Dr. Charles Warfield has served the Haddon Township School District since 2002, where he has simultaneously been the principal of Stoy Elementary School and Jennings Elementary School.
Prior to his tenure in Haddon Twp., Chuck spent three years in the Cherry Hill School District as an Assistant Principal at Carusi Middle School. He also taught elementary school in the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School District before becoming an administrator.
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Do You Have A Safe Space to Unpack Tough Career Decisions?
If your superintendent walked in right now to your office and said, you know what, you get a raise because you’re listening to the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast. Now, I’m just joking. I wish that were true. I can’t say leaders that we do support formally in a Mastermind have seen promotions and the money will follow. But what I really wanted you to think about is if your superintendent walked into your office today and said, “I know you love this school, Ruckus Maker, but we’re moving you to the elementary school or the middle school, or the high school in the district?” How would you feel? How would you respond? Would you be excited? Would you be a little bit fearful, anxious? Who knows? But who do you have in your corner that you could unpack, what do I do now? Or how do I talk about this with my superintendent? Maybe I don’t want to move. Anyways, today’s guest and Chuck was on the show last week as well. And if you didn’t listen to that show, go back and listen. He serves two different campuses, and he has some interesting lessons to share about how to serve those distinct different campuses. And still do a great job. Well, today we’re here to talk about Chuck’s Mastermind experience. And one of the things that we helped him through is the situation, the scenario that I unpacked or introduced, I should say in this introduction. The idea that a superintendent can do this and say, we’re moving you, but maybe you don’t wanna move and you have a lot of questions and you’re not sure how it’s gonna go.
And so he needed a safe space. We’re trusted advisors to process this, and we helped him through it. We helped him through a number of things. And so you can hear Chuck’s candid description of what his Mastermind experience has been like. I think you’ll love this episode too, especially since you’ve been considering joining. Really, the world’s best professional development opportunity for school leaders? You can learn more at betterLeadersbetterschools.com/Mastermind. Hey, I’m Danny, chief Ruckus Maker at BLBS. This shows for you a Ruckus Maker, which means you invest in your continuous growth, you challenge the status quo, and you design the future of school now. We’ll be right back after some messages from our show sponsors.
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Hey, Ruckus Makers Danny here. I’m back with Dr. Chuck Warfield. We had an awesome conversation in the first podcast before going back to that. Chuck is in a really interesting position in that he serves as principal at two schools at the same time. He has figured out how to multiply himself, and be in two places at the same time. But there’s a lot of insights there and interesting things in terms of how he has identified different strengths connected with different parents. So you’ll wanna listen. Plus his dissertation was on distributed leadership, and we talked about that toward the end of the episode. Today we’re here to talk about the Mastermind. Chuck is a Ruckus Maker, and he’s been in our Mastermind community for years. And one of the things that I hear time and time again when I talk to somebody new and they’re about to join, they’re like, what is it? And often when I talk to veteran members, what they tell me is, “It’s kind of like, you just have to experience it.” Well, great, but that doesn’t provide clarity for people who might wanna dip their toe in and take their leadership to even greater heights. The purpose of today’s conversation is really to give you a concrete look into the Mastermind experience. I told Chuck to be candid, warts and all, what’s it like? Here we go. Chuck, welcome back to the second round of the BLBS podcast.
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Most people, it takes years to get their second episode for you.It literally took minutes. Tell me about life in leadership, I guess leadership specifically before you join the Mastermind.
Thanks again for having me back, Danny. Being a school leader is awesome. You’re working with young people, you’re working with educating people. You’re working with people that really care about kids. There are a lot of things that you have in common. But as the principal, the ultimate, as is saying goes, the buck stops here, like this is it. This is you’re the one who makes the final decision on many, many things. When you make decisions, not a hundred percent of the people agree necessarily. So making those decisions can be tough. And being a principal, in spite of the fact that you’re in a school full of people, being a principal can be lonely.
Got it. Just let me know if this resonates with you or not. It doesn’t with everyone, but was there like a low point or a rock bottom moment where you just realized, something has to change? If you did experience that, what was it? And if not, we’ll move on to another question.
I wouldn’t say I ever felt that. Earlier in my administrative career, I knew that as an AP as an assistant principal, I realized that I wanted to be a principal. I felt like it was something that I wanted to follow. It was a goal I wanted to achieve. But now I didn’t feel like I was rock bottom. I just knew that I needed a change.
Maybe a better question would be, what was one of the bigger challenges or struggles you had as a school leader?
I think growing into the position, like I as a principal, I had preconceived ideas of how I wanted the school to roll out, how I wanted the school to look, how I wanted the school to feel. And I had to get past the fact that it wasn’t just me that I needed to satisfy that really I was trying, I needed to take a step back and see how everyone felt and where we needed to go, that I was I needed to be a consensus builder and then take the school in that particular direction, which wasn’t necessarily the way I wanted it to be.
Got it. When you joined the Mastermind, you might’ve had a goal or a result you wanted to achieve. Do you remember if you had that? And if you did, why was it important to you?
I didn’t have a specific smart goal, like by the end of Where I want to be able to do that. But I wanted to tap into the expertise of others that were in the same situation. There are not a lot of principles in the country and to be able to sit and have a conversation on a regular basis with people who are doing the same job as me or similar was really important. If you don’t mind me, just going off slightly on a tangent here, I mentor new principals. It’s part of our mentorship. We get together, my colleagues who are also mentors. We each have one or two newer administrators, and we get together and we talk. And those conversations are great. We learn from each other. I learned from the other mentors, I also learned from the brand new principles. And I like to believe that the new principles learn from us and we share experiences, but it’s once a month. The new principles are only with us for a couple years, and then they move on. They get their permanent certification and are no longer required to be part of our group. But that group environment, to me, is so attractive cuz there’s so many ideas floating around there. And there’s so many things that are so many initiatives by the state, so many changes in the code, so many changes in the law or whatever else is coming out and to be able to talk around those things with other professionals is really important. I think that may have been a goal of mine to find that group where I can bounce ideas off of. I think that would have been my goal.
Having that group and being able to express what the hard parts are, the hard bits ,share vulnerablely what you don’t know or even when you’ve done something. It’s like, okay, now I need to clean up. And that people get it to support you. I think that’s important. I’ve got this really exciting idea I want to implement, here’s what I’ve got planned so far. And then gain great feedback from peers who also get it. So important.
How’d you find out about the Mastermind?
Actually, the leader of one of the groups was my kids’ principal. We were talking about it. He reached out to me and said, you’d be perfect. You’d be a great member of our group. And from there it took off. It’s like that sounds great. I jumped in with both feet.
So you jumped in with both feet. Did you have a fear or reservation about joining?
Actually, no. not at all. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t. It was like, this is great. The only hesitation that I had was confidentiality because some of the members of our group, not everyone, but a couple of us are local. I just wanted to make sure that that was something that was important to everyone. And that was a norm. One of the rules is that what we talk about in Mastermind needs to stay in.
It’s just like Vegas. You said you jumped in with both feet. Everybody’s different and that’s why I love asking these similar questions. Because I think it resonates with a Ruckus Maker who wants to join the community. There’s people ready to go. There’s people who are like, ah, what about their time commitment? Or there’s the confidentiality piece, or there’s a financial cost. So there’s different reasons. People might have some reservations. When you first started using the Mastermind, do you remember what that was like?
When I think back I remember I was actually nervous. I was super excited and like, this is gonna be awesome. But when that first time came around the first couple weeks, I was nervous. What was going on? I was nervous. I guess because I wasn’t sure what to expect, even though I read all that was on the website, your book and everything. I saw to be vulnerable because you are putting yourself out there a little bit. At first, and then, and now it’s like you’re putting yourself out there and asking your colleagues to hold up the mirror, help you look at yourself.
But, initially it’s a little uncomfortable. Just am I, do I sound stupid? Do I sound like I don’t know what I’m talking about? Am I as bright as the people in the room here?For me, I’m not saying that everybody feels that way. That’s kind of how I was like, all right, I think I fit in here, but let’s make sure that this is a nice match.
Did anything surprise you when you joined? Huh? I didn’t see that coming?
Yeah. Initially just how welcoming everyone was. When the group started I believe I was a founding member of the hopefuls. There were others. Like Jean, the leader was in a group. Yeah. And Kirk was in and out of the group. I was surprised at how cordial, how friendly, how open everybody was. It was right from the bat right. From day one. It was just a really comfortable experience.
Good. And that’s what we want. In the book, I talk about the ABCs of powerful professional development. Yep. Which is like a trademark proprietary way we set up the Mastermind and that b is belonging. We wanna be a very inclusive, welcoming space because where else do school leaders have that? We wanna be the best. I’m glad you experienced it that way. How about like, the hardest part, was there a hardest part of using or participating in the Mastermind lately?
To be honest, keeping up with the reading. I have gotten it sometimes, and it has happened a couple times in my experience. I sit down and I wanna read, but my family life gets in the way. Professional life sometimes gets in the way. I need to get caught up. So it ebbs and flows. Sometimes I’m ahead because I know that there will be a time when I get behind. So that was probably the most challenging for me. The time commitment sometimes can get in the way because I have children and they have other things that need to occur after school, like practices or games or whatever. Balancing that can be a little challenging too. But those are the two things I think that can be a little tricky. But invest the time in the program. I mean and invest in yourself then kind of step into that role. And you have to push through it.
You certainly get out what you put in. That’s for sure. The more you’re able to engage, the more you’ll see in your own professional life and leadership grow. You can’t make up for real life. There’s stuff that’s gonna happen with school and kids, and that’s okay. You’ll miss it here and the reading, just for context, for the listener or viewer of this video, we read one book every two months. And it depends somewhere shorter, somewhere a little bit lengthier. And so that’s probably why, Chuck, you’re saying it ebbs and flows. Maybe based on, and the thing is, like Tiny Habits is what we just read, that book is awesome, but it’s not technical, difficult to read, but it is dense. It’s a little bit long and then some places you’re like, okay, you could’ve gotten to the point quicker. But I will tell you that model for me. I’d love to know if you agree that was a paradigm shifter in terms of how people create habits, and then how I could help my teams. Influence, like what we wanna see them do. Was it good for you as well?
It was the same for me. Just that idea of like you said, that of working with a team. In small pieces and small bits with a larger goal in mind. It made sense to me.
I appreciate you sharing that. And one more note, this last thing I’ll say about reading. We don’t read books in education. Not because they’re bad or anything wrong with ’em. My assertion is that school leaders are already exposed to a lot of that material and are probably already reading that. And maybe the district’s banding it, or they’re just personally interested, which they should be. One of my goals is to expose people to books. They would just never pick up. And that’s what I hear feedback wise all the time. And I get a thank you because this one has changed everything for me. And I never would’ve gotten to that book. So just wanted to note that. All right. This question may sound weird, but Chuck, did you ever feel like you wanted to quit? And if you did, how did you overcome that feeling?
Some people say yes, some people say no.
Yeah. No, I never really got to the point where I felt like I needed to quit, or I wanted to quit. I love education. All I ever wanted to be was aside from a second basement, I wanted to play for Philadelphia. I wanted to be in education. That’s all I ever wanted to be. I never felt like that’s it. I’m done. I’m never coming back. There have been times where I felt overwhelmed. There have been anxious moments throughout my career.
Even this year but I never really felt like I wanna quit. It’s interesting though. I am considering what’s next. I’ve been here 20 years, I’ve been in education almost 30 years. It’s fun to consider what’s next on the horizon, but I never got to the point in any of my settings or situations where I felt like I wanted to quit.
Okay. Cool. Well, Chuck, we’re gonna pause here really quick for some messages from our sponsors and Ruckus Makers watching or listening, you’ll wanna stick around because guess what? We’re gonna talk about results. We’re in the Results business. I want to hear about some of those things that Chuck’s been able to achieve as part of being in the Mastermind. The Better Leaders, Better Schools Podcast is proudly sponsored by Harvard’s Certificate in School Management and Leadership. I know many Mastermind members and many Ruckus Makers who listen to this show that have gone through the program and have loved the experience. But don’t just take it from me. Let’s hear how some of the Harvard faculty describe the impact and their heart for this program. I want Ruckus Makers to remember that leaders have so much power in enabling other leaders and adults and students in their building. They are the levers. They are the levers that allow greatness to happen in all corners of their schools.
Learn more about the program and apply at Better Leaders, better schools.com/harvard. Hey, Ruckus Maker, Teach FX has been an incredible sponsor over the years, and they do great work helping educators be mindful and reflective about how they talk. And how much talk they have in a classroom impacts student learning. Now, don’t just take it from me that Teach FX is awesome, and it surely is, but check out what some real educators have to say about using Teach FX in the classroom. When you have the ability to see the question you asked and hear the responses, and it’s that immediate feedback right there from Teach FX. It allows for teachers to really dive into their instruction. What I love about Teach Fx, is it lets me see how myself and my students are interacting. Who’s doing all of the talking? Is it me or are they interacting with each other? It lets me see a snapshot of what’s happening in my classroom so that I can improve what I’m doing.
Today’s show is brought to you by organized Binder. Organized Binder develops the skills and habits all students need for success during these uncertain times of distance learning and hybrid education settings, organized binder equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning routines so that all students have an opportunity to succeed, whether at home or in the classroom. Learn [email protected]. And we’re back with Dr. Chuck Warfield. And Chuck what was the first big win you got in the Mastermind, or a moment you realized, oh this process is working for me?
Oh, geez. My first big win. I’d have to think back. Being in the hot seat was something that was probably the biggest and earliest thing. My first time in the hot seat just experiencing that was huge for me. Managing , my potential move was big. I’ve been in these two buildings for quite some time, and I was suggested by my superintendent to move schools. Okay. And the conversations I had with the folks in my Mastermind really helped me through that process and, and even though it never, it didn’t come to fruition, I wound up staying where I was, just that those conversations were huge for me. And things to think about, things to look at, things to consider as I was starting to move, make this change, and then when it fell apart they were there, to walk me through that piece as well.
So the advice and the conversations and knowing that someone was gonna be there on a regular weekly basis was really important for me.
Can we go a little deeper? Why is it important or how did it help? Because we’re talking to people right now that don’t have a Mastermind experience, so Yeah. Maybe even explain a bit in your view what the hot seat is, because I’ll talk about it all the time. How would you describe the hot seat? And then Yeah. Why was that helpful, or how did it help?
The hot seat is a time when you, as a member of a Mastermind group, can bring a problem or an issue to the group to help you work through, talk about and get ideas. Basically what it is you present the idea or you present the issue, rather members of your group ask questions. They ask questions, just clarifying questions of you. You can answer them. And then they ask questions to the group. Where you’re really not supposed to say anything And it’s, that’s difficult for me sometimes, but they kind of talk around you and throughout ideas, and they kind of walk through the problem a little deeper among themselves. And then you get a chance to interject a little bit and then explain the ideas that you think might be helpful or things that you’re gonna take away, ideas that you’ll take away from the conversation. For me facing the change that was really significant for me. We all love change, right. Except for what happens to you. So just that whole process, wrapping my head around it, there were some really good questions and I brought that to the hot seat more than once.
I brought that potential move to the hot seat on a number of occasions. And we got through, they, my colleagues in the Mastermind, really helped me frame it, come up with some ideas, understand my hesitation, my trepidation, what I was, and what assuring me that things were gonna be okay. All of that. I got all of that from the Mastermind. At the end when it turned out that I was not moving. Again, I brought that to the Mastermind. We talked about it and what’s the best way for me to respond and how do I help the new person that’s actually gonna come in. It was a really good conversation. Very helpful.
What do you think would’ve happened if you didn’t have the hopefuls? That’s the Mastermind cohort.
I don’t know. I would’ve sought out a conversation from somebody, but I don’t think that the depth of the conversation would’ve been there. I don’t think I would’ve been able to think it through like I did. I mean, being asked to present the problem and then just sit and listen to other folks talk about it, lets you kind of view it from a different perspective. Got it. Or listen to the issue with a different set of ears. It’s a really good process.
Yeah. Cool. Glad it works for you. We started this conversation. I asked you what life and leadership was like before the Mastermind. What’s it like now that you’ve been a member for years? What’s life and leadership like?
For, for me it’s, it’s knowing that I have colleagues to be there to help talk through anything. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this profession, that people from across the country are facing similar issues. I find that very, I find that fascinating that a principal in New Jersey is having the same issues as a director in Minnesota or an assistant principal in California. We’re all kind of struggling with the same issues slightly different because of the location, but really they’re pretty similar. So that’s fascinating. Hearing ideas and ways that people have addressed certain challenges is just so helpful for me. Again, knowing that I’m part of a greater community. I’m not alone.
Being able to bounce ideas off of other educational leaders is really important for me. And can you unpack that like I’m a fourth grader? Why is that important, that connection that we’re going through? Similar things or the ideas you get, why is that so important to you? Chuck, for me, so knowing that this isn’t just a crazy idea that I came up with, that other people have thought it through is important, or hearing from someone who tried something similar and hearing that it didn’t go so well and trying to find out why reasons, why things didn’t work the way that, that I thought they would work. What am I not seeing? What am I not thinking about? I haven’t thought about this through the lens of this group of people, or I haven’t thought about this issue through this lens.
You know, just lots of different perspectives. Help shape an idea, help shape an answer. And when you do anything alone it can be nerve-wracking, especially when what you decide affects a hundred, 200, 300, 500 people. Being able to have a conversation with someone from a completely neutral perspective is Right.
That’s the point. They don’t have a horse in the race, so to speak, because they’re not in that same building or system. They don’t have the same bias. They’re pro you. In your case pro Chuck, they want you to win, right. But because they had that detachment, they can give you really good feedback that you need to hear, you know? Thank you for highlighting that for me.
That’s great. I hope it resonates with the listener or somebody watching. A couple more questions then we’re done. What advice would you have for somebody who is in a similar situation prior to the Mastermind? What would you tell ’em if you’re thinking about joining a Mastermind?
Yeah. I mean, 100% I would definitely suggest it, recommend it just to the regular interaction that you have. I mean, we meet once a week and I look forward to those times. And you know, I’m disappointed when there have been times when I haven’t been able to join. It happens. I missed those meetings when I’m not a part of. It’s a great place to join and to get that feedback and that interaction and get those points of view from folks. And you get a chance to see how leadership is across the country. It’s something I would highly recommend. Awesome. How would you describe your Mastermind experience, Chuck, in either a word or a phrase? I’ve said it before, Danny. And I will still hold on to it I feel like a Mastermind. I found my people.
I love that. Found your people. Anything else you wanna share? That’s the last question.
No, just, Danny, thank you for all of us for pleasure with this whole Mastermind idea. I value my time spent in our meetings and every, all aspects of it. It’s important to me and I’m appreciative of the whole program. So thank you.
Thank you, Chuck. Ruckus Makers are changing the world. That’s it. Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders, better Schools podcast Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel, better leaders better schools.com or hit me up on Twitter at @Alienearbud. If the Better Leaders, better Schools Podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve 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 @alienearbud, and using the hashtag #BLBS. Level up your leadership at Better Leaders better schools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, “class dismissed.”
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