Julie Jungalwala is a coach and advisor to school leaders, educational institutions, and foundations whose mission is to shape the future of K–12 education. She has over twenty years’ experience building effective learning environments that unlock human potential and enable organizational culture to adapt and grow during times of change.
She is the founder and executive director of Institute for the Future of Learning, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping transform the ‘one size does not fit all’ model of education. The Institute works with a diverse range of clients including public schools, independent schools, public charter schools, and educational philanthropic organizations.
Julie is also an instructor at Harvard Extension School where she teaches authentic leadership, change management and strengths-based development.
She graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a master’s degree in Education, specializing in adult development, learning technology and behavioral change. Her book, The Human Side of Changing Education, was published by Corwin Press in 2018.
What It Takes To Lead School Change
Full Transcript Available Here
I am so lucky because my job is the best job in the world. I work with leaders who choose to work with me, everybody that I support wants to be there and then I get to do this. I create content and I talk to people much smarter than I am, and that really represents, defines and illustrates my guest today, Julie Jungalwala. She is the founder of the Institute of the Future of Learning. I just so love this conversation. It is provocative. She is going to push you to be better, and she’s going to push your thinking to a level of possibility and what we need to become in terms of the future of education that you’re not going to get anywhere else. I’m thrilled to bring her ideas and story to you on the podcast.
Education is a massive system and we’ve heard this before, right? If you think about it, not that much has changed. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s bad. I’m not going to add an assertion or judgment on top of that. If we’re serious and if we look at the way things are changing and moving so fast these days, especially with technology and what it’s introduced into the human experience, it’s probably a lot of things that we need to unlearn that we learned through our educational experience. You are in a position to make that pivot, Julie will help you think through that pivot that we all need to make. Again, honored to bring this conversation to you. Here’s Danny and 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 after these messages from our show sponsors. Establish your legacy with Harvard certificate and school management and leadership. Learn from Harvard business and education school faculty as you develop the frameworks skills and knowledge, you need to drive change improvement in your learning community. Apply now for our February, 2022 cohort at betterleadersbetterschools.com/harvard. During COVID every teacher is a new teacher. That’s why innovative school leaders are turning to Teach FX whose 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 teachfx.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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Hey, Ruckus Makers, we’re here with Julie Jungalwala, founder of the Institute of the future of learning and proud mama to Teddy bear. Julie, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
Yes, this is brilliant. I’m so happy to have you here. I really enjoyed connecting with you, and I want you to bring the Ruckus Maker listening to this, this moment. I think you were having some one-on-one coaching around something, and there was this idea of helping leaders unlearn what they learned through the system of education. That’s a provocative statement to be. Can you dig into that and share more?
Sure. The school leaders with whom I work they’re in this really interesting position where the majority of folks in the education system or successful in the system and for the majority of us I’m a Gen Xer. The system hasn’t changed a whole lot since we were at school. It’s school leaders find themselves in this crazy world as coined by the US Army college volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world and the linear industrial model of change. How do we set up and do things in a large bureaucracy? We’re really in between worlds right now. School leaders find themselves in the position where I best heard this described by a guy called Graham Leicester. He is the founder of the international futures forum in Scotland. He describes it as being a hospice worker to the old way and a midwife to the new.
I remember reading that sentence of one of his books and thinking, “Wow, that describes school leadership beautifully” because you have this caretaking piece. You can’t just come in like you might in the corporate world. Where maybe your chainsaw out or one of those other people who were really positioned as these are the turnaround leaders. It’s understood, you’re coming in for three years, you’re making a bunch of really tough decisions. Then you leave and then somebody else comes in, who’s the healer to help build a culture back up because what happened previously really destroys culture, school leaders have to do both simultaneously. It’s an extraordinary leadership task.
Yeah. It almost seems impossible when you frame it that way.
And with that, you have to unlearn a whole bunch of stuff that works in the old way and it doesn’t work anymore in the new way. How do you not say that?
We’ve seen a lot of that coming through an experience in what we have regarding the pandemic. Old way, new way I think of things like the school day and I can share a very quick story. It didn’t make sense. You’re welcome to weigh in, but in Chicago where I served for years,they extended the school day district-wide. Guess their assertion is more time for intervention in math or reading to raise up the scores and student achievement and that kind of thing. I always pushed back on it a bit because unless the training and the teacher and the approach changed, more of the same thing, doesn’t equal better results. It just seems so simple to me. Maybe you agree, maybe disagree. The Longer or shorter school day and that kind of stuff. And you’re talking about the sort of impossible position school leaders find themselves in and what do they do with that?
I agree a hundred percent Danny. We’re singing off the same Hymnbook here. I remember this in the early days before I started the IFL, I was trying to work out where my place was. I remember interviewing for a fellowship and I’ll never forget. The interviewer asked me, “Are you for, or against an extended school day?” And I said, “Well, it depends on what the day looks like. If you’re lecturing kids. No, don’t do more of that because then we start to tell ourselves it doesn’t work. If you’re doing really immersive project based learning and extend the school day, enable something to happen. That requires extra time. Well then yes, but what you’re talking about is such a big challenge, writ large, which is the atomizing of skill”. So are you for or against this? Well, it depends. For or against here in Massachusetts charter schools? It depends, there are phenomenal charter schools and their charter schools that are really sub par. It’s part of the larger challenge and opportunity in which we find ourselves.
Speaking of opportunity, I think you’re working on a number of projects and we’ll dig into two of them during our conversation. You’re working on a second book that I know you’re still working on the title, but from what I understand, it’s about what it takes to lead school change and to change the system of education. How do you approach that project? What’s sort of the framework or the thinking behind what you’re doing?
The thinking really crystallized for me during COVID. My first book is called the Human side of Changing Education. In that book, I remember as I was writing The Dark Night of The Soul, because I unpacked a number of models and frameworks that can be helpful. Here are some case studies of school leaders, just like you, who have walked this path. I reached this moment where I realized, “Okay, if we have 15,000 school districts in this country, it’s unlikely that 15,000 school superintendents and 150,000 school principals are going to decide in the next year or two to do this kind of work.” So that being the case, we need everybody at all levels inside and outside the system. If there’s an idea in your heart of change you would like to see, then here’s a framework to help you navigate that path. And that’s where I talked about Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey and that narrative arc, but during COVID, when the whole world was put on pause. Just a couple of things started to crystallize for me. One was the science of learning and human development and how much we know compared to just a decade ago. Secondly, we are preparing our children for an unknowable future. And the third, it is way past time for systemic equity. Those are three truths that every school leader and every education education system should be wrestling with and should take on and should be the lens through which the work is organized and facilitated. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older and crankier. It felt like in my first book, I was very invitational and the language, this is going to be a little bit more strident, I think, yet to welcome this is the leadership task before us. This is an incredible body of research and evidence that we can stand on. Here are some examples of this work and action. Where is your heart in this work?When you think of these three truths, what are the biggest priorities that bubble up for your school and your district?
I didn’t anticipate asking this question, I hope you don’t find it weird, but I like going there anyways. What I heard there, one of the big differences between the first and second book is going from a more of an invitation to an assertive presence or stance and leadership changes. There’s different ways you need to show up. I’m curious, in your mindset was there a catalyst for the shift? The second part, how do you prepare them to do the work as you move from invitational to more? This is what we need to change and it’s urgent?
I look at a couple of things. COVID is one. I think we’ve all had this pause at the start ofCOVID, maybe May through the summer and early fall, I hit a wall. I was completely and totally exhausted. I’ve been really good through my twenties and thirties and early forties. I can push through any level of tiredness. I could always do it and enjoyed that second lift you would get when the adrenaline kicked in. My body just said “No.” I’ve come to understand that there is wisdom that exists below my head as well. And below my neck as well as above my neck. I think I was just put back on my heels and given the chance to reflect on, “Okay, you’re self-employed you get to design what it is that you do.”
So that being the case, what do you really believe in? And B are you prepared to push on that? And you have done a lot of work over the years to be a coach. You go through your own intern work, you ought to be doing your own internal work. And I remember going to a workshop one time, and one of the instructors talked about whether you need to be a zero or a 10. For the people that you’re here to help, you should be a 10. They should read your stuff, be in your company, listen to you and think that this person is for me. I think they can help if there are zero people listening to me. They’re reading my stuff and thinking, “Hell no that is not for me.” And what he said was people tend to get lost in the land of seven and eight. I know I can probably guarantee you a nine, but that 10, I’m not sure. 10 is where I really need to start saying what I really believe. Be prepared for folks to push back, disagree and to be okay with that. Part of it is having a three and a half year old son, where if I push hard for the next 10 years, hopefully high school will look very different for him, as opposed to what it did for me.
I will recommend, you may have already read this book, but I want to recommend it to the Ruckus Maker, listening, especially if you feel that your body’s telling you, “Hey, slow down a little bit” and that kind of thing within our leadership community. Actually right now we’re reading Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key. Really beautiful and it’s exactly what it sounds like. It unpacks it from a mind, body, and spirit perspective, but I’m a super resource.
Thank you for that reminder, because I love Ryan holiday. I signed up for his daily dad email. I just view it as a daily parent email, which is phenomenal. He reminded me, I have a book on my Kindle and I think I read the first chapter a couple of years ago. I made to go back and actually,
I want to highlight something you said that really resonated with me. What do you believe in, are you ready to push on that? Right. And then layer with the zero and 10 is good. The Ruckus Maker needs to hear you can’t be all things to all people. If you’re clear about what you stand for, people know where you are, but it attracts the right people and repels the wrong one in my experience. You might be dealing with fewer people that might feel scary, but you have people who are all bought in which like the beautiful thing. Julie, regarding the new project here in the second book, I think there’s three truths and five decisions. I’m sure we don’t have time to go through all of them deeply, but let’s wet the appetite of the Ruckus Maker. There’s some of those things like, ignore this at your own peril. I’ll leave and pass you the mic.
The three truths that I mentioned, we’re preparing our children for a noble future. There’s much that we know with regards to how we learn and develop as human beings that we need to incorporate into schools. It’s way past time for a system like equity. As the school leader, you’re making decisions, something as simple as the school schedule extended day or not. Ideally, you’re looking at that question through the intersection of those three lenses, but that’s informing how you’re approaching that and the decisions that you’re making. I mentioned this before in the previous book, the second one, which is, these are the big decisions, this I believe any school leader and school board is neat to talk about, get clarity, and alignment around. Some of these, I pulled from one of my most formative grad courses at the Harvard Graduate School of Education with Dave Parkins, and the course was called Educating for the Unknown.
I still remember, 2005, 16 years later, what’s worth learning. How is it best learned? How can we get taught that way? How do we know what has been learned? Those four questions beautifully encapsulate in plain English, curriculum pedagogy, teacher development, and assessment. I talk about those four questions, those four decisions in the book and the fifth one is, and how do I lead change? Given the answers to that, usually I say 9.9 times out of 10, the answers are “Okay, these answers are very different from what’s currently existing from a curriculum pedagogical assessments, teacher PD practices in my school district, that being the case, how do I begin to lead this change? We’ll unpack those in the book. I should also say, I don’t think I mentioned this earlier and that I’m co-writing this book with a wonderful woman called Julie Stern. Julia is the author of Learning that Transfers, plus a couple of additional books and she is an expert plus a real Spitfire on pedagogy and assessment. It’s fun writing a book with another person compared to the experience of writing one before on my own. I’m learning a ton in this process as well.
You said it’s fun. What’s fun about it?
Back to teamwork for so many organizations, one-on-one equals minus three toxic relationships politics, yada yada. When teamwork is working, it’s phenomenal, you are better as a result of it. Julie Sparks and I spark ideas and it’s energizing. We’re not there yet, but I know that when I hits a wall, there’ll be some new to pick up the phone and go, “I’ve just written 2000 words and none of them make sense. Could you take a read of this and tell me your take and maybe give me some feedback that will be helpful?” A more fun process for me.
I said, explored co-authoring with someone. I’ve written at least 60,000 words that don’t make sense so they would be super helpful. Let’s pause here just for a moment for a message from our sponsors. When we come back, I’d love to hear about some of the DNRs, do not resuscitate from this experience we’ve all been through and a second project you’re working on. Learn the framework skills and knowledge you need to drive change improvement in your learning community with Harvard’s online certificate in school management and leadership. Joint collaboration between the Harvard graduate school of education and Harvard business school. Connecting and collaborating with fellow school leaders as you address your problems of practice in our online professional development program applied today at betterleadersbetterschools.com/harvard. That’s betterleadersbetterschools.com/harvard. Better Leaders, Better Schools is brought to you by school leaders like principal Katerra’s 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 COVID. Learn more and get a special offer from Better Leaders, Better Schools, listeners at 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 Julie Jungalwala, founder of the Institute of the future of learning. There’s some things that we should let go of. Some things we should not resuscitate from this experience that we’ve all been through together. In your view, what are some of those things that educators and leaders should let go off?
I have a couple of biased answers. I also think this is a great question for school leaders to ask their teachers as they come back in this next academic year to ask the parents, to ask the students, fascinating to ask students what should not be solicit from February of 2020. How you knew skill back then. What should we not resuscitate? This is very easy for me to say, it’s going to take awhile, but I think it’s in progress. I don’t think we should resuscitate standardized tests. Colleges parked it. I don’t know how long they will park it up or we’ll bring that back next year. My hope is that there’s enough of a wedge that’s been inserted that we can start to think about an assessment in very different ways.
Organizations such as the mastery transcript consortium are leading incredible work. In this regard, you’ve got organizations like McKinsey saying that we’re not getting a diverse range of talent. At this point, the path to ACE those tests is so well-worn and such a hot house, and you can shoot yourself into oblivion and get on the short list. There now in conjunction with another party designing these immersive problem-based AI simulations. My hope is that there are enough external forcing functions that are going to encourage the education system to really get serious about leaving the standardized tests as they’re currently constructed in the past.
I want to learn more. What you were talking about there in the AI sort of simulated and immersive, it sounds like solving really interesting problems that tells you a lot more about somebody, just everything with what the value that they can create. When a university or an employer or whatever, be more interested in that aspect of a kid versus that they figured out how to play the game it just seems like you wouldn’t be able to fake that as much. Very interesting. I actually took a note on that. I want to make a piece of content about it because it was just such a provocative idea. Thank you. I know a second project you’re working on has to do with the re-invention mandate. How society prepares us for these predetermined paths in a predictable world, but reality has probably changed this predictable world or whatever the predetermined paths maybe don’t make so much sense these days. Take it from there. Like what’s this project all about?
I come at education from a different perspective for 20 plus years, I’ve worked as a leadership coach and also within small, medi large organizations helping leaders lead change. It was after a decade of that work that brought me to K through 12. After a decade of that work, this theme kept coming up for me, which was so much of what we’re helping adults do with one-on-one coaching or in these team environments. These workshop environments are essentially to unlearn what they learned through a standardized system of education. Fast forward, another 10 or 15 years, I read so much in the whole talent development, performance development landscape. You’re probably aware of yourself, Danny of all of the conversation around upscaling and rescaling and yada yada yada. Where I am hearing the fact that we are, if we’re serious about this, asking human beings to reinvent themselves, that’s a very different narrative than you’ll have multiple careers in your lifetime that assumes that you can just slot into a box somewhere.
We know that things are so uncertain, volatile, and unpredictable, that society sets us up so that if we just check these boxes, we’ll be okay. There are a lot of young people out there who have checked the boxes on. They’re not okay. They find themselves on paths that I didn’t question, but now I’m in it. In this job or in this relationship, I’m thinking, is this what I really want? There was a lot of lean in movement around essentially buck up and really lean into this. I’m hearing more and more people, young people in particular saying, “No, I’m leaning out.” I heard a speaker one time say, “Let’s lean out and let these systems instructors fall, which is what they need to do.
In the middle of all of that, here we are as human beings with a mortgage to pay rent, check that we need groceries at the end of the month. It’s such a seeing more and more and more of a particular with, and you’re probably saying statistics of people saying the vast majority of people. I don’t know if I want to go back to that same job in that same office. I don’t know how to navigate my way to something else. You’ve got folks working two or three jobs just to get food on the table. There’s so much learned helplessness within the system. We want to take this notion of reinvention off of the self-help section and put this into the core competency as a human being section, that there are people who have reinvented themselves successfully over their lifetimes and continue to do so.
What can we learn from those people at what’s similar and what’s different and how might we help each other through this? Because it’s only going to become ever more prevalent in the years to come. In that project with my colleagues Jenny Stein engineering, math were interviewing a diverse range of folks. We’re going to distill all of those findings and write a book on what we’ve learned. We imagine there’ll be some archetypes that will emerge and then a really practical framework and set of tools that will help you, regardless of where you are on your journey of invention.
How helpful, especially with the way things just have changed. Like you said, you’re prepared through the system and then you’re there and you’re questioning is this what I really want? Or is this the relationship I want? Even if you’re lucky, if you find yourself in a relationship or employed, right. There’s a lot of people who use your words, check the boxes and they’re unemployed, right. They can’t pay the mortgage or put food on the table and that kind of stuff. I know the research is early, but is there a one idea you could offer the Ruckus Maker when it comes to reinvention?Maybe highly leverageable or just something for them to think about.
The biggest thing that’s coming up for me right now is that nobody does this alone. You need a posse, a tribe, a crew, at least one other person. If you’re embarking on any sort of change, yes nobody can do this work, but you. If you’re surrounded by a group of like-minded people, it is incredibly powerful. Being very careful who you choose to share your ideas with, because some people can be toxic to your ideas. Some people can be like jet fuel in a really positive way. I know a lot of your work Danny is bringing like-minded people to gather. Stick close to Danny, is what I would say.
That is very generous of you to say. My quick anecdote there is, I remember when I was launching what this is. I had in my journal a plan of what it potentially could become and showing some of my inner circle at the time, “it will never work” was the message majority of the time. And then I found a mastermind to join me and I didn’t have to convince them. They’re like you said, jet fuel. How are we going to make this work? Who do you need to surround yourself with to make it a reality as well? Brene Brown calls at the square squad. The one inch by one inch, little piece of paper of who do I need to listen to.
I love that.
It’s brilliant because one is by one inch. You can’t fit a lot of names there. Especially creating books like yourself, where we were laughing about how many podcasts are out there. If I read all the negative reviews it’s just like, you have to be careful about what inputs you are open to. I’d love to ask if you could put a message on all school marquees around the world for just a day, what would your message read?
Two questions. What do you want? Why?
I don’t know that anybody’s ever put questions on the marquee so kudos to you. I should have expected that you would do something different. I love it. This is going to be really fun. Now let’s talk about the school you’d build. You’re not limited by any resources. The only limitation that exists is your imagination. How would you build that dream school and what would be your top three priorities?
I would build that skill. My resource isn’t going beyond the time-space continuum here. I would bring back Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner from the dead. I would organize a workshop for Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner or the founders of the ACT and academy who I believe are still alive and Jay Z. I would get these people in a room and I would ask them what makes for a dream school and why and see where that conversation goes and then make it a reality and make it a reality.
I love how you pick the right people to get in the room and see where it goes. So wonderful. Julia, we covered a lot of ground in this conversation. It was just super enjoyable for me to be a part of. Of everything we talked about today, what’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?
I’m loving that square squad. Leadership is an extraordinarily lonely endeavor oftentimes. Going through the good times and the bad times you need people that you can call on. It doesn’t matter the time of day, they will be there for you and you need to make the call. I would underscore what I’ve learned so far from those reinvention mandate interviews, nobody should do this work alone. The square squad. Write the name down and call them.
Speaker 3 (32:44):
Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcasts from 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 better leaders, better schools.com and talk to you next time until then, class dismissed.
- Help unlearn the system of education and avoid being a slot in a box.
- The leadership task that can’t be ignored.
- 3 truths and 5 decisions.
- The DNRs leaders need to let go of?
- The Reinvention Mandate, avoid a predictable world.
- Be a “hospice worker to the old way and a midwife to the new.”
- Learned helplessness within the system.
- Where is your heart in the work of preparing children for a noble future?
- Five questions that unpack and encapsulate what is needed in education.
“Leadership is an extraordinarily lonely endeavor oftentimes. Going through the good times and the bad times you need people that you can call on. It doesn’t matter the time of day, they will be there for you and you need to make the call. I would underscore what I’ve learned so far from those reinvention mandate interviews, nobody should do this work alone. The square squad. Write the name down and call them.”
– Julie Jungalwala
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