How to Handle Uncertainty


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 78. 

How do builders like us make a dramatic difference in the lives of our students in spite of all the obstacles we face? How do you keep your vision for your school from being held hostage by resistant teachers, uncooperative parents, ridiculous district policies or lack of time, money or resources. If you're facing those challenges right now, here's where you'll find the answers, strategies and actionable tips you need to overcome any obstacle you faith. 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, Robin Jackson. And today we're going to talk about how builders deal with uncertainty. You see, right now I think a lot of us are just, we're just exhausted. There is so much uncertainty happening in the world right now. And many of my clients especially have been hit hard, because they're all these mandates coming down from the district, you're having to answer all these questions from parents, you have your students to worry about your teachers are just stressed out and overwhelmed. Everybody's looking to you for answers. And a lot of times you don't have any answers. And so uncertainty has become kind of something that we're going to be dealing with for the foreseeable future. 

So we need a tool. Today I want to talk about what that tool is.

I want to talk to you about four things that you can do that will really help your teachers kind of anchor right now especially when they feel so unmoored by all of the circumstances. And then I want to talk about a perspective that builders adopt in times of uncertainty that help them navigate their schools safely through any crisis, and keep focused on the things that matter most. And we're going to talk about what you can do right now to not only protect your teachers and protect yourself, and to help everybody deal with the uncertainty that they're dealing with right now. So we'll dive into that in just a second. Before we do, I have a couple of announcements. first announcement, builders lab, we are having our next public builders lab, January 25, to 27 2021 and we're going to do it in our virtual platform again, blk 360 was so successful this summer, and the success stories are still coming in. And so we're going to do it again. 

My team and I were meeting earlier today, and we were talking about BL360. Because we've been doing several private ones, in addition to the public one that we did this summer. And, you know, builders laugh face to face is special, and there's no doubting that. But blk 360 has its own brand of specialness there, there are some things that we can do in a virtual environment that we weren't able to do face to face. So it's not like one is better than the other, they're different, but they both are two so powerful and effective. And so I'm really enjoying blk 360 right now, and I want to invite you to that experience. And I'll tell you why it's so important to have that experience right now, with everything going on vl 360 gives you three days where you can step away from all of the chaos and make sense of it. 

When you walk out of Builders Lab 360 you have a plan of attack.

You know exactly what you need to do. And then we don't just kind of give you three days of an amazing experience and then say good luck, go on your own and do it. Instead, what we do is we walk with you over the next 30 days, we provide follow up training and support. We provide office hours so that you can come back and say I tried this, and it worked or I tried this and I can't figure out how to make it work and I can coach you through it. We provide a community of other builders so you stay connected over that 90 days, everything you need in order to take what you learn and be able 360 and implement it in your school right away and we follow up to make sure that you're successful. So I would love for you to join us at bL 360 happening January 25 through 27. And all you need to do is go to mind step Slash builders dash lab. Okay, so that's the first announcement announcement. The second announcement is that builder ship University is moving along. We just hired a new concierge so that when you are a member of builders ship University, there's somebody that's just taken care of you answering your questions, making sure that you're successful and not only that, we are adding All of these courses to build a ship University, so it is becoming such a treasure trove right now built a ship University is not open for wide enrollment, we'll be doing that in January. But because you are a friend of the podcast, you have an opportunity to join build a ship University before we launch it in January, you can get founders membership and founders pricing. So when we launch in January, the pricing for the tuition for builders University is going to be $97. But right now it's a founding member, you can get a tuition and lifetime tuition of $67 a month. 

That means you're locked into that. It also means that you have the opportunity to kind of shape what builders university will look like. So when a member a founding member, lets us know that they need a resource or they're struggling with a particular challenge. We create that and we added into build a ship University, they're giving us feedback on what's working, what's not working. And if you really want to be a part of that, plus, the founders community as a close knit community gets this very small, and we're meeting together within Office Hours, and we're supporting each other, we just had office hours and build a ship University last week, and it's the best part of my week. Because that's a time Well, we get into this intimate group. And people come in, they bring their challenges, they bring their successes, and we work together to try to figure out how to solve them. So if you want to be a part of the founders community inside of builder ship University, you need to go to builder ship and fill out an application and we'll get back to you shortly to let you know whether or not your application was accepted into the founders cohort. And then if you want to wait, we will have it open to the public in starting in January. And I'll tell you more about that later on. 

Okay, the third announcement is something I am really excited about. 

You see, next week, October 12. Through 14, I'm going to be filming a course that we are going to be releasing inside of builder ship University, you'll also be able to purchase the course as a standalone course once it's filmed for $397. But I thought it would be really cool. If I offered you the opportunity to watch me film that course absolutely free. That means you can get the course content, everything absolutely free. And so what we're going to do is we are going to be streaming the filming of the course inside of the school leadership reimagined podcast group. So all you need to do in order to watch the course absolutely free is to go to the school leadership reimagined podcast group, it's inside of Facebook. So it's a private group inside of Facebook, you can just search for it inside of Facebook, you should find it asked to join will let you in. 

And then once you're in, you'll get all the details for watching us during the course live. Now you'll need to be there when we're actually showing the course we'll leave it up for a few hours. And then we're going to take it down because ultimately, this is a course that's going to be created for sale. But if you want to get access to the course, absolutely free, just join us for the filming of the course inside of the school leadership reimagined podcast group, again, the dates for that course, October 12, through 14, and all of the details for when we're streaming the course what the topics are going to be. That's all inside of the school leadership reimagined podcast group. 

Now I have to tell you, I'm really excited about this new course. 

This course is all about what kinds of supports Can you provide for teachers so that every teacher in your school grows at least one level in one domain? In one year or less? I'll say that again? Because I mean, really think about it, what would it be like if all of your teachers every single year were making that kind of progress towards mastery. So again, every teacher in your building, growing one level in one domain, in one year or less, over the course of a couple of years, you could have no failing or you know, any effective or novice teachers, and all of your teachers could be well on their pathway to becoming master teachers and think about the difference that can make in your school. So this new course is going to show you how to do that. We're going to show you how to set up an entire support process where that kind of growth happens regularly and predictably with your teachers. So we're going to show you the first day we're going to be talking about how do you differentiate your support and looking at how to take support and meet the needs of the individual teachers in your school without you know killing yourself in the process. So every teacher gets exactly the kind of support that they need for where they are. The second day we're going to be talking about creating developmental support. So how do you figure out what is the teachers next best step on the road to mastery? How do you do that again, without killing yourself in the process, but every teacher still gets exactly what they need. Then the third day we're going to be talking about deliberate support. So how do you set up systems so that this is happening automatically in your building every single year? How do you set up systems that allow you to monitor teachers progress and intervene early, so you're not waiting until the end of the year evaluation to see where teachers are. 

All in all, this is an amazing course, I'm so excited to share this with you. And so all you need to do to access the course for free is to go to the school leadership reimagined podcast Facebook group, and we'll be streaming the filming live. So you can get a little behind the scenes and see, you know, when I'm making bloopers, and whatever, but you also get to see all of the material for the course you get to hear all of the teaching and the training, and you get to do it absolutely free. Again, that's inside of the school leadership, reimagined podcast group inside of Facebook, just go to Facebook, search for the group asked to join will let you in. And you can see the course, the course is going to be streaming October 12,13, and 14. So make sure that you get in before then so that you can actually catch that course. Alright, that's it for the announcements.

Now let's just talk about how Builders deal with uncertainty. 

This is, this has been a crazy year already. And it's only October. And I'm starting to believe that the certainty that we're looking for, may not come for a while I think this is going to be a wild year, I think there are going to be so many changes that we just need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, we need to get comfortable with uncertainty. And that's easy to say. But it's really hard to do. So what I wanted to do is share with you something that I've been sharing a lot with some of our coaching clients and some others who are working with us around how you can navigate your school through some of this uncertainty. So I want to start by talking about four things that you can give teachers that really helps them calm down with the uncertainty. And then I want to talk about something that can help us stay focused during this uncertainty. Before begin, you know, I've already said this in another podcast episode where I talked about anchoring in the outcome, but I need to say it again. Because if you have a clear vision, mission and core values, and you are still sifting your work through that it cuts through a lot of this uncertainty.

Some of our clients are not experiencing the same level of stress and anxiety that other clients that other people are in a lot of that it's because they are focusing everybody on the outcome. They're anchoring in that outcome. So if you haven't listened to that podcast episode, make sure that you go back and listen to the podcast episode around anchoring the outcome, because I talked about how that is the most important thing. But even those people who are anchoring in the outcome are still starting to see some teacher anchors bubble up, especially because every day it's something new districts are saying, oh, we're gonna start out remote. No, we're going back to school, something happens, no, we're going to go hybrid. And people can't get their bearings. Because every day things are changing. And there's a lot that you can't control. You can't control what the district is doing. You can't control what's happening in your state, or your county. So we have to focus on the things that we can control. A lot of times people come to you and they want answers. What are we going to do and we feel this pressure to give them answers? Well, often we don't have any answers. So it's unfair to put pressure on yourself to provide answers for questions for which you don't have any answers. And yet, we feel like we have to give teachers something. So what do we do in that circumstance?

I want to talk about four things you can give teachers right now, that can help them deal with a lot of the uncertainty. 

The first thing that every teacher needs right now, is they need some reassurance and reassurance really answers the question, am I okay? Now, I'm not talking about you know, just coddling people and saying you're okay, Mommy loves you. Not that kind of reassurance. That's not what I'm talking about. But people need to know that regardless of what decisions are being made, we're going to be okay, as a school. And the way you can offer that reassurance. And it ring true is you always go back to your vision, mission and core values. When people are asking, am I okay? Are we okay? You can say no matter what happens, we will find a way to achieve our vision, mission and core values. A lot of people want to build your tribe this summer and are now back in their schools and they're sharing their vision stories with their staff. They are seeing body language change. You know, a lot of people are saying, Look, I'm in the middle of the staff meeting. I'm talking to them about our vision, mission and core values that I'm telling them regardless of what happens, we can meet this vision. And they say that people physically relax in the room. That kind of reassurance that no matter what happens No matter how much of a mess, things seem to be right now. We're going to be okay. We are going to come out of this year. Better. We are going to still meet our vision, our mission and our core values. So when you're giving people reassurance it's real, it's not to say we're going to be okay. Or once we get back, we're going to be okay, are all of these things that we, we feel tempted to say the teachers, builders are not giving people false reassurance, they're giving them reassurance they can anchor it. 

The only reassurance that you have control over as a school is your vision, mission and core values. Because what builders do is they don't look at their vision, mission and core values and say, well, that vision could be true. If we are under ideal circumstances. No, they are looking at whatever circumstances come their way. And they're saying, All right, here are new circumstances, we still need to reach this vision. So how do we do it given these new circumstances, and that gives people a real sense of calm because they know no matter what happens, we still are going to work towards our vision, we still are going to continue to do work that's on mission, we are still going to live by our core values. And when everything else goes awry, you can always anchor in that. So the first thing that you need to give teachers is reassurance. 

The next thing that you need to give teachers is confidence. 

Confidence is really about the question, Is this okay? And so in Episode 77, I talked a lot about what how builders give teachers feedback, even while we're doing remote teaching or hybrid teaching. And now more than ever, your teachers need feedback. And it doesn't necessarily have to be a value to feedback. But they need feedback that tells them Is this okay? I'm trying out this new thing, is it working? They need ways to be able to gauge that themselves. And I see a lot of evaluation companies or people who kind of look at teaching frameworks, and they're scrambling to try to come up with a new framework or new look for is for remote teaching. And you know how I feel about that I think a teaching is good teaching. But if you can help teachers anchor in that, and the way that builders do it is they have people anchor in those seven principles. So when teachers are asking the question, Is this okay, you can say, does it start where students are? Does it reflect a knowledge of where students are going? Does it convey high expectations that you believe you can get students there? does it provide supports for students that are differentiated along the way? Does it use feedback to help you and your students get better? Is it focused on quality versus quantity? And does it require the students to do their own cognitive heavy lifting so that you are not working harder than your students. So when those seven principles get invoked, it's not about an evaluation instrument, although they're aligned to evaluation instruments, it's not about anybody's new framework, although their new framework will still align with the seven principles if it's worth anything.

Instead, you have seven things that you're looking for. When you're giving them feedback, you're giving them feedback that helps them figure out where they may be still missing the mark. And that also gives them a focus for what work they need to be doing next. And even if you don't come in and give them that feedback, they have those principles. So they can give themselves that feedback. They can measure what they're doing, which is brand new to them, they can measure that against something that's timeless. Someone said to me this week that this year, everybody's a first year teacher, and I've laughed, but I think he's kind of right. Everybody's a first year teacher and your teachers are looking to know Is this okay? They they lack confidence. Even your veteran teachers are feeling unmoored right now. But if you get them to focus on those seven principles, and you you help them look at what they're doing and see if do they align with the seven principles, and it's okay, it takes away a lot of the banks. It's not about meeting the requirements of an evaluation system that's still being developed. It's not about, you know, trying to conform to a framework that hasn't even been tested, but was hastily prepared and put together to address remote teaching. 

These principles are timeless.

They'll be the same principles, whether we are remote, whether we are face to face, whether we are hybrid, or some other crazy model that somebody else comes up with that kind of combines all three, it doesn't matter. And that gives people certainty, in a time of uncertainty, because you can depend on these principles no matter what. So they need reassurance, they need confidence. The third thing that they need is they need direction. What is my strategy and again, vision mission and core values save you here. Right now people are so focused on you know, making sure the classroom is safe and do I have my online classroom setup or managing the technology that they think that's the work, that's not the work the work is our vision, mission and core values. And so when people feel uncertain, they start feeling around for something that feels certain and technology. feel certain and you know, classroom configurations feel certain. And what you want to do is you want to give people something that's more meaningful. It's not that those things aren't important. But those are a function of the work. They are not the work itself. What you want to do in terms of giving people direction is, is that helping us move towards our vision? Is that work aligned with our mission? And is that work being performed in a way that aligns with our core values, that will, that will give them the right direction every single time it will never fail them. So again, people need reassurance, they need confidence, they need direction. And the last thing that your teachers really need right now is they need some help around the action. And that really is a question of what should I do next?

One of the reasons that builders plan in 90 day cycles is because 90 days feels manageable enough. It's short enough that people don't get fatigued. It's short enough that you can kind of pivot, but it's long enough to actually see results. So when people are thinking, what do we do next? Your 90 day plan gives them the answer to that. One of the things we do here when we're working with builders lab, and one of the things you'll do if you come to builders lab is we create a builders blueprint, that blueprint helps you figure out what is the most important work you should be doing right now, doesn't mean that there aren't other challenges that you're facing right now. But the builders blueprint helps you kind of dig through all the noise and figure out what is the most important work, we should be focused on right now. The feedback process that builders use does the same thing for teachers, we go in and we give one thing feedback. And we give teachers the one thing they need to be working on right now. So if you can help teachers, not only say here's the direction we're headed, here's our vision, mission and core values. But then through the builders blueprint process, and one thing feedback process, you can say, and because we're moving in this direction, here is the best next step for you right now, then your teachers have something to anchor in, it doesn't feel as uncertain, they can let all of that other stuff that's happening around them continue to happen, and they still keep their eye on the ball, they now have a plan of action that helps them move forward. If you skip all of this, here's what's going to happen, your morale is going to continue to degrade. 

As I said earlier, I think we're going to have to get used to the uncertainty right now. 

If you don't have a way to help navigate your school through uncertainty, then I worry that the uncertainty is going to get the better of you it's going to create cynicism is going to make people who really aren't ready to leave the profession leave the profession, because they don't know what else to do. It's going to leave everybody unmoored, it's going to create a lot of toxicity happening in your culture as people are trying to figure this out on their own. Remember, builders are always building something better. And also remember that builders don't say go, they don't say Let's go, they say come. If you can create a space that feels safe, you can invite your teachers into that space. And it doesn't change anything that's happening on the outside of the school, but it changes everything that's happening on the inside of school, and you give people a place of certainty. Now, that's to take care of your teachers. What about you? How do you even know where to begin? Well, of course, I'm going to tell you vision, mission and core values are important. But this week, I was talking to a couple of clients, and we were talking about the vision mission and core values, and how do you stay focused on that with everything else going on? And I started challenging them to think about this. You know, one of the things we say it mindsets all the time is that we help you turn your school into a success story with the people and resources you already have. And I want to include circumstances in that too, because now we are trying to build that success story in these unusual circumstances. So if you want to stay focused, here's what I want you to do. 

What is the success story that you want to tell about your school? Imagine yourself a year from now reflecting on 2020. It was a crazy year. And yet, in spite of the craziness of the year, you are able to help your students still achieve a year's worth of growth. Four years worth of school, your staff actually got closer and more bonded and focused. You've redefined some ways of teaching and found ways to reach students that you haven't been able to reach before. What is that story that you want to be telling a year from now about what your school did this year? That's what you focus on. Because right now, the actions that you're taking are writing the story you're going to be telling a year from now and the You're either going to be telling a story about how 2020 was a disaster and a dumpster fire. And I hope I never repeated again. Or you're going to be telling the story about how proud you are of your team because they really pulled together and they serve students, you're going to be telling the story about that parent that called you and said, You know, I was overwhelmed. But your school gave my students a place where they could be safe every single day, and they continue to learn, and you protect my child from a lot of what was happening in our home. There, you're going to be telling the story about how your staff was starting to get really cynical, but you got them anchored in the vision, mission and core values and their commitment skyrocketed. And then they got so creative and problem solving, that you actually now have a better school as a result of going through this, you're going to be telling a story of, of heroism of your entire staff and how people started figuring it out, and they became their best selves on behalf of your students. It's up to you. But make no mistake, the actions you take right now are writing the story you're going to be telling a year from now. 

You should be deliberate about crafting that story. 

What is the story you want to tell a year from now and how the actions you take right now today, begin writing the success story you want to tell tomorrow. That's how you stay focused on your goals and keep everybody else focused on your goals, like a builder. So that's it for today. Don't forget to join the Facebook group, the school leadership reimagined Facebook group so you can get access to that live streaming and filming of the training that I'm going to be doing next week about how you can help teachers move one level in one domain in one year or less. 

I'll talk to you next time. 

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 offers. 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 Buildership University. Just go to and get started writing your school success story today.

I'll see you then!

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