Summer Success Series Pt. 3: Be Proactive instead of Reactive


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined, episode number 267.

Hey Builder, before we begin today's episode, I want to tell you about something really cool. I am going to be making a big announcement next Tuesday. And I don't want you to miss it. So look out for an email coming from me on next Tuesday. And if you and I are not email friends, what are you waiting for? I mean, emails are where I share a lot of things that I don't share in the air. For instance, just a couple of weeks ago, we sent out something just to the people, I'm email friends with inviting them to a free vision workshop where I spend time helping you develop your vision and give you live coaching, absolutely free, that only went out to the people on our email list. And the people who are in the school leadership reimagined Facebook group. So if you are not connected with me in either by email or you're not in that Facebook group, then you're missing out on a whole bunch of things that I don't share with you on the podcast. So all you need to do if you want to get connected is go to school leadership And you can sign up for the email list. Or you can look for the school leadership reimagined Facebook group and sign up there. And then look out for my announcement next Tuesday. Now, onto the show. You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 267. 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 continuing our summer of Success Series. Today we're going to talk about something that you may have heard before, but we're going to talk about why we don't often do it, and how you can do more of it in your school. And that is being proactive versus reactive. You say the summer is the best time that you have to set yourself up so that this year you don't have the same thing that you deal with every single year, you know, those same problems that show up every single year, you know, that feeling you get when you walk into the building, and you have an agenda for what you want to do that day. But as soon as you walk through the door, everybody's hitting you with their problems, you know that that that feeling, you get that frustration you feel when you have a plan for the year, but then the district comes with a new mandate or something happens in a classroom and it just kind of throws you off track? Well, I don't want you to feel that way this school year. And so there's some things that you can do now that can prevent a lot of that and mitigate the rest. So that you can stay focused on the things that matter to you. And other people are not, you know, throwing you off your square and you're constantly reacting to things that that you could have prevented to begin with.

So let's jump into how to be proactive versus reactive, so that you can set yourself up for a much more productive school year. 

Okay, so the first thing is that, let's talk about the difference between proactive and reactive because we say those words a lot. But I'm not sure we always understand what they mean. When I say proactive. I am talking about pre preparing, right? We think we're preparing for the school year now. But we're just doing the work that you do in June, this is this is the work. But when you are proactive you are actively preparing for all the things that you anticipate are going to show up in the school year so that you're ready for it so that you don't have to make it up in real time. When I say reactive, I'm talking about spending all of your time repairing, repairing, from all the things that you didn't prepare for ahead of time repairing your school from all the emergencies that cropped up because you didn't have a plan. And what's frustrating about being a an administrator and who has a vision and wants to move your school forward is that when you spend all of your time repairing, then what you're doing is you're working really hard to get back to zero. So I'll give an example because I'm going I'm living this right now. Last summer I was doing a lot of traveling and so there were some things that just didn't get done in my garden in my yard. And so last year was kind of a you know, just it was a bust. So this year I said I'm really going to get on my garden. I'd like to garden like to grow vegetables. I want to start growing some flowers and I want to get the yard together. And so my husband, I started working in the yard. And we were putting in all of this work. And all we were doing at the end of the day, after working all day, was getting the yard back to where it was to begin with right back to where it was two years ago. And I was starting to get really frustrated, because we were working so hard. And at the end of the day, the yard didn't look like I wanted it to look, it just look like it used to look before we let it go, you know to pot over last year. That's a difference between proactive versus reactive, we had to do all of that work just to get things back to normal. And the same thing happens every time you allow something to invade your school and take you off of your vision that when you are repairing, all you're doing is getting things back to zero, you haven't made any progress, you've worked really hard to get back to where you started from. And it's the most frustrating feeling in the world, at least it is for me, because we're working really, really hard.

Now we're finally at the point in the summer summers halfway over. But we're finally at the point that summer where it start, it's starting to feel like the work that we're doing in the yard, it's making the yard look closer and closer to what I want my vision to be. And when you get to the point where you repair, you often are so exhausted that you just like well, maybe I'll get to it next year. And next year, you're starting from zero again, and you're frustrated because you feel stuck. But if you can keep going. And if you can do the work now so that you don't have to do this again next year, you will start to see progress. And that's what I want for you. So let's talk about how you can do it, I'm going to give you you know, three things that you can do now to help shift more into proactivity versus reactivity so that you can spend your time this summer the rest of the summer preparing, so that you can actually move forward and see progress the school year, rather than starting out strong, and then having to react to this or that and the other and then spend the rest of the year repairing. So you in the year where you started it having not made really any significant progress.

Okay, so the first thing is that you need to make sure that you anticipate challenges. Now we tell teachers all the time, when you're planning a lesson, you should anticipate confusion. And you should spend some time preparing for when that shows up or preventing it to begin with. We know this as educators, we don't do it for the school year, most of the time, what we do is we do the the regular work of setting up the school year, we create the master schedule, we create the duty schedule, we assign classrooms, we you know, deal with the district stuff that we have to do, we, you know, clean out lockers and make some repairs to the building. And then we start the school, we plan back to school night, then we start the school year. And it's the same thing that we do every single year, we haven't prepared for all the stuff we know is going to crop up. We're just excited that we got through the summer and and we're ready for the school year. But you know that after two weeks of school, there's going to be an issue. You know that October, you're going to hit an October surprise, you know that in November, things are going to start to feel everybody's going to be tired and exhausted.

You know that there's certain things that happened during the school year. 

In fact, I bet if you sat down and spent 20 minutes, and you just looked at each month, you can list all the things that show up every single month. I dare you to try it. I remember when I was an assistant principal, that's exactly what I did. I was the I took over the master schedule. And I started saying, Okay, what does the rhythm of the school year look like? And I just sat down and said, these are all the things that show up every single school year around this time. And then I started making a plan for okay, if this shows up, what do we need to do a month before that? So that that doesn't become a problem? What do we need to do two months before that so that we can prevent it from from exploding, right? We know every October, you're gonna get hit with a surprise. Every October it happens. Why are we doing anything about it? You know, that discipline starts ticking up after the honeymoon phase of the first you know, two to four weeks of school. Why aren't you doing things to prevent that from happening this school year. So the first thing is that if you sat down, you already know some of the big things that you're going to have to react to this year. You can't predict everything. But there's a lot you can predict. And if you've been doing this for a while you you meet every year it's the same stuff. But we just think that's the job. It doesn't have to be that way. Why not now, sit down, take 2030 minutes to sit down and list all of the channel lunges by month, right?

So you know, September, these are the things you have to deal with October, these are the things you have to deal with. And then once you have that list, at least you now know, okay, this is what I'm gonna have to deal with. And you can start to figure out how do I prepare for this? How do I prevent this from happening to begin with. And although you won't eliminate every single challenge that you're going to face for the year, you can eliminate a lot of the things that you already know are going to happen, you can decide to, to not have to deal with it this year. So for instance, you know, every year after the honeymoon, discipline ticks up, you know, that's going to happen. So what can you do at the beginning of the school year that prepares kids, so that they're not just you don't just rely on the rhythms of the school year, the honeymoon period, the uptick, then everybody settles down? Again? What could you do from the very beginning to prevent students from ever, you know, from ever getting out of line? How can you hold on to that honeymoon period for the entire year? Well, you could be thinking about that.

Now, you know, that every single year, there's going to be at some point, you're going to walk into a classroom, and you're gonna see a teacher is struggling, when you do your first round of Bob's observations. Well, if you know that that's going to happen, what are you doing to prepare for that? Or prevent that? How can you be proactive around that, you know, every single year that you've got a list of teachers you've got to observe, and by the end of by the beginning of November, you're already behind and trying to catch up before the holidays? Well, what can you do to your feedback schedule that will protect it, so that you're getting in the right classrooms at the right time. So those of you and BU, we have something for you. So if you are a member of builders university, you know that we have the feedback, Fast Track formula training inside of BU, you can search for it in the vault, and it shows you how to set up that feedback schedule and protect your feedback schedule, so that you are getting into the right classrooms at the right time. And so if you put that with your teacher dashboard, then you won't have this issue that is already there. You can prevent that. But you know that you're going to be facing these issues, you know, that you are going to maybe every year, your face issues around absenteeism, where every year you face issues around kids skipping class, what can you do now?

Now a lot of times we try to do this, right? 

So we have our summer planning sessions, and we look at our data and we're like, this is a big problem. And what can we do differently this year to solve that problem. That's not what I'm talking about. Because that's just a plan. When you are being proactive, it's not just a plan, you are putting things in place, that you that that make the work automatic, here's what I mean by that, if you know that you need to get in the classroom. So that's one of the things you want to do. Getting into classrooms being more visible is something that cuts down on discipline issues that helps you catch classroom instructional challenges early so you can solve it's that if you're visible and in classrooms on a regular basis, you can support teachers before the class gets into this freefall of failure. And a teacher really struggles and gets shut down and all those things. If you know that, then being in classrooms is really important. But you leave that to chance, you're saying yeah, I'm gonna get into three classrooms a day this year?

Well, you know, you know, I feel about arbitrary three classrooms a day numbers, but you know, if you're a builder, you're saying, I'm going to get into the right classrooms this year, if you know that you need to do that. And that's critical for instruction in your school, then why are you leaving that up to chance, right being proactive means, okay, if I know that, then I'm going to create a teacher dashboard. If I know that I'm going to protect this time in my schedule. And so you start thinking about well all what are all the things that keep me out of classrooms teacher stopping by my office and needing something discipline showing up? All of these, you know, parents calls, district meetings, I get pulled into something else, look at all the things that prevented you from getting into classrooms last year, and then figure out how do I protect that, you know, do I do I? Do I change the way that we triage kids who are sent to the office so that I don't have to be in the office every time a kid comes in and gets into the office, that we can move the student through the process without my having to be there, and I only have to be there in the most serious of cases.

If I know that the district pulls me out, then I look at the schedule for the district and look at that time. And let's say maybe the district pulls me out of a district meeting school starts at seven but I have a district meeting at at 930. Right, then what could I do between seven and 930? Maybe I don't come into the building and all that day. Maybe I just go to the district office and knock out paperwork. And the time that I would be in the building can be in classrooms because I've already done the paperwork or I've made calls or I've done all the other things Things that would normally that I normally have to do that are that pull me away from being in the classroom. Those are examples. But what I want you to do is anticipate you what your year is going to look like you already know that. So why not sit down and make the work that you want to do more automatic, why not put architectures in place to make sure that the work that is the most important gets done, instead of leaving it up to chance, right. So you, you know that that's why I love the teacher dashboard, because the teacher dashboard tells you what classrooms you need to be in that week. So if you have a teacher dashboard, and you have a meeting every single week, where you go through the Teacher Dashboard, and then you you create a schedule with your secretary about which classrooms you're going to be in, and then you protect you put protections around that schedule, you'll get into classrooms, here's what will keep you from getting into those classrooms. I'll just I need to make sure I get to three classrooms a day, the moment you say that, you're not going to do it because any it's not a priority, you didn't make it a priority.

You just said it's something I'd like to do. 

If there's time. So you're not going to do it, you have to be proactive and put protections around the work that's important so that you can see progress this year. Okay, the second thing that often happens is people will say, Well, you know, I'd like to be proactive, and I start every school year, but then, you know, I fall off. I'm not disciplined enough, I'm not organized enough, I got pulled in too many different directions. I didn't do this the work. And you're you're kind of beating yourself up. When instead you need to understand who you are and how you work and work with who you are. And stop trying to squeeze yourself into somebody else's idea of what it means to be organized and what it means to be efficient. You need to figure out what works for you.

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 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 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.

Now, I've emailed you about this before, I've talked to you about, you know, the just the little dumb things that that I understood about myself. And when I started working with myself, it made a difference. But I'll tell you one that I haven't shared before. So I am not a morning person. I don't like getting up early. I like a slow morning I like to ease into my day, which is kind of weird, right? Because I taught for 10 years and I had to be, you know, front, I worked an hour away from my school. And I had to be there at 7am started at 725 with high school, juniors and seniors and had to be engaging at 725. So I understood that about myself. And once I understood that about myself, I started structuring my day differently. So I always requested first period as a planning period. So that when I was still good to work at seven, but I could ease into my day so that by the time second period started, I was awake, I was vibrant. I had done some of the you know, kind of other work to get ready for my kids and I was ready for kids. I understood that about myself.

Now, that seems dumb, but it's so important. 

If you know that you are disorganized, like your desk is a mess, right? Then stop trying to force yourself into an organizational strategy. A lot of times your desk is a mess because you need things visible. So right now on my computer, I have 62 tabs open. And everybody else is all closed. Anybody who sees my screen, oh, close all those tabs. But those tabs helped me so I have the they're like get these tablets. I've tried it all. What works for me is having 62 tabs open because there are different parts of my work where the tabs keep the work visible in front of me. I need that to be able to stay on track. I have tried all kinds of planners and organizers and things like that. They don't work for me. What works for me is a to do list every single day with checkboxes. So at the end of the day, I fill out the to do list for the next day. I prioritize it the next day I come in, I look at it To do this, I do the work. Now, those are simple, silly little things seeming to everybody else. But I understand how I work. And so I don't call myself disorganized. I don't say that I am, you know, I'm not organized. And that's why I'm not proactive. What I do is I say, Okay, how do I work? What works for me? What keeps the most important work front and center for me? How do I stay focused? So what I want you to do is spend some time looking at yourself, study yourself, what how do you work? Are you a morning person? Are you most productive in the morning, get it done.

For instance, I'm writing a book right now. And when I write this, I've tried all kinds of different things. But the thing that works for me is that I get up and I write first thing, if I don't write first thing in the morning, I'm not likely to write that day. But whenever I get up, doesn't have to be 6am. Whenever I get up, and my brain is freshest, I get up, I, I brush my teeth, and I go right into my computer, and I set the timer, and I write for an hour straight. That makes me productive. Some people can write, you know, all day long, that's not me an hour a day, but doing it consistently, I can get a good book out. But if I don't do that, the book never happens. So I understand that. So I'm proactive, I'd make sure that I set myself up for that the next day, I don't schedule meetings. First thing in the morning, I do things to make sure that I protect that time, because that is most important. You need to do the same thing. Study yourself, what works for you, how do you work, and that helps you to be proactive. When we are reactive, it's because we haven't understood how we work. And so we don't put things that protect the time, that's important. We don't set ourselves up to be successful. But if you set yourself up to be successful, if you understand how you work, you can do it. I'll give you one more example.

So I realize that there are times in the day when there are lulls for me in terms of my energy, alright. And so when I was an administrator, I tried to work with the rhythm of my day now doesn't work always, you know, sometimes you have meetings and things like that you have to do. But I understood that there was there were there were highs for me when I was really productive, and my mind was working. And I was thinking and those were best for kind of planning and during the master schedule. And so that sort of thing. There were times when I was really alert. And those were times when I needed to be in classroom, there were times of the day where I kind of dragged and those are times I need to be in front of a computer, handling emails, that sort of thing. Since I understood that about myself, I tried to set my schedule to work with the natural rhythms of my day doesn't work all the time. But what I tried to do is, as many times as I could, I would optimize how I worked so that I could better serve the people I served, I realized that, you know, a lot of times parent meetings would go on and on and on and on where there wasn't a dead end.

So I scheduled parent meetings where there was a hard stop. 

And I would sit down and tell parents, listen, we have about 30 minutes together. And during the time, this is what we need to settle and saw. At the end of 30 minutes, I have to go to another meeting. So I check in with them at the 20 minute mark. And I will say okay, we have 10 minutes left, and I want us to get to a solution. So let's work and that helped them meet and get productive, but warn them ahead of time help the parents feel like they were heard. And then I would say okay, it sounds like we still need to continue this. So we're going to need to set another meeting. And that would help the parents feel like they were they got their concerns heard that I was serious about it. But almost never do we have to set another meeting because when we had that put those boundaries around our time, we got the time done, and the meetings didn't go on and on and on. So finding ways to understand, okay, what are the things that encroach upon your time? How do you work? What are your rhythms and setting yourself up not to be organized and have a pristine Pinterest ready desk, but to be organized in a way that optimizes you? That's proactive, okay.

Now, you might be thinking, Alright, that's all great and good, Robyn. But at some point, somebody is going to bring an emergency that I'm gonna have to handle, there's, you know, it's not me, it's other people, right? Well, even if other people bring emergencies, it doesn't mean that it has to take you away from being proactive. You can even be proactive about those emergencies. So one of the things that I did when I was a teacher is I set up red flag systems, which were early warning systems to let me know that a kid was heading for trouble so that I could intervene early before the kid got into this freefall of failure and got frustrated and everything. Get the student back on track so that the student could be successful. You can do the same thing. When you are working with adults. There are things that are emergencies that crop up that you have that where people kind of signal that that is happening.

So, for instance, I have a huge Mastiff dog, his iconic horses, and he, when I'm walking him, I have to pay close attention, right? Because sometimes if something's not right, he's very protective of me. And if he sees something that he interprets as a threat, then he, you know, he starts working. And he, you know, he starts, you know, kind of getting into protective mode. So when I'm walking him, I have to watch for the early warning signals, I see something ahead, I'm always scanning the, the horizon, I see something ahead that I know is going to be perceived by him as a threat. Then I started working with him to get him ready. I watch his body language. So when he starts tensing up, I'm watching what is he looking at, so that I can prevent him from getting protective of me before it happens, the same thing is true for your school, a lot of the things that you see as emergencies, there are warning signs ahead of time, but we don't pay attention to those warning signs, we ignore them, we dismiss them. But if we paid attention, we could prevent a lot of emergencies.

So one of the things that I'm going to challenge you to do if you want to be proactive this year, is to look for those early warning signs. 

What are the red flags in your school that let you know that there's, there's something going to be happening? You have certain kids, that you that are frequent fliers in the main office, and you can understand what is it that instead of saying Why did you do this work? And what did you do this time? You want to start investigating? Okay, what happens, what precipitates they're getting sent out? And sitting down with teachers and talking to them about that and trying to figure out, what's the trigger? What's the red flag that lets me know, this kid is about to go off, or this kid is about to break down a meltdown? If you can start getting training people to start looking for those red flags? And let's say Okay, so the moment we see the red flag, what can we do there? How can we intervene right there, then you can prevent a lot of emergencies. You know, the same thing about teachers, you know, what sets some teachers off? You know, when teachers start to get really frustrated and struggle, how can we how can you identify those red flags and intervene early, you know, when you there are some red flags that the district sends you when they're, you know, like, you I know, they're about to, you know, they're they're headed this way, or there's some things that when your superintendent stops by your area superintendent starts by your school to visit, there's some things that you know, they're going to be looking for, how do you how do you make sure that they can see those things? How are you proactive about it?

I'll give you an example. I was working with the principal and their areas who pretend it was coming to the school. And, you know, she was really nervous about and I said, Well, what are the things that you know, what are the priorities that your area superintendent has? What are the? What are their kind of pet things? And, you know, he always asked me about this. So Well, then why are you waiting for him to ask you? Why don't you send him a package ahead of time that says, hey, you're coming to my school next week, here's some information that can help you with your visit. And you send them a pre package ahead of time. So that that way that then when he comes, instead of it being a feeling like you're being interrogated, you've already headed it off, and you've been proactive, and you look prepared, and you have set the stage for what that visit looks like so that you can turn that visit into something that actually serves your school. And she's like, oh, yeah, so she did, she sent the package, the superintendent was so impressed and what the visit went amazing, because she set the stage, she took control of that visit. So rather than being stressed out, she took control of the visit.

So some of you're saying, Well, my superintendent sends me stuff that I have to do ahead of time. Great. Get it to them, plus, add on. In addition to that, here's some things that I'd like for you to look at, be proactive. You don't have to wait for stuff to happen to you, and then react and repair. You can prepare ahead of time, you can anticipate a lot of the stuff, it's not going to eliminate everything. But what it does is it helps set you up for success. It frees up that mental bandwidth, so that you have time and energy to deal with the stuff that you truly can anticipate. And so my challenge to you this week is this instead of of just waiting for stuff to happen this school year, why not take some time, put some, put some things down on paper, figure out what it is that you can anticipate. What are the red flags that let you know when an emergency is happening, and start preparing for that now, so that when you go into the school year this year, you are not reacting. Instead, you can spend your time building your vision and and your mission and your core values moving your school closer and closer to your goals 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 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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