Jeff Becker’s an award-winning school counselor and teacher with a Master’s in Secondary Counseling and a second degree in communications- so he’s a boots-on-the-ground leader and entrepreneur. Jeff is also an adjunct professor at National University for their Master’s program in Social and Emotional Learning. He’s the founder of two revolutionary products that help principals to deliver much-needed SEL to their kids without taxing their teachers. And it looks like something from Netflix, so kids love it.
Daniel: One of the biggest challenges that school leaders face is time. Where to fit things in because here's the truth. Your schedules are absolutely packed and there are so many important things that need to happen every single day. One of those things is how are you offering a robust and engaging social, emotional learning program to help your kids develop into the human beings that they need to be. And because of time, sometimes if we're honest, it gets pushed to the side and really glossed over maybe in an advisory class or not handled in depth at all. There's some teachers you trust and they're knocking it out of the park while others mail it in. Today I'm excited because we're going to talk about an opportunity, uh, to check out a program called In Control SEL, which is really a turnkey solution it's done for you. There's no planning on the principal part or the teacher part. You really hit play and get engaging SEL content for your students. How does that sound? It gets better because if you go to in controlsel.com/Danny, you'll get a 30% discount if you choose to subscribe for a year. Check that out. Hey, it's Danny and welcome to the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast the 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.
Daniel: Learn how to successfully drive school change and help your diverse stakeholders, establish priorities and improve practice in leading change. A certificate of school management and leadership course from Harvard. Leading change runs June 16th to July 14th, 2021. You can apply by June 4th at betterleadersbetterschools.com/Harvard. That's betterleadersbetterschools.com/Harvard. Are you automatically tracking online student participation data during COVID innovative school leaders across the country have started tracking online student participation using Teach FX because it's one of the most powerful ways to improve student outcomes during COVID, especially for English learners and students of color. Learn more about Teach FX and get a special offer at teachereffects.com/BLBS. That's teachfx.com/BLBS.
Daniel: Students have an opportunity to succeed with Organized Binder who equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning, whether in a distance hybrid or traditional educational setting, learn firstname.lastname@example.org. Um, Hey there Ruckus Maker I'm joined today by a guest who's been here before Jeff Becker and Jeff is an award winning school, counselor and teacher with a master's in secondary counseling and a second degree in communications. He's a boots on the ground leader in entrepreneur. Jeff also recently accepted an adjunct professor position at National University who has a master's program in social and emotional learning. He's the founder of two revolutionary products that help principals to deliver much needed SEL to their kids without taxing their teachers. It looks like something from Netflix so kids absolutely love it. Welcome to the show, Jeff.
Jeff: What's going on, Danny? How are you today?
Daniel: Thanks for coming back and joining us again. The story of what you're doing today is interesting. I think that's probably the best place to start and something that I've always noted in my education career is that counselors don't realize that they're going to be doing a whole bunch more of test prep, rather than counseling in their career, which is that's a tragedy in itself. Kids still have those counseling needs. They still have gaps and need to develop their social emotional selves. How do you want to solve this problem these days?
Jeff: That's a great question. Thanks for asking it, Danny. Again, thanks for having me on the podcast. The thing that keeps me up at night is all of these fires that we're constantly putting out as ed leaders. The more fires we're putting out and jumping around and being reactive, the less we're proactive about the skills that we're given to our children. When I say skills, I mean non-academic social and emotional skills. Self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, decision making, relationship skills, stuff like that. Once upon a time I was a counselor with not enough time, I was doing scheduling. I was doing test prep, and a lot of paperwork. I was bogged down in my office and then out of nowhere, my principal told me that the school side was about to double and much to my dismay, I was barely getting into every classroom as it was, I had an even bigger obstacle to solve. I thought to myself, "How on earth could I multiply myself? How could I get into more classrooms with less time?" As a counselor, I thought, "Oh my gosh, what? This would be a great application for video." I remember going down to the AAV room, the TV production room and grabbing a camera and a tripod and setting it up and making the absolutely cringiest video you've ever seen in your life. It was bad, but that's kind of how all of this came to be. Can-do U which is high school video curriculum and in control SEL. The idea is how do we help principals to still not just check that box, but to create something great that really does transform students in schools. How do we do that when there are these fires to put out and counselors are busy and teachers are busy and principals are busy? Well, that's the problem that we're looking to solve. We've done that phenomenally over the last seven years.
Daniel: Tell me more about what made the video so cringy.
Jeff: I didn't know anything about it. I knew that video was the format, but I knew nothing about the craft. I knew nothing about video production. I set the tripod up and I knew nothing about timing. I knew nothing about scripting. I knew nothing about onscreen presence. As soon as I watched that video back I learned all of the things that I still needed to learn.
Daniel: Can you unpack some of those lessons maybe here. Here's why I'm asking. The Ruckus Maker listening has heard me talk about innovative ways to communicate and connect with staff. If they're paying attention to the podcast, if they're watching what I do in social, if they've applied to what I do through the Mastermind, odds are they've received a personalized video from me. Something that I've used for years is a app called Loom, which you can do for free, or I had the paid version and it's amazing how many of those videos I send out. I do it to build a relationship, to show emotion things you can't communicate through the written word necessarily, or it gets lost in translation. I'll say this too, of all my years, sending those out, I've been on the receiving end of a video like that. I can count on one hand how many times I've done it. I know exactly who has sent it to me. That's important to note Jeff, because those people made an impact in my life. We built a relationship, started working together on different projects and that's why I want to ask you about the cringiness and the lessons learned, because I want the Ruckus Maker listening to use video as a way to communicate.
Jeff: I'm extra excited. Awesome, one of the things that I learned really quickly, and this is where a lot of social and emotional learning or character development or any educational video, and that's really any video, every video aims to educate somebody on something it's not wrapped intention. I'll tell you what I do. All of our videos are wrapped in teen tension because I have a solution for something. I think my thing, whatever it is, whether that's a shoe horn, a set of speakers or a social and emotional learning skill that I want someone to learn. It's not enough to tell somebody about that thing. A lot of videos or a lot of lessons in schools, especially for middle schoolers, which they're a tough audience is very informational. You can't jump in front of a middle-schooler and say, "This is what self-awareness is.Thank you so much. Make sure you go use it." It needs to be wrapped in teen tension. A mentor of mine said that "people buy solutions, but they don't care about your solutions until they believe that you understand their problem." What we do and this applies to everything, not middle-schoolers, this applies to you, Danny, or any of the Ruckus Makers out there. Let's say, if you're leading a staff, you can tell a staff about high yield strategies and reading, but if you're really not poking them, and you're really not saying, "Hey, this is the big problem and this is what should be keeping us up at night" and then you unpack the solution. For teenagers, they're wrapped up in themselves, they're wrapped up in their social problems. We'll say things like, "Have you ever been so bummed out because you're thinking so much about all of your problems that you have lined up over the course of the week? Have you ever been laying there in bed at night and worry about all of these assignments you have and they're backed up and they're piling up on top of each other and it seems like you have so much work to do that you would rather skip it all together?" That's tension. Then we say, "If that is you, check this out. We have three tips that are going to help you to organize and stop that procrastination now, and you're going to have the best week of your life." Once you unpack that tension and build that tension, then they're going to be ready for the solution. I would say any Ruckus Maker, principal, superintendent, anybody build tension first before you unpack the solution.
Daniel: Starting with that approach is really the hook. Part of it is, um, about emotion. Another part is about empathy and knowing what people are going through. For example, my nephew, pick them up from school this week and some girl was making fun of the shirt he was wearing. He was wearing an Among Us shirt. It was a game that it was pretty viral recently and supposedly it's not cool anymore. I coached him about how to respond to this girl in the moment. But my point is, if you're talking to his age group like, "Hey, have you ever been outside, get picked on, bullied on, and you can paint the picture of that. Now they're listening because they know that you understand, what they're going through. The last thing I'll say, story-wise, it's really hero's journey.
Daniel: If we broke that down into three parts, what's the context, what's sort of the challenge or obstacle in your words, the tension, and then there's a pivot where you have lessons learned. The quick and dirty way to think through stories. Talk to me more Jeff, about multiplying yourself because I think something, a Ruckus Maker listening is considering all the time. They have 30, 40 classrooms or whatever to get into this week and it's really hard to do as one person. Talk to me a little bit more about how you think about multiplying yourself and scaling and that kind of thing.
Jeff: That's big and it's something that I think is worthwhile for all of us. If you consider yourself a leader or even if you're a positional leader and you've gotten into a leadership role, I'm going to gloss over this one, is that you have to start thinking about what you need to stop doing equally as important of what you need to start doing. For instance, meetings. People usually don't generally get excited about having meetings, especially in schools, there is staff meetings. You can kind of read that thought bubble over everybody's head like, "Oh my gosh, I have so much to do. When is this meeting going to be over?" We would all agree that meetings are essential so multiplying yourself would be, again, using video is a phenomenal way to multiply yourself.
Jeff: If you have something to say to a staff, it's not always necessary to call everybody into the same room. I think we all learned that over the course of this last year, the power of video, and while it can't completely replicate a face-to-face interaction, if there are things that are not 110% essential, you can use video to multiply yourself and the other way. I'm sure you can speak to this better than I could leading a team the way you do. Building capacity, I've quickly learned as an entrepreneur in a fast growing company, you get to the end of your self pretty quickly. As a leader, you need to realize when that's happening, if you're experiencing rapid growth, or if you're leading a really large team, I think the inclination or the fear can make you feel like you need to get it all done yourself when that's really not. The case is that you kind of need to find really good people around you. I'd say that's the second most important way to kind of multiply yourself is to find somebody and coach them up and make that investment.
Daniel: As Better Leaders has scaled. The reason we're able to do that is because I'm building the internal coaching team because I can't run anymore of the cohorts that we offer. I have a bold vision of serving 1200 school leaders around the world. In order to do that, to multiply myself, I'm coaching the internal team. The point that you're bringing up in terms of scale, and you said getting to the end of yourself really quickly, that's something really for Ruckus Makers to reflect on. How they are actually the school's biggest opportunity and biggest challenge. As a principal, as a school leader, you're the biggest bottleneck, believe it or not. I'll let the listener really reflect on that or you can email in and I'll coach you through it.
Daniel: So much cool stuff. I'll do a really quick plug. I'm going to be doing this five day free challenge in the beginning of July and this is released in sometime in June. I want to highlight it because you talked about this idea of scaling and having a not to do list. I built the challenge actually today, which is funny, because we're recording and I think that might be it's day three or day four is content. BetterLeadersBetterSchools.com/challenge-July-2021. We'll have that in the show notes too. The promise is to avoid 60 plus hour work weeks, the incredible stress, the negative health outcomes, and substitute that for your best year ever. I'm going to do a free challenge, tips and tricks where people can learn how to do that.
Daniel: Thank you for allowing me to plug that really quick, but this show Jeff, is about you. I want to talk more about In Control SEL. I've seen some of the video content, the website looks amazing. If there's a Ruckus Maker who maybe has some extra Asur funding, I mean, not everybody has money these days. Asur funding, you can use for SEL stuff. It is written into it and you have a great offer with it. Tell us a bit about what In Control SEL looks like.
Jeff: Absolutely. Again, being that middle schoolers, they're such a tough audience because the content that's in front of a middle schooler today is unbelievable. It's unreal the amount of free content that is out there at the push of a button. One of my core beliefs deep in my hart has always been there. If we are to compete with the negative noise that our students are absorbing on a day-to-day basis, we need to be really good at content creation. I often think back, and this isn't a knock because I love schools. I've dedicated my life to being in schools. I'm in a school building right now, but if we're still doing, "The dare to say No to drugs" and really old archaic bulletin boards with old 80 style bubble letters and cringy videos with puppets and things like that, our middle schoolers it's done. You're almost communicating that, whatever the thing you're going against is actually the cool thing.
Jeff: If you don't do it in a cool way, does that make sense? In my local county, I see these folders that come out that "Say no to drugs" and the folders are so bad looking. It might make the kid think that the thing that they're telling you not to do is actually the cool thing to do. In Control SEL, our basic philosophy is that I love schools. I've dedicated my life to being in schools. I'm in a school building right now, but if we're still doing, "The dare to say No to drugs" and really old archaic bulletin boards with old 80 style bubble letters and cringy videos with puppets and things like that, our middle schoolers it's done. You're almost communicating that, whatever the thing you're going against is actually the cool thing. I'm not saying social media is the dabble, but I mean the amount of Tik TOK and YouTube and Instagram and Twitter that they're consuming, it's horrible because it's completely uncensored. It's pouring into these young minds, which is terrible. What we do is we have really amazing looking media. It's all shot in 4k, super high production value, we've come and miles and miles from that cringy video that we created once upon a time in my office. There are about five minutes long and there's zero teacher prep. One is we believe that we need to build in teen tension, but two, we know that it needs to be easy for teachers to launch. All the teachers have to do is press play and watch the video with their students. We have young engaging, fun, funny people on these videos that talk through all of these social and emotional learning competencies. What we're doing is we're helping students to build self-discipline where they can stop in the middle of an impulse and show self-discipline and use a tool that they learned on these videos. By looking like something that's on Netflix or a YouTuber or something like that, we're building influence with these students.
Daniel: Beautiful. We're gonna pause here for a moment for a message from our sponsor, but when we get back, I'd love to hear if there's a favorite video that you've created for students and why that might be your favorite. Learn how to successfully drive school change and help your diverse stakeholders, establish priorities and improve practice in leading change. A certificate in school management and leadership course from Harvard topics include adaptive leadership, culture, equity, and more leading change runs June 16th to July 14th, 2021. Apply by June 4th, enroll by June 10th and get started 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 teachffects.com/BLBS.
Daniel: 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, email@example.com.
Daniel: We're back with, uh, Jeff Becker and he's here talking about a new opportunity for schools that he's created called InControl SEL, which is really well done, high quality and meets kids where they're at. We're talking about how it's a done for you service. It limits the amount of investment in terms of time from a school leadership or a teacher classroom teacher perspective. We were talking about the video content that Jeff creates. I'm curious, is there a number one favorite video that you've created, but what is it and why?
Jeff: Yeah, that's a tough question. What we did is we created 24 videos per grade level that way you get one video per week per grade level. So that way Johnny, when he comes in as an 11 year old, he sees a video a week all the way through eighth grade. 72 videos that you'd get as a school leader. One of my favorite videos and they come in series of three, that's how we keep them to five minutes. One of my favorite topics to talk about is growth mindset. I know it's kind of cliche because it's kind of a buzzword right now in education, but I think most people want to start with creating vision for their life and creating goals, which is a huge part of our curriculum. If a child does not believe that they are capable of reaching these goals, then the goal is fluff.
Jeff: What we do is we unpack what growth mindset is and what fixed mindset is. It's the research by Carol Dweck and again, we unpack that in a really fun way. We help students to really believe that anything's possible, which sounds fluffy, but then we teach them about the brain science neuro-plasticity and how anyone's brain, not my brain, not your brain. It will adapt to whatever it is that we're trying to learn. Thus, making them believe that anything actually is possible and that's grounded in science. The beautiful thing about growth mindset that we teach is that it doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, or the color of your skin or the neighborhood you grow up in, or what your parents do for a living, or what anybody's ever said about you. The blatant truth is, is that we're all born with these amazing brains that will grow and adapt, no matter if we're trying to learn pre-calculus or we're trying to learn how to shoot a bow and arrow with our feet, our brain has our back. We get the students really pumped up believing that they can do anything. We say, "Okay, now let's set some goals." You're getting really, really cool, exciting goals out of students because they have that belief.
Daniel: I think now, since we've talked about In Control SEL. I'd love to reveal the offer that you have for them and this'll be in the show notes so people can click the link or they can go to, uh, Incontrolsel.com/Danny. I know if they sign up, I think they get a 30% discount, which is super generous for a year subscription. I think you have another gift for them as well. Could you describe that?
Jeff: Absolutely. Not only are we going to offer any of the Ruckus Makers 30% off of their first year subscription, but we also want to give them something customized to their school, to their needs. We talked about the power of multiplying yourself. What we offer to schools, and this is usually a paid thing that we roll in with our subscriptions, but we want to give your listeners a free SEL blueprint. A lot of people SEL is a new thing and you're like, all right, this sounds awesome. It sounds like it's definitely a good thing to do for the students. I don't know much about it, and I really don't know where to start. How do you start doing this SEL thing? As an SEL expert, I would love to talk with you on the phone, ask you about what's going on at your school.
Jeff: Kind of do like an SEL audit about your strengths, your weaknesses, your areas for improvement, as it pertains to SEL, social and emotional learning. About the problems that you're trying to solve as a leader. You said that this podcast is about me, Danny. I'm going to push back on that. It's about your listeners and about helping them win. I want to hear their biggest pain points, the biggest, the loudest noise that they have going on and how social and emotional learning can help them to conquer that. We will give you really easy to use best bang for your buck strategies, and not only that, but how to build capacity on your team and hand these things off so that way it's not another thing to do for your principals.
Daniel: Thanks again, Jeff, for that generous offer, it'll be in the show notes, but again, it's Incontrolsel.com/Danny. Before we get to the last two questions, I asked everybody, you have an interesting story about your current work place. I want to invite you to kind of talk about that because you work for a phenomenal principal who really trusts you. I want Ruckus Makers listening to listen with a filter of am I demonstrating this level of trust with my top people? I'll leave it at that and let you take It from there.
Jeff: I worked for a phenomenal principal and I can't brag on him enough because in educational leadership, it takes a lot of bravery. It's really easy to kind of fall into either what your district wants you to do, or what's coming down from a federal or state level. You can really feel that pressure as a principal to kind of go really up the middle game plan style. It's kind of scary to innovate and, but what my principal knows and what I'm learning from my leader in my building, and I hope other people are inspired by this is that he hires really great people that he believes in. I'm not saying that I'm great. That's not my point. My point is that his belief is that if he hires great people, then he should be able to trust them to do whatever it is that they are experts in and that he doesn't need to micromanage.
Jeff: He doesn't. He needs to have check in meetings from time to time. I was joking with you before the show is that sometimes I worry, I'm like, "Where is this guy? Is he going to start asking me about what I have going on" , but he actually takes care of that on the front end, he doesn't hire people that he has to worry about playing solitaire in their office. I know that hiring's a struggling, you can't always hire these types of people that are really self-propelled. He's very intentional about that. He hires people that are hungry. He hires people that want to win. He hires people that he knows and that he can trust to kind of leave alone to do their thing and so that's what he says all the time. I hire people, I hire good people and I stay out of their way and I let them do what they do.
Jeff: This middle school that I'm sitting in right now. Anytime I do any kind of business stuff, I obviously have to go off the clock. Basically, he said, "Hey man, this is your lab. Start testing this stuff because I see this as nothing but a benefit for our school." I do over the last three years, we were building In Control in this middle school lab, doing focus groups and teacher focus groups and working with students and asking them what they're seeing and what they're feeling and what they're hearing. I think that's the special sauce behind In Control, but that doesn't happen unless we had this extremely fertile ground where we grew this thing.
Daniel: There's that one layer of trust and not micromanaging and allowing people to be the experts they are in whatever area. There's also this idea of creating laboratories where you can innovate, prove the concept and then start to make it bigger too. Appreciate you sharing for those reasons. The last two questions, uh, I love asking, I know you've answered the last. I'm gonna have you answer it again. I don't know that you've answered this first one, though. If you could put a message on all school marquees around the world for a day, what would your message read?
Jeff: Wow, geez. When you ask people that do, they hem and haw for like five minutes and then it gets weird and you have to edit it on your podcast. I'm going to go gut instinct. I'm a gut instinct kind of guy, but it would be slow down. It takes a whole lot of bravery in today's school to slow down. It's go, go, go check the boxes, following follow the pacing guide. I believe that when we rush through these things and even more so when we pressure our teachers to rush through these things and stay up to speed on everything we can lose sight of things like great relationship building with students, which we know is the precursor for all learning to happen. If we're not slowing down enough to have conversations with our staff, if you're not slowing in order to unpack your vision as a leader unpack that consistently.
Jeff: Clearly you're losing a great opportunity there. If you're not encouraging your teachers to slow down so they can get to know their students so they can have a non-academic place to let the children feel safe. I think it's easy for the pressures of education to make us speed up rather than to slow down. I think what happens is we sacrifice the real magic in this thing. What we got into education for in the first place and that's meeting students, meeting them where they're at building relationships, becoming an influence in their life. My fear is that if we don't slow down, we could miss that.
Daniel: Jeff, if you were building your dream school, you weren't limited by any resources. Your only limitation was your imagination. How would you build your dream school and what would be your top three priorities?
Jeff: Top three priorities. First priority would be that the younger, they are the more social and emotional learning they get. If you build that foundation and if you do it strategically and you do it very carefully and you do it intentionally that your children are going to be hungry learners. The second thing is it would be primarily project based learning when I was in the classroom. I once had , a parent say, "Well, my student says that you hardly ever teach." I said, "Whoa, I have to push back on that. I might not lecture a lot, but your student's learning the whole time and that doesn't always need to be from a lecture coming from my mouth." Project based learning, I'm huge on let students get their hands dirty, let them make mistakes, let them build things, let them create things, let them solve problems for themselves. The third thing would be smaller classroom sizes. There are a host of benefits to that, but I want my students to get to know each other, build interdependency, build relationships amongst each other, because that's one of the coolest parts of schools. So yeah, that would be my top three.
Daniel: Thanks so much for being a part of the Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast, again, of all the things we've talked about today, what's the one thing you want to Ruckus Maker to remember?
Jeff: Whether that's with me, whether that's with another curriculum, whether that's with another education consultant is every single problem you have behaviorally, academically, emotionally, all of them boil down to a social, emotional competency that your student needs. Remember that I'm not saying that I need to be your solution for everything, but identifying that as the issue and not the heart or the character of the child or family that's essential.
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 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 @alienearbud and using the #BLBS level up your leadership at betterleadersbetterschools.com and talk to you next time until then class dismissed.
Speaker 2: [inaudible].
- Solving the SEL need with 5 minute videos
- How to Multiply yourself
- Build tension before you unpack solutions
- Resources to help students build self-discipline
- What it’s like to have a principal that trusts you
- Archaic communication promotes the thing you’re going against
- As a school leader, you’re the biggest bottleneck
- Avoid 60 plus hour work weeks for your best year ever
“The thing that keeps me up at night is all of these fires that we’re constantly putting out as ed leaders. The more fires we’re putting out and jumping around and being reactive, the less we’re proactive about the skills that we’re given to our children.”
– Jeff Becker
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