The ONE thing you must do at the end of the school year


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 264.

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 Robyn, underscore mind steps. I'm on Twitter at Robyn underscore mind step someone's on Facebook and Robyn 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 264. How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How can 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 talk about the one thing that you need to do before the end of the school year. Now, the end of the school year is so busy, you have kids who are being promoted to the next level, you have tons of paperwork to figure finish up you've got your master scheduled to complete, you've got evaluations to finish up, you've got teachers who are leaving some you're sad about some you're not sad about you've got people retiring, you've, there's just so much going on. And a lot of times we can get so caught up in the end of the school year stuff that we forget to do something that is so critical to your success for next year. And so today, I want to talk about what that is, I want to give you a framework for how to do that. So that when you leave the school year, you glean the lessons from the school year, you can take those lessons into the summer and use those to make next school year even better. So let's dive in. The first thing that you need to do before you before everybody goes away is you need to set aside some time for reflection. I know that feels luxurious with everything else going on. But here's what happens. You see, by the end of the school year, we kind of forget all the tough parts of the school year we gloss them over, we're you know, we're proud of our kids who are being promoted to the next level, we're saying goodbye, we're having all the parties, or we're just trying to survive and hold on until we can catch our breath. I mean, some of you have already finished school. And this is a perfect time to do this. So if you are finishing school, or you just finished school, this is what you need to do. 

So we gloss over how tough the year was, we forget about that. And then we go into the summer naively thinking, oh, we'll just do a CIP plan, we'll make plans for next year, we'll do things differently, without putting those new plants into the context of what worked and what didn't work last year. So we kind of forget about it, we have this end of the school year amnesia. And unfortunately, it means that we keep repeating the same mistakes year after year after year. And I don't want that for you. So what builders do is we are constantly learning from the past. And I'm going to share with you a framework that builders engage in every single month we are doing that, that monthly reflection. And it's also really great to think about how to reflect on the entire year. So there are five questions you want to ask yourself. And bonus points if you can also engage your team, your staff in some of these questions as well. So the first question is, what do we need to stop doing? What did we do last year that took a lot of time and a lot of effort with very little payoff. And this is the time to think about that. Because what happens is we forget and we get caught up in Oh, we have this program, we have that program. And there are a lot of programs that are just dead weight on our schools. And it's creating a lot of stress. You need to make space for the new things that you want to implement next year. And so in order to do that, you need to take stock you need to say what do we need to stop doing? Now be careful here because a lot of times we say I need to stop doing this because it's painful, but wasn't effective. Instead of stop doing it. You might just need to tweak it but there are some things every School has them. There are things that you are doing right now that you've been doing for years. And the reason you started doing them no longer exist, but you never stopped doing it. And so taking stock and saying what do we need to stop doing? 

What is deadweight what is a lot of effort and no payoff? 

And you need to put that down, and you need to eliminate it. Think about how excited your teachers will come back next year, when you say we're not doing this anymore, because they know they already know it's not working, they're doing it because it's required. And then you create create space for the things that you really do want to focus on, instead of just dragging this dead weight from one year to the next, which is what we typically do. Okay, so what do we need to stop doing this question number one? Question number two is, what do we need to be doing less of this is really important to ask yourself this time of the year because there were things that you instituted at the beginning of last school year, because there was a problem in front of you at that time. But those things worked. And so now that problem doesn't look the way it did when you first instituted this process. And so you need to ask yourself, do we still need to do that? Right. So let me give an example. One of the schools that I'm working with right now, they have for years done this very intensive remediation program. But recently, they instituted the Student Success Plan. This is a process that we teach around how to be proactive in your interventions, so that you don't get kids to fail in the first place. And it's actually been working, so they have fewer and fewer kids who are failing, but they're still pushing for with this very intensive remediation program. They don't really need it anymore, because you have fewer and fewer kids who are in need of remediation because the success plan has been working. So we still need some remediation, but we don't need it to the degree that we needed it before. So that's something we can scale back on next year. 

That's something that we may look at, and and reconfigure based on the kids we have right now, based on the success we have right now. That's another thing that a lot of schools don't do, they don't take a look at the programs that they have and say, do we still need this? And do we still need this to this degree. And so you're spending a lot of time and energy with diminishing returns, because your kids have now evolved, they're different they've grown, your staff has evolved. Another example of this is that a lot of times, you know, schools really do this, you know, intensive, we got to check in on teachers, and we got to make sure that they're submitting all of these plans. But after a while, if you get your PLCs to be functional, instead of dysfunctional, your teachers don't really need to submit their lesson plans because the work is getting done. And you know, it's getting done, you don't have to check it in the same way. So do you still need to be collecting those or collecting them as frequently as you're doing now? Those are the kinds of things that we often ignore, and we just keep doing them. But we don't need to do it to that degree anymore. Because stuff is working, because we are figuring things out, because our staff is changing, our students are changing. So what do we need to be doing? Lessa? Okay. Third question is what do we need to keep doing? Now, a lot of times we treat the school year as if it's its own thing. It's it sits by itself. But there are things that you are doing that are working, and we're so busy, focused on the next problem. And the next problem, the next problem that we never pay attention to what is actually working. So what worked this year, what what is working? A lot of times we throw it out? Well, that's what we did last year, but yeah, it still worked. It you did it last year, but it did work. 

So why wouldn't you keep doing the things that are working are so enamored with the new and then the the shiny objects that that we throw out? The things that are working, not because of any other reason, then we just need something new. So what should you keep doing that this is where the gold is, this is where a lot of your success lies. You see, when you are a builder, it's about doing the boring stuff. Because the boring stuff works. We're not chasing the sexy new thing over here. We're focused on what works and how do we keep it working? And so you need to ask yourself, what did we do this year that worked? That needs to be your number one priority for next year is to keep that going. Learn from that. Why did it work? So well? What what what about it really served us? And how do we capitalize on that? You know, a lot of our CIP plans start as if there's a blank slate. You have a whole year behind you, you have all of this information. And the only thing we look at is student performance data up the you know, we went down this percentage point this category, we went up in this category. And we think that that's really learning from last year, but there are lessons that you've learned you've figured some things out out. And if those things work, why wouldn't you build on those things and be that's what it means to be a builder. So instead of starting from scratch, look at what you should keep doing, and start building on that and use that as the foundation for your CIP plan, and for all of your plans for the coming school year. All right. 

Question number four is what do we need to do more of what do we need to do more of? 

Now, this is really important, because there's some things that you started last year, and they started working, and you really need to double down on them. But again, because we're so enamored with what's new and different, and we think we have to come up with a whole new plan every single year, we don't build on and capitalize on the successes. So we're doing something it works. How do we do it? How do we do more of it? How do we do it for more kids? How do we do it in more instances? Because instead of trying to guess at what might work for next year, you already have evidence about what does work? Why wouldn't you do more of that? And then the last question is, what do we need to start doing? There's a reason why that question is less. Normally when we sit down and we start thinking about our summer plans, and how we're going to do next year, we start thinking about, you know what, we can do this, and we need to start doing that, we need to start doing that when you start doing that, and we chase again, the shiny objects. But until you have eliminated some things until you have learned from what works, you are not ready to think about something new.

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, than 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 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 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.

And it's funny, I've talked to a lot I've been talking to a lot of principals lately been doing some free 15 minute brainstorming sessions. And a lot of principals show up to those sessions telling me, we're doing this, we're doing this, we're doing this, we're doing this, we're doing this, and they tell me all the things that they're doing, you know, we've got this program in place. And, you know, we're we're really focusing on this. And then I asked them the hard question, I asked them why? And I can't answer it. They were so programmed as leaders to, to, to do something, we're programmed to believe that doing something is equivalent to being successful at it that that though, that you are a successful principal, because you are doing the right programs, you know, we have RTI in place, and we've got PBIS in place. And, you know, we've got all the alphabets in place for all the different programs in place. Question is, is it working? Is it serving your kids? are you achieving 100%? Success? And if the answer is no, why are we doing it? Other than that's what people expect. It looks like we're doing something, just because you are busy, doesn't mean that you are successful. And so instead of starting the summer, saying, oh, you know what, we're going to do this program, because we have this problem, we're going to do that program, because we have this problem.

You really need to stop for a second and take a look and see. 

First of all, you know, the question I was asked you to ask what problem are you really trying to solve? And then thinking about our Do you already have something in place that could solve that problem? If you just spent more time on it? Do you have something in place that is preventing you from solving that problem? Because you're spending too much energy focusing on what you shouldn't be focusing on? Do you have something in place that may be causing the problem because it's creating something in your culture that was an unintended consequence of that program? until you're done that you're not ready to look for something new, but what we do is we say, You know what, let's pile something else on to what we already have. And then we wonder why we're so overwhelmed. Let's add something new this year. And then we wonder why our teachers are burned out. Let's you know, we're so desperate to solve our problems that we just keep adding, adding, adding adding builders don't do that. Well builders do as we say, first of all, let's take a look, do we have any dead weight? They're all there is always dead weight, there's always dead weight. 

So why don't we just stop doing? And then what do we need to do less up? Because it's not serving us, we still need it. But do we need it to this to this degree? And if the answer's no, we should stop doing it. We should do less of it. And then what actually is working? And and what can we do to to keep that going? Because it is serving us because we're seeing results? And fact, how do we use that as a foundation to maybe do more of it, though? What's working that we're doing already that maybe we shouldn't just keep doing it? We should do more of it in more context with more kids and more situations? And then only then do we ask ourselves, what do we start doing? Now? Here's the thing, we almost never do it, we always say we're gonna do it, we almost never do it. But if you took time to sit down, and to really ask yourself these questions to really reflect on the entire school year, go back, take a look at some of your emails, go back into your email, archive and pull up an email from October, pull up an email from February. Remember the frustrations that you had during the year, even though that's painful. Think about all of the challenges that you face this year, all of the hard times, and learn from those so that you can deliberately engineer next school year so that you don't have to deal with that stuff. Again, what we do is we we go through a school year we survive, we say who, okay, I'm glad that's over. We do all this stuff in the summer, only to repeat the same mistakes, only to face the same problems only to to keep banging our heads against the same wall. How long are we going to do that isn't a time that we tried something different. But we never ever learn from the past, we just keep moving forward, as if last school year didn't happen. It did. And there's a lot of gold in last school year, there's a lot that you can learn. Just looking at data from last school year doesn't tell the whole story. Just looking at last year's numbers for achievement doesn't tell the whole story. We can't build a solid plan for how to make next year better if we're just looking at last year student performance data. There's so much other rich data that we're not mining. And by the time we get into the summer, we're already thinking about next school year, now is the time to really glean the big lessons from last school year. 

So here's what I'm recommending you do find yourself, give yourself about an hour. Take each of these questions, and you want to dedicate about 1012 minutes to each question. Don't just rush through and say what do we need to stop doing? Oh, and then move on to the next one. Take some time go through last year and look at all of your emails from last year. Look at some of your teacher evaluations. Look at some of your early observation notes to see what you're seeing. Look back at your calendar and look at when it got really crazy. Spend some time going through all of the artifacts of your life from last year and asking yourself the question, what do we need to stop doing? October was so long ago, we hardly remember it. But you know what? When you are in October, you are experiencing some pain. You are experiencing some frustration? What was that? What can you do this year to make sure you have a different kind of October? You know, love February is closer, but it's still a while back? What What will your frustrations in February? What was keeping you at the office late? What was making you work nights and weekends? And what can you learn from that? What what do you need to stop doing? You spent a lot of time and energy being overwhelmed. There were some big problems that cropped up last year, and yes, you've mitigated them. But what would it take to solve them? Take an hour, spend about 10 to 12 minutes on each of these five questions. Write it out if you're a writer I like to write and just kind of the just go freehand and just write all the things that I can remember all the things that are candidates have it do that reflection now if you have time, sit down with your team, at least your leadership team and ask these five questions. Get their perspective if school has already been out so what call somebody pick up the phone and ask them Hey, do you have a half an hour for me to ask you some questions now that we are done with the school year and one to reflect on one Take this information into the summer planning, spend the time I promised you, I should say, I shouldn't say spend the time, it's really invest the time. Because I promise you if you do, you're going to remember all the stuff you forgot. And you're going to take that information into the summer and create a more realistic, solid, doable, successful plan for what next school year is going to look like how we say next school year is being built right now. But if we forget the lessons from last school year, we build a false sense of hope that next school year is going to be better. 

How can it be better if we haven't learned the lessons that we need to learn from last school year?

And I tell you right now, you think you might have them you think you might know them off the top of your head. But if you sat down, and you spent that hour, and you talk to other people, there's always something you missed. And that will come up. And that thing that you missed is the thing that will trip you up next year, guaranteed. So do this now, do this before you get caught up in the summer, do this before you start falling for what I call The Back to School delusion? Where are you thinking, Oh, this is the year everything's gonna be great, everything's gonna be perfect. Do this so that those feelings are not a delusion, but they're based on something they're based on the reality of your situation. Do this now it's really important. And when you do that, when you reflect on on last year, and you go through these questions, and you give yourself time to really think about those answers, you're going to discover the things that are the most important, the things that really need to be addressed the things that will make next school year better. Leaders just charge for it. Every school year is its own thing wrapped in its own bubble. And as a result, leaders keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again. I don't want that for you. So I'm challenging you right now, please take an hour, reflect on last year. So you can learn the lessons from last year, and build a better next year. 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 an 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, it's Robyn here. And I want to thank you for listening to today's episode. And if you have a question about today's episode, you just want to keep the conversation going.

Did you know that we had a school leadership reimagined Facebook group, all you need to do is go to Facebook, join the school leadership reimagined Facebook group now they're going to be a couple of questions that we asked at the beginning because we want to protect this group and make sure that we don't have any trolls come in and that it really is for people who are principals, assistant principals, district administrators, so make sure you answer those questions or you won't get in but then we can keep the conversation going. Plus we do a lot of great bonus content. I'm in there every single weekday so if you have a question or comment above the episode, let's continue the conversation. Join us at the school leadership reimagined Facebook group and I'll talk to you next time.

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