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151. A System for Diagnosing School Challenges with Beth Napleton

by Lindsay Lyons
February 20th 2024
In today's episode with special guest and adjunct professor Beth Napleton, Lindsay discusses what kind of system we ca... More
Hi, everyone. Today on the Time for Teacher Podcast we have Beth Napton. Beth brings 25 plus years of education experience to her work. She founded the Charter Network Chicago Collegiate and served as chief executive slash academic officer. Chicago Collegiate has annually had 100% of mostly first generation students accepted to college. And prior Beth led a team to train 650 new T FA or teach for America teachers. She deepened her people and instructional leadership skills at Kip and first started teaching in Washington Heights with T FA. Beth graduated from Barnard College and Pace University. She was an adjunct professor at Dominican University and completed relays National Principal Supervisors Academy. She is gallop strength certified and is now a coach, Sultan for leaders. Let's go ahead and meet Beth educational justice coach Lindsay Lyons. And here on the time for teacher podcast, we learn how to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice design curricula grounded in student voice and build capacity for shared leadership. I'm a former teacher leader turned instructional coach. I'm striving to live a life full of learning, running, baking, traveling and parenting because we can be rockstar educators and be full human beings.

If you're a principal, assistant superintendent, curriculum director, instructional coach or teacher who enjoys nering out about co-creator curriculum of students. I made this show for you. Here we go. Beth. Welcome to the time for teacher podcast. Thanks for having me, Lindsay. I'm excited to be here. I'm excited too. And so what some folks tell me is like, ok, you read the professional bio and there's like more to me than that, right? In a list of my accomplishments or something, or there's like, you know, things happening in the world or something on my mind. Like there's, there's sometimes like a place that I wanna create at the start of each episode for like any additional things to keep in mind as we have this conversation. And so I'm gonna throw it to you to let us know if there is anything people should know about you or things you're thinking about. Yeah, I mean, I think probably in my heart of hearts, I really wanna be teaching sixth grade English language arts and, you know, being a dean of instruction, which might have been my favorite job ever. Um But I currently have 1/6 grade daughter. So that's like enough sixth grader in my life right now. I have the 24 7 version of it. Um But I, I'm really like, you know, I, I am like an educator at heart, like I've been, you know, doing my own thing in my business for a few years and, and it kind of life has taken me in a different direction.

But I think that, um people often will tell me like you get schools, you get how they work. I'm like, yeah, these are my people. Like that's, I always like at home when I walk into a school, I like, know the challenges and I get, when you have time to go to the bathroom and I get how hard it is to figure out, you know, the Halloween dance scheduling or whatever it is. And so I feel like that's just helpful to know is that like sometimes when people talk about consultants, it's like, oh, they're so high in the sky or they don't understand what's happening. It's like, no, no, I'm one of you. I'm one of you. I promise, I love that grounding. And the former literacy teacher in me, it's like, yeah, 6 3d L A, it's the best. That's awesome. So one of the things that I like to start with in terms of the content we're talking about is, you know, every, every guest, every person I think in the field of education has a big dream for like what they wish the educational space would be. And I like to ground it in Doctor Bettina loves words around freedom dreaming. So she says their dreams grounded in the critique of injustice, which I think is just so beautiful. And I'm curious to know with that in mind. What is that big dream for you? What's the dream you hope for education? I mean, I think what I've spent my whole career working on and will unfortunately probably continue to work on until my career is over is how do we make schools places that ensure that kids have the opportunities that they want?

Right. How do we do our job preparing kids so that when they leave, you know, 12th grade, they can become an entrepreneur or go to college, be a doctor, you know, whatever they wanna be, be an athlete, go join the military, Terry. I just, I, I have worked in so many schools that, that was not the case um early in my career. And so I did a lot of volunteering in college and spent a lot of time in schools that were just kids, couldn't do basic math or reading or writing. And so I purposely spent the bulk of my career working in schools that were really actively working to support that paradigm and make sure the kids had the options that they needed. And also I think, you know, felt supported as people and were growing developmentally appropriately and we're developing those social emotional skills that are so important to, to making sure that we thrive in the world. And when I look at the world around us and all of the, I used to tell my students like we have so many problems in this world. Like we have really messed the world up and we need you to really come in and help. And that is the academics. It's also the social, emotional, it's the interpersonal skills. It's the vision for a better world. It's the justice, it's the advocacy and our schools should really be microcosms that prepare students to live the lives of their choices.

They work to make, make the world a better place. I really love that. I think that's so good and, and the idea of like the microcosms, right? I often talk about student voice and student leadership and my frustration is always when people are like, oh yeah, that's a just in the future. Like they're not ready yet, like it's like in the future. But I'm like, that is the word microcosm. It almost sounds like you're saying, right? Like it's now too, like they could do it now. They could do every, I mean, right. Like if you walk into there are, you know, pre K classrooms that do it? Amazing job of this. And so it's like if you're telling me, like, these three and four year olds can do this, like we also can make sure your 10th graders can help run the show. Right? It's hard, it's a hard change. It's a hard piece. There's like lots of elements of it. Um But I think that that's like, how do you make schools places where kids are really prepared for the world in some ways. It's ok. Like, we can take these problems and, and unfortunately we create them in our, our system to help you solve them. Yeah. Oh, my gosh. Yes. And, and so I, I'm thinking now about all the, the different kind of pieces of that and, and how I typically coach and the things I coach around usually, like, ok, so we have like, the adult mindset piece and like, how do we approach this? We have the like technical, like, what's our pedagogical tools?

What is, how do we assess, what is the content that we teach? And so I'm curious how your work kind of intersects with either one of these multiple of these. Um what is kind of your approach to helping educators and leaders to really do this kind of work? Yeah, I mean, I think that, you know, my background is such that I have a pretty strong instructional background and I also have a strong cultural background in terms of both adult and student culture and I know enough of the operations world to make sure that things can run on time. Um And so I've certainly work with schools on like choosing new curriculum or we'll work on, you know, how do we do more like blended learning? And, but what I often find is again and again is that usually like people will bring me into work on that. But actually the issue is like the team's not functioning well. Actually, the issue is that right, there's like these two factions that are deeply entrenched and they do like fight to the debt. And so really, most of my work now focuses on a lot of this kind of cultural partnership, making sure that there is clarity of roles and responsibilities, making sure there's alignment around common goals. And so usually people will kind of engage me and say, let's come in and talk about this and I'll say great.

But my first step is almost always let me just like get the lay of the land. Let's like, look at surveys, do focus groups, do interviews and like just make sure that what you're seeing, like it's the right, it's the right time to take this step. Like if we have these two factions that are so entrenched, like they're gonna stay entrenched this process of, of choosing a new curriculum. So maybe we actually want just like back up the truck a little bit and do some work around, like considering the views of others and what's important to you and what's our value statement and what's our mission and how do we tweak this to help us all be moving so that we can, you know, row in the same direction. Yes, I, I love this and I think that's exactly what I think a lot about uh adaptive leadership and adaptive leadership theory, right? And it's like the adaptive challenges are the ones that are persistent. They keep coming back, like we're not solving them with a new curriculum, like, and just kind of a PD on that and we're done. Right. And so it, I think I have, I don't know that I typically think about the, like, interpersonal team dynamics or like the alignment pieces, like the things you're talking about. Like, I love this because I don't necessarily think about them, but I know there's something deeper there and I love, that's where you shine.

So I, I'm wondering what are some of the like either mindset shifts for leaders or mindset shifts that you kind of coach leaders to help the the team members through to kind of remedy some of some of the stuff when we see it and we say we're gonna back that truck up, we're gonna address it. Like, how, how do we really do that or what are the things that are like, maybe some of the barriers that get us to the action steps? Yeah. Yeah. So I'm thinking about a client I had who I worked with um in Durham. He led a school, a charter school of about 650 kids. And he originally brought me in because his executive director was transitioning and they wanted some support for him and he wanted to figure out how to really coach and develop his assistant principal. And I said, ok, great. Let's like, come in and do this current state analysis and like, get the lay of the land and just, like, make sure that's the right thing to focus on. Just like, you know, I might go to my doctor and say, like, my leg hurts. I think my ankles twisted and say, oh, you're right. Go, go do this. Like they, they test it right. They, like, run some of their own tests to make sure that it's the accurate diagnosis. And so, you know, I went down and decipher it. We did a bunch of surveys. I walked around and I, I came back to him and said, look, I think that like, yes, that is an area that needs to be developed.

But if you try and do that now you're gonna really struggle and that's because there's a couple of issues. One is that you don't really have the strong, um it's like, not really clear what everyone's working towards. Like there's not alignment on common goals or what actually matters most. And I think a lot of times in schools, there can be a lot of disagreement about that and it's like very healthy disagreement, but like, you need to help people get to some point of like, this is what's most important or here's how these things complement each other. And I think frankly, you know, this principal took over as a leader during the pandemic. And so he started with this, I mean, he, I think his first year he started in school and then it went to the pandemic year. So he hadn't really had a normal school year. Um, you know, in his three or four years of school leadership. And I said, I think you're kind of fuzzy on what you think in and what it's ok for you to have strong opinions about and what you refer to others on. And I actually think that we need to spend some time getting clear on your vision as a leader. And you can do that alongside me as an experienced school leader and educator, like we can develop this and you can do this in a safe way so that then we can unveil to your team. Here's what I think as a manager, here's what's important to me. Here's what's not important to me. Here's what I expect of you and you have not only my own personal experience, but the experience I've gained by working with so much clients to say that's actually a super reasonable expectation.

And so now I can go in and say, actually, it is a reasonable expectation for me to say that you should come prepared to our check ins. And I believe this and I think this and I can enforce this um in a way that was helpful. And so I think that there's often issues like, are we clear on the vision? Are we clear on working towards? Um I think there often are just like some baked in dynamics from like, you know, we worked together for three years and this person has always done this and that. And so you have to kind of like unearth those and some conflict and work through them around a common point of alignment. But I think there's often a lot, um, that just makes it hard because humans are, are hard. Humans are complicated and leading adults, like, you know, almost everyone I know who works in leadership or administration is like, you know, give me the kids any day, like they're supposed to be seventh graders are supposed to be like tribal. I've got this group of 40 something and they're like, what are we talking about? So, yes. Oh my gosh, there's so, so many of the, the challenges, like, one of the things that we were just talking about before we hit record is like this idea of adult problems getting in the way of student success.

And so I think there's, there's so much of that and as you were saying, you know, like that resonates with a lot of people. I'm sure the leader listening right now is nodding their head. And so I, I'm thinking about the leader listening, who, who is interested in this idea of getting the lay of the land of their school. And so if they don't have the funding to hire an external consultant, what is an action that they could take? Like, uh I know you mentioned surveys, focus groups, like, what's, what might that look like to kind of do your own internal audit or like? Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I would say that so one, I mean, I do say that one of the reasons that it can be helpful to bring someone external in is because people will always just like no filter in a way they are not going to be with their boss. And so, you know, I've been in the tight budget situation, I get sometimes you have to hack in Diy. And so I'll, I'll definitely go into kind of some of the things you can do. But I do find that a lot of my clients are like, oh my gosh, that alone was worth it because people would say things to you that they would never say to me. And by the way, I take all that raw material and like the 100 pages of notes and synthesize into like our three takeaways. So like you as a leader, don't have to like swim through all that and think about it. Um That said, I think, you know, one of the most important things is that a lot of what is really important in this work is knowing what people's perceptions are.

And I think what's tricky is that people can say, but their perception is not reality and it's like, but it, but it's their reality and you have to understand what their reality is because until you understand how they're looking at this challenge and at this organization of the school, you can't meet them where they're at and get them to a point. So people will say, but we have this policy and this policy says this and people say that we don't have this, but we do well, then you know, there's a gap, you need to do more, to educate people and to help bridge the the gap between perception and reality. So one tool that I'm a big fan of is I'm a big fan of staff surveys. Um I think they can be really impactful because they tell you, you know, you can use questions that have like on a scale of 1 to 10. It allows you to get averages means concentration of how strongly people feel these things. Um And you can have statements like, you know, I feel um you know, I'm trying to think of some examples like, you know, my workplace demonstrates caring, concern for its employees scale of 1 to 10 agree or disagree and then an optional place for comments.

Um You know, uh my feedback from my manager is helps me in my work, right? You just kind of have these like statements and people agree or disagree and you can aggregate them, they can be pretty intense. Um They can be really short and I sometimes I, I always tell people that you should do the survey where you're really prepared to squeeze the data out of. So people get really excited and do like 100 question survey and then you don't have the time to digest it. And it's like, I'd rather you just give the two question survey or the three question survey and really digest it, but, you know, easier said than done. And, well, actually I'm, I'll be curious by the time this airs, one of things I'm thinking about is like having some sort of like a survey service for people where they can use that kind of like a survey in a box where you could say, ok, let me like buy this survey and administer this. So we'll see if that where that comes to fruition by then. But I think you need to give a survey. I always recommend being able to make it anonymous. But then the key is you have to give people time to do it in a place where they're sitting down and ready. So it is like it, it is an in class test. This is not take it home and do it anonymously. You won't be able to track it down. You won't know who did it. 50% responded which 50%. So we're in an all staff meeting. The link is in your inbox.

I need you all to do this. Now, I'll put on music and there are snacks and go. And then I we also know as a leader Oh, we gave this survey at the Wednesday afternoon staff meeting and remember Wednesday morning, the fire alarm was pulled three times. So, ok, I now know the state of mind people were in when they took this because it was a very defined window. I gave it to everyone. You still, by the way, won't get 100% participation, which will drive you absolutely bananas. So, like you were in the room, but that's ok. That's normal. You'll get, but you'll get enough of an input to know and you'll be able to keep it anonymous. And you can ask things like, you know, what grade level do you teach on or what, um uh what subject you choose. But you should make sure those groups are generally like five or more people because people will feel wary about identifying themselves if I'm the only art teacher and you're gonna make me say I teach art. I know that like, is it anonymous? And that's not the point. But if you're gonna, if identify as a specialist teacher and there are six or seven specials teacher, I know that then, and then as a leader, I have the ability to look at that trend by the entire department. So I do think that that is like, you need to know where, what people think is happening and then look at what you believe is happening and figure out where that gap is and how you can start to bridge it.

Oh, so good. So I, I love the level of detail that you just want to do there. Examples, very practical, like I said, so good and like just even the sit everyone down, this is your time, like it is worth it to dedicate your staff, meeting, time to do something like this, right? I think that's like a big takeaway for me. Um And so thinking about once people have that lay of the land, right? What is maybe step two to figure out like we've kind of diagnosed what's happening, we've gotten the perceptions of staff and then how do we start tackling the adult problems? And I know it could be like obviously dependent on what everyone said, but like what's maybe one example of something that you've helped a staff kind of go through a helped a leader solve an adult problem in a school system or something that, that, that maybe someone could take away. So then the next thing I would say, so then here, so you've given it, you're in the meeting, you gave the survey out. OK? And what you should do really ahead of time is block out time that night or the next morning to be like, let me go in and digest this. I always recommend if you like a glass of wine, it does not hurt to digest survey results with a glass of wine, right?

It's there's always some stuff that could be about like, oh, my feelings are hurt by that or? Oh, that's a little bit harsh. And that's just part of the game. We've all been there. But how do you say go through, you know, how do you start to go through that and say like, what am I noticing here? And I think I tell people to pay attention to two things. Like what surprises you and what doesn't surprise you and you know, people will, you know, I've used various thought catchers with clients or ways to look through this. And then what I like to tell people is like, you, you have to go back to people at the next staff meeting. You have to say we gave the survey and you might, you know, like you're not gonna have all the answers and problem solved. But typically you can say here's what you said that we are well aware of already in this reinforced, here's what you said that, you know, we kind of thought and there's already some stuff that's in the works on this and here's what we're considering doing or thinking about doing as a result of this uh of what you said. And then I also tell people like lean in and be brave and say, here's what we're actually not gonna prioritize yet. So I think that that's where you as a leader know. I mean, people will, you know, look at these results and say there's so many places I could go and what do we want to do?

And like we actually really need this like full scale compensation analysis and we need to figure out this and benchmark. And it's like, you know, the thing that you're gonna do is better than the thing you're gonna say you're gonna do and never actually get done. And so know where your capacity is. And again, that's why some people bring in people to help because I can't do this. But how can I bring someone in? But you can say we're not going to do a compensation analysis this year, but we're thinking about it for next year. It's a big lift, it's expensive, it requires this piece and we just don't feel that way. But what we are going to do is look at our um PTO policy and see if we can be more flexible when it comes to, you know, COVID related leave, given the transition that many of you whatever, like, you know, you can say like this is a piece of the pie we can take off. So I think folks do that. And then I think a lot of my work with leaders and when they're kind of in that stage is like, you know, they're kind of like, well, what's the most impactful thing? What do I do? Where do I focus on it? It really depends so much on like what do you have the bandwidth for and what's working? I would recommend that you start with things that can be relatively quick wins because that will help people like build faith and build confidence and people will start to see some changes.

You'll also like learn from that process and that will allow to help you for some of the longer term pieces of it. Um But I think that that is, you know, it, it can be, it's a, it's a very useful tool to give and a very useful way to kind of understand and to help people navigate and to think about what to do with this because it is um you know, I just think that like, it's rare as a leader that people kind of will be give you their unfiltered opinion because they're a, you don't have time to talk to everyone b like it's not always meaningful. See, like they're running to go make their copies or do whatever. And so when you ask people these questions in a survey, you can really get a sense of it. Um and it can be really impactful just to kind of help you like batch process those pieces. I love that. I, I do also really appreciate, right? Like it is, it is totally like a huge endeavor to do some of these things. And so bringing someone in is just like, if you have the finances to do that, like do that, like it's just, yeah, it's just, it's like people always even like a lot of times I coach people, right? And so as an executive coach, like people come with the agenda and they leave with the to dos and we can have some great thought partnerships.

I can bring ideas that I can do this. But one of the reasons that I try to do more of this like coach salting, which is a combination of coaching and consult is because I should leave us some of the to dos you ha you have enough to do like week after. I know I should have done this, but I haven't had time or then we had this fire drill or then this teacher quit or this person went to labor early and it's like I get it, I've been there and like, you know, you can't replicate yourself. So like hiring someone externally is the way you, like, start to do that a little bit. Um And so I think it's always encouraging people, like, because you'll also be able to make traction more quickly, right? Um Which is ultimately what it's about to get to that vision of these schools that are doing right by kids and what they deserve. Absolutely. Yeah. And, and one of the things just to go back really quickly to the one of the things you're talking about with like the process of here's what you do once you have the data, right, you're going back, you're sharing, here's what we're doing, here's what we're not doing. I like I, that resonates a lot with me because I actually go to student voice data and this process is the same, right? So if a student is like, I, you know, we want pizza for lunch every single day and it's like, well, I love that. You love that. And here's what we're gonna do because XYZ or you know, we want this meter new playground, like here's our budget, look at the number, now, look at all of that allocated money and now look what we have left, right?

Like it's like just bringing people into that process just a little bit to just be able to say like I hear you and, and I think that's the thing, it's like, you know, people don't always have the perspective, right that we have. And so, you know, one thing that often will come up is, you know, like people will be like, well, I know we don't have any money for this and I really want this and actually that is covered by this funding. I actually can't allocate it to you. And so like you can do some behind the scenes kind of knowledge building. And I always encourage people like let people into this, like you are making these decisions in a vacuum. It's like I said, yes to the library and no to the stem curriculum. It's like, well, you did that because of the cost differences because of what allocated funds mean, because the rules about purchasing with this and that and the other and like it's OK to say this to people and they will start to say, oh OK, got it. You're working with like a different set of uh facts here and like you can bring people into that and start to build some shit, understand in that way. But it's the same process which I think is, is so great. Hey, everyone, it's Lindsay just jumping in here to tell you about today's episode. Freebie Beth has a quiz which helps you identify what you most need as a leader.

So when you're done with the episode, head over to the blog host, Lindsay Beth lances.com/blog/one 51 and take the quiz to find out what you most need back to the episode. Right. Yeah, that shared process piece. I think I, I worked in a school district or a network of schools who had this as one of their philosophies was like one learning model for. All right. And so it was like the adults have the same kind of learning model and processes and strategies that we go through and expectations as the students. And so what's really cool about that is when we do this as leaders with our teachers, the teachers could then do a, you could do a class survey. Absolutely right. You want to do free write every day and I get that and right, like it's the same as pizza for lunch. It's the same as, like, you know, no staff meetings any week. It's like, wow, we have these things to do these obligations. But I hear your desire for this, here's how I can honor that. Right. We'll do free. Right. Fridays. Or we'll do, you know, um, every, every first step of the month is a Wellness day or whatever it is. So, how do you kind of say, like, I can see that spirit and meet them there? But I think that is really powerful when it models the same piece.

Yeah. Yeah, there's, there's so many possibilities to like kind of like play off of this one idea, right? And there's this concept of a kind of data collection and then it kind of feedback looping like back and, and, and going um forward in kind of a shared leadership way and, and I think that's really powerful for, for a lot of things, even if you go into it with like, oh I wanted to address this problem, right? I think what you're speaking to is the process itself is one that can be done for any problem and will likely get at the root cause of whatever it is, despite what we go in thinking as you said, right? We may think it's one thing, it's actually we're not ready for that. And I, and I think if nothing else, if leaders take nothing else away um from, I mean, really like any conversation. I feel like that's it. Right. It's like you have to have that underlying process of what is the lived reality of people and how do we collect that data? And then how do we come back and make shared decisions in that way that is structured, like, so you can do anything with that? Well, and I think oftentimes I'll work like I was working with a leader of an alternative high school in Indianapolis who was like incredibly strategic minded to help like turn the school around, like got them off probations like an eight year renewal, like had really done great work but was struggling with some staff turnover.

Um and kind of like this perception about, right, like we can't maintain, you know, teachers or, you know, people from this demographic have a hard time working here. And so we kind of are going in like a very big picture culture lens and we instituted a survey. I mean, it was a two question net promoter survey. She does twice a year. She does it in May, I think like May and October, right? She does the same process, she does it. So like, you don't even have to go in and say like I have a problem with, let me give a survey. It's actually a great tool just to use periodically just to kind of get a pulse on what's happening. And actually, as you start to do over time, you'll start to see trends over time you'll start to be able to, like, it'll bottle up things you weren't sure about. And it's also demonstrating to your staff, like, I value your opinion. I take your feedback seriously. I honor your, you know, professional expertise and things that we know from research shows us that, like, helps people feel more connected and more committed to their workplaces, which also helps as a leader as, as well. Yes. Oh yes. To the ongoing like just this is part of how we do it, right? Part of what we do. Yeah. Yeah. And, and so, OK, so I am imagining that there are leaders listening who are like, I am game to do this.

Like I want to implement something like this. I love this idea. And then I imagine there are some people who are thinking in their minds like, OK, well, I have this challenge or I have like here's a barrier that I foresee in this work or something like that. And so I'm wondering if you can illuminate for us, like what is maybe one challenge that you've worked through with a leader? Like a, you know, a big challenge in doing the work and then like, how did, how did you work through it or what advice would you give to a leader who's thinking about that now? Yeah, totally. So I'm thinking about this principal Christina, the one that I just mentioned in Indianapolis, right where she had done all this amazing work to really turn the school around and get them to a place where, like, they truly, their survival was on the brink and like, then they got to a place and, and they do a really interesting model where their average student has been to three or four high schools before they go to them. It's an alternative school. So it like, looks different than a lot of other schools. But people will compare it to the high school down the block or the high school they went to. But like the high school you went to doesn't have the average student attending 4.5 schools before they get to you. So like there's just some deeper issues. They have a lot of kids in the foster care system and in juvenile justice who, you know, just have some additional needs and, and they really, she did an amazing job creating this model and thinking about how can we do this and how can we figure out where to go over the course of COVID?

There had been some high profile resignations of some black men. She was a white woman and she was like, I am both really concerned about this. I want my school to be a place where black men can really thrive. She had these barriers that I think a lot of leaders do where it's like, I can't quite point to exactly what it is, but it's clearly there And so there's this perception issue, there's this narrative, what are people saying behind closed doors, which is like, not a great place to be in as a leader too because it doesn't exactly make you wanna, like, open your arms up and make cookies for the staff when you're like, what are they saying behind my back? And by the way, I'm also like, working my butt off and by the way, I got our charter extended and like, have you turned your grades in? Like, let's turn this on you. And so it was like a little bit turning on itself in that way. Um And so we were able to go in, do the site visit, do the current state analysis, talk to people observe what was happening and what was really interesting there is that then, so we like started talking um earlier and then she also was pregnant with her first child. And so she's like, so I've got all these issues. I'm figuring out, I'm also about to go on maternity leave. I'm usually working 12 hour days.

How am I gonna go away for three months with this new baby and new role and be able to do this in a way that allows me to enjoy that time, unplugs me from what's happening day to day, but also make sure the school doesn't rate her. And so we kind of started doing this analysis, we started doing some maternity leave planning, we started thinking about her roles and responsibilities. We started thinking about how she could transition those over. Um And she ended up having a really successful maternity leave. She was told totally, like, what is exactly what was desired, which was like radio silence for eight weeks. And then she kind of did a step up back into the role. But I think often in terms of the barrier, it like can feel slippery like there's something here and what is it? And part of that because it is people's perception, part of it's because of like the rumor mill effect of some of these cases. Part of this is because um leaders will be concerned about A, like A and B and their teams will be concerned about X and Y. And so it feels like they're not on the same page because they're not on the same page. And so there's some alignment about like all of these things are important, but let's put them in order of priority importance and let's understand why.

And let me articulate this as a leader. Um And a lot of that as a leader means also saying things that, you know, are going to be unpopular and not well received and that is just challenging as a human and as somebody who's working with people and often, you know, principles are coming to this work, having had colleagues and having been on a team and all of a sudden, they're now the only person in the seat and it's really isolating. Um, and so I think that, that we were able to really both get her to the successful leave. And then, and I love the maternity leave as a mechanism. It was like a forcing mechanism be to have her, like, share responsibility, be clear on what people's like where their decision making power was and wasn't how these teams work together, who would function and then really strip back and prioritize what needed to happen because it was like, you actually don't need to have things happen exactly as they would have happened. If you were here at your team gonna be down a person, what are we going to do? Strip back what's most important? And I think that helped highlight what was essential and then that helped when she came back, we were able to really thoughtfully think about how to reintegrate it into the work she was doing. She's like, I don't want to go back into checking in with everyone every week when they actually spend three months without this. Can I go to every other week? Ok. Let's talk about what roles and why and what you might want to do and given your priorities while they're at.

So I think it can feel, um, a little bit like, um, you know, being like blindfolded in a dark room, sometimes I kind of like fumbling your way through and, and that often could be what's hard for leaders is because like if I can say this is the issue, well, then I can do something about it. But sometimes it's like getting to that clarity or because there's so many different factors that, that kind of form this nebulous idea that it can be hard to break through. And that's where we were able to kind of get to some clarity, break it down and start to just take it on piece by piece. That makes sense. And I, I really, I think that the, the kind of forced break that, that being a parent all of a sudden, like, makes you kind of take, take a step back. Um I think there are, you know, it doesn't have to be parenthood but it could be a lot of those things that, like, for whatever reason, you know, we, we have to do things differently. I, I love those. It's like testing grounds, right? So, like, I, when I was teaching and I was in a graduate program where I had to, like, be away from the classroom for like two days a week, like in a row every few months. And it was just like, ok, my students now know the process, they just got better about having subs because it was like, wow, we know how to do this, we know the project we're working on.

We know the, like, I just think sometimes it's scary to take that leap and like, you may not have a circumstance like that. So if you're not about to go on parental leave, right? Figure out what it is for you. But I do think that's a beautiful way to just be like, let's try something different, whatever that impetus is like let's just test it and see how it goes. And that idea of coming back and saying actually this didn't work for me before like let's try something new as I reintegrate is beautiful and I think can be very transformative for people testing kind of something similar. And I think sometimes like sometimes it's the external like the grad program or parental leave, sometimes it's medical issues and sometimes people are just like, I cannot keep going on this way. I cannot keep working in this way. And that is a moment too and it's like, OK, great. It's time to do something about that. Let's do this. You don't have to, right? Like I think it's for me really important to see, I know how impactful it is when leaders are able to serve for their communities for a consistent period of time. I know the difference that makes on the ground for kids. And so what can we do to help you get through there because there is a way you don't see it right now because if you did see it, you would go that way. But there are people out there who've done it, who know and can help you also not just do it while you also are maintaining what's important to you and what you don't want to give up.

Right? I don't want to give up that I make this big impact. I don't want to give up that I feel so connected to students. I don't want to give up this piece. And I also don't want to be working till 10 o'clock at night. I don't wanna be, you know, leaving after dark every day. I wanna be able to take care of my health. So how do I hold all these things at the same time and kind of forge a path to making it happen? Yeah, absolutely. I, there's so much in the, in the case study that you shared that I'm like, I want to dig back into that, but I'm recognizing our time as this. Um I'll just ask you a couple, a couple questions to close out. One of them is kind of like following this episode. A leader listening might be like, all right, I wanna like start with something like something small, a little bit of like a momentum builder perhaps to kind of start doing some of this work in the process that we've been talking about. What is one thing that they could do like tomorrow, for example, that could just get them started with this. So the one that I'm gonna tell them is I made a two minute quiz. And so I'm like, take the quiz, it's two minutes. And I mean, I will say I'm a big fan of quizzes of any kind, like from, you know, cosmo to like, you know, Harry Potter Buzzfeed House. I just think it's like a chance to like, share a little about yourself.

Look in the mirror and then reflect. And so my two minute quiz is leadership dash quiz.com. Um It'll bring you to my website and it'll be at the top of the page and it's what do you need most as a leader. And so I think that it's helpful because that will help you identify. Here's where my biggest gap is and I can start to think about, OK, since that's my biggest gap. Now, what do I do? Um And how do I, I actually might be tweaking the quiz a bit. So it might be slightly different by the time that this um episode airs. But I think that that's always a good place to start because you have to be able to identify your needs and think about where this is and what I like about the quiz, it's like kind of a fun whatever way to get to some of these issues that many leaders haven't struggle with and then helps you say, OK, that's what I need most. And so now how do I think about that in the scope of the problems that I'm considering? I love that because so many times I think like, I mean, and I do this too. It's like, ok, get on a call. We could, like, help identify the thing and this is like, doing it without getting on a call, you can do it on your own. And then I'm sure like, you know, it kind of leads them to like, ok, it's here, like the definition of wherever you are and maybe some suggested next action steps and then you can work with that. And so I think that is brilliant too.

Be able to just have a two minute quiz, right? That's really do it online at the grocery store, right? While you're like filling your car up with gas, like we're all about that. So love it. And then so the, the final two questions I have for USB close out, this one is fun. Does not have to relate to education or your work. But it can, what is something that you have been learning about lately? Um What have I been learning about? I have been learning um a lot about uh Judaism. So I actually have with all that's going on in the Middle East because I felt like my own education had some real gaps in like understanding like how have we come to be at this moment? I didn't have the well rounded global education in my K 16 experience. I recently moved to New York City and New York has a really um the part I live in has like a really distinct Jewish identity and flavor, which is really interesting. And so I feel like as I'm getting to know that and thinking about this and thinking about this global context, thank you. Finally, I think you mentioned this a little bit, but where can people learn more about you or connect with you? Yeah. So you can go to my website Beth naple.com and that has a bunch of um information on where we able to go.

And right around this time, this episode airs, I think we'll also have a new website leveled up leadership. I'm not 100% sure yet. I don't think we reserved the domain. Um So it'll, it'll direct to there, but that was a little bit more background. It has blog post, it has resources, it has the best time of the year to reset, how to think about using these pieces, how to react to surveys. So again, I try to make it full of really practical resources that people can use and serve as a reference point and there's lots of different ways to go. So my website Beth napton.com is a great place to go. And I also am on linkedin and a tiny bit on Instagram, but um more on linkedin. So awesome and we'll link to that in the show notes. So anyone who's doing something other than typing? Yeah, if they're not, they're listening and focus. Yes, they're folding laundry or driving home or doing all those good things that we know leaders cram for time are doing. Absolutely well, Beth, thank you so much for being on the show today. I really appreciate it. Thanks for having me Lindsay. It was so much fun. I appreciate it. If you like this episode, I bet you'll be just as jazz as I am about my coaching program for increasing student led discussions in your school, Shane Sapir and Jamila Dugan talk about a pedagogy of student voice in their book street data. They say students should be talking for 75% of class time.

Do students in your school talk for 75% of each class period. I would love for you to walk into any classroom in your community and see this in action. If you're smiling to yourself as you listen right now, grab 20 minutes on my calendar to brainstorm. How I can help you make this big dream a reality. I'll help you build a comprehensive plan from full day trainings and discussion protocols like circle and socratic seminar to follow up classroom visits where I can plan witness and debrief discussion based lessons with your teachers. Sign up for a nerdy no strings attached to brainstorm. Call at Lindsay, Beth lions.com/contact. Until next time leaders think big act brave and be your best self. This podcast is a proud member of the Teach better podcast network better today, better tomorrow and the podcast to get you there explore more podcasts at teach better.com/podcasts and we'll see you at the next episode.

151. A System for Diagnosing School Challenges with Beth Napleton
151. A System for Diagnosing School Challenges with Beth Napleton
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