Mary Grassa O’Neill

  • Founding co-lead faculty for the HGSE/HBS Certificate in School Management and Leadership powered by HBS Online. 
  • HGSE Director of the Principals’ Center and Managing Director of Programs in Professional Education
  • First layperson Secretary of Education and Superintendent of Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston (led second-largest school district in Massachusetts – 120 schools and 42,000 students) 
  • Superintendent of Milton, MA Public Schools for 10 years
  • Earned national recognition as the entrepreneurial turnaround principal of the James P. Timilty Middle School (Roxbury, MA)
  • Founding member of Massachusetts School Building Authority Board


Monique Burns Thompson:

  • Co-founder and President of Teach Plus, a national nonprofit that trains excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues (30,000+ teacher leaders trained) – https://teachplus.org/
  • Co-founder, President, Chief Curriculum Officer of New Leaders for New Schools, the largest recruiter and trainer of school leaders in the United States. – https://www.newleaders.org/
  • Consultant with The McKenzie Group (Washington, D.C.)
  • Special Assistant to the Superintendent of the Philadelphia Public School District
  • Leadership coach and consultant for 14 Massachusetts charter schools
  • Marketing and brand management for Quaker Oats Co.

Daniel: Rarely do I get joined by two Ruckus Makers, but that's the reality for today. I'm glad that was the reality because my guests are absolutely wonderful human beings and highly effective leaders that we can learn a lot from in our conversation. We're going to hear some very raw, real stories. Like how would you bounce back if faculty members told you, "What you're doing here, you're ruining the school." How would you respond? Another perspective as principal, how do you push and challenge and encourage your faculty to really see and hear your students, so that they don't have anywhere to hide because they might be needing something. If you miss what they need, it could lead to really dire consequences. We'll get into that more and we'll also be talking about Harvard's certificate in school management and leadership, which is an incredible opportunity. I highly encourage every Ruckus Maker to check out. Hey, it's Daniel, welcome to the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast, a show for Ruckus Makers, those out of the box leaders making change happen in education. We'll be right back with the main content of today's episode, right after a short message from our show sponsors.

Daniel: Transform how you lead to become a resilient and empowered change agent with Harvard certificate in school management and leadership learn from Harvard business in education, school faculty, while you collaborate with a global network of fellow school leaders applied today hgse.me/leader. That's hgse.me/leader.

Daniel: During COVID every teacher is a new teacher. That's why innovative school leaders are turning to Teach FX. Teach FX is a virtual PD is equipping thousands of teachers with the skills they need to create engaging, equitable and rigorous virtual or blended classes to learn more about Teach Fx and get a special offer. Visit Teach FX.com/BLBS. That's teachfx.com/BLBS. All students have an opportunity to succeed with Organized Binder who equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning. Whether that's in a distance hybrid or traditional educational setting, learn more organizedbinder.com.

Daniel: Monique Burns Thompson is a senior lecturer of business administration at Harvard Business School and faculty co-chair of the certificate in school management and leadership and accomplished social entrepreneur.Monique co-founded and served as president of Teach Plus and New Leaders for New Schools. She previously served as an assistant principal in Washington, DC, special assistant to the superintendent of the Philadelphia public school district and as a leadership coach and consultant for 14 Massachusets charter schools. Mary Grassa O'Neill is a senior lecture on education and faculty director of the school leadership program at Harvard graduate School of Education. She is a founding faculty co-chair for the Certificate in School Management and Leadership and innovative collaboration with Harvard Business School. She achieved national recognition for her educational leadership as a superintendent, principal teacher and curriculum advisor. Thank you, Mary and Monique for joining me on the show.

Mary and Monique: Thanks very much for having us. Thanks for that. This is exciting.

Daniel: The pleasure is all mine, for sure. I'd like to start with Mary, and her experience in inner city Roxbury, where you were a principal. Mary, you told me in the pre-chat that you felt like a complete failure and I wanted you to to share that story. I think it will resonate with the Ruckus Maker listening because often we feel challenged. We feel like a failure, and I hope we can learn some lessons from your experience.

Mary: Thanks, Danny. It was a privilege. I was excited and I accepted the position there with great enthusiasm. I recall the superintendent at the time offered me the principalship and I accepted. He said, "Mary, you haven't asked what school is at" and I said, "Oh, it doesn't really matter whatever school it is in Boston, I'm happy to go there." He said, "How would you feel if the Union said, "The school should be pushed off the cliff on which it was built?' and it has the highest number of teacher assaults of all 130 schools in the city of Boston." And I said, "that's fine." I went there mid-year and honestly, if I sat up the faculty sat down, if I said over, they said under. If I said stop, they said star. If I asked someone to do something, they felt like I was putting a burden on them.

Mary: If I failed to ask them to do something, I was insulting them because they had always done it. It was an interesting school, fabulous kids. It is never the kids. It's always about the adults. Kids are wonderful, they want to learn, they want to succeed. Their parents want them to succeed. It was working with the adults that was such a big challenge. I called one day in the cafeteria because we had a chance to write a grant, which we did, which extended our school day by two hours and required us to have Saturday classes and that will show you the desperation. We were granted this wonderful opportunity and the newspapers made fun of it. No one was doing extended time then and we were doing it. I recall one of my lowest moments in educational leadership was when a teacher, just before we opened the first full year with this thing called A Project Promise, a teacher said, "Mary, I hope you're happy. You've destroyed this school. For myself, I have always believed that schools are the education arm and as our job to make sure we help kids reach their full potential. It's all about education. The school because the kids were almost all from projects and they were almost all African-American and some Latino kids, people loved the kids, but they didn't extend it to what we should be expecting from kids and what kids should be learning. So that was a low moment. We had many low moments that first year, it was very, very challenging, but it was so worthwhile when we were able to turn it around and we eventually won national recognition for the improvement the students had made, and it was in their academics, but also in how they learned to be. I have a funny story about the first assembly. Maybe we don't time for it. We gotta hear from Monique and I can tell you that later.

Daniel: Okay. We do love funny stories so maybe we'll get into that in the assembly. That did catch my ear in terms of obviously there was a student, um, achievement, uh, performance aspect of that, but you said the students had to learn how to be as well. Which seems interesting. I do have one follow-up question before moving to Monique, and I'm just curious how you picked yourself up right after receiving very difficult feedback like that too?

Mary: I don't know we worked with a colleague Monique and I, and she calls it having a North Star, which I never really thought of, but I felt very, very strongly that we could love kids as much as we wanted, but if we were charged with their education, we had to make sure that they got the academic success, the social success, the skills, the resiliency, so that they could go on and have many opportunities. I think education is about opening doors of opportunity and making sure people have options. I felt so strongly about that, that I said, "We are going to do this." With magnificent team, we put it together and we were able to do that.

Daniel: Thank you, Mary. Let's bring Monique into the conversation. I know you have a very interesting story as well. A fourth grade teacher of yours uncovered a secret and I'll just leave it there and let you explain the rest.

Monique: Consider this, although I didn't know it at the time, my origin story for why I moved into the education sector. I consider myself a typical, uh, very well behaved student. I was, um, always attentive and, uh, I loved school and loved learning and had managed to get myself to the fourth grade without being able to read. My fourth grade teacher was the first person who figured that out, who broke through the infrastructure that I had put in place of sisters and friends who would read things to me and I would just memorize them. I was very good at participating in class and being in little group projects. Someone would do my writing for me and I had this whole network figured out. Mrs. Man, my fourth grade teacher was the one who figured this out and had an opportunity in that moment to decide really what was going to be my future.

Monique: She going to make the hard play to have me put in special ed, which in those days was a little bit of a life sentence. People didn't get out of the special ed track, this is in the seventies, or was she going to do what she ended up doing, which was finding a reading specialist she brought in getting my mom together. The three of them created a wraparound infrastructure for me. They figured out that I was dyslexic. They figured out how I needed to learn how to decode. They created structures in school, after school and at home for me to continually practice. By the end of fourth grade, uh, I had not only caught up, but moved ahead. I had a great moment. My senior year in high school, I was working at the local ice cream stores. Scooping ice cream and this fourth grade teacher came in to class and she's like, "Wow it's this, it's this your job?" It's like, "Yeah, it's my summer job before I go to college." She looked at me like, you're going to college. "I am, I'm going to an Ivy league college" and in that moment, we both looked at each other. Like there is one person who is absolutely responsible for that trajectory change in my life and it was her. I got to tell her and I got to thank her and I hope, and honestly, I continue to thank her every day of my professional life, because the work I do is because there was a teacher who believed in me and who had all the resources and the capacity that she needed to address my needs in that moment. Everything I do is helping school leaders and teacher leaders to build that capacity around the students, in their buildings.

Daniel: Thank you, Monique. I appreciate that story so much. It resonates, as educators, we can keep pushing kids along through the system and this is a great story that champions a teacher who slowed things down. She noticed and it doesn't sound like sometimes maybe assigning blame or trying to figure out like why this happened or just we're going to find out a solution. I love how there was a wrap around between school, you and mom, to make sure that you are a success and then you bring us to the ice cream shop and you get to share that moment and say, "I'm going to college. I'm going to an Ivy league college. Thank you for seeing me." I'm just curious. Do you remember by any chance, what ice cream you served her? What she ordered?

Monique: My guess is it was mint chocolate chip because the ice cream factory in Brookline was very, very famous for their mint chocolate chip. We used to have lines that wrapped around the corner so most likely that's what it was. Too bad she didn't get a whole hot fudge sundae or something. She certainly is a woman who earned it. I can guarantee you, she did not pay for it that day.

Daniel: Second question. I think it cleared it up for a lot of Ruckus Makers listening that relationship between her, Mrs. Man and I think you said, mom and you, it was a great relationship there. I'd like to pivot to another relationship, one that you call a beautiful arranged marriage. The origin story of the Certificate In School Management and Leadership. Monique, why is this arranged marriage so beautiful?

Monique: As you said at the beginning, Mary, the lead of this work at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and I'm the lead of this work at Harvard Business School and our two schools do not commonly co-create together. We do have one other program that we do together that focuses on superintendents, but this is an actual co-creation of new content, and that is new territory. The beauty of this is that Mary and I think between the two of us completely cover the spectrum of types of education industry experiences that you would want to have. Our experience is very different and our wisdom and our super powers are very different. And because of that, we are continually molding and pushing and adding perspective, um, to this work. And that diversity also expands into the team that we've put together of incredible people, lots of skills and all the other faculty that we bring into the dialogue.

Monique: When we create additional arranged marriages and ask other faculty members to come to the table, there's kind of like, "Oh, really work with folks from across the river." We're like, you know what, "Mary and I love each other? It's going to be great, not to worry about this mixed marriage. It's going to be awesome. So, that's, that's been wonderful. Honestly, the origin of this work was based on a couple of really important things. One is the business school does a big alumni survey, probably every 10 years. In one of the last surveys, it was communicated that in the top three things that Harvard business school alums care deeply about the quality of their local public school and the skills of the leaders of the schools in their community was something that they were very focused on. They were on boards.

Monique: They were invested in their kids' education. If you literally came up in an HBS survey. The Dean of the business school realized his constituents were really passionate about something and that he had not a whole lot of control over. We went over to the Ed School to talk to the Dean of the Ed School about how there may be a way to work together. I think what's really exciting is that their next step was to say, "Yeah, let's try and figure this out", but it was also to do research and understand what the market place needed. They learned a couple of things in that research. The first is that there are approximately 200,000 principals in the US and half of them have no access to regular professional development. They don't live in communities that are near universities.

Monique: Their school districts don't have enough money to send them somewhere. Whatever certificate they came with is the one that they have, and they're figuring it out on their own. Probably the other half who do have access to professional development will tell you as well, their superintendents, that it doesn't focus on leading change processes, leading adults in the building strategy, none of those kind of systemic components are they learning in their PD. They're missing kind of key management components of their kind of professional toolkit and that's something that the business school knows a lot about. We don't know a lot about it in the context of the education space, however, which is where the partnership becomes critical and that is the starting point for our work. I'd love it if Mary would talk about some of that work, because it is the thing we both get so excited about every day.

Daniel: That is a great segue. I'd like to ask Mary that in just a second about content and context. One thing I do want to highlight for the Ruckus Maker listening is just the responsiveness through the survey. Seeing those results in making a change is so important as a leader listening to feedback and pivoting when necessary. I also loved when you said to your peers that were arranging some marriages for you across the river, and this is going to be great because when you have that enthusiasm uh, as a leader, I think people catch that too. So that's really important. Thank you for highlighting that. Mary, the business school has some idea about change management and systems thinking and that kind of deal, but they don't necessarily have the expertise that you do in education in the context. Tell us about how the content and the context work together in the CSML program.

Mary: It was very exciting, the arranged marriages, first of all, Monique mentioned some of the arranged marriages. What you would expect is a little difficult at first, as people are getting to know one another, by the end, they all fall in love with each other and that's a good thing. I mean in love with the work that they're doing together and what you do in schools is so important. When we were starting out, honestly, people thought we were crazy. We weren't really in the era of zoom and online was something that somebody else did not anything that Harvard did. We had some visionary deans who are awesome. We found a brilliant person, like for me to be a lead, we have Alan Grossman initially, who was also another brilliant HBS leader and we had to answer a lot of questions like, who is this for?

Mary: Is this for new and aspiring principals? Is it for experienced principals? Is it for people who are at public schools, public charter schools, is it for those who are in faith based schools? Is it for those leaders of independent schools? We decided it was for all of those. So that was our challenge. How do we create new knowledge for people who are thinking of doing this? I would have done it for a long time. How do we mix those people because part of what we do in the course is of course, we have wonderful, wonderful Harvard faculty who are teaching in the courts. We also have practitioners and we call them live case studies. The whole process is using what is the HBS major way of delivering at the Ed school uses also on not as our sole, our major way of delivering education.

Mary: We have these case studies. We've searched for principals. We found them from all over the country. We have the countered problems and challenges, and we invite participants in to work with these problems that they have their problems of practice. We have them also look at their own problems of practice and how they might relate to these cases that were presented. So they get to do individual work on the platform. They get to work in groups because they're placed in small groups and they have to share and interact with one another. It's just so funny. One day I was on the elevator at work, and this woman came up to me and she said, "crowded elevator." She said, "Professor, O'Neill, it's so nice to see you." I said, "Oh, it's nice to see you too." And so she said, "I love your course."

Mary: I was really racking my brain saying, "I don't remember what class she's in." And she said, "Oh, well, you don't really know me because your my professor online and I'm from Brazil and my team has a big staying in touch since we finished the course, we're in touch every couple of weeks." Thank goodness for all the technologies we have and we problem solve together. It was just, that was the first experience we have like that. But we've had many since then. It's amazing what you can do with people you probably won't meet or see, and how excited people get about the teams they get to work with. And we have been blessed by the interest. People have shown in the work and it's different people talk about the platform, but it's very interactive. You don't do anything for more than two or three minutes so there's no way to get bored or to chill out or to fall asleep because you're always doing something.

Daniel: Here's a great time to pause for a message from our sponsors. But when we return, I'd love to ask Monique about the platform and maybe a juicy case study for us to hear about. How you lead to become a resilient and empowered change agent with Harvard's online certificate in school management and leadership grow your professional network with a global cohort of fellow school leaders. As you collaborate in case studies bridging the fields of education and business apply today at hgse.me/leader. That's hgse.me/leader. Better Leaders, Better Schools is brought to you by school leaders like principal Katerra is using Teach FX. Special populations benefit the most from verbally engaging in class, but get far fewer opportunities to do so than their peers, especially in virtual classes, Teach FX, measures verbal engagement automatically in virtual or in-person classes to help schools and teachers address these issues of equity during learn more and get a special offer from Better Leaders, Better Schools , listeners teachfx.com/BLBS. That's teachfx.com/BLBS. Today's show is brought to you by Organized Binder. Organized Binder develops the skills and habits all students need for success. During these uncertain times of distance learning and hybrid education settings, Organized Binder, equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning routines so that all students have an opportunity to succeed, whether at home or in the classroom learn more at organizedbinder.com. We're back with Mary Grassa O'Neill and Monique Burns Thompson from Harvard. We're talking about the certificate in school management and leadership program. Monique, tell us about the learning platform in one of these case studies.

Monique: So, this platform is super exciting. It's very interactive. It was built specifically by Harvard business school to be able to facilitate the case method asynchronously. It is designed to both hold video cases and then allow the participants to interact with the case as well as interact with each other on and on a large group level, as well as on a small group level. In many, there are many moments where it has a lot of what we would call social media features as well. You can kind of hover over a big map and see where all of the kind of hundreds of people who are online with you at the same time are located. You get the little bios and backgrounds and you start networking with each other. You will be put into a team with a lot of diversity because we believe in that, um, there'll be geographic diversity, there'll be type of school diversity, but you can also, if you would like hunt down all the people who run schools, just like yours, who are on the platform as well.

Monique: We have found that folks absolutely love the small groups that they're put in and like Mary said, those become their kind of personal problem solving policies and that's pretty cool. To give you an example of what one of the cases looks like we have several different types of cases. We have cases that are turnaround cases, where a school started in a fairly difficult place and came to the district average or significantly better. We have other schools that are already good and are moving to greet. It's important that we showcase both types of schools. It's also essential that we in every course showcase a variety of types of schools from urban to rural, to suburban, to faith-based, to private, to charter the whole spectrum will be represented but the one I'm going to share with you is an urban turnaround and happened.

Monique: In North Carolina, the principal is a woman named Janet Moss. This is her first school where she's the principal and the school is 90%. African-American the rest is Latino. They are performing in the teens from a proficiency standpoint when she takes over this middle school. She is a white woman who grew up in poverty, so she herself very, very much understands assumptions that are made about poor people. She is creating a no excuses environment. She clearly states that often adults can hide in a students in schools that are filled with students of poverty and that that was not going to happen at the school anymore. She goes through the process of laying out all of the different things that she sees when she arrives at the school. The list is staggering. The way the story arc unfolds is you as a participant in the course, we'll spend time with Janet Moss at each of her kind of critical decision points along the way, trying to decide what is the best strategy to take with this particular school and this particular school community with the resources she has, how do you bring them from where they are to her vision of where they want to be.

Monique: You'll hear, you will brainstorm that with your own team. You'll do it on your own. You're brainstorming with your team, you'll hear what Janet did. It's not always perfect what she did, and you'll learn from that too. You will also learn as the faculty kind of give you new resources to use along the way. You'll also take that learning and at the end of each section, you'll apply it to your own context, to your own problem of practice. You'll share that with your small team. The learning arc for this platform is always use your new tools with a protagonist and then test it out in your own contexts. It with the case protagonist, and then use it with your own context and it circles through with multiple different case protagonists and multiple different modules.

Daniel: I love that approach because what I'm hearing is you're exposed to a real world story and challenge. That's the case study. You get equipped with more and more resources and more information. You can view that story from multiple perspectives. Obviously you're reflecting individually, you're connecting as a group, a diverse group, which your students love, who they're paired up with. The most important part to me, it bridges the gap from ideas to real application and execution. So from that experience, those tools that you now have put them into play with where you lead and people see the results, I'm guessing, uh, pretty quickly because of that model. Thank you, Monique, for sharing that.

Monique: Can I add one thing? There is just a really wonderful and unique opportunity when you build something like this for a very specific category of professionals. The fact that we can customize this specifically for people who lead schools allows us to go deeper into content than we would be able to do if we were trying to be all things for all people. For us, it's really exciting on our end and we have found that our participants are really excited because they aren't surrounded by people who are all doing the same job they are doing all over the world.

Daniel: Thank you for bringing up that point. I'm just gonna kind of put it as a question to the Ruckus Maker, listening. I don't want to reveal any answers, but it's powerful to noodle on. I think a lot of schools sometimes struggle or don't meet the potential that that's embedded in their organization, because like you just said, they're trying to be all things to all people. How can you become specific as a school and say, "What we want to be known for this and how we serve students and how that might actually propel and accelerate what your school is able to accomplish." With that, I'm going to turn to, to Mary and I'd love to hear, um, something that's near and dear to your heart, the importance of a school leaders work, but also the joy of it in terms of engaging in this work.

Mary: Thanks so much, Danny, Monique beautifully described the work that we're engaged in together in such a privilege to get to work with her every day. So you're right. A school has to decide what they're going to do and what they not going to do. The situation I found myself in was 26 middle schools in Boston and the school I was at ranked last in academic achievement. And that just wasn't and Most people know language is the key to learning. And so reading and writing, listening and speaking were really important. And so is math. We taught reading, writing, and math across the curriculum that you may say, if you haven't really been at teacher, why is that hard in the middle school? It's hard because most educators think kids learn to read by third grade and after that they either get it or they don't and it's just applying what they learned, but actually you have to continue it. It was a whole re-education of folks, a whole change in the way they taught. I remember we brought in one summer this wonderful consultant who was funny and engaging about teaching writing, and he forgot his briefcase and came back on another day. He got this round of applause, got a standing ovation. The day presented gets a round of applause.

Mary: When he comes back into the room and around November, I said to him, "How do we know we really have a writing program?" And he said he was highly offended. He said, "Well, first of all, I've done these sessions and then I've come back and I've done job embedded professional development. What do you mean?" I said, "Maybe we should collect the writing full books" and he didn't think that was necessary, but we announced we were collecting the writing folders. When I tell you that the sound of cellophane coming off, the unopened packages of writing folders and certain card is of the building was deafening. You'll understand that we had a writing program in some places and it just reminds me of the research. The research says we don't get better because we don't really implement the changes. , this is not, I come to believe that you can expect what you inspect.

Mary: It taught me the importance of inspecting these same kids who were struggling in the past once you had one-on-one conversation. The whole piece that Monique mentioned about the family. You had the teacher, you had the counselor, you have the principal, and some of these meetings talking to kids about what it meant to be reading at the 10th percentile. When you have students, one-on-one, it doesn't matter what gang they're affiliated with or what group they're working with. No one wants to fail. Everyone wants to succeed and that was just so clear. And we worked hard with our students and they worked hard themselves and were able to turn it into a successful model from what had been a struggling model, struggling and there was a lot to do with diversity too. I'm a white woman, I'm in a school where all the students are students of color. Uh, I remember hiring that first summer that I was there. I remember my boss saying to me, meeting the new teachers, did you hire any white teachers? I looked at him. It was very important that we have a diverse faculty and the diverse leadership team, all of those things that everyone is talking about today, I can't emphasize enough how important they are.

Daniel: Thank you, Mary, for sharing that I want to stick with you and just stay as two real quick. I asked these questions to all my guests, but Mary, what message would you put on all school? Marquees across the globe, if you could do so for just one day,

Mary: Become a principal and change the world .in Monique.

Monique: Students, are our biggest investment in our future.

Daniel: Monique and Mary I usually ask this to one person so I'm gonna change the question a bit, but I'd love for both of you to chime in. If you're building a school from the ground up, you're not limited by any resources. You only limitation is your imagination. Monique will go to you first. What would be your number one priority? Building this dream school?

Monique: I would want to build a dream school where neuro atypical kids, like myself were surrounded by people who believed in their high potential, garnered the resources necessary to tap into that potential and got all the way to the place where their super powers were unearthed. I deeply believe that every single person on this planet has super powers and it is our job as educators to tap into them and unleash them.

Daniel: Yes. Hey Mary, what would be your number one priority, building your dreams?

Mary: There are so many priorities. It's hard to think to get us down to one, one thing, but we're working with the principal now who has been inspirational. And one of the things he's trying to do with his school is to make sure students can solve big, complex and unstructured problems. My school, wouldn't be built today, it might take a few days or weeks or years to build. I think that we'd be looking at students who be retiring in the year 20, 60, or 2070, depending on what age we build this school for. And we really don't know what the world will look like. 50 years ago, the world looked quite different in the tools that we have to use with folks are different. So I would want to be focusing in on, um, things that I knew would matter. It always matters if you can solve big problems because the world has a ton of them.

Daniel: Well, Mary Monique, thank you so much for being a part of the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast of all the things we talked about today, Monique, what's one thing you want to Ruckus Maker to remember.

Monique: I want Ruckus Makers to remember that leaders have so much power in enabling other leaders and adults and students in their building. They are the levers. They're the levers that allow greatness to happen in all Corners of their schools

Mary: Leadership is joyful work, empowering others to do their best work. Principals do that with teachers and teachers do that with students and empowering others to educate themselves or to be educated is just one of the most important things we can do in this world. Building we're building people, we're building the next generation, uh, leaders and educators, and parent.

Daniel: 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@BetterLeadersBetterSchools.com or hit me up on Twitter @alienearbud. 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 @alienearbud and using the #BLBS level up your leadership at BetterLeadersBetterSchools.com and talk to you next time until then class dismissed.

Daniel: Um,

Show Highlights

  • Destroy what we expect from kids and what they should be learning
  • A “North Star” will navigate you out of any feelings of failure
  • Unlock the secret to success for their students with this
  • Beautiful arranged marriages are needed in every professional toolkit 
  • Importance of inspection to determine the impact of your programs
  • CSML program merges content and context
  • Participate in problems of practice to bridge the gap from ideas to real  execution
  • Schools struggle to meet the potential embedded in their organization
  • Half of all principals have no access to professional development
Mary Grassa O'Neill and Monique Burns Thompson: Colliding two worlds: Bringing Together the Best of Business and Education

“Our experience is very different and our wisdom and our super powers are very different. And because of that, we are continually molding and pushing and adding perspective, um, to this work. And that diversity also expands into the team that we’ve put together of incredible people, lots of skills and all the other faculty that we bring into the dialogue.”

Monique Burns Thompson

Leadership is joyful work, empowering others to do their best work. Principals do that with teachers and teachers do that with students and empowering others to educate themselves or to be educated is just one of the most important things we can do in this world. We’re building people, we’re building the next generation of leaders and educators.”

Mary Grassa O’Neill



Transform how you lead to become a resilient and empowered change agent with Harvard’s online Certificate in School Management and Leadership. Grow your professional network with a global cohort of fellow school leaders as you collaborate in case studies bridging the fields of education and business. Apply today at http://hgse.me/leader.



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.



Organized Binder is the missing piece in many classrooms. Many teachers are great with the main content of the lesson. Organized Binder helps with powerful introductions, savvy transitions, and memorable lesson closings. Your students will grow their executive functioning skills (and as a bonus), your teachers will become more organized too. Help your students and staff level up with Organized Binder.


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