. And that leads me to the second thing. A lot of our support is designed as a band aid. There's something wrong in the classroom. Let me give you some port, some support so that it can make that thing go away for now. But what we want with true support is that we want to build people's capacity so that as they grow, they are learning things that they can use for the rest of their time and the rest of their practice. That is true support that empowers people. 

And the third thing is that a lot of our support isn't support at all. It's really rescuing, instead of truly supporting people to be able to grow on their own, we come in and say, just step aside, I'll do it. That's why we, we try to teach your proof teaching by these curriculum documents that script everything out. It's why we go in and, and, and, and sell everybody, they have to use the time in the classroom and the exact same way. We go in and we take over, that's not support, and it's disempowering. And that's why you have a lot of teachers right now who have just resorted to standing in front of the class and reading the curriculum to them. Because we've told them, you're not capable of making good curricular decisions on your own. We're not going to train you to do that. Instead, we'll just do it for you just do this. Because I need kids, I need to raise test scores. So just do this. Well, how are you ever going to build a master teacher? If you do all the thinking for the teachers, and your support doesn't empower teachers to think for themselves? More importantly, because we're talking about true alignment? How are you ever going to make sure that people's behavior and choices are in alignment with your vision, mission and core values, if you've never empowered and supported them, to make the kinds of choices that are in alignment with our vision, mission and core values. So if you want true ownership, you got to give people feedback in a way that that allows them to maintain ownership over their practice. And if you want true empowerment, you have to support people in a way that doesn't treat them like they're broken, but treats them like they are professionals, and sets them up for future success by helping to develop not just the behaviors, but the mindsets that you need in order to move your school forward. Now, here's the hard part. I want to stop today. I'll do the other two next time. But here's the hard part. 

You see, a lot of people say they want alignment. But they don't really want alignment. They want conformity. They want obedience, they want. They want easy pages, you know, they just want, I just want to be able to go into work and tell people what to do and have them do it. And then when it happens, they're mad, because they're the ones who have to do all the work. They're the ones staying late and everybody's going home. They're the ones who seem the only ones who seem to care. And we don't recognize that. All those things we complain about are things that we set people up to do, though, we said, we wanted alignment. But true alignment isn't about everybody being obedient. And everybody conforming to alignment means that you have adults who are thinking adults who have made a decision to all head in the same direction, they made a decision about what the right work is, and what the right way to do that work is and what the right reasons for doing that work are. And they've all decided to, to focus their efforts in that direction. So when I talk about getting everybody on the same page, some people get offended, right, because they're like, I don't want to get on a page like the weirdest thing. One of the videos that I put out about getting people on the same page, somebody commented, if getting on the same page means you know, pedophilia, then what? Like, I don't even understand where this stuff comes from. What I'm talking about when I talked about the same page, I'm talking about the page where your vision says we want to serve 100% of our kids, the page where your mission says we have this noble why that's collect a collective why for why that's important to us, the same page where everybody agrees that those core values are non negotiable on the same page where everybody is focusing their work on achieving that success for 100% of kids. That's what I'm talking about. And you can't get there from conformity. 

Because as long as you have conformity, you're the only one doing the work. 

As long as you push for conformity. People can't care and the way that you want them to care, because they don't what they believe and think doesn't matter. You just want their behavior to line up. If you want true alignment, everybody is focusing their efforts in towards your vision and your mission or your core values where everybody is, is taking their behavior and making sure that it stays in alignment with those things. Then you have to help people feel ownership over their own work. So that every day they're coming to work because they choose to be there every day. They are making deliberate choices that support the vision, mission and core values. The second thing you need to have is people need to be empowered to do that work. so that when you support them, you're not treating them like they're broken, you're treating them like they are smart professionals, who, who always not only have the choice, but you're teaching them how to think in a way that you can trust their thinking. Even in a situation that is different from the one you're currently addressing. You do those two things. And you've come a long way towards having an aligned staff, 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 builder ship University, just go to build a ship and get started writing your school success story today.

Hey, everybody, I just want to remind you, if you want that kind of alignment, and you want to build that that's exactly what I'll be showing you during the staff alignment challenge. But not just that it's not just a training every single day, we're going to be building another piece. So we're going to be building that ownership and looking at our feedback system and tweaking our feedback system to create that ownership. We're going to be looking at how to build that true empowerment by tweaking our support system. So it creates that kind of empowerment. And we'll also be doing that the same thing for building that that alignment and that engagement that we need in our staff so that we can achieve our goals for our school. So go to build leadership to sign up for the staff alignment challenge. It starts on January 28 2024. And start to build these systems in your school so you can achieve your goals this school year with a fully aligned staff

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