​How to Hold Everyone Accountable #LikeABuilder


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You're listening to the School Leadership Reimagined Podcast, episode number thirty eight.

Welcome to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast...

where we rethink what's possible to transform your school. If you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement, then stay tuned to discover powerful and practical strategies for getting every teacher in your school moving towards excellence. Now, here's your host, Robyn Jackson.

Hey Builders.

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host Robyn Jackson and today we are going to talk about something that you have been asking me to cover for quite some time and that's how to conduct student focus groups.

Now I have to admit to you, student focus groups are one of my Ninja strategies. I've been doing student focus groups for the last 20 years. I started doing it when I was a school administrator, a brand new school administrator, and I missed the kids. I came straight from the classroom into school administration and I missed being around the kids and so frankly, student focus groups. It was a pretty selfish way for me to spend some time with my students and see what was going on in their lives, check in with them and also to get them to give me some feedback and I have to tell you, they quickly became not just one of my favorite things to do as a school administrator, but one of the most powerful tools that I had in my administrator toolkit to help me improve my school.

In fact, it was so powerful that when I started Mindsteps and left school administration, I built student focus groups into many of our early contracts. My role was that if I was going to come in and work in your school or in your district, then in order to tell whether or not the training we were providing for teachers was really effective, I needed to talk to the kids. And so anytime anybody engaged us to do any kind of year long, um, you know, engagement with their school district, I built into the contract, that part of that meant that I would do a student focus group after we did some training with the teachers. So that I could see if the kids noticed a difference in the classroom.

And let me tell you, it was phenomenal. The kids told me things that quite frankly, I never would have known. It's funny, kids will put your business out there and I love that about them. So I've done focus groups with students from pre k all the way to grade 12. I need to warn you that focus groups in pre k, um, you're not going to get a whole bunch of feedback. In fact, I really recommend that you start doing focus groups with kids around grade three or four and up. But I have to tell you, it is an amazing tool to connect with your students, to collect feedback from your students and to use that to make sure that the work you were doing at the administrative level is actually making a difference in the lives of kids. It is my favorite techniques.

So today I'm going to tell you all of my secrets about how I do student focus groups. 

I'm going to talk to you about why they can be so powerful and I'm going to give you step by step the questions that I ask, the way ag select elect, which students are going to participate in the focus groups, how I analyze the data, what I do with the data once I analyze it and I'm going to share all of that with you on today's episode, but before I do that I need to tell you a little bit about builders lab.

You see I just got word from my team that we have had to open up some new hotel rooms for builders lab west. They'll just let west is coming up really shortly, less than a month. I think now are just about a month away now and hotel rooms are starting to fill up and that means that we are starting to sell out. We're close to selling out and reaching our goal for our builder's lab. There are still a few seats left in there, more and builder's lab east, but if you've been on the fence about coming to builders lab, it is do or die time. It is now or never because we are starting to sell out and we just opened up another block of rooms in the hotel. We call them today and ask them to open up a few more rooms for our guests. We've opened up a few more seats in builder's Lab West so that you still have, we still have people out there who are saying, you know, working on getting their pos and so we want to make sure that they had an opportunity to still come and they're, you know, didn't want, we didn't want them to be held back by their school bureaucracy, but time is running out.

So please, if you are planning on joining us this summer, and quite frankly, why aren't you doing us this summer?

Because builder's lab is hands down my favorite thing to do here at Mindsteps, it is three days where I work with a intimate group of people and the whole time, all those three days I am just, they're devoted to helping you develop your school core values, vision and mission and then showing you how to use the four disciplines of Buildership to actually make those core values, vision and mission a reality. 

Not only that, but at builder's lab I help you develop your own builders blueprint so when you walk out of builder's lab, you have your marching orders for the beginning of the school year. You know exactly what the root cause of all of the challenges that you're facing right now in your school are and you have a roadmap that spells out exactly what you need to do to solve it is so powerful and I'm already starting to hear from a lot of the principals who are with us at the last builder's lab.

It's been about 90 days since the last builder's lab and they are telling me these incredible success stories. So I can't wait to share some of them with you. But if you are on the fence or you've been dragging your feet or you've been saying, yeah, yeah, I need to get to build his lab. I'm letting you know time is running out.

So go to https://mindstepsinc.com/builders-lab, that's https://mindstepsinc.com/builders-lab and get your builder's lab tickets today we have two builders labs coming up. The first one is happening June 24th through 26th in Palm Springs, California. We have a gorgeous hotel. It's going to be a wonderful time. And then the second one is happening right here outside of Washington DC in Arlington, Virginia and that's July 15 through 17 so we're going to be in the west coast for builders lab west.

 We're going to be on the east coast for builders lab east. Both of them are great for principals, assistant principals and instructional coaches. So if you're an instructional coach, builders lab east is going to be amazing for you because we are doing a special bonus session just for instructional coaches to show you how to take everything that you're learning at builder's lab and make it work for your unique situation. But either one would be great. Join us at builder's lab. Again https://mindstepsinc.com/builders-lab.

All right, now let's talk about focus groups. 

This episode's going to be a little different than the other episodes cause I'm not going to spend a whole bunch of time talking about the philosophy around things. This is really gonna be, you know, nitty gritty step by step instructions on how to conduct the focus group. That being said, I still do want to take a few moments to talk to you about how and why you need to use focus groups.

A lot of times when we are in charge of a school where administrators and we're running a school, we get so caught in the weeds of running a school that we lose sight of the kids. Not only that, the kids that we typically encounter are the kids who were either in trouble and are being sent to our office or the kids that we're honoring in some ways. So we're handing out awards or handing out detention. And there are a lot of kids that, well, you know, unfortunately we just don't get a chance to interact with and a lot of times our interactions with kids are already scripted. Again, we're handing out an award. We're telling them to stop running in the hallways were sitting down and asking them what they learned in their reading lesson. We're observing their homework. We're not spending time where kids can feel free to kind of just talk to us and tell us what's going on.

And so that's why I love focus groups because the kids will tell you what's going on. Remember I said that they will spill all the tea. They will tell you everything that's going on at your school. You may think you're doing a great job. The kids will tell you whether or not you're actually doing a great job. Not only that, when you sit down with students, it helps you remember why you're there. You're not there to raise test scores, you're not there to move numbers. You're not there to secure your building. You are there for the kids and I don't care how great an initiative you have or how wonderful this program looks if it's not actually changing kids lives for the better. It's not worth your time.

And the only way you know that is by sitting down and letting the kids tell you.

So let's start out with who you should invite to focus groups. My role is that your focus group should be between 12 and 15 students. I like that size because it's big enough that you get a diversity of opinions, but it's small enough that everybody gets an opportunity to talk. And when I'm working with districts and I'm doing focus groups with districts when I'm not working with just my students, but I'm working with districts, I often give the districts a kind of profile for the kind of kids I want to talk to so that that way districts don't, you know, kind of stack the deck and and put their best students in the room and I'm only hearing from their best students. I want to hear from a diverse group of students. Now, when I was a school administrator, I was a lot more random because I was doing focus groups every single month.

And so eventually I get cycled through the majority of the kids and get a good sampling. But if you want to be a little bit more deliberate, here's some of the types of students that I like to invite to this, to my focus groups. The first is I want to invite a student who is currently engaged in a special education program. So a kid with an IEP or a kid on a 504 plan, someone who actually is involved in the special education programming in our school. I think they bring a really good perspective to focus groups. I also want a student who has been suspended in the last month. That's really important. I mean if you, if you don't have a lot of discipline issues in your school, it becomes less important. But if you do have some discipline issues in your school, you really need to invite and involve students who have recently gone through the disciplinary process because they have a really good perspective.

They also can help you understand why they're getting in trouble in the first place. What's so disruptive? What's, what is it about the program that makes them so disruptive? 

I remember a focus group I did in a city in an urban school a few years ago and I asked for a student who had been suspended in the last month and the administrator said, wow, this student just came back today and she's already had a for travel, so she might as well sit in your focus group at least that'll keep her out of class for the last part of the day so she can get through a school day without getting suspended. And I thought, Oh boy, here we go. But she was so insightful. She was still, she was hilarious, but she was so insightful. She gave me such good feedback about the work we were doing around rigor in the classroom in that school and so much insight about why students aren't investing in the instructional program.

So you definitely want to get someone who's been suspended at least once in the last month. And if you can't find anybody to do that, somebody who's been either you know, had disciplinary procedures or has been in detention, somebody who hasn't gone through the disciplinary process within the last month, then you want someone who is involved in the, either you're a DT program or your honors program or your AP program, this is because you want to get the perspective of students who are, are excelling in the school. A lot of times students who are in those programs will come and say their classes are boring or they need more challenge and you want to make sure that you're hearing that perspective from them. So you want to make sure you're including at least one student who is in honors or gt or AP. You want one student with at least a solid c average, just a kid who's in the middle of the road, so they're not excelling academically, they're not failing academically.

They're just kind of hanging out right there in the middle of the road because they bring a perspective. A lot of times, like I said, as an administrator, you're only dealing with the kids who are at the top or kids who were at the bottom. But a lot of the kids who are in the middle get missed because they're not getting kicked out of class. They're not getting, you know, they're not on academic probation, they're not, you know, earning an award. They're just in class everyday going through school. So you want to at least one student who can represent that perspective for you and your school. Um, if you have a sports program, then you want to have at least one student athlete because they're going to bring a perspective about the sports program or there's too much homework and football season or they're overwhelmed or they're stretched.

Um, you want to have at least one student who is participating in any kind of arts programs. So if you have a school band or an orchestra or choir or show choir or drama or you have a fine arts program, you want to make sure you're, you're bringing at least one student for home that is a big part of their day because they're going to bring a perspective. You want one student who is in involved in your ESL programs, so they'll need to have a certain amount of proficiency. So you may not take a student who's just entered the program last week because that'll be really difficult for them to participate in the conversation. But you want someone who is either recently exited from ESL program or is doing really well and you ESL program because again, that brings a really good perspective to the group. If you have any kind of student leadership opportunity, this is an opportunity to involve students in your student government.

A lot of times people will do focus groups with the student government leaders, but I think that's a mistake because people, kids who are attracted to student government are certain kind of kid and they represent a certain perspective and your school and what you want to do is get a diversity of opinions. So I would not just include, you know the not do a focus group with Jeff, the student government unless you're looking for something specific to how you can do student government better, but you do want to have at least one representative from there in your focus group and then you want someone who's failing at least two or more subjects.

This is really important because this is a student for whom the educational program is not working and you want to find out why you want to get their perspective as well. 

Now what I do is I, when I'm looking at this profile, I will pull all the special education students and randomly pick a kid. I will pull the suspension data and randomly pick a kid. So I'm not targeting specific kids. Instead I'm looking for a diversity of opinions. And then you want to make sure that you're picking kids randomly because you don't want to skew the group. You don't want to, you know, pick certain kids that you already know how they feel because you want them in the group. You want to randomly select kids because when you do that, you will always be surprised by what they have to say and you will get a range of opinions out there that really makes for an interesting focus group.

So that's who now let's talk about when I like to do student focus groups at lunch. Um, I worked in a middle school and science at student focus groups, mostly in, in middle school when I've gone to other schools and done it, I've done it during the lunch, um, or have done it, you know, we've pulled kids from class or from specials.

I don't like doing that afterschool because it creates a logistical nightmare. So I want to do it during the school day. And here's why I like lunch because when I do focus groups, I always serve food. I order pizza, I bring in Soda. Please don't get me for how employees running children. You don't have to use whatever I can to get them to talk to me. So I have to bribe them with the little sugar and pizza and um, you know, some candy. I'm, I'm okay about doing that and you can blast me on Twitter about that later on. But I'm really okay for doing that because I want the kids to come and relax and enjoy. I want it to be a treat. So I send them fancy invitations to say, you're invited to have lunch with Dr. Jackson and I don't do it a day ahead of time.

I do it the day of, and let me tell you why. If you do it ahead of time, kids forget, or kids who don't want to calm dodge it or kids have time to think about it. If you send the invitation to them while they're in class, inviting them to join me for lunch in the next 15 minutes, they don't have talk to think about it. They don't have time to worry about it. It feels special because they're getting a hand delivered invitation in their classroom to have lunch with me. They're not in trouble. I make sure I put that on the invitation. I have, you know, you've been selected to have lunch with me and you know the wording is really positive and then that's how you get kids to show up. So the longer you you have between the time you issue the invitation and the time you ask them to show up, the more gets have time to think about it and to opt out.

But when you do it, you know, 15 minutes before lunch, they get an invitation, you know, it feels really special. It feels kind of like a surprise. They're still in a little shock. It's not happening so early in the class period that they spend the rest of the class period worrying about it. They kind of excited about it. So 10 to 15 minutes before the beginning of lunch, send a hand, um, delivered invitation to students and have them for lunch and then make sure that you have pizza and soda and candy, you know, some of their favorite foods, not cafeteria for that you want to have something special for students and then set up the conference room. I like to do in the main office conference room or in a, in an empty classroom. I set it up, I put a tablecloth down, you know, I'm, I decorate. So when they walk in the, it really does feel like it's something special. 

Now the next thing is what are you going to do during the focus groups? 

So when students come in, I have them take a seat. I don't have assigned seats, I let them pick whatever seat they want around the table. And I really like doing this in a circle so that everybody can see everybody else. And so I can see the students, I'm there with my laptop or with a pen and paper pen and paper's a little less threatening than a laptop. So I typically do a pen and paper, but you're going to have to script really fast and then sometimes I may invite my secretary in to take notes as well so that I can fully engage with the kids. It just depends if I'm going to do a district, I don't have a secretary in a district, so I will take notes myself if I'm doing this in my school, I was asked my secretary to sit in and take notes so that I could fully be engaged with the kids.

When the kids walk in, I walk them them. Um, they, the first thing you want to know is am I in trouble? And I'm like, absolutely not. I tell them what it is. I say, you know, I just want to hear your opinion and I'm hoping you'll have lunch with me and then tell me what you really think about this school. They're a little worry. They sit down, I start feeding them pizza and they're like, oh, pizza. Then like, yeah, great habits. Slice and pour yourself something to drink. Other kids come in and they're like, why am I here? And explain it to them. Once everybody's in, I closed the door, I get everybody's attention and I say thank you for coming. I'm so grateful that you chose to have lunch with me. So here are the three. We're here at the focus group. I tell them what it is.

I'm looking for your opinion about how things are going here at this school and I only have three rules for the focus group and then I go through my three rules. 

Rule number one, Vegas rules. What happens in this room stays in this row, so we are not gossiping, we are not tattling, we are simply sharing our experience in the school will number two, we don't use names so we don't say Mrs. Potter checks her phone during the class period. What we say instead is I have a teacher who, and that way we're not naming teachers and blaming teachers, but we're just collecting information. And number three, the rule number three is everybody must talk. If you eat my food, you have to share something. You have to speak at least once during the focus group. And then I give everybody an opportunity to say, now, does anyone not want to still be here?

You have the option of leaving if you want. You're not held captive. If you want to go, you go sometimes gets leave. I, I was supposed to take a test with Mrs so and so at lunch, whatever. That's why I like 12 to 15 people and I like to invite at least 15 students so that if a few have to leave, I'm still down to 12 maybe 10 students and I still have that variety and diversity of opinions. Okay, so once we do all of that, I start out with the questions and there are five questions that I always ask students during my focus groups. Just five questions. The first one goes like this. What are we doing here at this school that you really, really like? Or what is something that your teachers do in their classroom that you really, really like?

And then this is the most important part. After you asked the question, shut up. That's right. Don't say a word. Even if it means several seconds of uncomfortable silence, just sit there and wait, smiling and expectantly and sooner or later the students will speak up and once they start talking, shut up, let the students talk and they will start talking in one suit and we'll talk and I'll say, okay, great, thank you. Anybody else? And all I'm doing is writing down the information at the beginning. They'll say, well, I like the way Mrs misses a potter does this. And I'll say, oops, that's a name. They'll say, I'm sorry. Okay, I have a teacher who, and then they will say, they'll get used to it after awhile. Then the conversation takes off and your job is to listen. You're not going to ask followup questions. You're not going to tell kids, wait a minute, you don't you know you, you like that or you are wrong for saying that. You're not going to do anything like that. 

You're not going to judge. You're simply gonna listen, smile, take notes. 

One of the reasons I like taking the taking notes as I'm so busy taking notes that I don't have time to run my big mouth and interrupt the conversation. You want the kids to talk and what it looks like. The conversation is dying down. You can say anybody else. Okay. 

Second question and the second question is this. What are we doing that you don't like? Even if you know it's for your own good or what's something that your teachers do that you don't like even though you know it's for your own good. Now there's a real strategy behind this question before you get to what students don't like. You want to give them a question where you can get the typical answers out the way.

So whenever I ask students, what don't you like, they're going to say things like, I don't like homework. I don't like that. We have to read. I don't like, you know, detention. When we do something wrong and you know you, they're going to get those complaints. But when you put it as you don't like it, even though you know it's for your own good, students can then complain about homework and they still give you valuable information. Now this one, you may ask a few more followup questions, but you have to be careful because you don't want to shut down the conversation by inserting your opinion. So if you're going to ask follow up questions, you can. If you can say things like, if a student says, I don't like homework, he can say, why is that? And then shut up and let the students talk.

But you want to get students talking about, these are things I don't like even though I know it's for my own good. What is always surprising to me is after they get through the homework and after they get through tests and all of that, they'll start to say things like, I know that you all don't want us throwing trash in the hallway, but I don't like the way that you get a detention every time we do that because detention, you know a lot of times I didn't even throw trash with. Everybody gets punished for it and so you'll start to hear about some of the policies that you have in the school that students find unfair even though they know that what you're trying to do. And so it's really, really valuable.

Listen closely for this during this question because I think you'll get a lot of insight, especially once kids get past the typical answers.

Once things die down, ask anything else. Okay. Now let's go to question number three and question number three is what do you think we should stop doing or what would you like for your teachers to stop doing? Now. Again, the question is deliberately worded. It's not what don't you like or what do you, what's disappointing to you or what, what bothers you? What irks you? It's what do you want us to stop doing? And what that does is it starts helping kids point out. I don't like it when, when teachers yell at the whole class, when it's only one person who's in trouble, I don't like it when the teachers sit on their phones and play on their phones when we're supposed to be doing classwork because they don't see me. When I raised my hand to ask a question, these are real answers that I've gotten from students.

This is when students start to tell you the real deal. Or students will say, I don't like it when you all, I think you all should stop interrupting class with announcements. As soon as we get started, there's another announcement. You will hear the real truth. Kids will tell you all the things you need to stop doing and then you can ask if he, if you're not understanding something that they, I don't understand. Well, what do you mean by that? Or why did, why, why that? You can ask those questions, but you have to do it in a nonjudgmental way. What you want to do mostly is a shut up. Don't interrupt students when they're talking to you. Take notes because kids, I promise you once they get going, and the nice thing about it is once one kid says something, another student will say something and then another one will say something and they'll feed off of each other and you get a really clear picture of what's working and not working for school students in your school.

Now after you've done that for a while, again, is there anything else? Okay, and then you're going to go to the fourth question and the fourth question is what advice would you give your teachers or do you give me about how we can make school work better for you? Again, the question is worded very deliberately. It's not how can we make school better for you? It's one of device because when you ask people for their advice, they're more likely to give it than if you just ask them for something where it feels like it's, you know, it's going to be a right or wrong answer. What should we be doing? You want to get asked specifically for their advice. It puts people in a helpful mood. Students start to, you know, say, well you know you guys are doing a pretty good job already, but if I had to give me some advice and it's so cute and then they start giving you advice and their advice is always so good, listen to their advice and the fact that you're asking for their advice makes them feel important, makes them feel like you're really listening to them, that you're really going to take into account what they're saying.

So listen to that and then once things died down, you can say, is there anything else? Okay, last question. What questions do you have of me? I love this part because now the students can say, why do we have a policy with this? What happened last week when the police were here at this school. I hear that you all are going to eat. So the kids start talking about the rumors that they're hearing and because they are now loose because you've been listening to them for the last 20 to 30 minutes. Now they're, they feel free to ask you the questions and there is power in their questions. Why is it that I get an af? Um, once I, if I fail a quiz, I can't retake it. Oh, why can I only retake a quiz if I fail it? Now you start to see discrepancies in your, in your school policies and how it's affecting students.

I love this part because a lot of times kids ask really great questions and sometimes, and, and, and here's the thing, this is the part where you can answer the questions and you want to answer them honestly and transparently. 

So I've been in situations where kids will ask me really tough questions and I'll say, that is a good question, but it's a tough question and here's why. And then I'll answer them. And you can see on their faces when you answer honestly and transparently, you can see on their faces, they begin to trust you. They begin to relax, then begin to say, that makes sense. Never once have I gotten a student who's just ready to argue with me, you know, or, or, or argue me down when I'm answering the question. They're listening because I listened to them first. So those are the five questions.

I'll go through them one more time. What are we doing or what are your teachers doing right now that you really, really like, what are we doing or what are your teachers doing that you don't like? Even if you know it's for your own good, what should we stop doing? What advice would you give us? And then what questions do you have? Once you're done, you think the students were being there? Tell them to take the extra pizza and soda and candy with them and you dismiss them. The whole thing should take about 20 to 30 minutes. Um, maybe 35, 40 minutes if it's going really well. But that's it. And then now the hard part comes because now you're going to go back and you're going to go through your notes. The first thing I like to do is if I've handwritten the nodes is I actually type all the notes and I tried to start putting them in categories.

So I typed the notes, the answers for each question or have you been typing? And I'll be honest with you, I don't really like to sit and type while the kids are talking to me. It feels very clinical. I don't mind writing notes down because her, but I want to kind of have as much eye contact with them as possible. And when you're formatting the computer, it's really hard to do. So I don't really like typing while they are talking. So what I like to do is take everything, type it all up, and as I'm typing up my handwritten notes, I muscle processing what the students are saying. And you won't start to notice trends. You'll start to notice things that come up over and over and over again. I've done this in the past and kids who have told me things like, um, I love the new format that the teachers are using to test us because they give us opportunities to redeem ourselves if we don't know the information the first time.

Or kids will say things like, our books are too heavy. That's why we don't take them home. If we have lighter books, we would take them home. But I have to catch a public bus. I live all the way across town and I don't want to lug that heavy book every night. Oh, that's good. So now I know I need to change the textbook and that's exactly what we did at that school. I've had students say things like, you know what? Their teachers are not planning that gets, we'll say things we know they're phoning it in. They have not planned the night before and we can tell or teachers are spending too much time on their cell phones and, and I hear that from more than one student. They're always on their phones. And so that not front up front teaching, but they get up as soon as we walk in the classroom, the kids are saying they're faking, whatever it is.

The kids will tell you the truth and you will start to see trends in the data. 

So once I've typed up the data, then I started looking for trends or patterns and I picked the big trends or patterns and I summarize them. And then here's the really powerful part at my next staff meeting. If, so, if I have monthly staff meeting, I do monthly student focus groups at my next staff meeting, I'm sharing the results of the student focus groups. So I get up in front of the staff and I say, Hey, here are the results of the student focus groups for this month. And I give them the summary things. The students are saying that we're, that we're not planning and that they can tell. So we really want to focus on that. The students are saying, we're spending a lot of time on our phones instead of teaching.

I know it's not everybody because this the sample, but we need to talk about that. The students are saying they really love the new reteaching and reassessment process that we're using. So that's good. That's good feedback. We need to keep it up. We need to bolster it and make it stronger. The students that are saying, you know, they're, they're asking us why we have this particular role and I didn't have a good answer for them. So we need to talk about that and let's come up with a better rule. And so we talked to the staff about the student feedback and here's the most powerful part. I'm not getting in front of them griping about what they are and not doing. I'm simply sharing with them what the students said. And you would be amazed at the discussion. Now, I'll be honest with you, the first time I did this and shared it with the staff, they were pretty defensive.

They were saying like, wow, what students were in your focus group and why it, and I said, Whoa, Whoa, whoa. We're not doing any of that. I have simply collected this data and I'm sharing with you what, what the students share with me. It was a random group of students. I do this every single month. People want to dismiss the data. They want to tell you why it's wrong. They want to tell you, no, no, we're not doing any of that. This is what the kids are saying and what are we going to do about it? Because ultimately we are accountable to them and then after that we get to work, we and then the students start to see the change. What happens is if the students know you're doing focus groups, I remember one time as soon and said, hey, what am I going to get invited to have lunch with you?

And I said, well, why do we need to wait for lunch? What do you need to say? And students feel comfortable. They start coming to me one on one and giving me feedback. Kids who were in my focus group now, when they see them in the halls, they're waving at me. They're talking to me. They're coming up and they're saying, Hey, I saw how you change that rule. Good job, thanks for doing that. And so you start to have these relationships with kids that are meaningful and powerful. They start telling other students about how cool you are and how nice you are. And they start their parents call and say, hey, my suit, and my son said, you had lunch with him today. I really appreciate it. He's so shy. Nobody ever notices him. Thank you for spending some time with him.

It just changes the culture of your school and it helps everybody keep focused on why we're there.

And I guess that's the most powerful part about having student focus groups. We often forget that the reason we're there to serve kids. I know what we say, I know that we tell ourselves it's for the kids, but if we're not in a classroom with kids every single day, sometimes it's really hard to think about our kids, not as this kind of random group of people, but it's individuals with unique needs and unique challenges and we need to serve them all. The focus group keeps you grounded. The focus group keeps you connected to the students in every classroom, in your school and as a school administrator, you all are to your teachers and your students to spend time listening to them, listening to their feedback, collecting their feedback and using it to help you improve. Now my student focus groups worked so well that I started doing a parent.

I would have a parent coffee in the morning and I'd invite parents to come and have coffee with me or have, um, something in the afternoon. So the parents who are picking their students up could also share information. And again, the conducting those focus groups, I did not do it in a formal way, like in a PTA meeting or anything like that. I just invited them in and did the same exact process, same exact questions with them that I did with their students. And again, it's a great way to help parents stay connected as well. You can also do teacher focus groups where you sit down with teachers as an administrative team and ask them their feedback. We'll, you can sit down in a team meeting or a PLC and do the same thing, but focus groups give you data that goes beyond numbers that goes beyond Sir anonymous survey data.

It gives you real qualitative data that you can use to gauge how well you are serving the teachers and the students in your school. 

It is so powerful and that, you know, quite frankly that's what builders do. Builders are service oriented. We're constantly thinking about how do we best serve our students and our teachers. And one of the ways we do that, we remember feedback if they two way street. A lot of us are spent all of our time in classrooms giving teachers feedback, giving kids feedback in the hall. How often do we take time to collect feedback from them and focus groups gives you a powerful way to do that. So I want to challenge all of you who are listening before the school year is up. Try it, invite some students into your office and conduct a student focus group and then let me know on linkedin how it went.

I want to hear the success stories, but I also want to hear the fails because of you have a question or it didn't quite work out. So hit me up on LinkedIn and tell me about it and I'll see what I can do to help you figure out how to make it work better.

At the end of the day, all of us should be collecting feedback from our students because they're the reason that we are here and in focus groups are powerful way to do that. There are powerful way to help you collect feedback from your students like a builder. Okay.

Now, before we go, 

one more reminder. Builder's lab is coming June 24th through 26th is the first one for the summer. That's builder's lab west and then July 17 through 19 I'm sorry, 15 through 17 2019 that's builder's lab. East and tickets for both of them are starting to ticket sales are starting to pick up.

We've already had to open up another room block for builders lab west. We're probably gonna have to do that for builders lab east pretty soon, but we want you to be there. You do not want to miss a somewhere is a great time to come to work with other builders from all over the world and to develop a plan so that you walk into the school year, next year, confident that you are finally going to make the changes and the transformations that you've been dying to make.

Stop tweaking it changes.

Stop making small little incremental gains.

Just something really powerful and amazing this year.

Come to builder's lab and I'll help you do just that and don't forget that I want you to share the love of this podcast with other people. Focus groups are really powerful and so if you have a colleague who is, is, is looking for a way to connect with kids and to get feedback, share this episode with them, share this episode and help them learn how to do focus groups as well.

So I also need a favor from you. What you mind leaving a review for this podcast? If you're not sure how to do that, there's a link on the show notes, just go to the show notes on schoolleadershipreimagined.com/episode38 and we have a link that walks you through how to write a review.

It's a great way to get the word out about this podcast to other people and it's also a great way to give me feedback on how I'm doing so that I can better serve you.

Next week...

And speaking of serving you, let's talk about next week. 

One of the questions that I get a lot from people is, you know what? I have a habit down what to do with struggling teachers, but what I do with my best teachers, how do I keep my best teachers from leaving?

And so next week I'm going to share with you some simple strategies you can use to make sure that you are holding on to some of your best teachers.

Next week we're going to be talking about how to hold onto your best teachers.

Like a builder.

Bye for now. See you next time. 

Thank you for listening to the School Leadership Reimagined podcast for show notes and free downloads visit https://schoolleadershipreimagined.com/

School Leadership Reimagined is brought to you by Mindsteps Inc, where we build master teachers.