Angela Kelly Robeck is a best-selling author and certified life coach for school leaders. She helps site and district leaders navigate the mental and emotional demands of the job. A former teacher, coach, principal and district administrator, Angela deeply understands the toll of school leadership and it is her mission to empower leaders through the use of effective mindset tools.

Show Highlights

  • STEAR your personal and professional lives into one human
  • Live the work you want to lead to eliminate fear
  • Stop carrying the weight of leadership alone 
  • Become an observant leader and not an emotional one
  • Holding people accountable is fun!! Inspiring mutually accountable partners
  • How to get to the root of the problem
  • Write your own leadership story-Empowered Principal Mastermind

“We are so so busy being busy that we don’t believe that it’s possible to stop and reflect and take the time to think about what’s even driving our actions.”


Full Transcript Available Here

Welcome (00:00):

Welcome to the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast. This is your friendly neighborhood podcast host Daniel Bauer.

Daniel (00:10):

Better Leaders, Better Schools is a weekly show for Ruckus Makers. And what is a Ruckus Maker? A leader who has found freedom from the status quo, a leader who makes change happen. A leader who never ever gives up. In the past, I’ve been to a therapist, I went to work on personal challenges, but the funny thing is when you start to connect the dots between personal and work life, well today’s guest, Angela Kelly Robeck was working on personal development too, and then she had this Eureka moment and realize what she was learning for her home life would help her be a better leader at school. And it did and she taught her students. Then she taught her parents and then she taught her staff and the results were amazing. That story is up first. I also want you to know that Angela was kind enough to offer her book the Empowered Principle as a free download. There’s a link to it for you in the show notes. So Ruckus Maker. Thanks for being here and before we jump into the episode, I’d like to take some time to thank our show sponsors the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast is brought to you by organized binder which increases student active engagement and participation and reduces classroom management issues. Learn [email protected]

Daniel (01:44):

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Teach FX. It’s basically like a Fitbit for teachers, helping them be mindful of teacher talk versus student talk. Get a special 20% discount for your school or district by visiting teachFX.com/blbs

Daniel (02:03):

Isolation is the number one enemy of excellence and isolation is also a choice. There’s a better way. In fact, here’s what Michelle, a school leader in Maryland has to say about the Mastermind. “The Best part of the Mastermind is a supportive community. School leadership can be isolating, but knowing I have a team of other school leaders with whom to share ideas, struggles, and wins gives me the courage and resolve to do what’s best for my school community.” Get connected and level up your leadership by applying to the Mastermind today at betterleadersbetterschools.com/Mastermind. Well, Ruckus Makers, I’m joined by a colleague and new friend Angela Kelly Robeck is a bestselling author and certified life coach for school leaders. She helps site and district leaders navigate the mental and emotional demand of the job.

Daniel (03:00):

As a former teacher, coach, principal and district administrator, Angela deeply understands the toll of school leadership and it’s her mission to empower leaders through the use of effective mindset tools. So this is season two, episode one. Welcome to the show, Angela. Oh Daniel, thank you so much for having me. This is such an honor and a blessing to be here with you. I love it. Absolutely, we heard in your bio your interest in effective mindset tools, and I know you’re really interested in looking within, but you were telling me in our preach app how these tools, they can absolutely help in the school setting. A hundred percent for sure they work but as you were learning them in the practicing leader within schools. Did it click for you right away? It’s just a different way of thinking. So can you take us to that moment where things are like, it’s not clicking and what’s going on here?

Angela (03:57):

Absolutely. So I’ll just preface this story by saying that when I first became a principal, I did have a coach but it was through a very specific program. There were very distinct protocols and lots of paperwork and we were coached in a very particular way, which was extremely helpful. I was very thankful for my coach, but I found myself struggling personally, I was a single mom at the time. My son had just entered into middle school, so he had transitioned into a huge change for his life. I was transitioning into the leadership role, huge change in my life and I was really struggling as a mom trying to figure out how to be a great leader and be present but also be available for my son because I was working long hours. I was missing events at his school because I was at events at my school and I found myself, even though I had that like leadership coach in terms of the skillset, what I really needed was to figure out how to manage my life as a whole, as a whole person and I delve into personal development tools.

Angela (05:08):

Dr. Martha Beck was one of my first coaches and mentors, but I did that from a personal perspective of personal level. I was separating kind of work and personal and then about four years into the leadership role I had been at one school I had moved to another school and within my district. We had a major change in leadership and I found myself kind of struggling and a little bit lost. My superintendent had moved on and we had a new superintendent come in and so my mentor was gone and I felt a little bit lost once again, dove into personal development tools and it was around like year five or six after all of this time, I was like, wait a minute. These tools and strategies I’d been using at home to kind of figure out how to balance my work and life into one human life.

Angela (06:03):

These could actually benefit my staff, my kids. And from there, what really happened was I started working with kids on their behavior and when they would say like, so and so made me mad. In the past we taught kids to use an I message, right? I don’t like it when you XYZ, please stop doing X, Y, Z so that I can feel better. I was thinking, wait a minute, we’re teaching kids that other people are responsible for their emotional state. What if I taught the kids that they had some power in learning how to navigate their own emotions. And so I started teaching them this tool that I call the STEAR cycle, showing them how their thoughts create their emotions, create their actions and their results. The kids picked up on it really quickly. It was so much fun. Teachers and parents were starting to say, “Hey, what is this madness you’re teaching our children?” So it really started from there. That was kind of the click. And teachers took a little longer to become receptive, but parents were like, okay, I kind of see where you’re going with this and we like what you have to say. And that was really where it started where that interception took place between my learning as a person and then bringing it into my professional development world.

Daniel (07:25):

Did you say that that tool was called STEAR cycle? Like steering a car?

Angela (07:29):

It’s similar. Yeah. S. T. E. A. R. So S stands for situation. T stands for thoughts, E stands for emotions, a stands for approach. And R stands for results. It’s a little play on words, but yeah, you can steer your mindset with the STEAR cycle.

Daniel (07:47):

Gotcha. It sounds like with with students you would teach them this framework, this acronym, and then walk them through how that, I guess, just played out in their lives so that they could be more. Instead of putting words in your mouth, what would be the goal of going through the STEAR cycle?

Angela (08:05):

The goal of the STEAR cycle is to put your thoughts onto paper and to see that your brain comes up with all kinds of interesting sentences that make situations mean something. For example, when two students are having a conflict, it helps them see that when this person said something that’s just a sentence in their mind until our brain gives it meaning. I showed them what we interpret, how we interpret the world and other people and their actions that is what creates the way that we feel about them and the way that we decide to approach that person. So it really helps you kind of analyze your thoughts from a neutral standpoint and getting it onto the paper and seeing like, Oh wow, that’s just a thought I’m having. I can choose to believe that thought is true. Or I can look at some other things. So think about maybe this is happening or maybe this is happening. It opens people’s minds up to other possibilities, other ways of thinking about that situation that can neutralize the emotional state and let them make an empowered decision from a place of introspection prior to reacting to what they believe is true.

Daniel (09:24):

Okay, so then that helps us be maybe a bit more objective, less emotional and reactive, if I’m hearing you correctly.

Angela (09:32):

Yes, like from the kid’s perspective, it’s really just elementary in the sense of helping them see that that person’s not creating that stress for them, that it’s coming from a place of their interpretation. You know, as a leader, I think it helps us slow down our decision making process just to the point where we can identify that the reason I want to react this way is because I’m feeling a certain way. Let me kind of dig in to find out and explore what am I thinking about this situation that’s creating my emotional state so that I can really decide like how I want to approach this and think about the impact of that action prior to making it.

Daniel (10:19):

I’m not sure if this is something that you use with current leader ship coaching clients you have, and I don’t want you to reveal any names or anything like that or maybe thinking about your own personal experience, but can we make it a little more practical, possibly intangible for the Ruckus Maker listening and what might be a situation they face or one that you face or one of your leaders you serve faced in the past where you applied this framework to it in order to slow down that decision making and be more observant of the emotions and how those are guiding your thinking.

Angela (10:58):

Yes, I have a great example. I’m working with a client right now whose school has been struggling in terms of their test scores and they’ve had”the people” you know the higher that bees come in and evaluate them and those people come in and just say like, okay, here’s the evaluation, here’s our results, here’s our recommendations. This principal who’s very beloved, who’s very cherished and has great relationships, felt a lot of pressure to hold people accountable and so we had a wonderful conversation about what his brain was making accountability mean and basically, it was, Hey, like accountability means making people feel badly, which means it’s going to break down relationships. I don’t like holding people accountable because it’s uncomfortable for me was what his mind was thinking about accountability. That whole story that his brain has created around the idea of accountability, we flipped that on its back and turn it into like, wait a minute.

Angela (12:04):

Accountability is love. Accountability can be fun, accountability can be exciting. It doesn’t have to mean that story where it’s highly uncomfortable, it’s negative, it’s relationship breaking and we developed some, what are some other thoughts and feelings around that? How do you want to feel about holding people accountable? And you know, we were able to come up with this very enthusiastic and exciting story about what accountability is, why it’s important and that it can be a lot of fun in the process and that it’s really for our kids and when we evolve as leaders, better schools, right? And when we evolve our teachers, you know, better outcomes for kids. So it doesn’t have to be a negative story around accountability. So that’s just one example of how you can take something and it’s so tricky, our brains do this without us realizing it, which is why I feel like we need that STEAR cycle to be like, wait a minute, what’s going on in my brain here that’s making me so anxious about holding people accountable and how do I want to feel about it? What is the ultimate goal I’m really searching for and it’s not to be a mean leader or to be that nasty boss. It’s to help kids believe in themselves by helping teachers believe in themselves by helping you believe in yourself as a leader.

Daniel (13:26):

So you reframe the accountability from this sort of a negative connotation and experience, maybe even feeling bad about yourself and your performance and all of that, that a lot of people probably believe to turning it into a positive. You said, I think he even said exciting and maybe fun. I don’t know if I’m making up fun, but he said some words, I don’t think about accountability. So that’s impressive. And then that if that leader brought it to his staff and was able to share this is why we’re maybe making these changes or why we’re having these feedback conversations, et cetera. Did I get that right?

Angela (14:04):

Absolutely. And you know, another thing that he was able to do is really bring in, as leaders, we can’t control or force anybody to behave in any way. We all know that if we could push that button, you know, life would be easy as a school leader but the truth of it is our job is to inspire people into action and we do that by getting them excited and understanding what are they thinking and feeling and why are they behaving the way they’re behaving. Helping him bring those conversations up as a part of the feedback, like tell me your thoughts. What’s driving your emotions right now? And the teachers feeling heard created this like kind of mutual sense of purpose and a results driven culture. So we’re now in a cycle with the school where they’re having a blast and setting goals and being mutually accountable and having partners.

Angela (14:58):

It’s been really fun to see this principal who was dreading going to work every single day didn’t think he was gonna make it another year into his tenureship and he’s four or five years away from retirement. He didn’t think he could make another day is having a blast and it’s really just how his mind has created an entire new story about what accountability is and why we’re doing it and just the idea that it could be fun. Just the possibility of accountability, being fun blew his mind and from that energetic space, he was able to lead in a very different way.

Daniel (15:37):

Wow. So do you get that Ruckus Maker, a struggling school, a beloved principal near retirement, but dreading going to work now he has a staff, he’s excited to go into work. He has a staff who looks forward to holding each other accountable and setting goals.

Daniel (15:55):

Imagine that just for a second because it’s possible and what Angela is sharing there is the way you look at it, the way you frame that situation then guides how you show up, which impacts everything within the climate, the culture of your building. I love, I love that. If just in case Ruckus Makers not getting it, I think like the exclamation point we could put on this sort of idea we’ve been pulling on is, you know, so you might talk about mindset or emotions and thoughts with your staff, right? Or reframing a story that was potentially negative. You mentioned too in our pre chat that when you did that with your staff, it was silent. It was crickets, right? Yes. A leader might feel a bit hesitant to do the hard work that you’re a client, the leader you serve, was he able to do around accountability? So just to put the exclamation point on it, how can somebody feeling a little resistant to doing that emotional labor? Like why should they jump in?

Angela (16:51):

I think it always comes back to us first. In order for us to teach these concepts to our staff, we have to live them. We have to practice them ourselves. When we stop, and I think this is so counterintuitive for leaders. We are so so busy being busy that we don’t believe that it’s possible to stop and reflect and take the time to think about what’s even driving our actions. Like we’re up at the crack of dawn and we’re running boots to the ground running. So I don’t think many of us want or feel it’s necessary to take that time to kind of slow down but when you do that, you will see the thoughts and emotions that are driving your day to day actions, which are getting those results.

Angela (17:49):

When you do that work yourself, you will no longer feel afraid to then share it with your staff because you will have your own results working for you. I think for me, that’s what I did was I was doing it kind of in my personal life and all of a sudden I was getting results that I just couldn’t believe. Like I had been single for so long that now I was dating somebody and I went from like dreading going to work to loving, to go to work. I thought, gosh, if I can do this for myself personally, how can I enhance the life of my staff, which will only enhance the life of kids? And that compelling reason, those kids and my staff members. And you know, we as school leaders, we carry the weight of our teachers’ emotions and our students’ emotions and our family’s emotions. So we have to learn how to navigate our own emotions. So the and teach them how to navigate theirs. And I think that only comes from being able to do it ourselves. So you will feel less afraid when you’ve done the work yourself and then you can take it to your staff. So it always comes back to starting with us and kind of living what we lead and how we lead.

Daniel (19:03):

So I’m so encouraged that you started a Mastermind specifically for school leaders and I’d love to hear why you launched a group.

Angela (19:15):

I have been offering private one-to-one sessions for clients, which has been amazing. I love the work that I’m doing, but for some leaders I felt that one to one coaching may have been like, they’re not sure what it is. It feels maybe a little scary or intense. Other people I think like to be in a group setting, like to collaborate and want to experience the support of people who are in it with them, like minded, you know, minds. I decided to offer the Empowered Principal Mastermind as a way for people to explore and experience what coaching feels like without feeling like they’re on the spotlight, it’s just about them. So it’s a little less intimidating and it’s a fun way for people to learn, watch others and hear others being coached and learn from that process. So for example, I know I’m in several Masterminds and what I love about it is people think of questions I’ve never thought to ask, which really still impact me and that just kind of synergy with the group setting I think is really important for school leaders. I think it’s a nice access point to understanding and experiencing what coaching is all about.

Daniel (20:33):

That’s incredible. I know you’ve just started and by the time this airs, it’ll be months in the making and I’m sure your group will be thriving. If people want to check out the Mastermind where can they go to get more information.

Angela (20:50):

Sure. You can just check out my website at Angela Kelly, coaching.com and there there’s a link to the EAP Mastermind, Empowered Principle Mastermind and there’s information, they’re on the website.

Daniel (21:03):

Awesome. Definitely encouraging Ruckus Makers to check out your leadership community there. So I’ve enjoyed talking about mindset, emotions, thoughts, and your Mastermind. Let’s pause here just for a second and we’re going to hear a message from our sponsors. Better leaders. Better schools is proudly sponsored by organized binder a program, which gives students daily exposure to goal setting, reflective learning, time and task management, study strategies, organizational skills, and more organized binders. Color coded system is implemented by the teacher with the students, helping them create a predictable independable classroom routine, learn more and improve your students’ executive functioning and noncognitive skills and organized binder.com the better leaders, better schools podcast is brought to you by teach FX. Teach effects is a research driven app that uses artificial intelligence to give teachers feedback on the balance of teacher talk versus student talk. Their use of open ended questions, wait time, an equitable classroom dialogue, learn more and get a special 20% discount for your school or district by visiting teachFX.com/blbs.

New Speaker (22:19):

Yes. And we’re back with Angela Kelly Roback and we were talking mindset tools, emotion,thoughts and definitely her new launched leadership Mastermind. Just to close out this episode, I’d love to hear, Angela, if you could put a message on all school marquees for just a day, what would the message read?

Angela (22:48):

Ooh, great question. I would have to say that, thoughts and emotions drive every result. Every result that we are aiming to achieve, every goal that we set for ourselves, the way that we achieve that goal is through thoughts which impact our emotions and those two things. Everything. That’s what drives the way that we approach a goal, whether we achieve it or not, is based on the way we’re thinking and feeling. So thoughts and actions, that’s where it’s at. And it’s okay to talk about thoughts and emotions, right? They are. They’re just that. It’s a part of being human and really deeply understanding how our thoughts drive our results, how our emotions impact the way that we show up in the world and the way that we lead our schools. I feel like exposing those two truths and putting them out into the world of education will evolve the way we teach kids and the way that we lead schools

Daniel (23:44):

Building a school from the ground up, not limited by any resources. Your only limitation is your imagination. How would you build your dream school, Angela, and what would be your top three priorities?

Angela (24:06):

I would say that we start from scratch. I believe that the confines that we’ve built in our school system is based on the comfort and the convenience of the adults in the building and I would like to see us really question every single protocol, process, grade level, school bells, you know, the way that we’re set up, the systems and structures that we have in our schools. I think our very dated and it would be fun to see what it would be like if we started the foundation based on teaching kids their own self regulation skills and the idea that kids like no human learns at the exactly the same way in exactly the same pace at exactly the same time, in the same way.

Angela (24:59):

What would it look like to have more openness around what learning looks like, what learning is all about and the types of skills and information that we’re sharing. Right? Where schools used to be this like giver of knowledge, right? And they were the recipients of our learning and our knowledge and that’s not the case anymore. So how fun would it be to see schools where we are facilitating and giving kids the choice and voice to lead their learning from a place of internal drive versus like external goals placed upon them? I think that’d be super fun.

Daniel (25:43):

Thank you so much for being a part of the better leaders, better schools podcast. Of all the things we talked about today. What’s the one thing you want to Ruckus Maker?

Angela (25:52):

Remember that you are not alone. I feel like when I was a school leader, the job felt so isolating. You go from being on a grade level team to being the leader of that school and even if you have an assistant and there’s two of you, you are still in a position where you feel very alone in your decision making. You feel alone in your, the way that you feel like no one can know the job unless they’re in it and I feel like your Mastermind, my Mastermind, there’s other Masterminds out there, but getting yourself the support that you need to know that there is support out there, that you’re not alone, that you don’t have to struggle or suffer in silence. That is really my message out there is I know the job. You know the job. We’ve done this job. We know the struggles and the demands of it and just to allow yourself the permission to get the support that you need so that you can be the leader that you want to be, but to also get to be the human that you want to be and live a lifestyle that you love, that involves education without it consuming in entirety.

Daniel (27:08):

Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders, Better Schools podcast for Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel at better leaders, better schools.com or hit me up on Twitter @alien earbud. If the better leaders, better schools podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode. Extra credit for tagging me on Twitter at alien earbud and using the hashtag B L B S level up your leadership at better leaders, better schools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, class dismissed.




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School leaders know that productive student talk drives student learning, but the average teacher talks 75% of class time! TeachFX is changing that with a “Fitbit for teachers” that automatically measures student engagement and gives teachers feedback about what they could do differently. 

Learn more about the TeachFX app and get a special 20% discount for your school or district by visiting teachfx.com/blbs.


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