High Performance Email Workflow—Free Webinar Wednesday, November 19


High-Performance Email Workflow: Email Is Broken Without These Tools I Use To Handle 1,621 Emails A Month

This past Wednesday, I did a live webinar that we’re turning into premium content for the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network

…but you can watch it free hereuntil Saturday night.

We’ll explore:

  • Why email isn’t fundamentally broken…and what’s really the problem when we’re overloaded 
  • The missing tools that are crucial for handling email (yet work with any email system) 
  • How you can get through your inbox in a fraction of the time

Watch Now

By the way, registration for the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network is currently open, and we have a special startup class for our new cohort starting November 30, so make sure you join by the 29th. Details »

ToDoist Workflow

This video explains why ToDoist (or whichever digital task management app you choose) should be THE place you keep track of ALL of your work, and exactly how you can set it up to meet the demands of your job.

Please enjoy this video as a free sample from our premium series Going Digital, part of the High-Performance Instructional Leadership Network.

The High Performance Triangle

If you go to just about any education conference—and I go to a lot of them—you’ll see session descriptions packed with strategy. Everyone wants to know the best approach to each particular problem we face in education, and it’s this desire that sells millions of books every year. As educational leaders, we love strategy. But […]

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#PAESSPChat Highlights from November 13, 2014

I was honored to moderate the Twitter chat of the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary & Secondary School Principals tonight. Host @DrBillZiegler brought a great group of leaders together! Our questions: More than anything else, what does instructional leadership mean to you? How is instructional leadership “stretched over” or distributed across your staff?  What are you […]

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Don Wettrick—Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level

Don Wettrick -

Don Wettrick joins Justin Baeder to discuss his book Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level.

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Don Wettrick

Don Wettrick is an Innovation Coordinator at Noblesville High School, just outside Indianapolis, IN. Wettrick has worked as a middle school and high school teacher; educational and innovation consultant; and educational speaker. Don is passionate about helping students find their educational opportunities and providing them with the digital tools they need to give them a competitive edge. Don has lectured across the US and Europe about collaboration, social media use, and work environments that enable innovation. He also hosts an internet radio program, InnovatED, for the BAM! Radio Network.  Most importantly Don works with educators and students to bring innovation and collaborative skills into education. Don lives in Greenwood, IN with his wife, Alicia, and three children: Ava, Anna, and Grant. You can find him on Twitter @donwettrick where he tweets updates on his student's innovation work.

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Using Your iPad & iPhone Together

Photographers have a way of ending arguments about which camera is best: “The best camera…is the one you have with you.” It doesn’t matter how good your gear is if you leave it at home. It’s the same way with our productivity tools: The best tool is the one you have with you. No one […]

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Mike St. Pierre—Purpose & Productivity

Mike St. Pierre - purpose and productivity.

Mike St. Pierre joins Justin Baeder to discuss purpose and productivity..

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Mike St. Pierre

Mike St. Pierre is president of Morris Catholic High School in Denville, NJ. He speaks and writes about productivity for a variety of publications and on his website at MikeStPierre.com.

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Karen Sanzo—Formative Assessment Leadership

Karen Sanzo -

Karen Sanzo joins Justin Baeder to discuss her book Formative Assessment Leadership.

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Karen Sanzo

Dr. Sanzo is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and the Program Coordinator for the Educational Leadership Services program at Old Dominion University.

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Show Transcript
Announcer: Welcome to Principal Center Radio, bringing you the best in professional practice. Here’s your host, Director of the Principal Center and Champion of High Performance Instructional Leadership, Justin Baeder.
Justin Baeder: Welcome to Principal Center Radio. I’m thrilled that my guest today is Dr. Karen Sanzo.
Dr. Sanzo is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and the program coordinator for Educational Leadership Services Program, which is a principal certification program at Old Dominion University, and the author of Formative Assessment Leadership, a new book that I’m very excited to speak with her about, today.
Announcer: Now, our feature presentation.
Justin: Dr. Sanzo, welcome to Principal Center Radio.
Dr. Karen Sanzo: Hi, thank you for the opportunity to come and talk about the work. I’m very excited to share about this.
Justin: Tell us, what the origin of this work was? What have you been doing in your professional work that led you to the point where you thought, “I have to write a book on Formative Assessment Leadership.”
Dr. Sanzo: Sure, I’m a 17 year veteran of the public school setting having spent eight years, both as a mathematics teacher and an elementary school administrator in the first part of my career. Then, I transitioned to the higher education level nine years ago.
I began working in depth with principals, training principals around effective use of data, around instructional supervision, instructional leadership, and I had the good fortune about six years ago to receive a grant from the Department of Education.
It was a five year grant, I had a one year no cost extension designed to prepare aspiring school leaders and to develop current school leaders with a strong focus around database decision making and effective use of formative assessments in their work along with the other components of effective leadership.
As a part of that work, my colleagues and I were also fortunate to receive several other grants, which essentially duck tailed into the work around effective use of data.
What we were finding was, within the class room, of course, we know that’s where the action happens, teachers were struggling with how to formatively assess their students and to make real time instructional changes based upon those assessment measures.
Steve Myran, John Caggiano, and I were doing a lot of work around this, both separately and collaboratively. We discussed and created this framework, which we based our book upon with Formative Assessment Leadership as a way to help leaders begin a formative assessment process and help their staff members to effectively use formative assessments.
Justin: Karen, in your book “Formative Assessment Leadership,” you offer a five part cycle for formative assessment? For school leaders, what does that process look like of getting started with formative assessment at the school level?
Dr. Sanzo: That’s a great question because each school comes to this process at a different readiness level. As a principal, assistant principal, with your leadership team, you have to determine the level of readiness of your teaching staff to begin this process.
Often times we recommend that when we work with teachers that we start at that identify level, that we work primarily with that leadership team, and we take a macro look at our school level data. We find those major target points that we want to address.
As a leadership team, then we would bring it to the planning level. That really is more the school level strategic planning process activities. Once we get to the teacher level, we can drill down to the specific student learning outcomes, or your learning intentions and how we will utilize formative assessment.
As a principal coming to this process, if you have already been entrenched in professional learning communities, that your teachers really feel comfortable with dialogue, about student learning, student engagement, then this could be more of a whole school process from the beginning.
However, if I’m a principal new to this process, I think being strategically thinking intentionally about who are those key people that I can bring on board immediately that we’re not going to be overwhelmed and washed with data, that we’re really going to be able to identify their specific learning intentions and engagement strategies, we want to then take your teaching staff to begin explaining this process.
Justin: In the identify phase of the cycle, you talk about developing a problem statement to kind of orient the rest of the cycle. What does it mean to develop a problem statement? How does that relate to all of the data that we currently have to work with and the data sources that we might want to consider in the future?
Why do you recommend that schools or teacher teams start with a problem statement?
Dr. Sanzo: I think a problem statement however you want to write it helps catalyze the initiative around a central focus point or focal points, if you have a couple different concerns you want to target. It helps to crystallize the issue, which is based upon data. This is where, it’s very important to understand the readiness level of your staff.
If you want to have more than just your leadership team involved in the initial problem statement development or if it’s better to start with a smaller group of people and then bring forward to your staff that problem statement, you’re going to need to really conduct a deep dive into your data. It’s not enough to say that we have a math problem with patterns functions, and so on.
You really have to gather multiple measures of data, you have to target what the learning issue is, and you have to go through whatever inquiry process you want to understand, what the learning concern is. For example, this certain group of students isn’t doing well in this, well, why?
It’s not enough just to look at your benchmark assessments.
You’re going to need to look at lesson plans, you’re going to need to pull out multiple measures of data in order to support that overarching problem statement because that is what you’re going to commit to as a school that you want to work on, so you want to ensure that you’ve examined enough data sources to support the development of that problem statement.
Justin: I think that clarity right at the beginning is so critical because I think so often we allow the availability of certain data sources to steer the ship a little bit more than perhaps it should.
I think often we have multiple influences on the direction that we’re going with any particular team, any particular process, the use of particular assessments, or the implementation of a curriculum.
In every school, we have a lot going on at once. If we’re going to see big improvements, if we’re going to see big change, it has to start with focus. I think that leads very well into the second phase of the process. What does the planning look like when teams are implementing the cycle for formative assessment leadership?
Dr. Sanzo: We discussed that again. The planning level, at this point, can be done more at the macro level with your leadership team. It could either be a whole school planning process or it might be a tiered process where you better articulate that problem statement once your school staff understands what it is that you’re going to be working towards.
Then, again, you can continue to have the school level goals and objectives you want to work towards and then you come to your content levels, your grade levels, whatever it is that your structure is within your school, then you go through and articulate a planning process as to how you’re going to specifically target those areas for improvement.
Part of this then is you’re going to need to understand what those formative assessment tools are that you can use in the classroom with students. We talk a lot about in the book the importance of forward feedback.
I would say, at this stage, as a principal, if your teachers are not well versed in the notion of forward feedback of providing feedback to students that are meaningful and helpful, that you take a good amount of time to work with your staff about this.
Even down to the nuanced level of role playing, going in and doing collaborative observation activities, coming back and debriefing, and talking about how that worked, what could be done better, and how to fully engage students in this process of formative assessment used within the classroom too.
Justin: Let’s talk about that idea of forward feedback because often students primary experience with getting feedback from teachers is the kind of classic red ink on the page and then we move on to something else. What does forward feedback mean?
Dr. Sanzo: Sure. It’s very interesting when we go out and work with teachers because we will challenge them to not put grades on papers.
Unfortunately, we’re in a system where we have to have grades associated with their work at some point. However, research has shown that once we put a grade associated with an assignment or an activity, the level of ability for a student to take that and apply that to future learning decreases.
Forward feedback really is providing meaningful summative feedback to students about their learning. I think one of the worst things we can do for kids in class is to tell them, “Good job,” and to not say anything else because if I say, “Justin, you did a really good job on that assignment.”
I have told you nothing about your performance, you don’t know what happened, you don’t know how you could improve, you just go, “Oh, that’s fine.” The same thing if I tell a student, “You know you didn’t really do good, no.” If I don’t tell you why and give you that opportunity to improve, I haven’t done my job as a teacher.
Justin: Once we’ve gotten a plan together in terms of what we need to assess and the overall process that we’re going to go through, I think it’s really easy to jump into using specific strategies and kind of overemphasizing just those strategies.
We’ve all heard of things like using exit slips, quick rights, quizzes, and things like that. What is it that we have to do to make sure that not only are we using the right strategies, but that we’re making the right decisions based on the evidence and the information that we collect using those formative assessment strategies?
Dr. Sanzo: I think the first thing is to understand the bulk of strategies that are available and how to match the level of rigor with those formative assessment strategies with the instructional activities you’re conducting in class. First, it’s a knowledge process. We need to research, read, collaborate with our colleagues and understand the types of assessments that we can use in a formative manner within our instructional day.
The power with formative assessments comes not from what the students put on the paper or what they act out in class or how they utilize a formative assessment. It’s what you do with that formative assessment. It’s that forward feedback. But more importantly, making students actively engaged in that feedback process. I’m going to use, Justin, your example of that exit ticket.
As a former math teacher, if I taught fractions and I gave an exit ticket to my students, they left. I collected the exit ticket. I read the exit tickets. I go, “Oh, OK, they understand multiplying fractions.” I throw those exit tickets away. The power that formative assessment has been complete diminished. Because one, I’ve not told the students what I found on those exit tickets. Two, I haven’t really done anything to adjust my instruction based upon those exit tickets.
The power comes in, in letting students understand what the themes were on those exit tickets. What’s even stronger is helping our students thematically understand those exit tickets. Then let the students know what their learning errors were and what their learning understandings where. For me, to tell the students how I’m adjusting my instruction in different ways based upon those exit tickets.
Additionally, in a goal setting process, we would then help students based upon those exit tickets. Set new goals. Readjust their goals so that they can better understand the next steps and the instruction.
Justin: I think that involvement of students throughout the process is so powerful. Because typically, I think in the traditional kind of exit ticket or quiz model, we look at students as a source of information, but not necessarily as recipients and beneficiaries of that formative assessment information. We typically just look at it as, “Well, do I need to teach a little bit more on this before we move on?”
I love that perspective of actually sharing that feedback with students. Saying, “Here are the themes that I saw in your answers. Here’s where I think your understanding currently is.” Just involving them throughout that process and really, letting them take ownership of their learning because I think that’s something that really gives them so much more power to succeed. That’s wonderful.
Dr. Sanzo: Thanks. That to me is the biggest part of what we’re trying to get across is that we can have a cycle. We can have a process. We can have the ideas. But if we do not involve our students and in an intentional way, this isn’t going to be successful. We can no longer view students as passive recipients of knowledge. They have to be active agents in their own learning. We have to help them throughout this entire process.
Justin: Karen, based on the work that you’ve done in schools and the model that you’ve put together in your book, “Formative Assessment Leadership,” what’s one thing that you would like to see every school and every school leadership team do?
Dr. Sanzo: I think it is incumbent upon us to work with teachers and then to work with students to engage in a process of goal setting and to help people understand how to set realistic goals. How to measure against those goals and how to understand what we need to do to obtain those goals. Through that, we can effectively use a formative assessment process and formative assessments, in general, to help us reach those goals.
Justin: The book is “Formative Assessment Leadership” by Karen Sanzo, Steve Myran and John Caggiano. Karen, thanks so much for joining us on Principal Center Radio.
Dr. Sanzo: Great. Thank you for the opportunity.
Announcer: Now, Justin Baeder on “High Performance Instructional Leadership.”
Justin: High performance instructional leaders, what did you take away from my conversation with Karen Sanzo about Formative Assessment Leadership?
One big idea that I think is worth emphasizing is the idea of readiness that not everyone in your school is at the same place in terms of understanding what needs to happen next for making good use of formative assessments, for making changes in the way that we assess. If we try to treat everyone as if they’re in the same place, we’re going to be frustrated.
My friend, Steve Peha, introduced me to a model by Everett Rogers, which is decades old, and based in the technology industry called “The Diffusion of Innovations” model. In Rogers’ model, he talks about the idea that we have early adapters, who are a pretty small percentage of any given group of people.
When you are looking at implementing a new process, such as developing formative assessments or using formative assessments in some new way, you want to think about the people who are going to be the most ready, the most positive, the most well equipped to succeed with what they’re doing. Because you have lots of other people who are not in that place yet, who are not ready.
If you’re going to get everyone on board eventually, the first people to embark on something new need to be successful.
Justin: Everyone else needs to see a working model of success if they’re going to follow in their footsteps. If you’re going to break new ground, if you’re going to enter territory, you want to do so with the people on your staff who are the most ready.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to Principal Center Radio. For more great episodes, subscribe on our website at principalcenter.com/radio.
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Bill Sterrett—Short On Time

Bill Sterrett -

Bill Sterrett joins Justin Baeder to discuss his book Short On Time.

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Bill Sterrett

Bill Sterrett, Ph.D., is a former principal and teacher and current faculty member and program coordinator for the Masters in School Administration at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He is the author of Short on Time: How do I make time to lead and learn as a principal? (ASCD Arias).

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Ian Vickers—Teacher Well-Being

Ian Vickers - his work to help improve teacher well-being around the world

Ian Vickers joins Justin Baeder to discuss his work to help improve teacher well-being around the world.

Interview Notes, Resources, & Links

About Ian Vickers

Ian Vickers is Deputy Principal at Sancta Maria College, a secondary school in Auckland, New Zealand. He is a winner of the 2013 National Workplace Wellness Award.

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Show Transcript
Justin Baeder: Welcome to Principal Center Radio. I am your host, Justin Baeder, and I’m thrilled to be joined today by my colleague Ian Vickers. Ian is deputy principal at Sancta Maria College in Auckland and an administrator who is closely attuned to the issue of teacher well being.
Ian, welcome to Principal Center Radio.
Ian Vickers: Lovely to speak to you again, Justin.
Justin: Likewise. We spoke a couple of years ago on Eduleadership Radio. I’m very excited to hear what you’ve been up to in terms of promoting teacher well being, which is something that, I would say in my experience, it has been treated mostly as a personal matter. We see it as a teacher’s own job to take care of themselves and not necessarily in our profession of school administration as our responsibility.
We see ourselves as responsible for students and making sure that, as educators, we do everything we can for students, but you’ve taken the perspective that teacher well being should matter a great deal to us as administrators. Is that right?
Ian: For sure. I think if you look now, 21st Century model, and again it goes into teaching, but if you look at the business and industry, 20th Century model was flogging people to death, just to get as much out of them as you could.
But the 21st Century, I don’t know, if you want to get that quality, you want to get loyalty, you want to reduce your turnover of staff, productivity’s up, you’ve got to invest and look after your people.
I think that’s a starting point in that we embarked on this three years ago is, yes, you want your teachers to be the best. You’re looking for excellence. You want them to be great. You want innovative, highly motivated, put in the hours.
You also need to look after these people. They need to be well. They need to be happy in their workplace, good levels of morale.
Care for these people. That’s where I started this project three years ago. I think the first place was in my old school.
I called them together, like minded colleagues, said, “Look, this is difficult. We’re really working hard, but people are constantly sick, sick on the holidays, really struggling with their job, death by paperwork, and classroom teaching is very, very demanding, the intensity. What can we do about it?”
From the humble beginnings, we got together for an hour. People had a really good moan and groan about the working conditions as teachers do sometimes.
But from that, we built a teacher well being program within the college. It’s based around a little bit often in terms of keeping on the agenda every single week.
We have a different theme for the week. Things like, obviously, look after your hydration levels with water, fruit week, no email week, which has been a success rate every time every time we’ve run no email week.
Justin: I could imagine.
Ian: Encouraging tidier workspace. We did a nice one this year where we said, “OK, we’re not going to have a big staff meeting on Monday after school. We will put a big garbage, rubbish dumpster in the back of the school. Please go to your areas, your classrooms, your departments, and tidy up your workspace. Boxes, rubbish, equipment you want to throw out, please throw out.”
That dumpster was full after 20 minutes. Absolutely overflowing, the biggest we could get. After 25 minutes, our Art Department is actually inside the dumpster taking stuff out.
I guess, one person’s rubbish is another person’s gold. That was good. You come back to work the following day and your classroom looks brilliant, and your drawers and shelves are all tidy.
We have things like date night. We said, “All right, next week, you’ve got a week to organize it. Please do something special with those people around you, your loved ones, your family, your partner, your wife, your husband, good friends that you haven’t seen for months and you keep promising to catch up. Do something different. If you go out for dinner sort of regularly, that’s OK. But can you find something different to do?”
That went down a treat. Some of the stories of people going to the beach, going to the theater, who haven’t done that for many, many years, etc., etc. It just runs through themes like that.
Was it a success in our first year in 2012? I’d say, absolutely, yes. We measured our sickness rates for that year. Across the whole year, it averaged out with a 27 percent reduction in sickness rates.
The highest one of the terms, was actually 40 percent reduction on the previous year. We’re a healthier bunch. We’ve grown.
Every year, we’ve added new things to the program.
This last year, we negotiated a deal with our board of trustees that run the school and said, “OK, will you come to the table in terms of cost and funds if we set up a regular neck and shoulder massage opportunity for the staff?” The staff pays $10, the board subsidizes that with $10, and every week we have a professional masseuse comes in to give us 20 minute massages [inaudible 5:53] contacts.
That’s been really, really helpful. We’ve got a wellness clinic next week. We started last year where one of the local schools of nursing. Obviously, these students go through the year, and as they finish their course, they need to get practical experience.
So we’ve got them in, and they come into the school. We’re offering a 20 minute wellness fitness check, if you like. They’ll do the body mass index or do blood pressure.
They bring a high tech blood test kit, and they can check for diabetes, or do urine tests for all the hydration levels. If things come out of that, then they encourage, obviously, then to shoot off to the doctors to investigate further. Actually bringing the health people in has worked a treat.
When you start doing this within your own school, then word gets out to school communities alike so some of the other schools get wind of what you’re doing. Our program is driven by this booklet, this weekly theme. It’s called the “The Good New Habits” book.
All the schools are, “Look, can we get a copy of that?” I’ve made it that is a free resource for anybody who wants to take it. It’s only a starting point.
It’s not mine. It works in our environment, but please take it. It’s a Word document.
You can rejig things. You can take things out you don’t like. Put new things in.
That’s probably in at about, I don’t know, 900 or 1,000 schools in New Zealand now that people have created and rejigged for their environments. People catch it with articles that are written about our program.
Again, that spirals. I’ve got a termly article in a school magazine promoting teacher well being.
Today, I’ve had, I don’t know, in excess of 6,000 emails from all around the world. I guess, the power of the Internet, people from Argentina, people from the States, UK, Canada, Australia, and, obviously, up and down the country.
You get into discussions with the politicians then. I’ve actually been face to face with the top politician, the Minister of Education. She came to my school.
We talked across the table about, “What can you do to help look after the teachers in New Zealand?” We talked to the top administrators.
We talked to unions. Slowly, it’s not always about just looking after or caring about my own school community, but it’s banging a drum on more of a national footing.
Justin: And a global scale now it sounds like.
Ian: Fantastic, yes. Along with that, we’ve managed to get for the first time, we had a publication released to all the senior teachers and to New Zealand last year which was entitled, “Well Being in Schools.”
But when you open this draft document, unfortunately, it should have been titled, “Well Being for Students,” because it was actually nothing about the teachers.
I can understand the schools have got rafts or layers of structure and resources and support mechanisms to look after young people, quite rightly so. But my argument is, “OK, that’s fine. But, again, if you want the teaching and learning and all the good work you demand, you must also spend time and develop systems for your teachers.”
Again, word gets about and start talking to the right amount of people, and for the first time in New Zealand, next October, we’re going to have a conference that is entitled “Well Being Conference: Well Being in Our Schools.” It really will be well being in schools.
It will be looking after your students and resources available for those young people, but also they’ll be a strand there for well being of teachers. It’s really important, that’s on the agenda.
I guess, personally as well, this work I’ve been doing, there’s been, I guess, a little bit of a reward there from our Ministry of Education. They’ve granted me a sabbatical next May, June, and July to have 10 weeks out of my school and, obviously, a little bit of refreshment time, but also to allow me to move on now.
We’ve made a start on this well being program, this wellness, morale boosting programs in our schools. Can we take it to the next level, whatever that next level may well be? Exciting times.
Justin: Absolutely. Just in terms of cost benefit analysis, if we’re to look at this in purely practical terms, you said you saw a 27 to 40 percent reduction in illness and basically teacher absenteeism. Is that right?
Ian: Yeah. For sure. When you’re doing your sick colleagues…It was strange, actually. We just finished our third term. We just went through our last one in our New Zealand winter. The winter terms are notorious only for huge sort of sickness in students and also for staff, just as a quick snapshot, the last sort of three weeks of last term.
You look through who is away for the day and why they’re away. You might have ten people who are away for the day. But surprisingly, days like where there’s one person sick. Where’s the other nine people? They’re all doing conferences. They’re doing PD work. They’re out of school because maybe some events.
Just that sort snapshot gives you an idea that we’re tracking OK, but money wise, certainly. You certainly save money and covering for sick call. That’s what I said. When I’ve been to the politicians and say, “If you invest in people, in industry it’s proven, in this workplace wellness program, you see these rates are reduced.
You come and you say, “Yeah. We get more people that come to work and the productivity goes up.” It’s certainly going to save costs. Our mass society is probably an example that OK, the money will divert into covering for sick teachers. We’ve got some spare cash now, so we’re able to divert that into supporting the staff around massage and other opportunities.
Justin: There’s also an instructional rational to this too though. The idea is not only do we have lower costs and lower absenteeism, but that it actually directly impacts the quality of teaching and the learning experiences that students receive. Could you speak to that?
Ian: Yeah. Fantastic. It’s been a pleasure. I mean just the last sort of three years, two and a half years, I think. The last time we spoke there was some sort of growth there, that some of the teachers, it’s just gone up a notch. But like I said, the last couple of years, there’s been some phenomenal teachers.
The teachers are well. They still work very, very hard. But they sort of feel loved and valued and yes, sort of walking through classrooms, absolutely fantastic. The whole range. Innovation is there. Creativity is there. Very forward thinking, as well. Staff has taken on some great initiatives this year using the gadgets in the classrooms.
It’s been a pleasure. Again, an industry model, they would say, “OK. Can we put all of this against also productivity?” We are a new school. We’re a new school, 10 years. 11 years. 11 years ago, the grounds of the school in our system was just a bare field, a pair paddock. Now, 10 or 11 years old now, last year across nationally, our school probably got in the top 15 of the exam results in the country. That’s developed.
The three years that we’ve been on this journey, in terms of looking of looking after our people, alongside it, for the last three years, our exam results nationally have gone up. We’re tracking around about 92 to 94 percent success rate depending on our top three year groups. That’s fantastic.
Staff, like I said, are working extremely hard in their classrooms and it’s been a pleasure to witness and see this sort of vitality around our school. The staff room is buzzing and laughter. We have laughter week. I remember one morning walking up the staircase up the staff room and thinking, “Gee. A bit noisy up there today.”
But we’ve asked them to laugh as well and have some fun. You go in and it’s absolutely a pleasure. It’s been a wonderful journey and I think I was out talking to sort of our young people, our final year, which are going to leave in about three weeks’ time from their final examinations. We just sat and talked on the bench and sunshine and, “Talk to me about your best teachers.”
The whole range. Some of the stories. “Why is this your best teacher? Why do they do this? Why do they do that?” “They care for me. They look after me. They’ve got their empathy. They encourage me when times are hard or sit alongside me and really work me through it.” The feedback from the young people as well, is very appreciative of having a very competent and very sharp and a very well staff that are always there.
Justin: As you were speaking to the changes you’ve made and the investments that you’ve made in teacher wellbeing, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that a lot of the excellence that you’re seeing, the extra mile, kind of effort that you’re seeing from people is a result of the trust that you’ve built by showing concern for teachers’ wellbeing.
I think the tendency, as you mentioned earlier, is for us to just to kind of squeeze every drop of effort out of people without investing anything back. We think, “Well, if only we could get people to work a little bit harder and stay a little bit later and do some tutoring after school and come a little bit better and put some extra time into collaboration and evening events and everything. If only we could squeeze more out of people, we could get better results.”
I think what you’re saying is such a breath of fresh air to us because it really is the opposite approach of investing in people so that they have more to give. They have the capacity to be healthier and basically bring more to the table rather than just have more squeezed out of them.
Ian: It’s definite…I’m trying to grow a coach here, really. This is a huge monumental shift for some people. The politician’s side and when you’re working with some of these key people that formed their skills…I’m getting better at it. I think I was pretty naive three years ago but you’re trying to change a shift.
As I talked about for the 20th Century model, as you said, it’s wringing everything you can out of these people. You’ve got to look after people. You’ve got to invest in these people. The problem is that some of the people that are making these decisions about school and a lot of them are ex teachers as well, is they have not been in a classroom for 20 years.
It’s like amnesia to some extent. “What was school like?” and the 21st Century classroom is a million miles away. The young people, socially, the different use of technology. I sat down with some of the main tutors that do tutor training in some of our universities. I’ve say a lot, “Have you got teacher well being actually as part of your program for young teachers coming through?”
“No? Why not?” There’s a concept…they don’t understand. I think if you haven’t been in a classroom in the last five years, you’re off the base. You have not got a clue what is going on and the demands and the intensity of 21st Century education.
That trust from the teachers side of it and in the moment, I’ve actually gone… this is like Herbalife and Amway. This is pyramid selling. I go to the teachers, to the principles and say, “OK, guys. I’ll work the politics. I will work with the politics with the politicians and the ministry, with the unions, who drive the chain as well.”
Whether I think about it and whether they want to sort of make it flip from the old thinking to the new thinking, guess what? We’ll do it ourselves.
So here you go. Here’s an idea, you bring your own ideas to the table. What can you do for your school? What can you…and then share it.
Share it with another school down the road. If you’re in a rural community, can you Skype? Can you do, you know, at a principal level.
I was horrified two years ago to read that the principals of New Zealand, they were surveyed in the back of the 1990’s about how things were, and the feedback was, “Hey, Principals, you are working very hard, working very long hours, your workload is you know pretty heavy, and you’re pretty stressed, and burnout is actually on the agenda now, OK.”
2003, they did the same survey. They said, “Look, we’re just touching base to see how things are, and the results were the same. You know, your workload is actually even heavier. The stress levels are high, and burnout is not just on the table now. It’s actually happening.”
The author went back and said, “OK, 2007,” [laughs] tongue in cheek, “I’ve just come back guys to survey you again to see if you’ve still got all these issues. I expect you will have, you know, but we’re just checking, and low and behold, you are working incredible long hours. You know, the workload is crazy. Stress levels are now really sort of really high, and burnout is major for you guys.”
I went to the Principals’ Association whether that be primary schools, kindergarten, all the way up to the high school level, and you sort of say, “Yes, you’ve had three reports. You are the brain’s trust in our schools. You’ve been told you’ve got issues. Show me what you have done about it please.”
What have you done? You know it’s like “Mm hmm.” We’ve actually…I’ve gained with myself and my principal. We actually wrote…we produced a desk as a starter point, Justin, just as a starter point. Look, let’s do something.
We produced a desktop planner for the last three terms. It rolls over. Again, it’s on a weekly theme, but these principals are all locked in together. So we’ve got 400 principals around New Zealand saying, “OK, on my desk now, I’ve got this planner. So 2/4, next week, week two, is Positive Health Week.”
So I have this thing in my face on a Monday morning. “Oh right,” [sarcastically] but I’m not alone. The principal has got the same calendar…planner. Right, Positive Health Week, so maybe we’ll phone and contact each other. Should we do something else? Should we go for a run?
Should we play a game of squash? Should we do this? Should we do that? It rumbles through weekly themes like we have at school.
Again, there’s some trust developing there and some really good work. You get reminded weekly through a sort of principals’ newsletter, “Guys are you looking after yourself?” So yeah, the trust issue is really important, but we are looking after ourselves.
That’s…if you’re a better principal, one of the things principals moaned about the top of the…when we did a survey last year, the number one for principals in New Zealand of what concerned them most was being out of touch and not up to date with their professional reading and what was going on.
OK, so that was identified. This is a major issue here. We need to be able to do some more reading time. Why can you not do it at school?
“Oh…” and the excuses galore. I must have an open door policy. Why can you not shut the door? “Oh, I couldn’t do that.” Again, you’re trying to bring a culture change for an individual.
Do something, don’t just moan about it and then maybe the next holiday break you just spend…you’ve got a mountain of reading to do, which you may not get through anyway.
What can you do today? Can you shut your door for one hour? Can you come to school late as a principal? Can you arrive at 10 o’clock rather than 9 o’clock or whatever?
Or can you go home early? But find a way, that’s the difference between industry. They say, some of the big leaders in industry say, “I go to work to work on my particular job, and then I go home and have my personal life.”
School principals and teachers will do some stuff at school, and then we go home and carry on doing work. Try and get a divide there. In answer to your question, massive, the trust and…but if we’re doing it ourselves, teachers are very, very wary of being told or being lectured at by people that are not in their profession.
You’ve got to be a very special person to get inside a teacher’s head. If you’re in an industry model or a business model, there was a teacher well being program that was delivered here to a school in Auckland in January this year.
It was a one off. It was run by a business who said do this, do that. Well, they’ve got no concept of how a school functions, and it wasn’t repeated.
It was interesting when I went to the organization, “Why have you not repeated this little program you did?” “There isn’t a demand.”
Justin: Yet, you’ve had 6,000 emails from all over the world from people who are using your materials. Is that right?
Ian: Yeah, I mean that…he said there’s no…the thing about the no demand is actually…
Justin: [laughs]
Ian: School has a budget doesn’t it? School has a budget, so we need to do this, this, and this for our learning. Yes, we’ve got to do this, this, and this for our learning. All the money’s all gone unfortunately, and the next one down on the list that probably could’ve/should’ve been covered was looking after your teachers.
Well, next year we’ll have another go at it, so it’s not there’s no demand. There’s actually no money available to go further down the list to look after teachers. Anyway, we are doing something about it, and it’s going brilliantly.
Justin: Well then, kudos to you for putting that on our agenda, and I think you’ve sounded the alarm so successfully in the work that you’ve done over the past three years. If people want to get a hold of your materials or get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to find you online?
Ian: Right, two things because that’s the plan for next year is when I’m on sabbatical is to actually crank up my own website and do that, but the moment…the best way is just use a simple Google search. You just type in “Ian Vickers teacher well being,” and it’ll give you a link to lots of articles, I’ve written in magazines, links to get the resource, and then the other way is to send me an email.
I’ve got a Gmail account which is teacherwellbeingglobal@Gmail.com is the best way to track me.
Justin: Well Ian, thank you so much. It has been a treat to speak with you and hear what you’ve been up to these last couple of years and the difference you’ve made in not only reducing absenteeism but really just helping people be healthier and helping school leaders pay more attention to this absolutely critical issue. Thank you so much.
Ian: It’s been an absolute pleasure, Justin, and thank you very much for your time.
Justin: So high performance instructional leaders, as you heard, Ian Vickers has set up a program of well being to help the staff in his school pay attention to how they’re doing, pay attention to their own health, and take steps to not only do a great job on behalf of the students, but to invest in their own well being and in their own health.
The reception to that around the world has been tremendous, and I think the key thing that he’s asking people to do is really to develop good habits. If you recall in the high performance triangle, which consists of strategies, tools, and habits, habits are what give us consistency over time.
If we want to be at our best, not just on some days, on the days when we happen to get a good night’s sleep or when we happen to not be sick or happen to have had a good breakfast, we’ve got to invest in building those habits that create success and that put us at our best.
We’ve got to do that for our teachers as well. We’ve got to help them pay enough attention to themselves that they can be at their best for students, so I want to encourage you to look on our website, the page for this interview or Google “Ian Vickers teacher well being” and take a look at some of the resources that Ian has created.
The calendar of activities and basically health promotions that you can do to promote well being among your staff. Take just a minute to take a look at that and see what you can do to help your staff develop healthier habits.
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