Hey y'all. Welcome back to love, sweat and tears ingredients for transformative campus leadership. This episode is a big one buckle up. I'm talking to Chris Jones today. He is a I just learned so much from him. This was such a great episode, I can't wait for you to dive in. I'm Christian started his career as an Army Ranger. And then kind of discovered there his love for teaching and leading, and that took him into the classroom eventually, into AP and principal positions. And now he works with the Virginia affiliate of ASCD. Equipping educators and leaders with the tools and resources they need to get the job done. He has some fantastic ideas, I can't wait for you to dive in. So without further ado, y'all please enjoy Chris Jones. Chris Jones, great to have you here with me. I'm so excited. I'm excited to get to know more about ASCD. I had never heard of that despite being raised by educators and swimming in that suit for a long time and being here at RL. So I'm really excited to get introduced to what that does and what you can do for campus leaders. First, I want you to just tell me a little bit about yourself, like what you were like as a kid in school, and then how you've kind of found yourself where you are today. Oh, wow. Beth
asked me to take it back along.
I love it. I love to hear what people's experience was like as a student, because that informs the way that you interact with educators and campus leader. Yeah, I mean, you're spot on. And just such a great
connection to really what you're talking about. I'll say that in Virginia, it's super windy today, too. It's it's I mean, we're recording this February 16. And it's 75 degrees today. I had to take out the shirt sleeves. I mean, it's what is more odd. But what anyways? Just first of all, it's a great honor. So thank you so much for for reaching out and saying, Hey, let's let's see what we can record together. So I appreciate it. And thank you so much course, for me, as a student, I would consider myself like I had, I had pretty good intelligence. So there were some things that came easy to me. But I was also reluctant to do things that I didn't want to do but was being told to do, I won't say that I was a defiant child because I was well behaved. What I didn't like to read books that I was assigned to read. I prefer to pick read the books that I wanted to read. And at the time, I like to read about sports. So if if I was allowed to choose what to read, I would read for hours, you know, I get all the free pizza. Because you know, you read certain amount of hours and you get moved here like I was wrapping up the Pizza Hut pizza hours. So I had strengths and math and relatively in science until science started getting weird and doing other things that weren't math related. But when it came back, you know, to physics, so. So math and physics were where, where I felt strong, and I really didn't have I really didn't have direction or purpose ever. So I didn't know what I was going to do after I graduated. I really didn't have plans. You know, I ultimately ended up wanting to go to school to be an electrical engineer because that's what my uncle did. I just thought well, he's as good at math and science and so am i I'll just, I'll follow in his footsteps. I got to Old Dominion University and I quit after three semesters because that is not what I wanted to do. I would say that that the work ethic needed to match the intelligence required to do that I didn't have at 1819 years old. So that was kind of the academic path. I was fairly disengaged in school, I was very much interested in other things other than academics. I did have a friend group. I did like to party. And and you know, I, I probably would have dropped out of high school. If it weren't for music, I found that I had kind of a music talent. The first time I picked up a set of drumsticks to play on a drum set, I was really good and I had no idea how I knew what to do. And so I hooked up with with with the music department and marching band my junior year. So the only reason I really went to school during my 11th and 12th grade years of high school was because I knew I got to go to music class every day. And so who knows what would have happened If, if I didn't find music and in terms of my high school career, so, you know, there wasn't much that engaged me. In school, there was no opportunity for me to develop a sense of purpose or to really. And being a teenager and saying the word plan is kind of kind of oxymoronic. But at least having the opportunity to say, well, you know, have you thought through what your purpose is, so that you might find some things that you might want to do what what your interests are, and so not having those really left me flailing. And my I quit after three semesters, number one, because I knew I didn't want to be electrical engineer major. And I didn't know what else to do. And number two, I, I went to the movies, this was the summer of probably 97. And a movie called Con Air with Nicolas Cage came out. And in the movie, he his, his character was an Airborne Ranger. And he was a badass. And when the movie ended, I said, and she was my girlfriend at the time, and she's my wife, Suzanne, now she was my girlfriend at the time we went to see the movie together. I said, That's what I want to do. And the next, the very next morning, I went to the army recruiter, and I walked in, I said, I want to be an Airborne Ranger. And yes, yes, and I tell you what I don't. It's crazy how things end up. But besides, besides marrying my wife, joining the army was the absolute best decision that I could have made. Because it did all the things that I was missing in terms of purpose, direction, discipline, you know, just growing up. It instilled all of those things, you know, belonging to and being responsible for somebody other than myself, was something that I needed a huge shake up. And so, obviously, well, hopefully, we'll get into the rest of the story. But the rest of the story ultimately lands me to where I am sitting on a call with you, Beth recording a podcast about, about about leadership, about learning and all of those things. So to save us from spending the entire hour and a half telling the full story. I'll stop right there and see if you got anything that you want to hit me with now.
Sure, so So you're you're in the army that ends at some point. How did you get into the classroom onto a camp? Yeah, so I
was super lucky. You know, you're taken care of as an Airborne Ranger and in this special ops community, I was stationed in Fort Benning.
And so you went all the way into Oh, wow. Well,
there's an interesting story about,
I mean, how many people join the army wanting to do that, and then don't get there like that? That says something? Yeah. Huge.
That yes, yes. To that point. I was very fortunate. And I worked for some really tremendous leaders who, who provided me opportunities to lead and so as I, you know, came through eventually as team leader and then working with a squad my platoon sergeant at that time, he pulled me over to, to the regimental side to do things like strategic planning and operational planning. And lo and behold, later on, and what is a different career, those will be very important skills that I'd have to tap into what, what I got back from one tour in Afghanistan, when I returned, I had the opportunity to serve as an instructor for what was a leadership course. So we had a course, that was three weeks in length, it was taught 11 times throughout the year, and I was an instructor for it. And, like, I found my genius. I found my purpose, I found my passion like I was, I was naturally good at teaching. I was naturally good at instruction, and I loved it. I loved everything about it. Susanna, and I agreed that we wouldn't have children as long as I was in the military, because I couldn't there's no way I wouldn't be an Airborne Ranger and a dad at the same time, at least a dad that I wanted to be. And so that's when it clicked for me. Like I have an out, I can go back to school, I can get a degree to learn how to be a high school math teacher. I love math, and I love this thing called teaching. So let's put those two things together. So I separated from the military after six years, went back to school got my Columbus State University in Georgia got a secondary ed math degree, moved back to Virginia to begin a teaching career that is still is still being written And
so how long were you a teacher before you stepped into it more administrative, so
classroom teacher for years, so I was high school math teacher for four years, I was again, put in a position where just great leaders gave me opportunities and tapped me on the shoulder or kind of guided me in directions. So I had a great principal. And then at the same exact time, I had some, some folks who were who were cheerleaders, who were, you know, hey, coming to observe, or I had the opportunity to be in a couple of different videos about teaching and learning. But I had this opportunity where the division was starting a department and it was going to be called the Center for Teacher leadership. And it was professional development for teachers by teachers. And the idea is pull 10 teachers out of the classroom, form them in the center and let them build professional development for teachers into division. And
there were three high school was this on your campus or in the
big district, it's in Virginia Beach. So I think at the time we had right around 75,000 students, I noticed that big for by Texas standards, because y'all have crazy.
Nothing is the big biotech standards, it's okay.
So I, you know, I was one of those 10 teachers, and that was just a tremendous opportunity. It was really, it was really campus leadership without the without the like the, the administrivia. You know, what I mean? Like, all instructional leadership, it was all working with teachers, it was all working with professional learning communities and collaboration and building people's capacity to, to do the work. And oh, my gosh, I got to do that for two years. And that was an amazing experience that really propelled me into the campus leadership role. So coming out of that I got to serve. I did one year as an assistant principal and an elementary school. And for a person that's like high school background. I basically went to school, like I was the father of 550. Kids, and, and it worked out on campus. So. So that was, but it was, it was a, it was a great opportunity that I just I had to take the commute was just, it was killer. So one year was enough, I had to tap out with that commitment, I was able to land a position back in Virginia Beach at a high school, and then four years as an assistant principal, with two fantastic leaders, and some great teachers that I got to work with, before I became a campus leader in another school division in central Virginia.
Okay, wow, I haven't ever heard of this kind of training program thing before. It's so fascinating to me. And I'd love to know a little bit like what it was like walking into campus and going from two years of kind of theory into the practical, I'm on a campus with tiny, little kids. What was that? Like?
I think that's a great, I mean, so because I got to spend two years really honing my craft around instructional leadership, where I could flex what I would consider the skills and the skill set and the strengths that I came with. Whereas when I was in classrooms, observing teachers, working on feedback in data teams and grade level teams, like that's supposed to be half half the work. And it was the other half that it was just, it was Crash Course leadership. And so you know, things like discipline, or in an elementary school, when it's the principal and the assistant principal, and you're in charge of all of it, you know, the testing side of it, the special education side of it, yeah, running the building, like making sure that the custodians are doing their job and the end the voting is functioning. Like all of that was just the super steep learning curve, that quite frankly, never stopped even even when I left my role as a as a principal and into my role now as executive director. So many different things to learn. Those were things that I feel like I mastered instructional leadership, because there are some very clear tenants of high quality instruction. But when it comes to kids, and when it comes to, you know, buildings and when it comes to operations, and I mean in the list can go on, you can never stop learning because things always are changing. Especially when it comes to like our kids, and especially over the past three years, the rapidity of the change the velocity, the acceleration of change for the the world around our schools, in particular, our kids and how they're navigating that yeah, a lot to learn. So, so that was, that's the side that is, um, I don't want to call it like, I don't want to call it a treadmill. But it's like you're running and you're not really going anywhere. But I mean, you're making a difference. But there's just, it just keeps coming at you. So you want to Yeah, keep learning and growing and adapting?
Yeah, that was a question that I had for you, or what kind of changes have you witnessed in your career and education? And then you know, what, what makes you hopeful? Like, as you see these changes coming? Do you feel just burdened by them? Do you do? Is there a sense of like, hope for the future? What what do you feel like have been some big changes? We talk a lot about what the pandemic did for teachers and education. What are some things that come to mind? Specifically? Yeah,
that's a great question. First of all, I'm super hopeful about the future, I'm super optimistic. Our, our, you know, our kids are amazing. And our kids are resilient. For the past three years, we, we always like the kids are going to be fine. It's the adults who are struggling with this, I think some of the some of its now catching up a little bit when we talk about like our, our children's, their mental health and their social stability, and their, their place in the in the world and really finding out their cultural identities. So there, there's a little bit that has, has caught up with that. I think, I think what the pandemic did was for a moment, because it has not lasted. And I know we can get on the trajectory, the trajectory. But for the moment, I think we suspended the things that were obviously trivial, that were the bulk of what we thought school was supposed to be about, you know what I mean? Like academics, academics, academics, test scores, get them ready for college. And now it's like this whole human side, like, Are they okay, kit? Do they eat? You know, or like the basic necessities? You know, the popular phrase became Maslow's before Bloom's, and it took a pandemic, for us to realize that our children are humans first students second. But that really helped us understand there was another, like, huge shift that I think I'd love to pick up the conversation. Because the way that we thought about grades completely changed, in terms of things like late work, or missing assignments, like the shift to the shift to, hey, can you figure out whether a kid knows that and one assignment as opposed to the six zeros that the kid now has in, in the gradebook? And so as we shifted those things, that was a moment shift up most of these things are the moment because we have reverted to some pre pandemic behaviors. And I think once we, once we get on stable foot will footing, I do think we'll be able to hit that trajectory again. Another thing that shifted huge that wasn't, it was always like one of those things, but it wasn't important focus was that family and community engagement part. Like we were all in this together type thing where parents had to take on the role of not just caregiver, but also like secondary education provider. So then it was all the sudden, like, locking arms like, Okay, we've got to help this, this child read, what can I do while you're doing what you're doing? And this, this communication two way back and forth with, with the parents and with the families. So I think that was a huge shift. I think really taking a look at, like our our content area and our curriculum in general, like asking the questions, what what can we cut back? What can we cut out? What What can we consolidate? And then what's that we need to create? And so, you know, those aren't four questions that I made up there were four questions from it's actually, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, but But it gave us the opportunity to say like, look, we've known for a long time that our content is a mile wide and an inch deep. Let's go ahead and and flip that. And let's get a very narrow set of standards and objectives and just go. And so, you know, I think that's something that I think for a moment was a shift that I think, right now where everyone's screaming learning loss and nape score drops, the highest that we've ever had, and et cetera, et cetera. Like now we're going back to this, let's get it all in there and get it in there fast and all that good stuff all at the same time. So So I think those are those are just a couple of the shifts that I see. And I'm not even talking about edtech you know what I mean? Like I'm not saying like We've been getting more into edtech on it, which was a whole nother a whole nother ball of wax. But I think any chance that I get that where somebody asked me a question about the pandemic, it was, I think inspiring is the word that I'm looking for to see teachers and schools completely over one summer transform brick and mortar learning environments, which results will environments. And when none of us knew what we were doing, we did the best we could. And we burnt out on it. Because we never ever took the break. But to see, to see human beings rally and take on the challenge and completely transform, I, I cannot underscore just how monumental that was. And just an amazing thing to do to go to straight virtual when none of us had ever experienced anything like that.
Yeah, that was. Yeah. And I think that shows like how, how we can adapt and grow and change. And I think sometimes we look at the monolith of education, and how it's always been these certain things and feels like overwhelming, like, there's no way we can just change it. Like we're stuck with what we have. And so we just have to make the best of it. And that's such a great example of like, No, we actually can, if we have the right support and systems in place, and rather than responding to crisis kind of crafting that intentionally could really change things. And I feel like there's a desire for that. We just don't have that coming together. Like that's the piece that we're missing is everyone coming together. And there was, you know, some horrible things about the pandemic. But that sense of unity really drove us for a while. Until it didn't. Yeah, that's a whole other can of worms, though. So let's talk let's talk campus leadership skills. So you've talked a lot about your experience in leadership in the army, and how that translate into the classroom and then more into campus leadership. And now you're with ASCD. And you gave me this great analogy with eggs in an omelet versus eggs in a in the egg carton. So talk to me how you use that when we're talking leadership skills? Yeah,
I think you know, I think what we try to do is, is identify, like, Hey, I don't want to say narrow, but like, here's skill one, here's skill two, and this while I was thinking about the egg crate, but like if there were 12 skills, that that school leaders and any leader I will say this needed to have, their, what, what is important is that is that those things kind of coalesce to form this thing called leadership. It's not like communication here, I am going to take off my communication hat, and I'm going to build a shared vision, I'm going to take off my global shared vision, and I'm gonna get into data analysis and strategic planning. And yeah, it's not like that. And so when when we had kind of our conversation when we talked about the egg, the egg carton, or the egg crate versus the egg omelet, is that those dozen eggs, it's probably not appropriate to say you break the eggs, but I mean, you got to break eggs to make an omelet, but they got together to make it and yes, you're gonna add some peppers and some bacon and some cheese and, and spinach and all that. But that is a very different concept that your leadership is a combination of the the skills that are individually identifiable. Like if you look at a school leaders, evaluation, there are going to be standards, but guess what those standards overlap and they build upon one another. So as as a as a school leader, as a campus leader, the better you are at, at the development of the omelet, as a result of the eggs that feed into that omelet, the better off you'll be because it's not like you're just taking hats on and off and you're helping. You're helping an entire community be able to see very clearly how the how the pieces fit together. Did I explain that right?
I think so. Yeah. And we're, we teach leadership skills in isolation. This is how you budget this is how you, you know, instructional coach or teachers. This is how you handle but you know, spared like, it's all separate. And I'll hear administrators kind of like oh, you know, I really, I really struggle with engaging my community. I really struggle With branding the school, I really struggle with these things. And so shifting, I think that we need to make that shift of shifting from here are all the different leadership skills, and they're all separate. And I just focus on one at a time, thinking of them all together and how they impact each other. It feels kind of overwhelming, like how, like, how do how do we do that? And I'd love to spend some time talking about specific leadership skills like okay, you know, the principal feels like they need to improve their leadership skills. Which ones are the ones that are going to bidirectionally influence each other the most? And how can they develop them together? How did you do that? Was it just having great leaders? What are Campbell's leaders that don't have those mentors? How do they find that? How do they seek that out? Yeah,
that's that if we all if we had the answer to that question, we can write a book, maybe million books. Don't take the show on the road. I think so I will say this. Many, many leaders who get to the position of campus leader who become a principal of a school have inevitably encountered leaders that they're taking away from. And so it might be direct communication, through experience and watching it might be through direct mentorship. So I refer to them as layers. And so each thing that that, that I do, whether it's an experience that I get an article, I read a book that I read a course that I take a degree that I that I achieve, all become layers, and then the layers solidify to how you how you operate in terms of leadership, based on your, your values, and kind of your, your your purpose. And so, I think, number one is, is you, you have to be able to see it, experience it, read about it, whatever and try it out. But I think if we were to distill a couple of things, and I gave this a little bit of thought, based on another conversation that I was having, and I like to do things in threes, I like to count things. And it's sometimes it's three, like if I were a new principal. And like, there were three things that I had to nail like, I've got to get these these things, right. I will say number one is communication. Communication will be the most important thing for everything it's in, you know, with your staff, with your students, with your families with your community, open lines of communication that go two ways transparent communication, clear communication, consistent communication, like we have to nail communication. So many great things happen with poor communication that it derails it you can have something derailed, but with great communication makes it okay, because everybody knows what's going on, right? This. This isn't going the way we wanted it to. But here's what I'm communicating to you. Okay, well, we're all on the same page, we all know what's going on. It's a cluster, but at least we know what's going on. Like there's a difference there. So I'd say nailing communication. There's nothing more empowering than like, I think information is a very powerful collateral entity. I don't know what I'm trying to think of there. But when you share that information through communication, that is empowering to your people. Mm hmm. I think the other thing that you that that, that a campus leader would need to nail is the, like the operations, like the daily operations, things like things like arrival, like when, like the traffic pattern for parent drop off, like we're not talking about, like the details of the day, every single day from you know, whatever, it's from 730 to 230, or whatever time your school operates. Those operations are clear and structured, and run in a way that is as smooth as possible. Like, if, if your people notice your operations, then your operations are ineffective. It's when no one notices that things are going on is when you've reached the impact because it's not the thing that people notice and see and think about, because those things will get in the way, like the bells ringing at the wrong time. Like everyone's expecting the bell to ring at 1055 and it rings at 1050 to Oh, forget about it. It's lights out. Like making sure that people have their resort like like that kind of detail. Like you've got to nail the operations and, and with the operations, the procedures, what do I do if and then boom, just start listing all the ifs and making sure that everyone knows what to do in different and different scenarios, so that would be two. And that's that we're not even talking about instruction here, right? Like, like communication, you got a nail. And and the flow from 730 to 230 has got to be clear for everybody, because nothing will, nothing will fill up your inbox worse than if you mess up the parent drop off line, if buses are late to the, to the whatever, if bells are ringing at the wrong time, if there's no toilet paper in the stalls, like those basic opera, like you got to nail those things. Yeah. And then I'd say the third thing is that and this is the omelette part is, is building a shared vision. So taking a year, to build out what a shared vision would be around high quality instruction, what a shared vision would be around the culture that that your school desires, what a shared vision would, would be to make sure that every child is, you know, prepared for whatever's next for prepared for anything. And that's the omelet part. That's the part that and we can dig into that if you'd like. But I think I think communication Oh, my gosh, communication, I mean, just think about your own experience, like when things have gone well or not well, that that is insignificant compared to the quality of communication that you received within it.
Yeah, especially as a parent with kids out of public school, we know if some, like some crazy has happened and all of the time, but if I know about it, then I feel I feel like I can trust my campus admin, because they're going to be honest, they're going to be upfront, I'm going to know things like that, that and especially in an era where we're having to market our schools against each other. I don't know if it's the same in Virginia. But here in Texas, parents are consistently choosing what schools their kids go to, and that that's great. I'm I love some parent choice. But that's put the burden on the principals to have to market their schools and tell parents why their kids should come to their school, and it's this whole other hat that we're having to wear. And if they have good communication, then they're trusted by their parents, and then we feel confident sending our kids there. I'd rather have a principal I trust than one that's, you know, really, almost anything Oh, and
I'm glad you brought up trust, because and that's the thing that I thought about when I thought about those two things like communication and operations. Like, you know, Stephen Covey, one of his sons wrote The Speed of Trust, not Not, not, not the not wrote The Speed of Trust. And in the book, he says, The quickest way to earn trust is through competence. And the quickest way to lose it is through character. And so and so people will trust you, and you just said it. If the line of communication is open, that establishes a little bit of trust. But at the same time, if your operations are squared away, people will trust you because they see you as competent. Okay. Well, that campus leader can can rally his people to set up a squared away thing where I know exactly where I'm supposed to go, when I'm supposed to do a run smoothly, I'm not stuck to two hours in the, in the pickup line trying to you know, whatever. So that competence feeds into the trust, the transparency, the honesty, and the part of that is the integrity, like doing the things that you say you're going to do. All of those things coalesce to build trust, and that trust can take you can take you very, very far, especially as a campus leader, but it's also a self marketing tool that doesn't fit under the marketing bucket. You know what I'm saying? Because, yeah, because your social media presence will not market your school greater than how your parents talk about you and your school.
Yeah, that's true. Yeah. Yeah. So let's go back to the three kind of buckets that you were talking about, you know, how communication Great, let's communicate effectively, how like, what are some ways that you know, you're communicating effectively? And how do we improve effective communication? Yeah,
I think you have to have so the, the most important part of communication is listening. So I think being able to take time as a new campus leader, to really get to know your people and ask some very pointed questions. What are we doing well, that we need to keep doing, what are we doing that's not so good that we need to stop doing and what's out there that you would like to see us start doing I call it the keep stop, start. So if you just ask those three questions of everyone, you come into contact all of your teachers, all of your staff members, all of your students, your student groups, all of your parents, just ask that question and gather that data. That's that's helping to formulate that third bucket of building a shared vision, but it was in those conversations. Number one, you're showing that you're listening especially when When action reflects those conversations, there's no greater built build of that. But through that listening, there will be a clear pathway of what communication has been, and what they'd like to see it to be. And so having a very clear structure for that conversation, I'm sorry for that communication is extremely important, like a weekly newsletter for your staff, that gives them a week in advance at a glance, so they know what to expect. And so one thing that I used to share with my team is that is that if, if we are one day behind, that's a week behind for teachers, like, we can't wake up in the morning and say, Oh, my gosh, we did not communicate this, we need teachers to do X, we're done. We're done. Because teachers have way too much on their plates to respond to our ineptitudes. So, so having that the way that for me, the structure of the staff newsletter, would go out on the Thursday and contain all the information you need for the following week. And so if somebody wanted to communicate something to the staff, and I did away with all staff, emails, like that was one of my things like, no longer are we sending all staff emails, like, if you get an all staff email, it will come from me. And it will either be in the newsletter, or will be something that was too important that it couldn't wait for the newsletter. So if you don't get it to me, by the time that newsletter gets out, then you've got to find the individuals who you need to communicate with, just because we need to think that far in advance. So, so having a clear and consistent and I used oh, gosh, smore than the newsletter, it's just you know, and online, they give you an education discount, it was great. But anyways, a small newsletter went out once a week to the staff, eliminating the all staff emails because there's nothing worse for a teacher than an email getting filled up with stuff that really doesn't pertain to them. And then trying to sift through Is this for me? Or Is this not what is it telling me to do? I think in that newsletter, being very clear what's information and what is an action item. And then to also repeat information and let them know this is a repeat or this is a repost from something else that you that you saw previously. But it's important, I don't want to want it to fall off your radar. I think having all of your meeting dates on the calendar prior to the start of the school year is a huge, that's not just a communication tool. That's a that's a huge planning tool. That way folks know Alright, on these days, we have staff meetings. And so that's where I need to be, I can mark it on my calendar, right? Same thing for families and communities. I started out doing one a month. But when the pandemic hit, and it became like one a day, I officially slowed it down to one a week. And so every week, so Sunday at three o'clock, and I picked Sunday at three o'clock because most folks were done with church by that time. If it was, if it was a good NFL game, I was I was cutting in my my phone call and my email where there was still time in the fourth quarter. So so on and so forth. So having and it was the same type of thing. But it was sharing information, just keeping the line of communication open. With like, letting them know when we were doing a fire drill or if something happened at school. I wanted the parents, for example to hear this is another example, to hear it from me before they hear they heard it from their their child. So I would like my job was to communicate out and so I'd get a boom, hey, parents just want you to know that the fire alarm went off, we had to evacuate the building everyone's safe. It was, you know, a trip, whatever, blah, blah, blah, we're moving back into the school now to resume instructional activities like, boom, the parents appreciate things like, hey, you know, bus 816 was in an accident, I just want you to know that no one's hurt. We've got them safe on Camp, like just keeping that line of communication open. I think those are two things. So that I probably just listed a couple more than that. I think the the use of social media, I don't think is is harnessed enough in schools and recognizing where the people are on the platform. So like professionals are on Twitter, the kids are on Instagram, and Tiktok and the adults are on Facebook now. With each year that passes less and less are on Facebook and more and more on Instagram because our parents are getting younger. Isn't that that's depressing, right as we get older, our parents are getting younger like out President Hey,
I'm a young parent don't don't I'm not depressing.
I know. You might be on Facebook and Instagram and so so if I'm a school and I've got a Twitter and Instagram and a Facebook and I'm constantly you know posting I'm if I'm constantly posting I'm giving people a reason to be there and I you use full attendance like number. So the things that we used social media for, were to inform, to promote, to celebrate and to inspire. And so every single day, there was at least one of these four things going out 365 days a year, even on holidays. Oh, so that was crucial. I also ran once a month, I would do a Facebook Live at seven in the morning and seven in the evening, for the community. So I would just get on Facebook Live, sometimes I'd have an update to share information. Most of the times I just got on there for like a town hall, like, what are your questions in the chat? What can I do? And I did almost all of them lasted an hour, because great interaction, and then I'd also archive it. So it would be on our Facebook feed. And so folks who couldn't be live with me could still go back and and see what was asked what what was said. I'm trying to think of some other things. But I think I think that that, that you give us some great one that consistency with with a structured format that folks can, can Can I want to say predict, like if you have to, if you change your format of communication, then folks are trying to navigate that, as opposed to navigating the content, like I want you to focus on the content. Yeah, the structure is going to look the same exact every time. So you know exactly what to expect, you know, where these things are going to be located. So hopefully, those are a couple of tactics that that I use that. And I would consider that communication was one of one of the one of the things that I was able to improve over time, and I'm still working on it, my communication is not perfect. And if you have a community I don't I don't know who you are, but doesn't exist. Yeah. But yeah, hopefully that answer your question.
Yeah, that was fantastic. And I want to talk some while we have time about the building of shared vision and the campus culture and the I like I like the way that you say building a shared vision, because that goes it's within the campus and without like, it's it's all it's the community and the the teachers and the staff. It's it encompasses everything. So how does the new campus leader do that? Or I'm thinking, especially those Canvas leaders that come into a new school that maybe had horrible administration in the past or that are struggling, that has the vision is broken, and the morale is low? How do we do that?
Yeah, that's, I mean, that's, that's the million dollar question, too. So that's $2 million. We're about to earn. We can figure this out, then. Then here we go. Now,
okay, what are some things we can do to make that better?
So, so I gave you one off the jump. And that's really like one on one interviews, and you don't need more than 30 minutes. I mean, you asked to keep stopping to start. And you could do that through through survey as well. And so one on one interviews and take notes. That way, you can come back to those things. So one on one interviews, like focus groups, like for example, as you're doing your one on one interviews with, with the other administrators with the key staff, like your office manager, who's really the one who runs the school, you got to make sure like your custodian who knows everything that's going on your your teachers and even your the union rep that that represents your school and, and the other leaders like the department chairs or the grade level chairs, you want to get those one on ones and then and then through the rest of the staff. At the same time, you could pull student groups in like your your student council and your Student Government Association, Executive Council. You could bring in certain clubs, you can bring in the the captains from the sports teams and just put them around a table and ask them the same exact three questions keep stopping sport, yeah, and take notes. So you can get that bringing parents not just to school to have, like open forum and functions. I went to, I think it was eight or nine, like into the community, whether it was the like the learning cottage, at the trailer park, whether it was like the pool house at at the Community Association pool like I went, so go to the people. And guess what asked the same exact they'll look at you like oh, what? Like they're expecting you to share something like no, I'm here. Here's the things that I believe. But I think how we're going to build this together, these are the things that I need to know. And so I think that and then doing that exact those exact same questions out through surveys, so folks who you might not be it because you're you might not be able to interview them all. She able to get that through survey and then and then spend a year really either going to different schools that you know, okay, these are schools that are doing some really cool things, whether that's with instruction, or culture or innovation, like what's in your head and what you're Hearing in those interviews and focus groups and survey data, okay, this is what the people want. Let's go show them what it looks like, let me take a group of teachers over here, or we take another group of teachers to this school over here. So doing site visits is what what we call them, sharing resources, like articles, or videos, or even Oh doing, or even doing book studies with with some leadership teams, so infusing the things that you believe about the school that you want to create, that is also overlapping with what the people are telling you. And once you find that sweet spot, you, you hit him with all of those things, the resources, the articles, the videos, the books, the site visits, going to convert, like sending your people to conferences, and professional development workshops, et cetera, et cetera, you're just building their capacity while you're also building out this shared vision, and then coming back to it, and really mapping it out so that it can be a clear and coherent Northstar. So that everything you do I like to think of Velcro, it becomes one half of the Velcro, like, if it's something that we want to do that sticks, we're going to do it if it just bounces off, because it's not in line with our shared vision, then it's, we're not going to do that. Yeah. So So building that out and doing it in a way. That is that is CO constructing. And I think that's the important thing is that a shared vision is CO constructed. It's not, it's not done through manipulation, you know what I mean? Like I've got, I know what we're going to do, I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna put you in a position where you can say the things or do the things that I want you to do. Like, that's, that's not leadership. Yeah. And so I think as you build that out, you also have to have a very clear idea of what it's going to take to make that happen. Not just strategically, but also the courage because every, every school that you can imagine in your head is going to take a lot of work, no matter where that school is, it's going to take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to make it happen. And if you are not ready for that, and if you don't prepare your people for that, that you might not ever see that vision realized. And so, I'm going to stop there, because I think that's really what like how do you actually build out a shared vision? Hopefully, I gave kind of like step one, step two, step three, yeah. To do that, but then I think we could just talk about it now. I think what what else is important is, is how is how a campus leader structures their leadership and governance. Now, that's not something that is often talked about. It's not in like masters level courses. It's not like, you have to think about your your hierarchy. You know what I mean? Like, when somebody thinks about a leadership structure, you typically think about, alright, there's a person at the top, and they've, they've got some underlings. And then the underlings have underlings. And then there's this kind of this, this this tiered, but I think in, in a in a, in a school, that is moving effectively, through a shared leadership, like a shared vision, shared leadership, Coke has got like all this, like shared leadership, how you structure is a direct reflection of that vision. And so the school you want to create, there has to be a leadership structure that aligns to that. And what I mean by that is, yes, you have a core leadership team, your administrative team, your instructional leadership team, but based on what that shared vision that you're co constructing is, there have to be teams and committees that are focused on those things. And so somebody who's dedicated to think about innovation, somebody who's dedicated to think about our school culture, somebody who's dedicated to thinking about how we're going to celebrate and appreciate somebody who's dedicated to thinking about our operations. So and I could go on and on, but I think something that is often overlooked, that deserves astute attention is how you structure leadership and governance, because how that is structured will determine how you lead and where things will go. Because if it's important, then you need to have somebody with eyes on and if you don't have somebody designated with eyes on, then it's never going to be seen.
What are tools that you have used to identify those people, those leaders that are helping you, I think,
I think part of it is number one, those things come out in those one on one interviews. You know what I mean? So like, I mean, yes, you're asking the keep stop, start. But you're also having a conversation because you're a human being. What do you what are your passions? Yes, yes. And so that's why it's important to take notes, because then you're starting to formulate your teams based on hey, we had a conversation you said you were interested in learning more about personalized learning. Well, we're going to form a small group, who's going to really start looking into this. We're going to go to this school over here. We're going to do this book study. I'd love for you to help me To facilitate and CO lead that team, bro, all of a sudden, because the person is the one who said this is this is what I'm interested in what I want to do. So I think there's that, I think there's also a need to have open calls, so that everyone has the well, if I wouldn't know and that that's what was gonna happen, I would have said that in my one on one interview, you're not amused by reforming principles Advisory Council, who's going to be responsible for really talking about our the functionality of our school, I'm looking for two representatives from each grade level, if you're interested, please fill out this form. And then bam, the next thing, you know, the people who wanted to be a part of it are are part of that. And you might also have to, based on your how you get to meet folks and interact and based on some other recommendations, you're, you're gonna pull some folks along with you, too. I think it's also at that same time, it's also important to build upon the existing leadership. Because you're, when it when a new school leader arrives, there's there's something in place. And you can't just completely dismantle that and going because there will, there will be shared vision. So you have to build upon like, who are the leaders in this school designated, and informal, and you tap into them?
Nice. I love it. Yeah, that's great. We have some a little bit of time left. And I want to hear more about ASCD about specifically what you're doing and why you're excited about it. But some of the history into and how ASCD has been working in Virginia, and what why someone should become a member and what ASCD can do for leaders in education,
love. Excited about, about the ASCD and our work to support our membership and all educators throughout the Commonwealth. So our I mean, we we consider ourselves the premier entity in Virginia for teaching and learning. And so all the things that come with that curriculum, instruction, assessment, relationships with kids, personalization, deeper learning, I mean, I could go on and on and on about what kind of we're leaning into, but we really do it through three buckets. One is our programs, the things that we deliver on that helped build a capacity through professional learning. One is through service, our way to give back to the profession. So we do awards, we publish free content, including a journal, we have a podcast channel, we have a YouTube channel channel, we've created some microcredentials. I mean, I'm sorry, some modular based courses. And part of our programming is microcredentials, which is a whole like it's almost its own its own bucket. But it's also right now we put we we carved out under programs, including our big conference. And then the third bucket, so programs services. And our third bucket is through advocacy. So work with policy work with regulations work with legislation, really looking to influence the external things that that put pressure on classrooms, we feel like the more that we can influence that the the better, we can divert it in productive ways that get towards that, that goal of deeper learning and a deeper sense of purpose for our kids in their learning. So there are a lot of things that we do within those three buckets, that are extremely beneficial. But the one thing that I would say, is, you know, important about becoming a member important about, you know, coming to our events and engaging in our content and, and is the network because the ASCD is we call ourselves your learning network. And so it the connections that you create, they become personal friendships just as much as they become, you know, professional networks. But what we found is, especially in 2023, is that almost all of us are after the same goal, and almost all of us are facing similar challenges. And there's no reason for any one person or any one group of people to do it by themselves when we're all flailing about trying to find our way of being able to connect, learn from each other see what things are working and share them from the mountaintops and and just yeah, enjoy each other's friendship. So I think that's probably the shortest amount of time that I've ever explained what I hope that gives you and and our listeners have a good understanding of for the Virginia side of it and then ASTD as the international organization, we call it the mothership. That one on an international scale is just as fantastic.
So tell me I'm interested in about those networks like what how do people network and build community within ASAP.
So, there's a bunch of different ways. So when like when you come to an event, a program 99 times out of 100, it is not going to be sit and get for a couple of hours where you never ever. So there's starters collaborative time and built in collaboration in the things that we do with the programs. We do structured luncheons, when we have them. And so that there's, there's ways for you to meet new people. Because we put a focus on the network, there's always exchanging of contact information, we have a pretty decent following on on Twitter. And part of that we used to run and maybe I need to bring this back, I just, I can only do so much. We used to do live chats. And that used to be a pretty popular way for folks to, to connect with one another. We have different ways to share. So we do what are called Innovation forums, where we set up site visits, where like, let's say that your school is doing something awesome. And you want to showcase it, we'll put it up as a as an Innovation Forum. And hey, the first 30 are going to be able to come in and we're going to spend a day in your school and woman that structure that and facilitate the pandemic. put a pause on that. And once we're ready to get back to I'll be excited. But we've Yeah, we've replaced that with a Spotlight Series. So we do it on our YouTube channel. Right now we've got I think two teachers in there. So two classrooms, we've got two schools and a school division. But where and it's just me. So it's not like this huge film crew will go in we'll do interviews, we'll get we'll film what it looks like in the classroom, the things that they're talking about in their interviews. And then we'll put it together and package it as a as a short documentary, so that folks can see some exemplars of what's going on with our wealth and say, Oh, wow, I really like what Western Branch middle school is doing. I'm going to talk with that school and see if I can connect with them. And so in a situation where it's not just like network, like, let's find our common ground, like, No, we're gonna give you the common ground. And then you can you can flock towards that. There's one structure I learned from and I don't even remember where I learned it from it birds of a feather. So like, if you're, if you're working on something, or if you're interested in something, you all come to one one spot. Yep. And work through that.
Cool. That sounds awesome. Are most of your members like administrators? Are they mostly teachers? Like who are the people that can benefit from as Yeah,
so we we tout that we serve all roles, all levels, and all areas of Virginia. Okay. And when you look at the bulk of our membership, now we've got, we have superintendents, we have some students, actually, we have some counselors, we have some higher ed, professors work in higher ed, the bulk though, if you were to spread it out about half is in a support role. So that's like a central support like supervisor, curriculum specialist, coordinator, director in that role or at the school based level, so like instructional coach or reading specialist, so not directly impacting kids in the classroom, but a support role for teachers. So about half of that lasts about 25% of the school leader roles, so principals, assistant principals, Dean's, etc. And then 25% are classroom teachers. So we've got almost 2000, about 500 are in that support role about 250 are school leaders and about 250 teachers. I think where we're we're starting to lean more and more into teaching and learning and classroom. Direct Support, we are gaining like more and more teachers like one of the things that we do. We offer every new teacher in the state we offer one free year of membership, just to get them acquainted with vasd to get some resources. Yeah, it's not a marketing tool where we hope that Okay, did you like did you write coming back? It's so tough to be a new teacher, especially right now. One of our ways to give back is to offer them up a free year of membership.
That's so cool. If people are hearing this and they're interested, there's people outside of Virginia. How can they find more information or attend an event or become a member
if you could just remember the initials VA? Va s.org. That's our website. Yes, yes. Our handle on Instagram and and Facebook and everything that you need is within there. Whether you're interested in becoming a member you want to subscribe to our newsletter. We do policy updates, you And subscribe to that to get the latest on legislation and other things going around with. With that, there's just so many we Yes. So if you just go to VA sed.org, the rest will take care of itself.
Awesome. Before we before we end our time together, I'd really like to just kind of ask the question, we have campus leaders that listen to this, what would you like to tell them directly?
Oh, that's a great, great question, I would say, the first thing I would say is, thank you, thank you for choosing to serve. And thank you for choosing to stay. When it is very, very tough. Like there, there's never been a more difficult time. And here you are. And sometimes it feels lonely, like you're on an island, all there by yourself, just know that there are 1000s of you who feel like that. And if you can find a way to connect with others do so. Your head up and keep one foot in front of the other, do what's in your heart. And you build that capacity of your people to help you do the work because it gets heavy when you try to carry it on your own. And I know it feels like you are sometimes so so stay strong. Take care of yourself, keep your head up one foot in front of the other. You've got this. I know it's tough. But you've got this.
Thanks so much, Chris. Thanks for everything for this chat for building courses with responsive learning and getting this kind of integral information into the hands of people that might not be able to sit down and talk with you. I was so fun getting to hear about your stories. And thank you so much for all of those specific practical tools that you laid out.
I like you. Thank you.
Back did I tell you or did I tell you I mean, what a fantastic conversation I love, always love the blend of story and theory and the why we do what we do with the practical implementable step by step instruction to let you know how to do things. was such a great conversation. Chris, thank you so much for joining me. As always, you can find links to all of the resources that he mentioned in our show notes. This whole production was made possible by Erwin Staubach who also did the music that you're listening to right now. Our logo and design is from Alana cannoli and this whole production is labor of love from the folks at responsive learning. Hope y'all have a great rest of your day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai