Struggling with School Initiatives? Get Them Right Once and For All–Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Struggling with School Initiatives? Get Them Right Once and For All–Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

If something isn’t right within an initiative, it’s likely that it wasn’t right from the start.

~ Jim Marshall

About Jim Marshall

Jim Marshall’s life-long work lies at the intersection of people and the organizations in which they work—and optimizing the synergy that fertile convergence holds. A Professor of Educational Leadership at San Diego State University, his scholarship, teaching, and consulting combine our understanding of human performance and organization development to assess strengths, devise strategies, and improve even the most vexing of challenges. 

With over 200 publications to his credit, Marshall’s scholarship encompasses a diverse range of works that include empirical research, program evaluation efforts, and policy development. His evaluation endeavors are particularly significant and include more than 250 individual studies of funded projects and program investments totaling over $120 million dollars. 

He serves as a thought partner to leaders seeking to hasten the collective impact of their organization’s investments. From assessing strengths and needs to conceptualize strategy and program initiatives and then measuring return on investment, Marshall’s unique approach relies on a proven mix of assessment and evaluation, appreciative inquiry, and empathic understanding that predictably yields quantifiable results. 

His book, Right from the Start: The Essential Guide to Implementing School Initiatives, summarizes lessons learned through the evaluation of hundreds of programs in both the public and private sectors.

What You’ll Find in this Educational Leadership Podcast Episode with Jim Marshall

Jim starts with his experience as the evaluator of initiatives and projects, which led him to write the book. He has been able to reflect on what school leaders could do differently at the start of initiatives, which would make all the difference in the long run. 

Jim calls for careful and thoughtful planning for initiatives so that when we get to the implementation phase we end up with a more predictable result. 

Joe asks about the balance between whether the initiative itself is the problem or the people who execute it. Don’t miss what Jim says about how people interface with the initiative. 

You want to hear what Jim says about his motivation equation: motivation = value * convince. He gives credit to Vroom through his expectancy theory

Jim argues that a “program” is like the tip of an iceberg while an “initiative” should be able to get to the deeper parts of the iceberg. 

We ask Jim to talk about dos and don’ts. Here’s what he says: 

  • Do…try to understand the problem first. Talk to people to know more about what is going on. Don’t trust your own view as accurate of the current situation. 
  • Do…use your needs assessment to create awareness and buy-in. 
  • Do…make sure that the people can see themselves in the implementation and design. 
  • Do…make sure to create a program evaluation process. Jim says that you’re probably already doing this informally; just formalize it to analyze the data. 
  • Don’t…skip steps at the beginning of the planning phase or forget to evaluate the results. 
  • Don’t…forget to develop defined outcomes. 

Jim follows Michael Fullan for knowledge and inspiration. He mentions Change Forces as a favorite. 

Jim recommends that we start by looking for bright spots in our work. He calls it “appreciative inquiry.” We typically look for things to fix, and that’s not always the best way to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. 

Jim wants to know why there’s not more knowledge and shared best practices among schools and outside organizations. Don’t miss what he says about the dissemination of best practices. 

He talks about his continued strategy for growth. He runs through the use of performance engineering.  

Jim used to think of evaluation as “gap analysis,” but now he looks for strengths first. 

Jim ends by saying that this work doesn’t have to be complicated. We couldn’t agree more!

The Leading Better & Growing Faster with Joe & T.J. Show

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing to the site.

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J. 

Stretching Your Learning Edges, Growing (Up) at Work, and More with Guest Jennifer Abrams–Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Stretching Your Learning Edges, Growing (Up) at Work, and More with Guest Jennifer Abrams–Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

About Jennifer Abrams

Formerly a high school English teacher and a new teacher coach in Palo Alto Unified School District (Palo Alto, CA, USA), Jennifer Abrams is currently a communications consultant and author who works with educators and others on leadership development at all levels, effective collaboration skills, having hard conversations and creating identity safe workplaces.

 Jennifer’s publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicate, Collaborate & Create Community, Hard Conversations Unpacked: the Whos, Whens and What Ifs, and Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives.  

 Her newest book, and the focus of this episode, is Stretching Your Learning Edges: Growing (Up) at Work

 Jennifer shares her work in other mediums as a featured columnist on growth and changes for Learning Forward’s The Learning Professional journal as well as contributing to The International Educator (TIE), focusing her writing on adult development and collaboration skills.

 Jennifer has been invited to keynote, facilitate, and coach at schools and conferences worldwide and is honored to have been named one of the “18 Women All K-12 Educators Should Know” by Education Week’s ‘Finding Common Ground’’ blog.  More about Jennifer’s work can be found at her website, www.jenniferabrams.com. and on Twitter @jenniferabrams.

What You’ll Find in this Educational Leadership Podcast Episode with Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer starts with the fact that “we speak to” being lifelong learners, but are we really living up to that? 

 What if we developed ourselves in ways that allowed us to respond rather than react? Listen to what she says about the typical response to feedback. 

 Joe asked why we have such trouble with a learning culture. Jennifer’s response is profound–time, being “done” as a learner, school leaders assuming that the adult is already good enough.

 You have to hear what she says about the difference between how teachers are given prep periods but not reflection periods. 

 T.J. asked about why educators often become defensive when given feedback or asked to make a change. Jennifer puts it simply: the system is not designed that way. We don’t have the apprenticeship-style learning that would induct us into the profession as a learner. 

 Jennifer talks about resiliency as working on our own emotional and psychological hygiene. Don’t miss what she says about Pigpen and how people can bring in a lot of dust.

 Education is complex. Listen to what she says about shifting from “teacher of record” to “a space of learning” and how it can have a huge void. 

 You want to know how to use the tool she describes to get people to check their energy when we start a meeting. 

 Jennifer follows Shane Parrish at Farnam Street. She also studies Jennifer Garvey Berger, Cultivating Leadership for adult learners.

 Pay attention to her leadership check-in questions that gauge relationship health, but can work well with a team. 

 Jennifer wants to learn how to cook better. But she wants to feel free to fail. Powerful statement.

 Three things to do to learn and grow as a leader: 

  1. Find a conference and attend as a learner. 
  2. Find a conference and apply to co-present with someone. 
  3. If you’re interested in someone’s work, find them. Reach out to them. 

 Jennifer reveals that she has a cognitive crush on Peter Block, author of The Answer to How is Yes

 Lastly, Jennifer reminds us that you can get things done. Just go forth and do it.

The Leading Better & Growing Faster with Joe & T.J. Show

Let us know a topic that you want us to cover by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing to the site. Like, follow, share, and comment–we appreciate it!

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J. 

How School Leaders Can View Problems as Possibilities To Improve Their Schools, Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

How School Leaders Can View Problems as Possibilities To Improve Their Schools, Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

How School Leaders Can View Problems as Possibilities To Improve Their Schools

In this episode, Joe and T.J. explore what it really means to mind your mental map. Our minds can be very scary places if we are not careful. School leaders must remain in a productive space in order to lead effectively, but the thread of events throughout the day and week can take its toll. This is why school leaders must do the following:

  1. Flip Your Thinking
  2. Don’t Jump to Judge
  3. Adapt, Don’t Adopt

Key Points from Joe & T.J

T.J. starts the conversation on the crucial importance of being aware of the potential of living on Groundhog Day–experiencing the same set of events over and over.

Joe double-downs on some ChatGPT, unfinished learning, school climate, an increase in student discipline, the teacher shortage, and ESSER funds running out, and how we frame all of these circumstances in our minds is critical. Yes, they are problems, but where are the possibilities? We are firm believers that with the right approach, no problem is unsolvable

 

Take control of your thinking and flip it. Listen to T.J. talk about Tim Ferris and how he approaches an issue

  • Innovation and analysis–think with your team.
  • Don’t jump to judge–so easy to judge others by their actions and not intentions. 
  • Adapt, don’t adopt–put an issue on its side.
  • Perceptual illusion–what don’t you see?

The Leading Better & Growing Faster with Joe & T.J. Show

Let us know a topic that you want us to cover by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing to the site. Like, follow, share, and comment–we appreciate it!

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

The Power of Grit, Tenacity, and Family Support with Nancy and Elizabeth Jorgensen, Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

The Power of Grit, Tenacity, and Family Support with Nancy and Elizabeth Jorgensen, Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

About Nancy and Elizabeth Jorgensen

Elizabeth Jorgensen has been published in many popular journals, including the English Journal, Edutopia, Teachers & Writers Magazine, and many, many more. 

Her book on process-based assessment, Hacking Student Learning Habits, was published by Times 10 Publications in 2022, and her most recent book was released in October 2022, Gwen Jorgensen: USA’s First Olympic Gold Medal Triathlete, which is our focus today, along with her co-author and mother, Nancy. 

She has presented nationally and is an award-winning writer and teacher, and sought-after speaker. 

Nancy Jorgensen was a high school choir director for many years, she is the co-author of two music education books, Things They Never Taught You in Choral Methods and From the Trenches: Real Insights from Real Choral Educators. She is also the author of several essays and an Olympic blog, published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

Very impressive teachers and family!

What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Nancy and Elizabeth Jorgensen

Listen to this incredible story of mother and daughter working in the same school and how Nancy (mom) was publishing articles and other work, and how she went to Elizabeth (an English teacher) to help with editing. 

Then, Elizabeth asked her to return the favor. They’ve been writing together ever since. 

Nancy explains why candor was critical with her children. There’s no time to slow down to “be nice.” 

Don’t miss what Elizabeth and Nancy say about ideation and staying on task, including the kind of feedback they want and expect from each other. 

We really liked the concept of the “beta-readers” to help with polishing work before publication. 

They get very granular about their writing and editing process. It’s fascinating to hear how they can often lose track of who wrote the initial piece. 

The research behind why they wrote Gwen Jorgensen: USA’s First Olympic Gold Medal Triathlete is fascinating. Their discovery: there aren’t books available for young people about female athletes.

One powerful theme in the book comes from how Gwen listened to a track coach even though she didn’t consider herself a runner.

Nancy and Elizabeth emphasized the power of listening and embracing what others see in us, even if we don’t see it in ourselves.

Elizabeth talked about the essence of feedback and how Gwen refined her skills to grow into an Olympic Gold medalist. 

Don’t miss how school leaders can use these lessons in each and every classroom. The point about strength identification is a powerful takeaway. Elizabeth’s answer on the power of reflection and the activity of having students write letters is something every teacher can do. 

What Nancy says about student leadership in the choir classroom is profound. 

We were not surprised to learn that both of them follow Gwen as a positive force in their lives. In fact, they have to follow her on social media because she’s so busy. 

The way that Elizabeth uses social media to praise and celebrate the people she follows is an awesome strategy. 

The goals that Gwen makes public about her Olympic training is both vulnerable for her and inspirational for the rest of us. 

Elizabeth talks about the need for sleep. You need the Oura ring!  

Nancy talked about sticking to a schedule as a superpower. 

Nancy wants to learn how to run and do a 5K with Gwen. Liz suggested that hiring a coach is a game-changer!

Elizabeth talked about her desire to be more patient, compassionate, and kind. Especially in her response and delivery to others. 

Nancy used to think that she had an obligation to certain groups but now gives herself the freedom to say no. 

Elizabeth ends with what she has learned about not putting a ceiling on what she can do. Listen to how she slashed her mile-per-minute time!

Additional Resources

The Leading Better & Growing Faster with Joe & T.J. Show

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing to the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

Teaching Students Executive Functioning Skills with Mitch Weathers, Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Teaching Students Executive Functioning Skills with Mitch Weathers, Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Mitch Weathers Joins Joe & T.J. 

Mitch became a gifted teacher because he was a mediocre student. He rarely felt comfortable in the classroom. In fact, it took him 7 years for him to graduate from college.

Choosing to become a teacher, Mitch was fortunate enough to experience school as if it was happening all around him. He was unsure how to jump into his learning with confidence. There is a loneliness to experiencing your education as a passive object as opposed to an active subject. 

From the moment he entered the classroom, Mitch relied on his personal experiences as a learner. He recognized that what we teach, the content or curriculum is secondary. We must first lay the foundation for learning before we can get to teach. In fact, unless students develop a solid foundation for learning it does not matter how great your teachers deliver content, or how emergent the technology, or even how engaging a lesson might be. 

Mitch designed Organized Binder to empower teachers with a simple but research-backed strategy to teach students executive functioning skills while protecting the time needed for content instruction. The secret is found in establishing a predictable learning routine that serves to foster safer learning spaces. When students get practice with executive functions by virtue we set them up for success.

What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Mitch Weathers

Mitch starts this episode with a clear definition of executive functioning, including debunking the myth that it’s only for special education students. 

He says that executive functioning skills is an umbrella term with a bunch of other skills working toward executive functioning.

Mitch is surprised that more people aren’t talking about executive functioning because it’s so foundational for how students learn. 

We can’t just focus on what students learn, we need to teach them how to learn. This results not just a bump in their grades but a big boost to their confidence. 

Joe asked a very poignant question: why don’t we teach executive functioning skills, making our life as teachers even harder than it needs to be? Here is what Mitch says about time and Zone of Genius.

How are executive functioning skills best learned?  Modeling and deliberate practice in a safe space. 

T.J. brings up the point that executive functioning skills have to be part of our equity work. If EF helps to level the playing field for all students, they need to be embedded in our equity plans. 

One key to helping students develop executive functioning skills is to have very predictable routines in the classroom. Mitch talked about the fact that consistency is a huge factor in students’ ability to learn. 

Joe asks Mitch to outline how he teaches teachers to help students with these skills. Mitch mentions that a school-wide approach is important. Listen to what he says about shared learning routines. 

Don’t miss Mitch’s five-part series on executive functioning skills, which is totally free.  

The tenets of executive functioning: clarity, routine, and modeling.

It was a lot of fun to hear Mitch talk about “working memory” and how teachers can learn to use students’ working memory through routines at the beginning and end of every classroom period. 

Don’t miss the discussion on what good instruction looks like!

  • Success criteria
  • Clear goals
  • Structured reflection

Mitch brings up Marzano and the importance of exposing students to concepts multiple times. 

The Leading Better & Growing Faster with Joe & T.J. Show

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing on the site. You appreciate a like, comment, follow, or share. And, if you’re reading our books, please rate them on Amazon

 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

 

Joe & T.J.

Why Every School Leader Needs To Use A Beginner’s Mindset When Solving Perennial Problems – Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

Why Every School Leader Needs To Use A Beginner’s Mindset When Solving Perennial Problems – Leading Better and Growing Faster with Joe and T.J.

In our most recent book, 7 Mindshifts for School Leaders: Finding New Ways to Think About Old Problems, we introduce 7 Mindshifts that principals and other school leaders can use to solve problems that are constantly plaguing our schools. It’s important that not every problem requires these shifts, but rather those that are important, persistent, and urgent. When a problem is IPU, we use our first mind shift, A Crisis Mindset. 

Take a moment and think of a problem that you are facing and compare it to the chart by answering the questions in the third column to see if it meets the IPU threshold. 

Important Fundamentally impacts teaching and learningHow does it impact teaching and learning?
Persistent Ongoing, complex, with long-term implicationsHow long has the issue been a problem? 
UrgentTime-sensitive, needs immediate attention and requires skillful resolveWhy does it require immediate attention?

In this episode, Joe and T.J. explore what it really means to use a Beginner’s Mindset when solving a problem. It’s hard to accept, but our experience can prevent us from seeing solutions. Joe and T.J. were first introduced to this concept when they interviewed the late Richard Elmore on what it means to be a learning leader

Key Points from Joe & T.J. About Using a Beginner’s Mind

  • The Beginner’s Mindset sheds preconceived ideas and thoughts on what should be done. 
  • Our own expertise can get in the way of seeing ideas and opportunities.
  • Look to great business examples like Sarah Blakely of Spanx who sought to solve a problem she was facing as a real estate agent. Who would have thought she would have revolutionized shapewear? 
  • The Spaghetti Tower activity says it all.

Each mind shift in the book is equipped with a model to help school leaders navigate the process of analyzing a problem and finding new solutions. The Beginner’s Mindset Model is designed to ignite the childlike mind needed to see new possibilities and dream new realities. 

As we wrap up, take a moment and think back to the problem that you identified using IPU filter:

  • Based on the problem you identified, is the team’s expertise working for or against them? 
  • How could you incorporate more diverse perspectives when discovering information about the problem? 
  • Who do you know who knows nothing about the problem who you could consult for different thinking? 

We hope you enjoy this book to lead better and grow faster as school leaders. We always appreciate a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. And, if you’re on Amazon, please rate it.

Let us know what you’re reading by contacting us at contact@theschoolhouse302.com. And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing to the site. 

 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

 

Joe & T.J.