Robyn Jackson is a former high school teacher and middle school administrator. She is the founder and president of Mindsteps Inc., a professional development firm for teachers and administrators that provides workshops and materials designed to help any teacher reach every student. 

Jackson is the author of Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching, The Differentiation Workbook, and The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers, as well as the how-to guides in the Mastering the Principles of Great Teaching series.

Leading on the Edge and Finding your Purpose

by Robyn Jackson

Show Highlights

  • Learn Robyn’s practice on how to take the first steps towards your true calling 
  • Ensure you have the right “why” so you’re driven by the right intentions 
  • When your brain is fresh, your brain tells you the truth 
  • Create a bold vision with 100% impact 
  • How to write a vision and mission to fit you and your district 
  • Reimagine traditional school leadership. Go from being a boss to a leader using Robyn’s Builders lab
  • Why you need to find your zone of genius and operate on the edges

“One of the reasons I love this concept of being a Ruckus Maker, it’s I think more of us should be making a ruckus. Education is in trouble. More of us should be making a ruckus about how we’re teaching students, how we are running schools, how we’re building schools, but instead we’re just kind of blindly following a path and a model that no longer serves us.”

– Robyn

Full Transcript Available Here

Daniel (00:00):

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

Daniel (00:08):

Better Leaders, Better Schools is a weekly show for Ruckus Makers and what is a Ruckus Maker? A leader who’s found freedom from the status quo, a leader who makes change happen and a leader who never ever gives up. What happens when you realize where you’re supposed to go is the current path that you’re on? That’s a question most Ruckus Makers have to answer at some point, and that question is exactly what my guest Robyn Jackson wrestled with years ago. You see, there was Robyn, touring a school with her assistant superintendent and after that tour, the assistant superintendent turned to her and essentially handed her the keys to the building. He asked her, “Hey Robyn, what are your plans for next year?” He expected her to say, I want to be a school principal, but what came out of her mouth was radically different. When she said, I want to quit and write a book, and when she said that she knew the direction of her life had changed, but she had peace. That’s the story. We’ll jump into first on today’s podcast, Ruckus Maker. Thanks for being here and before we get into the episode, let’s take just a moment to thank our show sponsors.

Daniel (01:35):

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] today’s podcast is brought to you by TeachFX. 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 I visiting teachFx.Com/BLBS

Daniel (02:08):

In the Mastermind. We believe that questions are better than answers and that there’s power in connecting with other elite performers. Kevin, a principal in Tunisia had this to say about his Mastermind experience. I feel more connected to the everyday changes in education. In addition to being more informed, I feel empowered to bring new educational ideas and strategies to my team at my school. We’d love to serve you in the Mastermind and we welcome your application and role today at betterleadersbetterschools.com/mastermind.

Daniel (02:46):

So glad to be here with a fellow Ruckus Maker, Robyn Jackson. Robyn, thank you for being my guest on the show. It’s my pleasure. Robyn, you’re a true Ruckus Maker and you break free from tradition in the status quo. You quit your job to start Mindsteps but that wasn’t necessarily the plan you had for yourself, so can you give us that story of quitting and starting Mind Steps?

Robyn (03:11):

I was a school administrator, so I started out as a high school English teacher and then I became an instructional coach and then I became a middle school administrator and assistant principal. In the district where I worked, in order to be a principal you had to do several years as a middle school administrator and there was a whole program that you had to go through. If you got through that program, then you were invited to join another program for aspiring principals and then you have to do a whole other year of that program before you would be eligible to apply for principalship. I was in the middle of the second year of the Prairie Program before the Aspiring Principal Program.

Robyn (03:55):

And I’ll be honest with you, I was a school administrator and I missed teaching so much. I remember my, my superintendent came to see the school and he said, so how are you, how are things going? And I told them, well you know, frankly, so I’m a little bored because I keep solving the same five problems over again. Tell me it’s going to get better and he just looks at me like I was an alien, you know? But I just thought there was so much more that you can do as an administrator and we weren’t doing it and we weren’t being trained to do it. I knew that one day I wanted to write a book, but I thought that in order to write a book and for anybody to listen to me, I had to have been a principal first. So I was going through the program so that I could become a principal.

Robyn (04:35):

And then you need it to be a principal of a school for at least three to five years until you have the legitimacy so you could say, yes, I turned the school around. I was on that path thinking that, you know, one day, some days far in the future, I’d write a book. I was pursuing that path, but I stopped sleeping and I’m a good sleeper. You know, I wear out, I’m tired, I go to sleep. But I would wake up in the middle of the night just wide awake and I didn’t know what was wrong and so I started doing a practice that I’d learned in grad school, which is that it’s called morning pages. So every morning I would get up and before I did anything else, I had a pad next to the bed and I would write just free writing for three pages, whatever thoughts came to my mind and it’s kind of clear that junk out of your mind and get clarity about what you’re thinking and you don’t go back and reread the pages.

Robyn (05:23):

You tear them up or you put them in an envelope somewhere. And I started doing those morning pages and I started praying and this theme kept coming up over and over again. I want to quit my job, I want to write a book. And I kept saying, that’s crazy. I can’t do that right now. I don’t have any source of income. I was single at the time, so no sugar daddy, how am I going to quit my job? I need health insurance. I need, I need an income and write a book about what, what was I qualified to write a book about? But that just kept coming up and up and up. And so this went on for months. Then one day my superintendent came to me and he said, I don’t think you need to go to an AP three program or aspiring principal program.

Robyn (06:00):

I think you’re ready right now and that scared me to death because you know, other people would have loved to have heard that, you know, you’re going to get the fast track to a promotion. The superintendents singled you out saying you’re ready for your own school. And all I felt was this sense of dread. I was with my boss one day, one of the area superintendents, and he had asked me to shadow him for the day. We went to a school and we toured the school and then we sat down with the admin team and I thought I was just shadowing him. I didn’t realize that he was previewing the school that he was about to offer me. We got back into his car and he turned to me and he said, “So what do you want to do next year?” And I know the answer.

Robyn (06:40):

The answer was, sir, I want to be a principal but the words that came out of my mouth were, “I want to quit my job. I want to write a book.” As soon as it came out of my mouth I put my hands over my mouth. I said, “I didn’t mean to say that out loud. Wait a minute, ask me again, I know the right answer. And he said, well, I mean this, are you serious about this? And the moment the words left my mouth, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do and I said, yeah, I’m serious. That was in February. He said, well, think about it and if you really want to do that, then I need a letter of resignation from you. I went home, I wrote my letter of resignation. I was going to resign, finished the school year, resigned June 30th and at that moment I felt such peace because I knew that I was doing the right thing.

Robyn (07:25):

You know, we often get caught up in trying to climb the ladder and doing the things that everybody expects us to do, but it may not be the thing that you’re meant to do. It may not be the thing that resonates the most with your soul and I had gotten caught up in that. I was getting moved up the ladder, I was being promoted and it’s so flattering, but that wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. The moment I quit my job, even though all these other issues start coming up like how am I going to make a living? What am I going to do about healthcare? I need a new car. I just bought a house in DC, how am I gonna afford my mortgage? All of those things were coming up. Those things didn’t worry me nearly as much as a future where I would be doing a job at which I would be good.

Robyn (08:07):

But it wasn’t the thing that I was meant to do. From February to June, I had to figure it out but the moment I took that first step, everything else just started falling into place because now I’m walking in the pathway I was meant to walk in. I think so many of us get caught up in rising through the ladder and rising through the ranks and, and trying to, to get promoted or trying to kind of, you know, meet the demands of our school system. And we don’t often stop and think about what it is that I should be doing? What is my true calling? We’re scared to pursue it and when I tell the story to people, always people come up to me and say, you know, I have a book inside of me and I can’t tell somebody else to quit their job.

Robyn (08:46):

You know, I don’t know their circumstances, but I knew it was the right thing for me. I just feel like we should have more conversations about what we are meant to do in this world? How are we supposed to be serving because Oh, okay, consider that and we should, we should be walking in our, in our true mission and our true passion and a lot of people substituted that for success the traditional markers of success. Okay. When you do that, you don’t really serve yourself. You don’t really serve the world.

Daniel (09:16):

There is so much to unpack from that story. I have a million questions whirling around in my head. One of them I’m thinking about right now is, can you, can you tell us about that clarity, that focus? I love when you said, I felt a sense of peace, you know, first you’re covering up your mouth.

Robyn (09:33):

Oops, I shouldn’t have said that. You also said, you know, the importance of taking that first step. Everything started to align. What process did you go through in order to figure out that that was where you should be? So I did a couple of things. One is get those morning pages and that helped me just start to see what I really wanted, not what I was telling myself, what I wanted, not what everybody else is telling me. I should want the morning pages because you get up in the morning when your brain is freshest and you’re, there’s no BS at that point in the morning. Your brain is fresh and your brain tells you the truth. Sitting there and doing that discipline helped me to start to see a theme and a pattern. And then the other thing I did is I prayed a lot about what I was supposed to do and how was I going to do it.

Robyn (10:20):

I am a big “how” person, so I always want to know how things are going to work? I’m the kind of person who reads the end of the book after two chapters because I just can’t stand the suspense. And so for me, I needed everything to kind of be worked out before I did anything like that. I thought I had everything worked out and it turns out that I didn’t, that I was supposed to be doing something very different. The prayer and the morning page has helped me to get that clarity but I don’t know why those words came out of my mouth. I just knew that I was feeling more and more trapped by a system. It wasn’t the system. So this is not a critique against the system, but I felt trapped because I was being told that this is what I wanted and should want.

Robyn (11:08):

I wasn’t listening to what I really wanted. I was being told that there’s a movie called The Devil Wears Prada and throughout the movie everybody tells her a million girls would kill for this job. I felt like I was getting fast tracked to positions that people had worked years to achieve and I was told a million girls would kill for this opportunity. It’s a great opportunity. It just wasn’t the right opportunity for me. I don’t think enough of us question what way we should be serving. Instead we just follow the trajectory. People come up to me all the time, they say, I want to do what you do. I want to be a consultant. And my first question is why? And if there’s no compelling “why”, you’re just looking at what you see on the outside, you don’t realize the work that goes into it, the sacrifice that goes into it, the travel nightmare being away from your family.

Robyn (12:03):

The working with clients who may not be the best client, all those things, they don’t see that. They see the glamour of being on stage and having people apply to you. But if you’re not being driven by something else, if you’re not walking into your zone of genius, then you shouldn’t be doing this work. And I felt the same way about teaching. People tell me I want to be a teacher and I say, why? And they said, because I want summers off. That’s not a reason to be a teacher. People say, I want to be an administrator and I ask why they say, because I want to be in charge. That’s not the gig. In fact, as an administrator, you’re less in charge then when you’re a teacher. You have more power as a teacher than you do as a principal in many ways.

Robyn (12:41):

So you have to have the right. Why? I don’t think enough of us ask ourselves why we do what we do on a day to day basis and because of that we just kind of blindly following what other people have said. You know, the path other people have said without questioning is that the path that’s right for me is that the path that I should be setting and so a lot of us are, are, are not being Ruckus Makers. You’re sitting around and doing the status quo. One of the reasons I love this concept of being a Ruckus Maker, it’s I think more of us should be making a ruckus. Education is in trouble. More of us should be making a ruckus about how we’re teaching students, how we are running schools, how we’re building schools, but instead we’re just kind of blindly following a path and a model that no longer serves us.

Daniel (13:28):

I love it you’re questioning, right? You’re questioning tradition. I asked leaders in my mastermind to do that because a lot of times policies, procedures we have in place are for a kid and for a staff member or a community that no longer exists. So it no longer serves those kids quite often. Honestly, it could be built on a prejudice, a framework as well, or a systematic thing that’s trying to oppress folks. What was hard for me is I said, well, you know, I’m a podcast guy and a coach now, and so what do I do? How do I question tradition when, you know, I’ve only been doing this since 20, 2016. Yeah. The way that that came alive in my practice was to say, well, if, if you care about,women in leadership, if you care about leaders of color, then where’s that reflected in your guests? Or where that is reflected in the school leadership series. So I built a team of 12 other pod casters that don’t necessarily look or sound like me because all our voices put together is much more beneficial for education than what I could bring on a day to day basis. So I really appreciate you, you know, operating on the edges, causing a ruckus, continuing to ask,the why, the why,uto reflect to Robyn.

Daniel (14:52):

I want to make sure I got this right. So the clarity, the piece being able to identify what your zone of genius is, they came from your, your spiritual practice of prayer and then engaging in morning pages consistently. And from there you saw a pattern that was calling to you that did I get that right?

Robyn (15:12):

That’s it. 

Daniel (15:15):

Cool. And morning pages, just to maybe break it down just a little bit more for the listener, the Ruckus Maker. So I know that it’s when you first get up, because you don’t have the filter, you said there’s no BS, right? So it’s right. First thing you do in the morning and it’s three pages scripted out. Any other coaching advice to somebody who might want to just start this practice.

Robyn (15:38):

So you can’t type it so you have to write it by hand because there’s something about the thing that gets that connection between what you’re writing and your body and it slows down a little bit so you’re not hunting and pecking for keys or going back and say, Oh, I’ve spelled that wrong and all the distractions that come with typing. It’s just you handwriting and the rule is that you have to keep your pen moving. So no stopping and thinking you just right. Anything that comes to your mind. For three pages. You don’t have to worry about grammar, spelling, complete sentences, anything that comes to your mind that you don’t reread them. So you just put them in an envelope or I would just kind of tear them up. Then you go about your day and what it does is it opens you to get in touch with what you really are thinking and it plays on your subconscious because throughout the day things will happen.

Robyn (16:29):

I believe that I blurted out, I want to quit my job. I don’t want to write a book because my subconscious had been playing around with that idea for months and my subconscious knew that at that moment if I didn’t say that, I mean I didn’t know consciously that they were about to offer me a job, but I think subconsciously I felt that that may be what was happening and my subconscious said, if you don’t say no now you won’t be able to say no in a couple of days when the pressure comes in, the flattery comes and everybody’s saying, what are you talking about? And even when I quit my job, there were consequences. So once people knew that I was quitting, a lot of people treated me like I was being ungrateful. Here we are fast tracking you and you’re quitting.

Robyn (17:07):

Other people treated me like persona non grata. Oh well, you no longer matter because you’re not going to be here anymore. Other people came to me and told me, you’ll be back and you’ll have to start from the bottom and you’ll have to climb back up again because you wasted this opportunity. Other people came to me and said, you won’t be able to go anywhere else. Other people came to me and said, well, what are you going to do? And I said, I think I’m going to write a book and they said, well, do you have a publisher? Do you have a contract? Do you have an editor? Do you have a book title? Have you ever written a book before? And the answer was no, no, no. I did that and my answer was, I don’t know yet.

Robyn (17:40):

But I could say I don’t know with such peace because I knew that once I was doing the right thing for me that the other stuff, I worked that out. It wasn’t until I admitted to myself that this is what I really wanted to do. When I did that, then I could handle all the other things, but it doesn’t come without the consequences that I think people need to understand that too. I don’t want to paint this as a rosie fairytale where I just took a leap and the net appeared. It’s a little bit harder than that. There’s still work I had to do from February to June. I had to build a business from February to June. I had to figure out how to write a book, but once you set that intention, once you say, okay, this is the pathway, that’s the right pathway to me.

Robyn (18:19):

You start walking in that you figure it out and I think the biggest piece of morning pages and prayer is that you just have to give yourself permission. I thought I had to do it another way, the traditional way, the way that was kind of the pathway. That was the only pathway I could see. I didn’t see other people taking a different pathway, so doing what I wanted to do, so I didn’t know the pathway existed. Once I admit it to myself, this is what I wanted and this is what I was meant to do, then I could have the clarity to figure out the pathway because I wasn’t arguing with myself about should I? Shouldn’t I do this instead I said, okay, no, this is what I’m going to do now let’s figure out how to do it. And I think that’s a difference between Ruckus Makers and everybody else is that Ruckus Makers have admitted to themselves that something’s not right.

Robyn (19:05):

They’ve admitted to themselves that there is something more that could happen and they’ve committed to instead of kind of settling for what they’ve committed to finding out what else there is. And I think a lot of people are not brave enough to make that decision so they stay trapped in lives and in jobs and in careers that don’t really serve them or serve anybody else. Whereas if they would commit to operating on the edges, they will commit to asking why. They would commit to saying, yes, there is something more and I’m going to go out and find it and discover it. It will not only serve them, it would also serve the world better.

Daniel (19:40):

So I want to pivot here and talk about vision a bit, but it connects. This idea connects because when you are operating on the edges, when you are causing a ruckus, you know what’s really interesting almost, it’s been my experience in just listening to your story.

Daniel (19:58):

It seems like it’s been yours too. When you’re on the right path, moving in a direction where you should be going, you should expect that a lot of people respond with potentially jealousy doubts, fear, you know, it was interesting to hear how people responded to what you were going to do. And what I didn’t hear you say is, Oh, good group of people saying, all right Robyn, we’re supporting you. We’re excited. It was like, well, what are you going to do? You’re going to be crawling back. You’re gonna have to start from the beginning and all this kind of stuff. So the pivot here and the connection is if a leader, Ruckus Makers still wants to operate within her district and do something special, they know they’re called to it. A lot of times that gets manifested through their vision. Well, what happens when that vision is or seemingly out of alignment with the district?

Robyn (20:52):

So I find it interesting that, and I find this true more for female leaders and even for male leaders where once we start out with a really big passion for kids, for education, we have a vision for what we want to accomplish and that vision gets rubbed down over the years by the district by attempting things that haven’t worked by other people’s past experience, by other people’s resistance. And so it’s really hard to hold onto that vision. I was just working recently with a group of administrators in a workshop and one of the things that we teach about vision is that your vision has to include a hundred percent of your students. So we push people to create visions that are bolder than anything they’ve been taught to do before. So most people will write a vision that that’s more of a smart goal.

Robyn (21:41):

You know, by 2022 80% of our students will be reading at grade level or what’s really sad. A lot of times it’s not 80% it’s 25% they’re trying to get to 25% because their schools are, are, are struggling in that way. And we are taught to write vision statements that are either our smart goals and you know, a certain percentage of kids, which always begs the question, what about what’s happening to the other kids? Are we saying, you know, when you say by 2020 to 80% of our kids will be reading being at grade level, what’s you’re really saying is 2022 we only plan to fail 20% of our kids rather than the 30% that we’re currently failing, which is not a vision that’s not going to inspire anybody. But we’re taught to write that. And then our district visions get even more fuzzy because we say things like lifelong learners and college and career ready.

Robyn (22:26):

And I don’t even know what that means. So I was teaching a group of principals to kind of write these 100% visions. So they sound like this. A hundred percent of our students will be reading on grade level by 2020 or a hundred percent of our students will be thriving in these ways. So what is your goal for a hundred percent of your kids? And I remember there was one administrator and she was really struggling with this and she called me over and she said, but what if I write a vision for a hundred percent of my kids? And then the district holds me to it. I can’t get to a hundred percent of my kids were in the school that I have and what’s more, what if I write a vision that the district doesn’t like or the district won’t let me do?

Robyn (23:08):

And so so address the first part of her question. I said, first of all, you can’t get to a hundred percent of your kids with the school that you have right now. That’s why you need a bigger vision because you’re getting the results. The school that you have right now is giving you the only results that can give you. If you want different results, you have to redesign your school and you have to redesign how you serve kids. So the question isn’t how do I get to a hundred percent with the kids, with the school that I have right now, it’s what does my school have to look in order for this division to be true. And that helps you re-imagine everything about school. And secondly, she’s your vision. Your district vision is written in such an ambiguous way that you can make this vision fit with your district vision.

Robyn (23:51):

So I don’t worry about that. What will happen is as you transform your school, your district vision will change because you will now show your district what is possible and that scared her. I think it scares a lot of us because it means stepping out in front. It means that when you do that, you know people are going to criticize you. People are going to complain, people are going to be jealous. And a lot of us have been taught, and by us, I mean women, even women of color, I’m a woman of color. A lot of us have been taught well, don’t make a big deal, you know, kind of don’t stand out. You know, make sure that you just kind of do what the district says. You don’t want to cause trouble. Don’t, don’t shake things up a bit. But my very presence shakes things up when I’m in a room and I am one of the only women or one of the only minorities in the room, but I’m very present, shakes things up.

Robyn (24:41):

I can’t blend into the background, nor should I, because there’s a perspective that I bring to the table that isn’t represented. It isn’t heard. So once you know that this is the thing I should be doing, you have to hold onto that vision. That vision has to be so compelling that it’s, that it becomes, it becomes a protection and a shield against all the criticism. And I think for her her struggle was that she was so afraid that as she did that, I mean she was passionate about it. She felt that’s the thing to do, but she was so afraid that if she did that she was going to get criticized. She was going to get it down somewhere. Okay. What she should have. What I had to help her understand was that when you have that vision that you really believe in, when you stop settling for these namby, pamby vision statements that you’ve been writing, when you are clear about that, when you are working to that end, that vision protects you from the other things because the more you achieve that vision, the closer you get to that vision, the more you shout out the people up, the more you protect yourself and your school from criticism because you’re not talking about it.

Robyn (25:41):

You’re actually demonstrating this data happen. And that makes other people uncomfortable because now you’re showing them that the thing that they said couldn’t happen is happening with your students in your school. And so now other people are going to have to step up. So you begin to lead the way in a, in a way that’s different. You don’t have the positional power, but you have the, the moral high ground because you’re showing that it can be done and that’s going to, yeah, you know, but you make you vulnerable to attack, but it’s also going to protect you because if they shut you down, what are they saying about what they want to do for kids? What their vision says some version of all kids and you know, it’s fuzzy, but that’s what it says. You’re showing them all kids can happen. How can they show you down if you’re proving that it’s happening.

Daniel (26:25):

Robyn, I’m really enjoying this conversation about how you took the leap and started Mindsteps and then the importance of  a hundred percent vision for all and in big bold visions as well. So we’re going to pause here just for a moment from a message from our sponsors. And when we back, I’d love to

sponsor (26:43):

Talk about school leadership reimagined. And you’re ever popular builder’s lab, better leaders, better schools is 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

Daniel (27:21):

The better leaders, better schools podcast is brought to you by teach FX. Teach FX is a research driven app that uses artificial intelligence to give teachers feedback on the balance of teacher talk. We’re 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.

Daniel (27:44):

.Alright And we’re back with Robyn Jackson from Mindsteps and really enjoyed the conversation so far about vision and starting Mindsteps. You have a great podcast school leadership re-imagined just in case the Ruckus Maker listening here today to this show isn’t aware of your podcast. Tell us a bit about what they can expect when they listen to school leadership re-imagined.

Robyn (28:16):

So this podcast is kind of my baby. I’ve been, I love working on this podcast because it allows me to give people nuggets of training for free. So the thing that I love to do more than anything else is to teach. I am a teacher at heart and so school leadership reimagined, I look at a different way that we could reimagine traditional school leadership. The idea is to go from being a boss and a leader to being a builder. The best way that I can describe is we’ve all heard the phrase bosses say go and leaders say, let’s go. I want to challenge both of those because neither of those are going to transform schools in a way that they need to be transformed. If we really want to transform schools, we have to go beyond go or let’s go. We have to start saying, come. So being a builder is not about trying to drag people to your goal. Being a builder is about creating a vision and a mission and a set of core values that are so compelling that you can invite other people to join you in building something better. So it’s very invitational, very versus pushing people towards a goal. Each week I provide about 20 to 30 minutes of training on some aspect of how to do that. So it’s a great way if you can’t get to a builder’s lab or to a workshop to get some free training and resources from me that help you approach your job differently, to reimagine what you could do in your leadership role in schools?

Daniel (29:40):

Great. And for Ruckus Maker listening, if you have not checked out school leadership reimagined, we will absolutely have that linked up for you in the show notes and your builders lab that you just mentioned. It is very popular. I know Colin, for example, that’s a leader I’ve been able to serve for years now in the Mastermind, He went to the builder’s lab and loved it. He absolutely loved it. He’s a leader at a charter school in New Jersey. So you might remember Colin but tell the Ruckus Maker listening about the builder’s lab. Yeah.

Robyn (30:12):

So builder’s lab is, we call it an intensive because for three days I get together with a small group. We usually keep it around 50 people and I walk through the entire entire builder ship model. So we start out with looking at first with building your vision, your mission, and your core values and challenging those, those notions and talking about the power that’s behind it. That’s your purpose. So once you get solid on your purpose, the next thing we do, start talking about your people and how do you get your people committed to the same purpose? You have to work on not only their skill, but you have to work on their will and that’s a part of leadership we never talk about. So how do you get people to be willing and able to walk into that purpose and to be committed to that purpose?

Robyn (30:58):

Once you do that, then we figure out what’s the best pathway for you to achieve your purpose right now when we approach it, not from just kind of setting a goal and making a plan and going towards the goal, we approach it from active of looking at what are all the things that are currently in your way and how do you start systematically removing those obstacles so that you can achieve your purpose with the people that you already have. Finally, after we’ve done all of that, we have an implementation lab where we show you how to create the plan. So we create a 90 day plan so that when you get back to school start to finish, how you’re going to start achieving your purpose in the next 90 days. We provide follow up support for the next 90 days to help you do just that. So you’ll get in all prompts from me, I’ll send you additional resources, I’ll check in. So if you’re having trouble, you can reach out and say, Hey, I tried this, this didn’t work. Can you help me with this other piece? We kind of follow up with people over that 90 days so that at the end of that 90 days they have a success story. There’s something that they’ve done, something tangible that they’ve done in their schools to really change their schools.

Daniel (32:00):

And where can a Ruckus Maker go to enroll in your builder’s lab?

Robyn (32:05):

So go to mindstepsinc.com/Builders-lab or you can give us a call at the office at +1 888-565-8881

Daniel (32:19):

We’ll have those, a phone number and the website linked up for you as well in the show notes. Robyn, if you could put a message on all school marquees around the world for just a day, what would your message read?

Robyn (32:33):

So unfortunately I can’t put the paragraph that I want to put on the marquee, so if I had to distill it down to one that could scroll across the marquee, it probably would be to find your why. The reason that I would put that there is I think a lot of times in classrooms we are teaching things and we don’t know why we’re teaching them and kids don’t know why they’re learning them. So we can’t contextualize what we’re learning and we can’t ever use it. I think administrators are kind of going through the motions of their day, but they’re not thinking about why I’m disciplining a kid in this way or why the schedule is a range of this way. I think if everybody were to stop and question why am I doing this before they did it, they might come up with a better way to do that. They might be able to take the thing that they’re doing and make it more meaningful. So probably find your way.

Daniel (33:21):

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

Robyn (33:32):

I thought about this a lot. I dream about building a school. I think for me the top three priorities would be number one, I’d want to find a way to help kids think. So the teaching approach would be designed around teaching kids to be good thinkers before anything else. Secondly, I’d want to build a school where we could train teachers to become master teachers. So I would love a school where it becomes a model school where other teachers can come and rotate in and out. So the teachers rotate, they follow one of our master teachers.

Robyn (34:08):

We have a program that shows them how to become master teachers and then they go back to their homeschool and bring that practice back to their home school. I would love to design a school in a way the teachers could come and rotate in and out and learn how to be master teachers and then take it back to their schools and make this masterful teaching viral. I’d love to do the same thing for administrators. Where administrators could come to the school, practice in the school for awhile, rotate out, and then go back and start other schools where they take those same practices. The third thing would be that I would love, hh learning and internally learning organization. A school where everybody is kind of committed to the same vision, mission and core values. And then everybody is coming together every 90 days to look at what the next big challenge is and executing a 90 day plan.

Robyn (35:00):

So every 90 days we are cycling. So we’re continuing to improve. We’re not just saying, here’s our model and this is it and we’re not well, we’re always innovating. We’re always trying to figure out other things. Kids are a part of that conversation. Parents are a part of that conversation and we’re always trying to figure out what is the best way to create a place where everybody is learning and how can we learn more and how can we model that for the kids and how can we make those opportunities bigger and better? For the kids, I would love a place to build a school when the kids are not just coming to learn, but the adults are coming to learn as well because I think that if we really want lifelong learning, we act like we have all the answers. We have to be learning too and we have to model that for kids so the kids can see that the process is ongoing as well. I mean, I don’t know how we do that, but if anybody figured that out, I am your I am on board because I would love a school where people could rotate in and out and we’re teaching a new way of doing school because we’re doing it ourselves, but we’re also inviting other people to be a part of that.

Daniel (35:59):

Robyn, thank you so much of being a part of the better leaders, better schools, podcasts of everything we talked about today. What’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember? I think you should figure out what it is you were meant to do, what it is that you’re called to do and then find a way to do it. Thanks for listening to the better leaders, better schools podcast for Ruckus Makers. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel @better leaders, better schools.com or hit me up on Twitter at 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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