Be Stubborn on Your Vision,
Flexible on the Details


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast, episode 65.

Welcome to the school leadership re-imagined podcast where we rethink what's possible to transform your school if you're tired of settling for small wins and incremental improvement, then stayed 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're going to talk about another Mindsteps-ism. So by now you all have kind of settled into your new normal, at least until the next new normal shows up. And I bet that now you're asking yourselves a lot of questions like this. What can I reasonably expect from staff and students right now, especially with us working remotely, or should we still push for proficiency? Now that state testing is canceled for the year, or should we push to help students meet learning goals? Or should we just try to prevent the Corona slide, or everybody is doing their best right now and so is it really reasonable to expect or ask for more? If you're asking yourselves any of these questions, I get it. I mean these are the kinds of questions that are coming up inside of our mindsteps pop-up group every single week.

When I'm working with our private clients and coaching them through this, these same questions are coming up and they are reasonable questions. Everybody is stressed out right now. Everybody's still trying to find their way. So what is a reasonable expectation for our staff? What's reasonable to ask of them or our students or our parents in the midst of this crisis? And so if you're asking yourself any of those questions, I've got a Mindsteps isn't for you. And it's simply this, be stubborn on the vision, but flexible on the details. Now, even before this crisis, we were saying this a lot to our clients because right now we're dealing with kind of a global crisis, but every single day in schools we deal with smaller crises all the time. There are always going to be things that come up that can distract you from your focus on your vision.

We have to remind people over and over and over again. You need to be stubborn on your vision but flexible on the details.

I'll tell you how you can do that in just a moment but before I do I have two things I want to remind you about. The first one is I want to talk a little bit about builders lab because people are still asking us if we are going to be having the two summer builders labs that we have planned for this year. The first one's going to be in Las Vegas and the at the end of June and the second one is going to be outside of Washington, D C at the end of July. Right now based on everything that we know, we are still planning on having both of those events. However, my team and I have been working and we have a contingency plan in place where if we are not able to meet face to face, we can still deliver all of the goodness that's wrapped up inside of builder's lab to you in another way.

So one way or another we are having builder's lab this summer and quite frankly we need it now more than ever. So we're really committed to making sure that we have that. So if you've been worried about whether or not you should sign up for builders lab because you're not sure whether or not we're going to be able to have that live event, don't worry, regardless of whether we can meet face to face or if we have to meet another way, we are planning an amazing experience for you and because what you learn in builder's lab is really critical for helping you navigate this crisis right now or or what the crisis might look like six months from now or another crisis after that because that's so critical. We want to make sure that you get that, that you're able to implement it right away. So we are still having builder's lab.

We are offering right now a free pop up group for the mindsets community and I'm inviting you to join us inside of that popup group.

I am offering free training every single week, so I'm teaching you very practical things like how do you set up a teacher dashboard, how do you leverage of free platforms to help you kind of keep track of everything that's going on in your school, especially because you're trying to manage things remotely. And I'm also giving you bigger picture trainings like we did a workshop last week where people bought their vision statements and we help them massage those vision statements so that they become more powerful tools to use to help them navigate their schools through this pandemic and into the future. And then we also will have office hours. I've been trying to do office hours twice a week and at different times to match different people's schedules.

And quite frankly, the office hours have been some of the funnest parts of what I do because during office hours you can just pop in, ask a question, get help with a challenge and then pop out and go on with the rest of your day. You don't have to stay for the entire time, although there are several people who do choose to do that because they want to learn from listening to others. And then I'm also posting resources every single week. So this week I posted a list of resources that were either free or low cost software options to help you kind of manage the business of school things that other than zoom that you could use to keep in touch with people and to figure out. So we are doing a lot of support inside the popup group. And the reason we call it a popup group is because it's not going to be around forever, but while it is still here, you can join the popup group and you can access replays to the trainings if we recorded the training.

The replays are inside of the pop up group. 

All of the resources that we've been posting are inside of the pop up group and you have access to any upcoming trainings or office hours inside of the pop up groups. So if you'd like to join, go to Mindsteps inc com and on that page will be a link where you can click that and you can join the pop up group. And if you know anybody else who might need to join our might, what that additional support, then I invite you to invite them as well. There's a lot going on a up group. I'm really having a good time with it right now and we are trying to provide very meaningful, timely sorts of resources to help everybody navigate this new normal. Okay. So let's talk about today's Mindsteps ism, which is be stubborn on your vision, but flexible on the details.

First I want to talk about why that's so important and I want to share with you a story that I'm probably going to mess up, but because I can't even remember where I saw it. But I did read once that herb Keller, who was the founder of Southwest airlines, had a vision for building the low cost airline. And he was stubborn on that vision, but he was very flexible in the detail. So people would come into his office and say, Hey, we should start serving peanuts on flights. And he would say the low cost airline. So for a long time, Southwest didn't serve peanuts because peanuts drove up the price. And so he was very stubborn about it being the low cost airline, even though other people were serving peanuts on the plane. People would come into his office and say, Hey, I think we need to do this.

His answer was always the same. The low cost airline. 

He was so stubborn on that vision and he as a result, was able to build this unique culture in the airline industry. It wasn't that he rejected every single request or idea, but because he was so stubborn on his vision, he was able to get people focused on generating ideas that actually achieve the vision. So rather than wasting time being like other airlines, they had to find ways to make that flying experience unique and still keep it the low cost airline. As long as they did that, he didn't really care what, what ideas they bought up or what things they tried as long as they stayed focused on being the low cost airline. Now I know schools are not airlines, but the same principle applies. You need to be stubborn on your vision, especially if you want to navigate your school through a crisis and make sure that your school is better off on the other side.

Now I talk a lot about vision. You're probably sick of hearing me talk about it by now and I've actually had people say to me, Robin, I don't have time to focus on my vision right now. I'm just trying to keep our heads above water or you know, a vision is nice and I'll work on it Sunday. But right now I don't really, that's a luxury. That's a luxury I can't afford. I'm just trying to get all my kids online or I'm trying to feed kids at my school or I'm trying to keep the parents off my back or I'm trying to keep my teachers saying, and so people discard vision. And when you do that, you actually send the message that your vision wasn't that important anyway. And what will happen when you try to get back to your vision later, people will already know that your vision is expendable.

You see, in times of crisis, your vision doesn't change. 

In fact, your vision becomes even more important because your vision will help you figure out how to navigate your entire school through the crisis and what you should be focusing on right now and how you should be doing your work. So rather than throwing your vision overboard because you feel like your ship is thinking, you should be using your vision to plug the holes in your ship and make sure that you actually make it to the other side. You should be even more stubborn on your vision. Now, and so maybe you're wondering how can I be stubborn in my vision right now, my vision is that every kid will be reading by second grade at proficiency. We're not even doing state test this year and how can I ensure that kids are reading when we're teaching remotely and we need to support those students?

The answer is, I don't know, but be stubborn on your vision. You can figure that out. You can figure out how to help students maintain their reading proficiency even when teaching remotely. That should be your focus. It should be your only focus. Be stubborn on the vision, but now you're going to have to be flexible in the details because you won't have the, the tricks and tolls that you had when you were teaching students face to face. You don't throw your vision away. You try to use your vision to figure out how will we do that remotely? Or you may be saying, well, my vision is that all of our students will meet the state entry requirements for our state university system. But our seniors, their senior year is over. We can't get them to log in at all. They're done. They're not even paying attention.

That's a real problem. It doesn't mean you give up your vision. You just have to be more flexible about the details. 

You have to figure out how are we going to reach our seniors and make sure they're still ready? Would seniors are not ready yet? How do we reach out to them? Which ones are already ready? Do we need to be reaching out to them? Those are the questions you need to ask yourselves. Be stubborn on the vision, flexible on the details and so I want to talk for the rest of this episode about how you can be flexible. What are the details that you need to be considering right now, and I want to give you some concrete examples of what some schools I'm working with are doing right now that helps them stay stubborn with their vision, but be very, very flexible with the details.

And so we want to look at three different areas right now. You're going to have to be flexible about three critical details, probably more than that, but you're going to have three real big places that you are focused on right now. The first one is that you're going to need to be flexible around curriculum. You can't expect to deliver the same curriculum to students when you are trying to do it remotely. There are things in your curriculum that are nice to knows and not need to knows. For instance, one school I'm working with right now is really focused on what are the critical aspects of the curriculum that they need for students right now. So their vision for students is that all students will have algebra by eighth grade and you might be thinking, well, that's not going to happen this year because algebra is such a important subject.

Students need a lot of time in practice. 

Not everybody's going to be ready for algebra for eighth grade, whatever the excuse is. This school isn't accepting that they are stubborn on the vision. All of their students will have algebra by eighth grade. So you know what they're doing right now because they have to be flexible around curriculum. They are starting to think through what are the most critical aspects of the math curriculum that students need in order to ensure that they are still ready for algebra by eighth grade and successful in eighth grade algebra. So what they have been doing this week is they've been doing an exercise that I call five in five out and basically what that means is that the math teachers are meeting and they are identifying what are the five most critical skills they need for students coming into their level of math in order for those students to be ready for algebra by eighth grade.

And what are the five most critical skills that students need coming out of their level of map so that they are ready for algebra by eighth grade. And so the sixth grade math teachers are figuring out what are their five ends and then what are their five outs. And the seventh grade math teachers are doing the same thing and the eighth grade math teachers, the algebra teachers are doing the same thing and then what they're doing is they sixth grade and seventh grade math teachers are sitting together and they're making sure that the sixth grades, five outs are aligned with the seventh grades, five ends and then the seventh grade math teachers are working with the eighth grade algebra teachers to make sure that their five outs match the algebra teachers five ends and because they're aligning that they now know this is the curriculum that is most critical to focus on right now to make sure that all of our students know this.

If we want to keep moving our students towards our vision of all students, we'll have algebra by eighth grade. 

Be stubborn on the vision, but be flexible in the details. There are a lot of things that are not going to get taught in that math book this year and it's not because those are not important. They're just not necessary. They are nice to knows, not need to knows. And what this school is doing is they're saying, we need to look at our curriculum, we need to figure out what our needs no's are and we need to make sure that our students get that because they are stubborn about that vision of all students being in algebra by eighth grade, but they've learned to be flexible about the curricular details. So the first place you need to look at flexibility is around curriculum. The second place that you need to be flexible around is delivery.

And we all know this, we can't deliver face to face anymore, but a lot of us are trying to replicate that face to face interaction online and it's not working. Remember, you have to be stubborn on the vision. So before you pick an online platform, I love zoom. Zoom is great. I use it all the time, but it may not be right for the delivery of the instruction based on what your vision is. Let me give you an example. For instance, an elementary school we're working with right now has a vision that all of their students will be literate in five key areas by the time they leave that elementary school in the fifth grade. And those five key areas are they want language arts, literacy, math, literacy, science, literacy, social studies, literacy and social emotional literacy.

Now that they are not able to deliver instruction face to face, they have a dilemma.

To develop that literacy it means that students have to be doing something. So all of their instruction can't just be sitting in front of a camera and taking students through a lesson because they're also teaching kids. Part of their social emotional literacy piece is showing kids how to self regulate, showing kids how to kind of understand and name their emotions and, and be able to tell an adult how they're feeling. A part of their reading. Literacy is about, it's about reading independently. Part of their math literacy is about not only developing numeracy skills, but also thinking about understanding and manipulating fractions. And it's really hard to help students play around with numbers and, and, and have those conversations that they need to have in zoom meetings. So they are stubborn on the vision, but they're flexible in the detail. Their district is moving to Google classrooms and, and zoom. But this school is also doing something else. They realize that for a lot of students, especially in their population, that having only synchronous instruction was not going to work.

So now they have planned learning activities that are asynchronous based on where students need the most shoring up right now with regard to their growth in those five key areas in terms of their literacy. So they have become very, very flexible on the delivery mechanism. Sometimes the teachers are filming lessons and the students can watch them whenever they want. They are creating menus for students every single day based on where students are. They are finding ways to do, to check in with students one on one or in small groups. They're using zoom classrooms or zoom rooms, I'm not sure. They're called classrooms where they are meeting with groups of students or they have students working in groups and teachers are monitoring those groups and popping in and out of those groups they have created activities that students can call in and listen to something and play with something.

They are leveraging games. 

They are finding all these different kinds of delivery mechanisms in order to help foster students' literacy and these five key areas. They have become very, very stubborn, even more stubborn on their vision but they become so much more flexible around the details. So the first area you need to be flexible around is the curriculum. The next area that you need to be flexible around is the delivery mechanism and the last area that we need flexibility around is assessments. We have to find other ways to assess students. I wrote a Facebook post and a LinkedIn post awhile ago that said, if you have been relying on state testing and that's been driving the work that you do, you're in trouble now because they've gotten rid of state testing for the year and we don't know what state testing is going to look like going forward.

So if that's been the thing that's driving you, you are a wash. The years of wash, you have no other way to tell whether or not your students have been successful. But when you have a vision you will know whether or not this year was successful because you are measuring your progress towards your vision. Now a lot of people were saying, well my, my measurement was the state test scores. No, you didn't have a vision that said 100% of our students will score a certain score on the state test. Your vision was 100% of our students will be proficient. So what's another way to determine proficiency of the state test doesn't do it. What's another way? One of the schools we're working with right now is grappling with that very question.

They are trying to figure out, how do we determine students' reading proficiency when there isn't a state test.

So they're doing things like running records, they're doing things like looking at leveled readers. They're doing things like all kinds of informal reading assessments and they're keeping track. They still believe that all of their students should be at proficient in reading by the second grade and continued throughout the rest of the elementary years. But they now have to find new ways to assess that. Stubborn on the vision, flexible in the details. A high school and working with right now is really struggling because their vision for students is that all of their students will be eligible for the California state university systems entry requirements. And now there are questions around the SATs and should we do grading and if we do pass fail, will the state of California is university system except a pass fail grade or do we still have to give grades? Is it fair to give grades when not all of our students have access to technology?

So they're grappling with very real questions right now, but they are stubborn on the vision and so instead of throwing up their hands and letting it go, they are now sitting down and say and working with the California state university system to figure out how do we make sure that all of our students are still eligible even though grades are being questioned right now, even though assessments may or may not be given right now and so they are finding other ways to do it. They are keeping in very close contact with the California state university system and they are making adjustments accordingly.

Stubborn on the vision, flexible on the details and it's not going to be perfect. 

I mean there are some details that you won't have figured out yet, but when you're stubborn on the vision, that becomes your North star, that shows you how you can figure it out. If you don't have that vision guiding you and if you're not stubborn about that vision, you can become quickly overwhelmed with the sheer amount of choices that you are being asked to make right now. If you're feeling overwhelmed, if you're feeling like just a drift, if you're feeling like you are just waiting for somebody to kind of make a decision that's going to determine what happens in the lives of your students and you're not anchoring in that outcome which I talked about in an earlier episode. If you are not stubborn about your vision, then quickly you will start to make decisions that you may regret in a few months or you will start to make decisions because it's convenient but not because it actually moves your school forward. You see, builders are not going to be satisfied with just surviving this crisis. I've been seeing a lot of people pose.

If we get through this all the most important thing right now is to get through it. I understand the impulse. Everybody's exhausted right now. You want to give people the permission to not be perfect, so I'm not asking you to be perfect, but builders are not going to be satisfied with just surviving this crisis. They want to make sure that they thrive in the midst of prices and that they're doing things now to set their school up to thrive. When we get through the crisis, we don't know what the new normal is going to look like right now, but builders are not obsessed with having the exact answers. They are more obsessed with how do we pivot in a way that allows us to still achieve our vision in this new normal, whatever the new normal is right now. And so I want to challenge you this week to go back to your vision and become even more stubborn about it.

Your vision is not expendable in a world where everything feels adrift right now. 

Your vision is your anchor and so you need to become even more stubborn, but at the same time you need to start saying, okay, we're not going to be able to achieve the vision the same way we thought we were at the beginning of the year. Nobody could have anticipated that we'd be at this place right now, but here we are. So how do we still achieve our vision? Given that there is so much uncertainty given that there are so many unknowns given that there are so many kind of loose ends out there and the answer is simply this. Be stubborn on the vision but flexible on the details you do that and that you are going to take your school safely through this and set yourself up to be even better off on the other side and you'll do it like a builder.

That's it for this episode. Again, I want to remind you of two things. Builder's lab is still happening so make sure that you get your tickets and to get your tickets you need to go to Mindsteps inc com slash builders dash lab and then if you want our support right now and free training and resources and opportunities to kind of talk things over with me about whatever challenge or question you have right now. Then I invite you to join me at the mindset's pop up group and you can find out how to join that by simply going to Mindsteps inc com and then look for the Mindsteps pop up group and there's a button and you can join us instantly.

Bye for now. See you next time. 

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