Clayton Reedie is the current Director for the Campbelltown Principal’s Network in Sydney, the equivalent of a District Superintendent in the United States.

He began as a teacher in 1991 and from there earned early promotion to Executive Teacher, Assistant Principal and then Deputy Principal. Clayton’s first Principalship was at Mount Hunter, a small country school of 58 students. Further principal positions followed at Chipping Norton, Hinchinbrook and finally at Dalmeny Public School.

In 2019, Clayton left the school-based role to become a Principal (School Leadership) a position which centred on providing support and professional development to principals and school leadership teams. Earlier this year he was successful in being promoted into his current role of Director.

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Clayton was honoured to be elected by his peers to lead the Liverpool Primary Principals’ Association as President for three years from 2011 to 2014 and in 2016 he was awarded a full scholarship to study at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Clayton lives in south-western Sydney and his greatest love is spending time with his wife, Nikki, and five boys aged 6, 13, 16, 19 and 22. They entertain, enlighten, love and give… but most of all keep him very much grounded in reality.

Clayton Reedie: A Heart Shift Regarding Family Engagement

“We need a heart shift before a mind shift.” And that’s because when people connect with an idea, emotionally, they’re moved to action. There’s no amount of numbers or logic that can change what somebody thinks, but if they can put themselves in somebody else’s shoes, just for a moment, maybe just maybe they’ll have an epiphany and want to do what is right.

Clayton Reedie

Show Highlights

  • The original Ruckus Maker’s framework to open doors of trust that turns challenging parents into biggest supporters
  • Avoid being closed minded to life changing opportunities
  • Heart shifts are needed instead of mind shifts in the school of life.
  • Only 12.5% of people are capable of change without these supports
  • 90% of complaints come because of these two factors
  • The pitfalls of quoting policy to your learning community
  • How to share data, warts and all with parents to create curriculum allies
Full Transcript Available Here

Daniel (00:03):

There’s an idea that my friend Clayton Reedie likes to share. He says, “we need a heart shift before a mind shift.” And that’s because when people connect with an idea, emotionally, they’re moved to action. There’s no amount of numbers or logic that can change what somebody thinks, but if they can put themselves in somebody else’s shoes, just for a moment, maybe just maybe they’ll have an epiphany and want to do what is right. Flying from Sydney, Australia to Boston, Massachusetts, my friend Clayton had a heart shift and it was regarding family engagement, which ultimately transformed his school and the school’s relationship with parents. We’ll start with this story at the beginning of the conversation. Actually Clayton and I take a trip down memory lane for a few minutes before discussing family engagement, but that is the main point of today’s conversation. Hey, it’s Daniel and welcome to the better leaders, better schools, podcast, a show for Ruckus Makers, those out of the box leaders making change happen in education. We’ll be right back after these messages from our show sponsors,

Daniel (01:26):

The better Better schools podcast is brought to you by Organized Binder, which increases student active engagement and participation and reduces classroom management issues. Learn [email protected]

Daniel (01:40):

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Teach Fx. It’s basically like a Fitbit for teachers helping them be mindful of teacher talk versus student talk, get a special 20% discount for your school or district by visiting teachfx.com/blbs. Isolation is the number one enemy of excellence in isolation is also a choice. There’s a better way. In fact, here’s what Michelle, a school leader in Maryland, has to say about The Mastermind. The best part of The Mastermind is a supportive community school leadership can be isolating, but knowing I have a team of other school leaders with whom to share ideas, struggles and wins gives me the courage and resolve to do what’s best for my school community. Get connected in level up your leadership by applying to The Mastermind today at better leaders, better schools.com/mastermind

Clayton (02:41):

Clayton, Welcome to the show. Good day, Danny, it’s great to be here. Nice to see you again and nice to continue the professional relationship that we started so long ago. I think I was one of the first people that signed up for Mastermind. Isn’t that right? So I’m glad I’m still a part of the family.

Daniel (03:00):

All I owe you a shout when we hang out next for just the relationship and Mastermind hanging out together, like you said early in The Mastermind, you were literally the first person to ever reach out when I Launched this podcast. It has to do with the 10 phrases of Effective School leaders. If you’re a member and you use that with your leadership team. I’m trying to go back and clean. You were episode 11 that released October 28th, 2015, all the way back then.

Clayton (03:36):

Well, I was hoping that you wouldn’t remind people of that because I don’t want people going back and listening to it again, occasionally I’ll have a listen to it and I’ll just cringe. I’ve got to say, Danny, when I’m chatting to all of you people from North America that I get a little self conscious of the accent. I think that diet was worse than ever because I was a little bit nervous about it, but I certainly remember the 10 questions. I remember that I developed a question sheet from a leadership team and I played them. It was only a small snippet that was on better, leaders, better schools. I think the whole thing went for about five minutes and I got them to reflect on the questions. How often have you asked these, how often do you hear these? It was a conversation starter for us and it was nice for them to hear a different voice other than listening to me all the time. Yeah, it was great and I think I did that and then sent your name up and introduced myself. I was probably the first person from this part of the world to reach out

Daniel (04:37):

The first person period. In the world

Clayton (04:41):

There you go, isn’t it funny. It must be amazing to put some content on the internet, wondering if anybody’s actually going to read it or listen to it or pick it up and I was living proof that the answer was yes to all of those things, that it was a great opportunity to be a part of that. To use it and to share that with you, which was fantastic,

Daniel (05:03):

Obviously very rewarding for me, but even better is that we struck up a genuine friendship and stayed in touch all these years. So that was pretty cool.

Clayton (05:15):

We did in the first time I came to Chicago was 2016, about 12 months after that and an opportunity to do two very Chicago things we went and saw the White Sox play, not the Cubs. You were very keen to make sure you took me to the right ballpark and then we went for the deep dish pizza the next day or the day after that. So it was fantastic to meet you. I’m so proud to be a part of that and so proud that our relationship continues to grow and that I’m a part of this as well. To see how far you’ve come in your personal and professional journey is something that gives me great pleasure.

Daniel (05:55):

Thank you. We’re going to start giving some value. I think people enjoy hearing how positive our relationship is, but we definitely need to deliver some value to them through the conversation. So we’re going to move to that, but I want to speak on cringe-worthy recordings, even if people want to go back to episode 11, I don’t think they could right now, because in iTunes you can only have 250 episodes, right? So you might have it on your phone because you subscribe but if you’re new to this show, I don’t think you could even go back that far. The good news is that I’m archiving all of what I call season one, the first 250 episodes. I’m going to release that as a new podcast because some people haven’t heard those old episodes and there still is value there. I’ll let

Daniel (06:42):

Folks know how to get to that, but also cringe-worthy that effective school leaders, although the content, the ideas are good when I go back and listen to like, me on the mic and now I’m so much more relaxed and confident, I hear that and I’m like, Oh man, what are you doing there?

Clayton (07:01):

I don’t know. Yeah, I am always exactly the same. One of the things when I had the chance to study in the States, and I know that we’ll, we’ll touch on that a little bit through this conversation. I remember one of the quotes that I picked up was one of the professors said, and this was about education, but it equally applies to any aspect of your lives. I’m sure he said, you do the best job you can at the time and when you know better, you do better. It’s a bit of a mantra for continual improvements. Hopefully tonight’s a little better than that rusty one from five years ago,

Daniel (07:34):

It already is. And now you’ve launched us into it with that quote so let me set you up to talk about that experience in the US. I know you’ve done some interesting things in regards to family engagement and you ‘re a part of a Harvard Program that really was the catalyst for that. I want people to visualize Clayton flying miles and miles, hours, and hours from Australia to the United States, reading the prep material. You see that family engagement is an early session in this program and you think maybe I should skip this one.

Clayton (08:16):

That’s right.

Daniel (08:17):

So, Clayton tell the Ruckus Maker listening. Why was that your initial response and why were you glad that you actually attended the family engagement session?

Clayton (08:26):

It was my initial response because I’d had a run of very difficult scenarios to manage at school that involved parents, complaining parents, always questioning teachers, excuse making and there was some aggression in there. There were some parents that just appeared to be flat out a few kangaroos short and the top paddock. The opportunity, it was a full scholarship that I won, which was life-changing. I had the chance to go over Harvard at Boston there and to study with about 250 other principals from pretty much around the world. The majority of them were from the US as you would expect. It was an opportunity to go over and engage, but it was also an opportunity to reflect on where I wanted to be in my career and in my professional life and dealing with parents was not one of them at that point in time because of the run of very difficult situations that I needed to manage.

Clayton (09:28):

I needed the break. So it came at a perfect time.The last thing that I wanted at that time was to be told how I should be more accommodating to parents when I was ready to lock the school gates and keep them out. I read the material, as you said, it’s a long flight. The first part of that flight was from Sydney to Dallas. I think it was and I charged there to go on to Boston and Sydney to Dallas, like if it was about 15 hours, so it was an opportunity to catch up on that pre-course reading that we needed to do. I did consider skipping that, that’s how deep the wounds were. We’re counting at that point in time, I think as principals or school leaders, we go through that often thinking, gee, I wish it was like, it was back in the seventies where the only time parents came to the school was for P and C meetings, which is where the formal meetings where parents come up or for parent teacher reviews, or when reports go out and that’s about it.

Clayton (10:22):

And as I said, I contemplated going into Queensland markets or going over to see the Red Sox or something like that, that held a lot more appeal than hearing a person preaching me on why the way that I was feeling was wrong, at that point in time. I sort of thought to myself, look, sponsors have paid a lot of money to fly me halfway around to do this. I owed it to them and effectively, I owed it to myself and my school community to make sure that I engaged in all of it with an open mind. I’m so glad that I did. The professor who took that workshop and it was about a half day workshop was professor Karen Mapp. And she’s well known in the United States.

Clayton (11:07):

And she’s actually come out to Australia a couple of times, not to Sydney. Unfortunately, she’s been to Melbourne a couple of times where she shared her research and her research was based around the fact that there were a lot of schools who had done everything that all research had said should work with kids that should get them moving and improving in terms of curriculum and in terms of resourcing and funding and professional development and instructional collaboration and feedback. All of the stuff that should be making a difference, but it wasn’t for a lot of these kids. When she looked and when she compared schools and organizations and the success or otherwise that they were having, she found that the missing piece of the puzzle for a lot of the schools was the deep, respectful relationship with families and her work has been published.

Clayton (11:56):

It’s called a Dual Capacity Building framework for family school partnerships. It’s actually a PDF that’s readily available. So I’ll send it to you. I’ll send you the link so that you can put it in the show notes for anybody who’s interested. It talked about how, unless we build those really deep professional, engaging, trusting partnerships with parents until we get to know them, their families, and what makes their family culture tick and what makes their children tick. We can never really, again, the academic and wellbeing success with these little ones that we want to achieve. It was life changing for me. It was one of those ones where I went from not wanting to go at all to thinking, I am so glad that I walked in and I sat down with an open mind. It taught me an enormous amount that I could share with colleagues that I could take back to my school and that we could implement. We had great results with what we were doing.

Daniel\ (12:54):

Talk about how heart shifts are needed instead of mind shifts. So can you rif a little bit on what you mean by that.

Clayton (13:02):

Yeah, absolutely. This also comes back to that study at Harvard and so much of it too, is just the school of life just through making mistakes and getting to know myself better and getting to know others better. But in 2016 at Harvard, one of the other workshops was run by Debra Helsing. She posed the question, why is change so difficult even if we are genuinely committed to it. And she quoted a study, which was done through doctors and it’s often quoted, but it was where people were told by their doctors. If you do not change an aspect of your behavior, you will die. Black and white. So we’re talking chronic obesity, people who were smoking diabetes due to diet or alcoholism and even when presented with this ultimate motivator of life of death, only 12.5 Percent of people could change without support, 12.5 Percent.

Clayton (13:56):

Even when presented with that line in the sand and in their mind, they knew they needed to change. It wasn’t their thinking that needed to shift. It was their heart. It’s at the emotional level, not at the rational level. And I’ve recently read a book by Mark Manson called a book about hope. Unfortunately, Danny has got too many F words in it to be considered for Mastermind. Some of you listeners might also know that he wrote the book called, The Subtle Art of not giving up, not giving an F. And he describes that we’re in a constant tug of war between the emotional brain and the rational brain where traditional thinking was that our rational brain was responsible for our behavior, that this part of our brain set us on a true cause. Occasionally our emotions try to knock us off kilter and drag us this way or that because it was fun or exciting or whatever.

Clayton (14:44):

Manson, states that this is actually completely backwards. That in fact, it’s our emotional brain that runs our lives. It’s all about having fun, getting loved dopamine hits and emotional satisfaction and our rational brain is actually trying to keep us on the straight arrow, but the best I can do is put bumpers up and down each side of the highway, I guess, with enough warning lights and street signs to heard our emotional brain in the right direction. I guess the trouble is though is that the rational brain wants to think it’s in charge. So if it can’t stop the emotional brain from making us behave in a certain often self-centered or dangerous way, it makes excuses, uh, to fool us into believing that it’s really the boss. I think I said this to you before that the perfect example is the person who has an affair and cheats on his or her spouse in every way the husband knows this is wrong.

Clayton (15:32):

So when the emotional brain takes the husband into the arms of another person, the rational brain still wants to give the impression it’s in charge. So it justifies the behavior with thoughts, such as I tried to talk to my wife about how I felt, but you wouldn’t listen. So it’s hurtful, or by being with the other person, I’m more satisfied and happy in life, which actually makes me a better husband and father when I’m home, which of course is rubbish. I’m told that alcoholics go through this battle every day. They know the only safe drink is the one left in the bottle. So when the emotional brain unscrews the lid of the whisky, the rational brain kicks in with justifying thoughts, such as,t’s been a stressful day. One drink will help me settle the nerves, and then I’ll be in a better place to give up.

Clayton (16:18):

So I guess, relating this back to your question about the heart shift, instead of the mind shift, knowing it makes rational sense to do something or change something or complete something why, and actually get us there. We have to want it in our hearts, in our emotional brain, before we have any chance of that being embedded in our behaviors. There’s not a teacher in our schools who doesn’t want the best for our kids or, or at least they shouldn’t be. And it’s frustrating when you see them behave in a way that holds kids back, , outdated teaching modes or behavior discipline systems from the seventies, or continually continually blaming parents or the system or the previous teacher, or the child, him or her, him, or herself, instead of altering the practice to meet the need, even when they know what they’re doing is working. We don’t necessarily need to change their mind. They know what they’re doing, isn’t working. We need to change their heart to have any bias from the emotional brain before anything will change. We need the heart shift more than we need the mind shift. Otherwise we will continue to make the same mistakes and we will continue down the path, doing what we’ve always done with our rational brain, making excuses for it, or hyper or hypo. Explain that well enough.

Daniel (17:33):

Yeah, no, I think it’s good. I talk about it a lot on the, on the show. That’s why I assert that stories, images, experiences that touch Ruckus Makers are more important than the logic, the numbers, the spreadsheets, because to your point, unless they feel it most they empathize unless they understand there’s no amount of logic and numbers that can make you move.

Clayton (18:06):

That’s so true. We talk about triangulating data all of the time, and it’s why we need to look at the stories as well as the stats. In my current role as the director, which is the equivalent of a superintendent in the States, a lot of my work is talking to principals and schools around the data sets that are showing and, and, and how do we interpret those. And, and one thing that I never ever forget, and I say this to my principals as well, is that every dot on that graph represents a real life living and breathing little human being. Who’s got his or her own stories and our backgrounds and our own culture and our heritage, and I believe systems and a mom and a dad who are doing the best, they can desperately wanting their little person to grow into the best person that they can be. And you’re so right in what you’re signing that, , the stats, the data, yes. They tell a story, but they do not tell the whole story we need to, we need to understand, and we need to appeal to the emotional. We need to want to stay in what’s going on in the beating heart, just as much as to thinking Brian’s that makes sense.

Speaker 3 (19:15):

Yeah. Yeah. Clean. What was the traditional approach your, your school used to have to family engagement and how did that transform?

Clayton (19:25):

Yeah, sure. Look, look coming out of that. I, I came back and I guess I had the, I was all excited about this new method of engaging families to, , to get out our educations better for the, for the little people in our school. When I had a look and reflected on the work that we were doing with our partnerships with our parents, it was often superficial. We talk collaborative programs, but we really did keep parents at arms length. We only contacted them when something went wrong, or if we needed a signature on a document or something. And, and this program was all about opening new doors of trust and understanding. It was deeply ingrained in curriculum. The bottom line was it was an academic curriculum focused program, but the why that it improved reading and writing and mathematics outcomes for kids was by engaging the parents at that emotional level.

Clayton (20:14):

And we did that a couple of ways. We did that. We did that by sharing data sets. The schools and teachers have access to a range of data sets that they, that they almost hide from parents. If that makes sense. And I don’t mean that they lie to parents or they do anything unethical, but what we write on reports and what we say at interviews is often is often a glossed over, or it’s presented in such a way as that. We think that the parents will be able to manage that data. We started by looking at writing and we looked at all different aspects of writing. So spelling, grammar, punctuation, paragraphs, all of those different things that make up good writers. We ran our kids through some specialized assessments and we shared that data.

Clayton (21:04):

We shared that data with parents. That was part of the first thing that we did. We shared it with them warts and all. And that was scary for teachers because there were some aspects of writing where they had kids in year five that say spelling or paragraphing, their students might’ve been at a year, one level, and we would normally dress that data up. And we would present it to parents as areas for future focus and things like that. We actually say to these parents, look, we know that your child is in year five, but in this aspect of the writing or the in year two. And that was scary for teachers because they were worried about parents saying, hang on a sec here. You’ve had my kid for six years, and this is all you’ve done with them. What are you doing?

Clayton (21:50):

Why are you even getting paid? But no, it was the total opposite. We actually had parents who were delighted and thankful that we shared that deep level of data about their children, because I’m supporting that data we’re plans to improve. Part of building that trust with our parents was to engage in home visits, which of course was completely voluntary. But we had our teachers who went with buddies and as I said, it was voluntary. The teachers needed to volunteer and the parents needed to invite them into the homes,which my leadership team, and I coordinate it. But we went into the homes because it was comfortable for the family. So downloading public school, which was the school that I was principal at the time it had about 75% non English speaking backgrounds. Sydney is a very, very multi cultural city.

Clayton (22:39):

And our particular part of Sydney in Southwestern Sydney was, was extremely multicultural. Not as much as some, but certainly the school and the organization of coming into school was very daunting for some of our parents. We were invited into the homes where we shared some of these data. We shared some of this data and invited the parents to come up and I shared their stories. And, and those who couldn’t speak English had often had family members to translate one of the things too, if I ever recommend this was never be on a diet if you’re going into this program, because every household we went into, we got fed. Those families who showed love and respect through food. That’s right. So I think across a two week period, I probably put on about 10 kilograms in weight and still trying to get it back off five years later, but it was comfortable.

Clayton (23:30):

It meant so much to those families that they had a group of educators that were saying to them, your child means so much to us. We got some fantastic results out of it. We actually did the, I can’t remember the actual figures on it, but my deputy principal at the time had done some work with John Hattie he’s working in the university of Melbourne.

Clayton (24:15):

I think he’s still might be there, or he’s at UCLA that lives in Australia. And and we actually shared this program with him and attract the growth of the kids across the time that we did this. And I remember too that we just found so much out about our children and it meant so much to those families. We have a support unit, at Dalmeny I still talk about it like, it’s my school. Although I haven’t been there for a year and a half now. We had a support unit that had some high needs kids, we had a little guy who couldn’t speak, the parents didn’t speak English. He came to the support, I guess he was a year one or year two, non English speaking parents and he never spoke. He couldn’t speak and we didn’t realize at the time we just thought that he was mute that a part of his disability was that he could indicate.

Clayton (25:07):

When we actually spoke to the mom through her brother who was interpreting for her, we actually found that when he was little, when he was a toddler, part of his disability would manifest itself in behavior where he would run and he would climb. When they had their back turned, he ran into their garage, climbed up on the bonnet of their car and pulled over a container that had caustic soda in it. The little guy actually ate the caustic soda and it burnt his vocal chords to the point where he couldn’t communicate anymore. Watching this mom recall her story about her little boy as tears fell down, her cheeks changed us and changed me forever. It altered the way that we thought about curriculum and parents. I do reflect on the fact that when I was flying from Sydney to Boston, if I had gone with my initial instinct, which was, I really don’t want to be lectured about involving parents in education, I want it to lock the gate at the time. My mind would still be closed to that. I needed the heart shift as much as the mind shift. And I’m so glad that I got it.

Daniel (26:24):

Wow. Well, thank you for sharing that powerful story and how having that hardship shift can help us be open to the message that we need to hear. Speaking to the messages that we need to hear. Let’s pause here just for a moment, for a message from our sponsor. When we come back, I want to ask how you got 30 or 43 classroom teachers to opt in to these voluntary home visits, better leaders, better schools is probably sponsored by organized binder or program, which gives students daily exposure to goal setting, reflective learning time and task management, study strategies, organizational skills, and more organized binders color coded system is implemented by the teacher with the students, helping them create a predictable independable classroom routine, learn more and improve your students’ executive functioning and noncognitive skills and organized binder.com. Better leaders, better schools is brought to you by teachers using teach FX to increase student engagement online and in the classroom during an ongoing pandemic.

Teach Fx Team (27:31):

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Daniel (28:09):

Alright, and we’re back with an incredible Ruckus Maker, my friend, Clayton Reedie, first person ever to reach out about the better leaders, better schools podcasts. Here we are five years later. So you just shared a really impactful story about what you learned going out on these home visits and what you learned by increasing the family engagement at your school. The home visits were voluntary yet 70% of your staff, 30 of 43 classroom teachers said, You know what? I’m in. Count on me. I’m going to go, how did you build that kind of enrollment into a voluntary program?

Clayton (29:11):

Yeah, sure. Look, I was very lucky to have a staff that would often give anything a go. They were open to new ideas and many of them would jump on board regardless of what it was. Reflecting on this question, I guess, part of that culture that we built together, it began long before I stood in front of the staff and told them about this crazy scheme. If you think about it, we’re going to assess kids and share the bare bones warts and all with parents that may or may not make us look fantastic or look terrible.

Clayton (29:42):

We’re going to Shakara trust parents to work alongside us, to address the learning. These are their kids and we’re actually going to do this from the comfort of their living room, not the safety that exists on our turf within the school guy. So when you think about it, but it was a pretty hard sell in some ways. It sounds a bit, sounds a bit nuts. I remember talking to some colleagues about it and 99 out of every a hundred principals will tell you that we’re never going to pull it off, but we stuck with it. We had some hurdles that we needed to overcome as well. I needed to make sure that our workplace health and safety that legal and industrial relations had signed off on it. At one stage there, the teachers union tried to shut us down, but when they realized that it was voluntary, they sort of found that a little bit difficult.

Clayton (30:29):

I like to believe, still like to believe I have a great working relationship with our union and took the time to talk them through it as well. I don’t think they were real convinced, but anyway, it is what it is and we pulled it off. But leading up to that, I build a relationship with my teachers where I valued them as educators or supported them. They trusted my leadership as a result and I had a wonderful deputy principal who managed a lot of the heavy lifting for me and other leaders who set a standard and had a go, we had enough takers in that first year to run a pilot. In fact, when I was running the pilot, I had so many who wanted to volunteer to be a part of that initial pilot, I was sort of thinking, we’re a kindergarten to year six school.

Clayton (31:11):

If I had one from every grade, if I had seven teachers being involved, I would have been happy because that would be enough to give it a go and to build some success around it. But as I said, we ran the pilot word spread within the staff and also the parents and that was funny too, because it was very, very different for anybody to be doing this at a school in a mainstream. Schooling in downtown Sydney was extremely different and we had a few parents who said, why do you want to come into our house? Have we done something wrong? Are you going to drop us into family and community services for something? Has our child told you something? And it was this is what it’s about. As we did this, and as we built these high visits and trust started to grow, it took off from there.

Clayton (31:59):

I remember the first time the few years that we did this program, where the noise in the staff room as teachers because we sent them out and for obvious reasons, when they returned from the home visits, the noise in the staffroom, the bars, excited, happy people who took the first steps to revolutionizing the way that we worked with parents, it took our partnership to a new level and it was genuinely exciting for our teachers to be involved in. It was genuine celebration of what we were achieving and real synergy in terms of what we were doing. Part of it too, was we had parents come in and once we built these open doors, we had a lot of parents who came in and they were involved in instructional collaboration.

Clayton (32:48):

I’ve still got photos of groups of teachers sitting in circles, groups of five or six teachers are parents, I’m sorry, sitting in circles with a teacher meeting in groups to discuss the progress of their kids in a warm, inviting, safe place with parents saying, yes, my daughter was struggling with that concept and I tried this and it worked. Would you like me to give you a copy of what we’ve done because it might help you, too. And parents who’d never spoken to each other or coming in sharing that success just as we want teachers to do, when they’re reflecting on their own lessons and building the capacity of themselves with their teacher colleagues, we had parents doing this as well. Genuinely exciting practice and looking back at the way that we

Clayton (33:31):

Engaged in or didn’t engage parents. So at that superficial level, before this happened, it was a completely different way of doing business. A lot of those parents who were traditionally and I’ll use this term advisedly causing us trouble, we’re often, they’re now our greatest supporters. So the spinoffs in terms of student attendance and in terms of complaints, in terms of behavior,and world blank practices, it just had a flow on effect to so much. The thing that was hardest for me through all of this, and I do need to tell it warts and all, the thing that was hardest for me with this was just as the program was really beginning to be embedded. So we’re in its third year of practice and I decided to up and leave. I left the principalship and went into a principal support role called the principal school leadership.

Clayton (34:26):

And that was fantastic in a lot of ways, but it meant saying goodbye to being a school based principal. I was based at a district office and I went into the schools and I worked with principals and provided professional development for them and their leadership teams and support and coaching and mentoring to them. And in that transition between myself and a new principal, the program started to fall down a little bit and the new principal came in and she decided that she wanted to take the school in a different direction and good luck to her for doing that. That’s what she’s paid to do. And as a result, it was one of those programs that was fantastic but clearly needed more time to becoming better. Needed more time before it was that hot shift that they often say that it takes four or five years, sometimes seven years for something to be embedded in school, but it takes that long to get that change. But whilst that disappoints me a little, I also have great respect for the new leadership of the school and the direction that they wanted to take. These habits, we all leave schools, leaders come in and take the school in a different direction. That’s what they get paid to do. And I really respect and I value that, but I also know, too that for the teachers who are involved, you quoted the 30 out of 43 classes. So we’re actually a lot more teachers than that because we had a lot of support teachers who were involved that acted as body sector and actually did the home visit.

Clayton (35:52):

When we look at a staff about as big as we had that, we’re probably 50 or 55 teachers involved in the program overall, which was wonderful. I look back on it and I say that if being involved in that program took their understanding and took their knowledge of engaging parents to a different level then that won’t be lost.The commitment to involving parents won’t be lost and that those opportunities to listen and to understand, to share what we’re doing with parents and to have them as genuine partners in the education of their children that will remind. And that’s something that I’m really proud of.

Daniel (36:33):

So Clayton, as we wrap things up here, what message would you put on all school marquees across the globe, if you could do so for just a day?

Clayton (36:49):

Two rules, number one, it’s all about people. And number two, when you think it’s not about people. See rule number one. I love it. It’s all about people, but the new three R’s relationships, relationships, relationships are the reason I’ve learned that people want, that people need to be valued, respected, listened, to appreciate it love to be understood. As leaders, we need to value respect, listen, appreciate love and empathize so that people are feeling this. If we don’t do this at best, we’ll never be effective, but at worst, we’ll see people react and behave in ways similar to what you’re seeing in your country as we speak. And I, Danny certainly made no judgment or disrespect towards America in those comments, wonderful friends from all four corners of the US and I loved them enormously, including yourself. Australia’s had its own issues, of course, with the manner in which we’ve treated our Aboriginal people from the time of British settlement, right through to generations of elected Australia governments.

Clayton (37:49):

And whilst we have many, many people who are fighting the good fight until our indigenous cousins feel respected and valued and listened to, it’s gotta be a hard road. In my current role, I deal with high level formal complaints from teachers and parents towards school. So 90% of those complaints boil down to the fact that the complainant hasn’t felt listened to or respected. I remember once a principal came to me, I had to ask her an issue that her community had with supervision. It was something as simple as the way the students were leaving the school and she came to me with not with an open mind. She came for no other reason but to hear me say that she was right. I remember her saying the department’s policy says I’m correct, doesn’t it? I’m following policy aren’t I and I remember saying, yes, it does, but it goes deeper than that. Your community doesn’t care what policy says they want to be heard and understood because in the court of public opinion, in the hearts and minds of your parents, you’re never gonna win by quoting policy to them.

Clayton (38:48):

I guess it’s not about rolling over and giving in because some people’s concept of fairness is if I don’t get my way, it’s not fair. Of course, that’s not okay and looking data I often find in favor of schools and principals. In many of the complaints are managed, but it’ll never be because the complainant hasn’t been listened to or valued and at least that’s my goal. I’ve said before, probably to you, Danny, that the role of the principal is a paradox where we’re put in positions to lead, but we should never forget that we’re in positions of service and taking time to listen, to understand, to know what’s happening in people’s minds, in their heart. It’s about intimacy, which really means intimacy, and the parent had constantly compliance that the teacher’s not catering for their kid with a disability that might be what they’re saying, but we need to be hearing that they’re often still grieving for the health of the child they never had. And they’re scared to death of what the future has installed for him or her. The teacher who complains that the supervisor is too demanding often wants to be in charge, but they’re scared they can’t cut it in this modern world. The parents who are sick of the school, calling about their misbehaving child fears they fear the system can’t see the good in their son or daughter or the call reminds them of when they went to school, I’ve really struggled to fit in. This stuff really hurts. It cuts to the bone at the most basic human level. I’ve had times where I’ve jumped to conclusions and I’ve judged. And when I realized I do this, I genuinely apologize and attempt to reset the relationship compass.

Clayton (40:17):

I listening and try my hardest to understand. I often say, God gives me a lesson in humility when he knows I need it. And it still happens to this day and no doubt it will until the day I die. 30 years ago when I was a beginning teacher, my wonderful first principal said to me Clayton, everybody is worthy of dignity and respect, and I’ve never forgotten this and I try and make it a mantra in everything that I do. So what should be on the flag pole of every school in every country of the world is it’s all about people. We’re in the personnel industry and until we changed the hearts. We’ll never change the minds.

Daniel (40:52):

Well, Clayton, thank you so much for being a part of the better leaders, better schools, podcast. I will tell the Ruckus Maker listening, go back to episode 11, which will be available. Once we release the archive of season one, episodes 1-250 they can hear how you’d build your dream school. Of all the things we’ve talked about today. What’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember. 

Clayton (41:19):

Don’t be too hard on yourself is the first thing. We make mistakes, but it’s important that we learn from mistakes and that we move on. It’s an oldie, but a goodie that people don’t care what you know until they know your care. It’s important that we touchbase that we understand the stories behind the stats and that we see parents are doing the best job that they can. And then we support our teachers to do the best job that they can so that we can build the citizens of tomorrow. That’s kind of bringing our world together. I know that sounds all very altruistic, but we’re playing with high stakes. We have a saying in Australia that, we’re playing for sheep stations here, which means it’s a high stakes bet. It is because the future of our world depends on the work that we do today.

Daniel (42:09):

Thanks for listening to the better leaders, better schools podcast for Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel F better leaders, better schools.com or hit me up on Twitter at @alien earbud. If the better leaders better schools, podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode, extra credit for tagging me on Twitter at alien earbud and using the hashtag #BLBS level up your leadership at better leaders, better schools.com and talk to you next time until then class.




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