Dr. CJ Lowery, is the Assistant Superintendent in Rockport-Fulton Texas. He has a background with inner-city and rural Title 1 schools as a teacher and principal. CJ believes that education is not a job, it’s a mission field. This mission field requires strong relationships, data, and collaboration for success. “It’s not who you know, but who you were good to.”
Ruckus Makers need to embrace the tension of veteran teachers while amplifying the talent of novice teachers.
“Who you know, is not nearly as important as who you’re good to.”
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Education is not a job, it’s a mission field that requires 3 ingredients for success.
Have the mind and the heart of a child and encourage people to fill your leadership gaps.
The growl you need to hear to know you are pushing your school in the right direction.
One thing that lawmakers are moving the right direction for teachers.
Leaders need to understand how to lead people who are risk averse.
“Good leaders wanna find some common ground to say, ‘Hey you’re seeing something I didn’t see.’ It’s either I have a blind spot or a gap somewhere that now I can evaluate and hopefully make it better for you.”
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How You Treat People Is The Foundation Of Culture
I end a lot of my workshops and keynotes and speaking opportunities with a famous Maya Angelou quote, that’s just brilliant. She said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel, how you made them feel.” I think Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” What’s the through line In both of these quotes, it’s about people. It’s about relationships, it’s actually about emotions. It’s soft skills. It’s how you make people feel. Do they belong or are they othered? Are they seen? Are they heard? Can you call out their gifts and amplify those gifts within your building? This is the foundation of a successful school organization and culture. Today’s talk with Dr. CJ Lowery focuses on strong relationships. You’ll really wanna listen to the end of the show, too, because he has a tip for finding your best teachers. I guarantee you’ve never heard it before. Hey, it’s Danny, and welcome to the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast, a show forRuckus Makers, which means you invest in your continuous growth, you challenge the status quo, and you design the future of school now. We’ll be right back after some short messages from our show sponsors.
Learn how to recruit, develop, retain, and inspire outstanding individuals and teams to deliver on the vision of your school in leading people. A certificate in school management and leadership course from Harvard Leading People runs from February 15th to March 15th, 2023. Apply by Friday, February 3rd, enroll by Thursday, February 9th, and get started at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com/harvard. School Leaders know that productive student talk drives student learning, but the average teacher talks 75% of class time. Give your students more opportunities to learn in class by monitoring the talk time for teachers and students. Check out Teach FX for yourself, and learn about our special partnership options forRuckus Makers at 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 email@example.com. Hello, Ruckus Makers, I am here today with Dr. CJ Lowery, who is the assistant superintendent in Rockport, Fulton, Texas. He has a background with inner city and rural Title one schools. As a teacher and principal, CJ believes that education is not a job, it’s a mission field. This mission field requires strong relationships, data, and collaboration for success. It’s not who you know, but who you were good to, which we’ll talk about right at the end of the show. Dr. Lowery, welcome to the podcast.
Dr CJ Lowery (03:34):
All right, thanks so much for having me. Really excited.
When we got to chatting the other day, I’m like, CJ has to be on the podcast. He’s a true Ruckus Maker. We are thrilled to have you here. I wanna bring you back in time. This might be your first teaching job, but correct me if I’m wrong, and all of a sudden you experience this very interesting problem. You’re getting more kids and more kids and more kids in your class until your colleague, if I remember correctly, doesn’t have any kids to teach. Correct me where I’m wrong, and tell us that story please.
Dr CJ Lowery (04:08):
First year teaching at an alternative campus, and really trying to get kids through state testing. Funny, I was an alternative cert teacher, so shout out to all you alt cert people. The only job offer I got was to teach at this ulcer campus. Throughout the first semester, I kept noticing that my classes were getting larger and the other teachers getting smaller. You’re sitting here thinking, “What’s going on? Are you giving me all the bad kids? Are they all bad? Are they all good?” And you’re taking away from her, what’s going on. You ask your leadership, “Hey, what’s going on? And they answer you’re the one doing all the great work and the kids are being more successful for you. Of course, my answer back was, “Well, she makes more money than me, and she gets the department head stipend, and I’m 22.” What’s going on here? That was my first time to cause a ruckus and to challenge them.
I think that’s a good point to make, causing a ruckus and making a ruckus because you’re saying, “Hey, I’m getting rewarded with students because I’m more effective as a teacher, but there’s something misaligned here, which is this person who has no students now is the department chair and is making more money, so help me reconcile that.” I would call that a crucial conversation. When you brought that up with the principal at the time, how’d that go and what was the outcome?
Dr CJ Lowery (05:36):
A lot of people always say your greatest strengths are greatest weaknesses. I think while I sit here and say that I’m aRuckus Maker, each one of my prior bosses or colleagues would probably say, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, he is, he’s definitely that.” I’ve had to have those tough conversations on both ends.You have that crucial conversation and I walk in with my boss, and at the time he was quite a bit older than me. I think saw talent in me that he was hoping to cultivate and very much did. But at the time I was doing all the work and the compensation wasn’t even close. We’re teachers, I don’t need to get rich, but it’d be nice to be compensated equally equally to my colleague.
Dr CJ Lowery (06:19):
I brought it up and I showed him, “Hey, this is what I’m doing. This is how it kind of makes me feel.” He said, “You’re right.” There were some changes made during the semester. Obviously, when the department heads money, I think it was like $2000 bucks for a whole year. When the semester changed, I got a thousand. In teacher times and at age 22, that’s a lot of money.
That’s right. I think this also taught you a leadership lesson as you’re having that crucial conversation with your principal and something that served you in the future years.When you were listening to others bring you different challenges that they were having or things that they were working through. What was that lesson that you learned by bringing up this discrepancy and paying back then as a first year teacher?
Dr CJ Lowery (07:12):
That was the first moment I was really big on paper performance and not so much that there should be a huge discrepancy, but you obviously see it across all business worlds that the harder you work, oftentimes the better you get compensated. Obviously, we could always find things outliers,.We’ll talk about the book later. What it taught me there was, first off, I wanna encourage my young staff members, like I did. My boss at that point did. I had a mentor at the time that saw the same thing. She was the one that kind of encouraged me, “Okay, go have this tough conversation, and you have to fight for yourself. And you have to make sure that you’re willing to have those tough conversations in terms of if you want what you feel like you deserve, you’ve gotta step up and have that tough conversation, even though it can be quite difficult.”
Dr CJ Lowery (08:08):
She encouraged me there and when I came in, he was very understanding, and he listened to both my side of things. Obviously, he didn’t give me an answer. He said, “Well, let me go evaluate this, let me look into this a little bit more.” After he did, he came back, set some time, and he told me where I was.He told me, where there were areas that maybe his hands were tied and he couldn’t really do anything, but here’s where the things that he could do. That’s what I take on now. I try to encourage people to be willing to come and have tough conversations with me. if they see something that I don’t see, you might call it a leadership gap. What do I not see? Come have a conversation with me. The worst I could say is no, and you’re right back where you were. Usually, good leaders wanna find some common ground to say, Hey you’re seeing something I didn’t see because either I have a blunder or a gap somewhere that now I can evaluate and hopefully make it better for you. In this case, the system and the children.
Effective leaders want those feedback loops.There’s nothing worse than continuing to do some kind of behavior that’s causing a negative result, and you’re completely unaware of what that is. To have those feedback loops, to be able to understand what exactly is going on to help me see what I don’t see.That’s a huge, huge value. You’re certainly a Ruckus Maker. You’re challenging the idea, okay, maybe age shouldn’t be the determining factor for what a teacher makes. Now the tension though is with the years of experience there’s some honor and respect, I think due to veteran faculty members they’ve put in the time. If they’ve been effective too, they have a lot of wisdom to share with others. If they’ve been ineffective, they’re a great anti example of what not to become. There might be value, you could argue that there as well. The tension also is you have up and coming teachers, new to the field who are absolutely brilliant, but you’re worried like, “Will they outshine the veterans” and that kind of thing. How do you embrace that tension and what would you say to theRuckus Maker listening?
Dr CJ Lowery (10:24):
Again, you have to be willing to walk in and have that tough conversation. You’re right, it’s not easy. It’s not easy to tell a teacher that has 25, 30 years experience that, Hey, this rookie’s gonna make more money than you are. Let’s say this teacher within five years sure is gonna potentially be making more than you. You’ve really put in 30 years cultivating children’s lives and I’m sure in many cases, making a really positive impact. I think you have to cultivate that in terms of, well, if you believe that you’re still one of the best teachers 30 years in, then this is also gonna help you. I just had this conversation with some of the teachers in our district and they said, “Well, I don’t wanna worry about this new teacher in some allotment in Texas, and what is it gonna do for me?
Dr CJ Lowery (11:09):
I’m retiring next year. You might be making $65-$70,000 for math purposes. Let’s say you’re making 75 and you are one of these top performing teachers in our district. You would get another $25,000, it’d be a one time check that you get and that also would increase your retirement. So you get a one time check worth about 33% of your salary, and you increase your retirement for 33% if you truly believe that you’re one of these top. Now if you’re not, hey, it’s just what’s best for kids. We all agree that there’s a teacher shortage because people are seeing that they can go make more money, in other fields or sometimes even in educational support fields. It’s not even that you left education, as a whole. Unless we get these salaries to where they can compete your grandkids need a teacher and so we’ve gotta get them somewhere. And so that’s kind of how I frame that, with our teachers and unfortunately some people are gonna growl and not like it. And that’s how I know that I’m kind of doing things right. Is that there are people that are still a little bit frustrated.otherwise you’re probably not pushing the envelope hard enough.
If everybody’s super happy or you don’t have some people grumbling in the staff, then you’re certainly not challenging them to grow.Let’s face that. I’ll invest good money in health and fitness. I will complain about the entire workout, but the reason I’m complaining is cuz it’s hard and it’s pushing me to be stronger, and then I like the results.I do complain because it hurts.
Dr CJ Lowery (12:44):
That’s a great example because it hurts more in the beginning, but as you get into it, your body’s not as sore and you feel better, you have more energy, and you’re able to do other things in your life that you want to. I think that’s a really good analogy there.thank you
It sounds like I didn’t get this in the intro call, I’m sorry if I missed it, but it sounds like your district’s actually doing some creative things around teacher compensation. What I heard is a one time check, I heard it goes into retirement and then that’s actually paying out for quite a while. What a bonus there. Can you explain some of these creative things you’re doing?
Dr CJ Lowery (13:21):
Honestly, the Texas Education Agency is pushing this out. A lot of people say, well, they pushed it out too early. There’s something wrong with it. Absolutely, we had to get it out there.if we wait until the system’s perfect, before testing it, it’s never gonna happen. It won’t be perfect. But it’s one of those things. Texas has set aside money to basically give performance based pay in three different tiers, to the top 30% of teachers every year across the state of Texas. If you earn the money, it lasts five years. So if I do earn a $15,000 bonus, that $15,000 bonus, I get that every year for five years. Not only do I get that check, but it also goes into the pension, which increases my retirement down the way.
Dr CJ Lowery (14:09):
We talk to teachers right now and you say, Hey you’re getting a 1 to 2% pay increase every year, but inflation’s 10% right now. How are you going to make up that ground and live what you would hope is 20 to 25, maybe even 30 years past retirement in the ages that we’re living in. That’s a shout out to Texas and some of the things their lawmakers are doing. As educators we’re always frustrated with lawmakers, and that’s just how it goes. I think this is one thing that is absolutely moving the right direction is the teacher’s pay for performance. At least those top teachers are coming to the profession and hopefully staying
The leadership lesson I wanna point out for Ruckus Makers, perfect can be the enemy of greatand. If you are always slowing things down in terms of innovation, evolving and education’s a space that needs to evolve at a quicker pace. If you’re waiting for perfection, then you’ll never execute the idea. If you’re afraid of failure because it’s not perfect. Good enough is an idea, a concept that I think Ruckus Makers should really adopt since you put it out there. The market tells you the market being the school community for principals, you’re gonna get that feedback and then you could always make the plan better. But if you are waiting to have it be perfect, then you never get the plan out there and that stifles creativity and innovation. I see you smiling, so I’m wondering if there’s something you wanna add to that.
Dr CJ Lowery (15:39):
No, I 100% agree. Here’s what I’d add to this, and this is kind of in some of my other thoughts, in general teachers by nature are risk averse. I think as a field we have a lot of that.Most teachers, within their retirement system have some type of pension that’s very safe. The likelihood of getting fired is very unlikely within our education system. You love your days off so there’s a lot of consistency. Anytime you have something, teachers want it to be perfect. As a leader, you get to take the heat when you roll out something that’s not, which is gonna be pretty much everything. We’re not gonna roll out a perfect system. If we did, everyone would be emulating it, but no one’s called us and said, Hey, we wanna emulate that.
Dr CJ Lowery (16:29):
There’s perfect pieces and I think that’s one thing to keep in mind as a leader specifically in education, is the people that you are leading tend to be more risk averse. First, we have to keep that in mind as we lead them and support them. Secondly, we have to push them through wanting perfection like a lesson plan or a test, “Well, not all my kids pass.” Well, God, 90% of ’em did and the other kids that that didn’t grew. It’s tough when you work in a field full of people that care so much, but also are risk averse. That’s the thing you have to keep in mind as that leader.
Absolutely. I remember, when I first got into surveys and I’m no longer utilizing them all the time with what, leaders I support, but I’ll never forget that the majority of principals and APs, fall in the more assertive area of the disc and their staff, though the majority of people are in the S and the C, because they want that consistency, that stability, the tradition and that kind of thing, which can sometimes frustrate a leader. Certainly frustrates a Ruckus Maker. Like I said, many, many times, you’re, you’re aRuckus Maker, CJ. I think you’ve had big goals for yourself as you’ve grown in your leadership. I remember you telling me a story about your mom and telling her about next steps. She gave you some advice. What was that advice that she shared with you?
Dr CJ Lowery (18:00):
I luckily have had a lot of people in my life that encouraged me. One of those is absolutely my mom. To go do big things and invest in people and chase my dreams. My mom, when I was 24 years old, talked about a Ruckus Maker,24 years old. I convinced this school to hire me as an assistant principal at a middle school, of which I don’t even know that we had a teacher on the campus younger than me at the time. I walk in and my britches are pretty big and my chest pretty proud. I’m excited. I’m 24 and luckily I turned 25 right before we actually brought teachers back.
Dr CJ Lowery (18:44):
I guess that sounds a little bit better. I go through this year and we show success, and we do a lot of really good things. I don’t remember exactly when the conversation happened, but, I told my mom, “Mom, I’m gonna do great things.” And she was like, “Well, why?” And I said, “Because I know so many people you don’t even know, mom. All these powerful people I’m meeting and I’m getting in the room with them.” Of course mom with their wisdom, she says, “Who you know, is not nearly as important,” She said, “The powerful part is who you’re good to.” That really rang a bell to me. It’s something if you ever see emails from me or anything like that, I try to keep it on my background that it’s not who you know and it’s who you are good to. As leaders, I think we can sometimes get caught up in shaking the right hands, knowing that as a leader, sometimes there are political games, unfortunately that we have to be aware of. Hopefully, you’re choosing not to play them, but you’re being aware of them. But it’s more powerful in who we’re good to and who we take care of. And that kind of goes back to it’s not always what you reap, what you sow, it’s what you sow what you reap. Keep that in mind.
This goes back to sort of the blind spots and having feedback loops, but I’m really indebted to my friend Mitch. Shout out to Mitch and shout out to your mom too, who taught you this really powerful lesson. It’s not who you know, It’s how you treat him. I don’t know how he got on this topic, but I was curious about phrases that I tell people frequently and that kind of thing. I’m having this culture wall built and the shorter version of the story is there’s gonna be some cool art with these phrases, things that keep me motivated and focused on my why and how I serve. When he reflected back to me, he said, “You say this all the time, Danny, you can never go wrong treating people right.”
it’s in a similar sense. How do you serve, how do you build relationships and take care of people, people that’s like, that is the foundation of creating a great organization, great leadership culture and all that kind of stuff. Mama CJ is very smart. She knows what she’s talking about for sure. Let’s bring her back to the conversation too, because I think she was your coach. For the rest of the world we call football, we call it soccer. It’s a sport we both love and here you are at 13, I think, playing in the state tournament. Some pretty cool stuff happened. Can you tell us about that moment?
Dr CJ Lowery (21:16):
Let’s be very clear. I never got to play in a state tournament. I grew up in a small town. Soccer was not something that really went beyond whatever you would consider little league in the soccer world. We were maybe two years beyond that, and my mom was coaching us. We finally made it to what we considered a big time tournament in a town that was bigger than ours, significantly. We didn’t really have as much talent as these other teams. We didn’t have the money they’re walking in matching bags and we’re matching jerseys, and hopefully we all had black shorts and you know, socks on. We walked in very much over matched. We had enough talent on our team that our top four or five kids were as good as their top 10 kids.
Dr CJ Lowery (22:07):
What do we think? Let’s play defense. We have a good goal. We played defense. We kind of had some speed back there. My mom was the coach, who by the way knew very little about soccer, and she would tell you that herself, but she knew enough about leadership and putting people in positions to win. She could do that. We played defense and we made it to this third place game. Luckily, we got into the third place game and told my mom, “Hey, put all the best players back on defense. We’ll take ’em to a shootout and see if we can win there.” Of course a bunch of 13 year olds huddled up thinking they made this master plan. It works.
Dr CJ Lowery (22:45):
I don’t know why but it works. We get into the shootout, it’s Nil Nil and you get your five shooters. My mom says, “Who are our shooters?” I remembered this message and I raised my hand. I was like, “Mom, I’ll go last. I want the last shot.” We end up winning. I get to hit the game winning shot. I don’t know, it’s kind of one of those moments in your life that’s a blur. Later that night or the next day, I remember my mom, we were sitting down at dinner and she goes, CJ, what made you want to choose this? And of course, the wisdom of older people, they just want me to reflect on why I did it. They know.
Dr CJ Lowery (23:25):
I remember telling her it’s because I felt like I could handle the pressure of taking it. It wasn’t that I was the most talented, it wasn’t that I was a better shooter. Honestly, I probably wasn’t. But I remember just thinking that’s gonna be a stressful situation. And I think that that’s my gift, is to be able to handle the situation. Not so much that I’m smarter or more talented. And that’s what I try to make clear in leadership. I can handle the pressure. I’m not smarter. I’m not more talented. I remember her asking me that. And I think that’s just kind of been a story in my life. Where are your talents? I know my talent is handling pressure and stressful situations.Again, there are so many people more intelligent than me, but sometimes I feel like that’s my talent. As a leader, you’ve gotta understand what your strength is. I surround myself with people that are more intelligent than me, and I tell them, Hey, you don’t have to, I’ll take all the pressure and the heat. You just give me your brain and I’ll take on the rest.
That’s certainly something to highlight from the story is do the hard work to identify what your zone of genius or superpower is, and then be disciplined enough to play 90% to a hundred percent of your time in that area and get people around you that can take care of the things where you’re not a zone of genius or superpower. I really appreciate that part of the story for sure. I know why your tactic worked, which I’m gonna tell you about in a second. But before that, I wanna know, so that’s a natural gift for you,.That’s your superpower. But are there things that you do these days that help you with handling the pressure.If you have the gift, but then you can make it even, you can amplify it.By doing different things. I’m just curious if there’s anything you’re doing to amplify that superpower.
Dr CJ Lowery (25:17):
Absolutely. One of the big things that I do, I try to stay very routine on my workouts and I kind of make that my me time. If I’m gonna go run with a friend or something of that nature, I’m happy to go do that.but then I’m gonna go lift weights by myself or something of that nature. I think one of the big things is to stay consistent there. I wouldn’t say I eat super healthy, but I don’t eat super bad. I try to go with kind of the 80 -20 rules. On a Sunday I call ’em kind of my lazy Sunday if I wanna have some ice cream, like I allow myself to have some ice cream. I do try to eat a salad or a chicken or something of that most dinners I try to eat a piece of fish once a week.
Dr CJ Lowery (26:05):
I think some of those things stay consistent. I definitely am, I try to work on compartmentalizing, although that’s not my best. I’m pretty much always at work.I’m better at keeping personal away from work than I am, work away from personal,which is always something I’m working on.but I would say the biggest thing is this stay consistent in my workouts.I like to run, so I try to schedule my half marathon races. Every six months or so, and I’ve got a good mentor of mine, Dr. Flores, he’s a VP at a university up in North Texas. He’s one of those that he’ll run one of those races with me. In a yearI’ve got some good friends that run some races with me. I think that’s one of the big things.
Dr CJ Lowery (26:49):
I try to make sure I do my study time. I don’t know where everyone else is, but at least mine, my study time is to try to get into the Bible a little bit, even if it’s just to listen to a preacher that’s in a different state or a different city, preach a little bit to bring my center back to again, it’s not a job, it’s mission work and it’s not supposed to be easy. I think that really helps me, remember on those hard days that I chose to do mission work, I didn’t just choose to do a job. I think hearing our pastors do that helps as well.
You might not be aware of it, but I have a tool called the Ruckus Maker Mindset tool, and it has five components: eating, sleeping, unplugging, meditating, and, what am I thinking of? Eating, sleeping, moving, which would be fitness. You’ve, in my view, talked about three of those. You talked about, eating well, you talked about moving a lot in terms of your fitness routine. And then the meditation could be sort of spiritual, but it’s connecting with something that’s, hopefully bigger than you.Everybody has a different way of doing that and appreciate you sharing yours. Very, very cool. Thank you for answering that. Here’s why the tactic worked for you. It worked for me when I was coaching eighth graders in basketball.
A similar age.It’s because sport at that level, you could draw up the craziest idea and it could work because it just blows up the minds of a young teenager,that’s my assertion. The story, and it’s a short story. We’re playing the number one team in the state of Illinois in our region. They’re undefeated, like 20 and zero or something. They come to Franklin Middle School. This is a big game with high stakes, people’s legacies are on the line here. And essentially this kid who was so, so good, I decided, I’m gonna put two def, no, excuse me, three defenders on him and have behind those three defenders a line, a vertical line zone, which is basically like a, 1 31 defense, the middle and the back guy.I was thinking that this guy’s so selfish, the star player, he wouldn’t pass the ball and try to play through three different players. Anyways, this defense absolutely 100% worked and we ended up winning the game. The kid wouldn’t pass the ball and we totally won. I see the storm might have kicked you out, so you’ll have to pop back. Like, the story was awesome, but it’s,
Dr CJ Lowery (29:40):
I love that story. It’s true. I think it’s as much about like, some crazy story, but like, they’re willing to believe it.
Yeah. I guess it’s true too,.The team believes this could work.
Dr CJ Lowery (29:55):
As adults, we get to the point where we’re not willing to believe it because we have set experience. It’s having the mind and the heart of a child where it’s like, man, I wish, I wish I could believe indifferent things that maybe adults have us believe in that don’t we find out later, don’t exist, but kids believe it and then they’re willing to go do it. And that’s why kids sometimes as adults I’m like, golly, like give me someone that could believe in this. And the day that you don’t believe in it anymore, like, you can’t be on my team cuz we’re gonna go do something crazy on my team and I need you to believe.
I think that’s a brilliant point. I’m really glad that you reflected that back because that is the essence of the story. I’m gonna share some messages here from our sponsors when we get back. Here’s why people wanna stick around. First you’re gonna answer of course all the questions I end every show with. But we’re also gonna ask Cj, why we should actually find bartenders who are ready to be a teacher. Today’s show is sponsored by the certificate of school management and leadership. Learn how to successfully navigate change, shape your school’s success, and empower your team at Harvard. This online professional development fit your schedule courses include leading change, leading school strategy and innovation, leading people in leading learning. You can apply today at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com/harvard. The BLBs podcast is also brought to you by Teach FX because research shows that the more students speak in class, the more they learn and the better they perform. Teach FX has helped hundreds of schools increase their student engagement by visualizing for teachers what portions of class are teacher talk versus student talk. Learn more teachfx.com. Finally, today’s show is also proudly sponsored by Organized Binder, a program which gives students daily exposure to goal setting, reflective learning time, and test management, study strategies, organizational skills, and more Organized Binder’s Color coded system is implemented by the teacher through parallel process with students, helping them create a predictable and dependable classroom routine. Learn more and improve your students’ executive functioning organizedbinder.com. We are back with Dr. CJ Lowry, the assistant superintendent in Rockport, Fulton, Texas, and he has a for sure Ruckus Maker idea that we should find teachers that are bartenders, waiters and waitresses. I know where this is gonna go, but tell us, tell us why you have that assertion.
Dr CJ Lowery (32:45):
Building culture is hiring the right people. In education, we’re in the people business. Sometimes when we hire for a skill set that is really specific to teaching and learning curriculum and instruction, designing good lessons. We would all agree that we’re in the people business.For me, who’s better at the people business than bartenders, and waiters and waitresses who put up with grouchy people all the time. I think what they do that is so powerful is they are so good at connecting or finding a way to connect with anyone and everyone, mainly because money’s on the line for them.If they’re waiting your table and they find a way to connect with you or serving you a drink and they find a way to connect with you, you’re more willing to buy a second one or give a better tip.
Dr CJ Lowery (33:43):
They’re literally financially compensated based on how well they co they connect with you. And so why not pull those people into education and say, “Hey, you would be a great teacher because I’m gonna get to give you these 22 to 150 kids that I need you to connect with. “Oh, by the way, in Texas, we’re gonna compensate you based on how well you connect with them and then how well they do in the classroom performance wise, of which we know if you connect well and they like you,.Rita Pearson kids don’t work for kids that they don’t, or adults that they don’t like. I think that it’s just kind of a crazy thought. When I interview, I absolutely try to look for ways that people can connect with others.although I don’t straight up ask, “Hey, were you a bartender?”
Dr CJ Lowery (34:28):
I do look for that on resumes and anytime I’m out eating dinner, I often look for people and I will ask them, “Hey, have you ever thought about being a teacher?” and it worked once and twice, and then I ended up having to leave that position, but for a promotion. I’ve gotten two people in and they were both very successful.and one’s probably gonna be an assistant principal here in the next year. He was managing a very large bar in Dallas, Texas, when I first met him.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I think one through line throughout this whole conversation has been just the importance of relationships and how that is the foundational culture. Cj, the last question I ask all the guests, what message would you put on all school Marquees, around the world if you could do so for a single day?
Dr CJ Lowery (35:22):
I’ve got like two. One is what I want the parents to see. One I want the students to see. The message is parents quit blaming schools for your students’ bad habits. We love working with students, but we need your support, not your blame. So that’s my message to my parents. And then on the other one, students, your story isn’t the reason you can’t succeed, it’s the reason you must.
Awesome. Angels who’s watching with us live on Facebook, he says he loves it. Brilliant. Wonderful. You’re building your dream school, Cj. I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to do this in real life, but this is a thought experiment. With this dream school, you’re not limited by any resources. Your only limitation is your imagination. In building this dream school, what would be your three guiding principles?
Dr CJ Lowery (36:17):
As we look at what those guiding principles are, it’s here in the people’s business and I would only hire people that I know are in it for the people and the kids. My first thing that I would do in a school is it doesn’t cost any money to go get all those best people that really wanna invest in kids. Obviously in my 15 years of experience, I’ve got a list of people that I would bring in within it. I would also try to alter how we do grade cohorts.I would love to look at it, based on age and academic success instead of the singular cutoff dates of whatever it is October, or September 1st or August 15th, whatever that date is. One rule I would like to make teachers telling kids not to be teachers a fireable offense immediately, because I feel like we kill our own profession. You should not be telling the kids not to be teachers and then be surprised that we don’t have any teachers.
That’s an interesting thought. It always surprised me and I saw on Twitter the other day too, basically like, convincing me it’s a current teacher. If I was gonna do it over, like why I should be a teacher. And it wasn’t hard for me. I rattled off like seven things right away. I loved it and I actually, I’m very lucky cuz I got pushed into leadership. Somebody called out the gifts that they saw in me. I’m very fortunate to get to talk to you today and do what I do now, but I love being in the classroom. I had no desire to ever leave. It wasn’t until Dre said, “Hey, I see this leadership in you and I want you on my team” that I left the classroom. It’s an awesome job and I would go back, I would go back, I fully believe right now that I’m still a teacher in my classrooms just changing. My students just look a little bit older and a little bit hairier than what my old students used to look like. Absolutely, we covered a lot of ground. Today’s CJ of everything we talked about, what’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?
Dr CJ Lowery (38:22):
In order to be a Ruckus Maker, you have to remember that if you wanna make everyone happy, go sell ice cream. We’re not in the ice cream selling business. I think it’s a good frame of reference, obviously, you don’t wanna make everyone mad all the time, but I think when you’re pushing things and you’re pushing change, you’ve gotta understand that it’s gonna be difficult. Change is easy, transition is difficult, and so there’s gonna be some people that are frustrated. You’re not selling iceberg.
Thanks for listening to The Better Leaders, Better Schools podcast Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel@betterleadersbetterschools.com or hit me up on Twitter at @Alienearbud. If the Better Leaders, better Schools podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve moreRuckus 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 hashtag #blbs. Level Up your leadership at Better Leaders Better schools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, “class dismissed.”
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