Dr. Amy Platt is delighted to be the Head of School at the Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School. Amy is passionate about excellent instruction and working with teachers to be the talented professionals they are destined to be. Amy holds a PhD and an MA from the University of Toronto. When Amy is not at work she can be found on long-distance bike rides, pondering the larger issues facing education.

Show Highlights

Innovative ideas to do with your leadership team in designing the future of your school.
Micro leadership tiered systems grow leaders to operate as a whole system.
Determining what is most valuable within the school day.
Avoid personal time that gets invaded to do this minutia of school.
RACI model of decision making provides clear and informed responsibility.
Solving a thorny problem with an experimental mindset is more manageable than solving a problem with a permanent mindset.
Dr Amy shares how the Principal Success Path was transformative for her organization, period.
“‘Many leaders are scared about developing people and then having them leave, they should be more worried about not developing people and having them stay.’ I originally became obsessed with this idea of developing people in leadership capacities in particular, and what that meant with respect to distributive leadership. I’ve tried all sorts of things over time. When I came into this role as head of school, it was me and then lots and lots of people under me. And I’ve thought really hard about how we created a tiered system.”
- Dr. Amy Platt

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Read the Transcript here.

Experimenting with Micro Administrator Roles

Daniel (00:02):
Usually I close the introduction with this, but today we’re gonna start with it. This show, The Better Leaders, Better Schools podcast is for Ruckus Makers, which means you invest in your continuous growth, you challenge the status quo, and you design the future of school right now. And today’s guest, one of my favorite school leaders in the world, Dr. Amy Platt. She’s making a ruckus and she is redesigning and rethinking what school administration could look like in building a team of administrators. So if you wanna do some innovative new stuff with your leadership team, you’re gonna love this episode. It definitely checks the boxes of challenging the status quo and designing the future of school. Right now at the end of the show, the very last question Amy invested in her at the time was one of her admin team to join a program that we have at Better Leaders, Better Schools called the Principal Success Path. And she really talks about how this individual grew as well as talking about her experience briefly in the Mastermind. Her Mastermind experience was for four years, so that wasn’t brief, but she talked about it briefly, and that checks the investing in your continuous growth box. Hey, it’s Danny. I’m a principal development and retention expert. I’m a bestselling author, and I host two of the world’s most downloaded podcasts. Thanks so much for listening. We’ll be right back with the main conversation after a few messages from our show sponsors.

Daniel (01:38):
As a principal, with so much to do, you might be thinking constantly, where do I even start? It’s a good question, and that’s why I created a 12 month principle checklist just for you. When you download it for free, you’re gonna get a 12 month checklist that identifies general tasks that every campus will wanna do each month, but the checklist also includes space where you can write campus specific items, and two opportunities to reflect, to reflect on what worked and what you wanna continue doing and what didn’t work, and what you wanna change or improve. When you take action on this checklist for a year, you will have built a leadership playbook for your school, and you won’t have to reinvent the wheel or feel like a first year principal all over again. Go to BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/principalchecklist to download for free right now.

Daniel (02:34):
Learn how to successfully navigate change, shape your school’s success, and lead your teams with Harvard Certificate in School Management and leadership. Get world class Harvard Faculty Research, specifically adapted for pre-K through 12 schools, self-paced online professional development that fits your schedule. Get started at BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/harvard. Even the most highly effective Ruckus Maker can’t be in all classrooms offering incredible feedback all the time. So what if teachers could gather their own feedback without relying on you, and not only their own feedback, but meaningful feedback that would improve their instruction? Well check out the Teach FX app by visiting tfx.com/betterleaders, and you could pilot their program today. Go to teach fx.com/betterleaders to see how, why do students struggle? I’d argue that they lack access to quality instruction, but think about it. That’s totally out of their control. What if there was something we could teach kids, then what if there was something within their control that would help them be successful in every class? And it’s not a magic pill or a figment of your imagination. When students internalize executive functioning skills, they succeed. Check out the new self-paced online course brought to you by our friends at Organized Binder that shows teachers how to equip their students with executive functioning skills. You can learn [email protected]/go.

Daniel (04:17):
Hey, Ruckus Makers, we are back with one of my favorites in the business, and this is Dr. Amy Platt. I got to meet her face to face and see her wonderful school that we’re gonna talk about in the beautiful Toronto. But if you don’t know Amy already, Dr. Amy Platt is delighted to be the head of school at the Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School. Amy is passionate about excellent instruction and working with teachers to be the talented professionals they are destined to be. Amy holds a PhD and a master’s from the University of Toronto. When Amy’s not at work, she could be following on long distance bike rides, pondering the larger issues facing education. Amy, welcome to the show.

Dr Amy (05:03):
Thanks, Danny. It’s so nice to be here with you again. I think this is like my third or fourth time. I love it.

Daniel (05:10):
I think it’s the third. So but you’ll be back again. So we’ve already talked about that, and this is an exciting bonus episode for the Ruckus Maker listening because Amy, you are doing some really innovative stuff thinking about administration in a different way. And so how are you making a ruckus with the idea of being a school admin?

Dr Amy (05:34):
I really don’t think of myself as a Ruckus Maker, but it’s nice to be among the great group of people that you see as Ruckus Makers. I’m just trying to take great ideas and stretch them as best I can to make the greatest impact on student learning and faculty culture. And maybe actually that’s what being a Ruckus Maker is. I don’t know. So I think what I’m doing and thinking about things sort of innovatively and differently is really just continuing to refine the ideas of distributive leadership that were presented to me over a decade ago when I first took my principal’s qualification courses in Ontario, in Ontario. And so over time, I’ve really thought about what it means to distribute leadership? Who do you distribute leadership to? How do you grow leaders? How do you build capacity in people? The first thought around that came to me from the book Lean In by Cheryl Sandberg, and she was quoting someone else, and I have this quote above my desk that I carried with me from my last office to this office. It’s like a little piece of paper tape to a cue card, and it says, many leaders are scared about developing people and then having them leave, they should be more worried about not developing people and having them stay. And so I think I originally became obsessed with this idea of developing people in leadership capacities in particular, and what that meant with respect to distributive leadership. And I’ve tried all sorts of things over time. When I came into this role as head of school, it was me and then like lots and lots of people under me. And I’ve thought really hard about how we created a tiered system.

Dr Amy (07:28):
We’ve created teams. I work in a private school, so we have an educational leadership team and a non-educational leadership team. Really, they’re the business team, the people who do on the really practical side, HR space finance, and then on the more innovative fund side, creative side, marketing, communications, fundraising. And I really thought about how to build those teams. And then in January of 2023, I was at a conference in Denver and I heard a head of school talk about how she had reorganized her administrative team and continued to put teachers into more administrative roles. And that really got me thinking. So maybe in the show notes, Danny, you’ll link that podcast because that was a session that was recorded and turned into a live podcast. And out of that, it got me to think about how we could continue to grow people, maybe create a situation in which teachers didn’t have such a ceiling and meet some of the needs we had in the school for more administration and less wasted teacher hours, which I was finding that because of the nature of the school, small school dual language, we had lots of teachers who maybe weren’t making the greatest impact with each of their hours.

Dr Amy (08:48):
And so I started to create this idea of a micro administrator, and that’s where I am right now where in September we will pilot what I had started as five, but now it looks like we will have six micro administrators in the school.

Daniel (09:07):
Okay. So that’s exciting. Six micro admin. What are you moving from, you said it was you right before, and all these people under you. How big was your admin team before the six micro administrators?

Dr Amy (09:22):
So when I first got here, the admin team was me. There was no other educational administration. And then we built in the next year a full-time vice principal and a part-time curriculum coordinator. And then we built in a director of student services to make use of some expertise and really capitalize on how we meet the needs of our kids in the school who need independent education plans. And then we created a bigger ed admin team when we added a director of middle school when we, when we had the middle school open. So now when we meet as an ED admin, it’s me, the vice principal, director of middle school, director of student services, and our school social worker because we spend a lot of time there talking about students and their needs. And it’s important to have that social emotional piece taken care of. As we look towards next year, going into year three of our formal middle school, we’ve realized that actually we don’t need a director of middle school.

Dr Amy (10:29):
So that person is being repurposed to become a director of Judaic studies, really amplifying his expertise and his genius. And then we’re filling up middle school with some of these micro administrators. So the middle school micro administration team will be a middle school curriculum director, middle school life director, and middle school operations director, all of whom have other teaching responsibilities. So they’ll spend about 70% of their week teaching in the classroom, grade five, grade six, grade seven, eight, and 30% of their time doing administrative tasks to make sure middle school is excellent, that it’s running smoothly, that the curriculum is rigorous and excellent, and that school life is a lot of fun and we’re building student culture. And then the other three micro administrative positions are a director of Judaic Life in elementary school, a Hebrew language coordinator in grade four, five, and a director of athletics.

Dr Amy (11:35):
And in some ways, the purpose of those people is to pull some tasks off of the vice principal’s plate to give her more time to do bigger picture strategic thinking and start having her operate more as a whole system principle and pulling her out of the minutiae. And so this is a problem she and I have been trying to tackle for two years, and we really couldn’t quite figure it out and we didn’t wanna hire a full new administrator. And so we’re hoping that this is going to be a great way to free her time up to do the bigger work she’s ready to do, to give people a chance for leadership, to test out some people in leadership and just think about how we can grow the system moving forward. And I guess we’re going to have to build in probably quarterly meetings of the full admin team, including the six micro administrators. They will not come to the weekly admin team. They will all be supervised by members of the senior admin team, and they will have weekly meetings with members of the administration, but they will not, we cannot schedule for them to all come together weekly, nor do I think it’s necessarily a good use of time.

Daniel (12:48):
Could you talk a little bit more about your thinking and your mindset around freeing up time and freeing it up from the minutia? Because I want people in the Ruckus Maker listening to hear what you see as most valuable within the school day and how to use your talents and genius versus things that need to get done, but probably aren’t the best use of your time.

Dr Amy (13:16):
So I think what sort of really got us thinking is that my vice principal is the creator and the owner of the schedule. And in a school where not everyone works full time and kids are in dual language instruction, the schedule is really, really complicated. And the second person who understands the schedule best is me. And she and I should be the people who are doing the biggest system wide long distance thinking. And we find that on a week to week basis, she spends more than I spend multiple hours essentially scheduling supply teachers. So if someone is out for a dentist appointment, who is going to be taking over those hours? Do we have internal coverage? Do we need to bring someone in from the outside? Who’s the right person from the outside? And to me, that feels like in some ways the most important work of the day-to-day operations of the school, making sure that the kids are well supervised by people who are gonna maximize instructional hours.

Dr Amy (14:22):
And on the other hand, the most trivial of administrative work as we spend tens to of minutes to hours a week, sending out emails restating coverage and often like early, early in the morning. So it’s actually our personal time that gets invaded to do this minutia of school. So then we try to get people to give us their information early so we can use school hours to do it. None of it is good. So we’ve worked on training other people to do this and we see that as the greatest minutia. All of the scheduling is the minutia. And in some ways, some of the school life programming that happens right now is starting to feel a bit like minutia. And so we’ve thought about who are people who are really interested for whom those would feel like great exciting tasks, for example, to bring two grades together for a joint grade programming, or to plan and schedule field trips.

Dr Amy (15:27):
It’s wonderful introductory administrative work. And then hopefully as we move that off of our plates, it opens us up to do bigger, more important work. So for example, we’re building out some really, really exciting new Israel curriculum, looking at scope and sequence of Israel history, thinking about modern history, contemporary history of Israel, and how that builds into kids’ identities. We need time to do that, and that needs our expertise. We have gone through courses to help us do that better. We have relationships with the consultants who can help us build those curriculums. So that’s where our hours need to be going. We’re working really hard at rebuilding our parents’ association right now to revamp a culture of parent volunteerism and think about what does culture look like beyond the school day? How do we engage parents in the school so that they want to stay here so that they’re bringing other wonderful right fit families into our school. That feels like really, really big and important work. And when we spend our time rejigging teacher schedules, we can’t do that work when we spend our time rejigging teacher schedules. We can’t do regular faculty supervision. So those kinds of things.

Daniel (16:47):
I’m glad you gave those examples because I think when it comes to the curriculum aspect that you were talking about that sets you apart from other schools. And there’s a reason people wanna enroll where you’re at for sure. And if you are figuring out supervision and coverage with a lot of your time you never get into that important stuff that ironically is like why people want to come to your school. You’re just really, you’re managing instead of leading and it needs to get done, but is it the best use of your time? Y I saw on Facebook recently, some people like moving into new admin positions and they’re like, Hey, can you gimme some examples of what your schedule looks like? And they’re just wondering how to break up their time and that kind of thing. I don’t wanna use the word horrified. Disappointed isn’t the right word either but my heart sank a little bit to see all these principles who are talking about and it might be a Ruckus Maker listening too, but waking up at 4, 5:00 AM just to deal with coverage supervision and that, I’m not saying that stuff does, obviously it needs to get done. We need people in the classrooms to serve our students, but there’s when you look at, when you look at leaders just leaving the profession, that’s a big, like, who wants to be doing that? And then put in a full day on top of it, you know?
Dr Amy (18:14):
I haven’t yet figured out an answer to manage the 6:00 AM my child woke up vomiting, I’m not gonna be in today’s problem. We have some ways to do that. We actually each take a day. So whereas before one or two people always did that amongst our senior administrative or the right people, we take a day. I’m Sunday night, Monday morning, which means that I know Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I actually don’t need to worry about this because really good people are on call to redo the schedule on all of those other days. And sort of in a leader’s eat last kind of way. I took Sunday, Monday, which is the least desirable day to take, because often at two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, I’m getting a text from someone I’m not gonna be in. And my weekend time is disrupted to make that change. What we’ve tried to do with the micro administrators where scheduling is concerned, obviously there are many other things that these people are gonna do to make a real impact on student learning, student culture, faculty culture is said, how can we pull some of the predictable scheduling off of senior administrators plates and put that into the space of aspiring leaders who want to start to practice with this. So if I know that on Wednesday, December 5th, I don’t even know if that’s a real day. We’re having an assembly, and this is that the assembly suddenly planning for that assembly now lives in a micro administrator’s job. And so they’re gonna do everything that needs to happen. They are gonna do all of the scheduling, which means that my vice principal and I we’re not doing the assembly and we’re not doing that scheduling that opens up lots of other time for us to do other work. So the goal has been to move all of the predictable rescheduling into different spaces where it sits with other people who wanna stretch their genius in that area and leaves us with a more acute crisis. Listen, teachers switch in the middle of the year, and that creates a whole administrative scheduling domino effect. But if we can free up more time to do other big picture work, then when those things come to be, it won’t feel quite as horrifying that this is how we’re spending our time.
Daniel (20:45):
Awesome. I appreciate that clarification. We’re gonna keep talking about this interesting idea that you’re implementing at your school, but this is a great time to pause for a second to get some messages in from our show sponsors, 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. Leadership is Joyful work, empowering others to do their best work. Principals do that with teachers and teachers do that with students. And empowering others to educate themselves or to be educated is just one of the most important things we can do in this world building. We’re building people, we’re building the next generation of leaders and educators.
Daniel (21:50):
Learn more about the program and apply at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com/harvard. What do you see in your classrooms and how did you see it? As a principal, you can’t be everywhere at once, so how can you help support every teacher in the building? With Teach FX, teachers can gather their own feedback without relying on classroom observations. The Teach FX Instructional Coaching app is like giving every teacher their own instructional coach whenever they want it. Ruckus Makers can pilot teach FX with their teachers, visit teach fx.com/better leaders to learn how it’s teachfx.com/betterleaders. If your students are struggling to stay focused and your teachers are showing signs of burnout, you need to act now. The good news is that there’s a path forward. It is possible to lay the foundation for learning and to re-energize your teachers, and that’s found in executive functioning skills. When students get practiced with these skills, they can better self-regulate and they are more successful academically.
Daniel (22:59):
Our friends at Organized Binder have released a new self-paced course that will teach you how to teach these executive functioning skills and set your students up for success. The goal of this course is to help your students be more successful and get teachers back to the work they’re called to do. Learn [email protected]/go. Help your students be more successful and get your teachers back to the work they’re called [email protected]/go. We are back with Dr. Amy Platt, who is the head of school at the Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School. We’re talking about what I believe is a Ruckus Maker idea in terms of leveraging the collective genius within your school to create some micro admin positions. And let’s keep, let’s keep jamming on that topic. One of the things I’m thinking about is these are some really wonderful, talented folks on your staff that have moved into these roles. Some were already in a leadership role, and you know that that role has been repurposed. Some were teachers that are now more leaders and administrators. I’m just curious, what is the support? How are you planning support for these teachers who might not be used to these leadership and supervising type roles?
Dr Amy (24:21):
I think to start, one of the things they all know is that there’s extra time expected of them in the summer. So we started at the end of our school year last year when we ended in June, they had an extra half day, and we really worked on building out a calendar of events for the year. And what was interesting is that they all said, wow, we didn’t know the intentionality that went into the calendar. So Danny, in our pre-chat, we talked about how you have the whole podcast planned until May, 2024. And I was like, wow, that’s pretty amazing. And
Daniel (24:58):This is July, 2023 while recording.
Dr Amy (25:01):
This is July, 2023. Before I got onto the podcast with you, I just spent an hour reviewing all of our room bookings for the whole year up to and including grade eight graduation in our end of year assembly. And, and then with that room booking, we then have our micro administrators already saying, okay, in each of these programs, this is the big idea of what’s going to happen. We have special Friday afternoons through the school year, because when we go into the shorter days of winter, we have a short Friday. So we don’t schedule classes from two 30 to three 30 on Fridays. Every special program is now planned. So we started at the end of June just to bring them together to, as a group to say, okay, let’s talk about planning and let’s, let’s break down responsibility. Who is responsible for each of these special programs? In our last podcast, you and I talked about cadence braking and how we think about middle school as being a schedule of cadence braking so that things don’t get too monotonous, Monotonous for the kids and the teachers. So that whole cadence braking schedule was said. And so they started just by saying, wow, there’s a lot of intentionality, taking responsibility and giving themselves some summertime to think about it. When we come back in August, we will do a gathering of those six micro administrators and start to talk to them a little bit about leadership, both in terms of what’s their responsibility to themselves to the school, but also what does it mean to lead others? Who are they leading? What does distributive leadership mean? And how do they go about starting to build relationships in leadership capacity, thinking a lot about the transition from being a colleague to being a faculty leader. And none of these people will be in supervisory or evaluative capacity. So that’s really, really important that they don’t yet have that responsibility or take that on.
Dr Amy (27:04):
That’s really held for senior administration, but how do they walk the fine line? And in the places where we really dipped our toes in it this past school year, lots of time was spent with the teacher in that role just thinking about how does she walk that fine line between being a colleague and holding curricular administrative responsibilities, and how did she problem solve when people weren’t being responsive to her? We’re gonna bring people together in September to start to think about that, and then every micro administrator will have a regular meeting with an administrator to talk both about their portfolio of responsibilities and also about their capacity as leaders as it begins to build.
Daniel (27:54):
What are you most excited about with this, this transformation? I mean, obviously you’re gonna be able to spend your time on what you think is bigger quality higher leverageable projects. What else are you excited about?
Dr Amy (28:10):
I’m really excited about more people being in their space of genius. Yeah. So I worked with an administrator many years ago who talked a lot about the book and the movie Moneyball and the baseball analogy that, okay, don’t like just get the right people on the team and then we’ll put them in the right positions or the Jim Collins approach to just get the right people on the bus. So I feel like I have all the right people on the bus, and now I’m putting more people into the right seats, and I think that they as professionals will grow exponentially, and it will just be so, so positively impactful on student family and faculty culture. I’m excited to see more people, more happy more of the time. So people who have been craving administration or people who have been seen, have seen gaps in our system and felt like they had solutions are now being given the responsibility to identify, name the gaps and with appropriate support, come up with good solutions and then implement those solutions. And then I’m excited to see how the other faculty feels engaged by this level of faculty admin.
Dr Amy (29:36):
Closing the gap,. So we’ve been working for a year and a half on building better relationships between staff and admin, really looking at faculty survey data to see how teachers feel heard and supported by the administration. And the wider, we spread the administrative responsibilities, it seems that the more supported and heard people feel by administrators, when I, as head of head of school, am not the only person who you could feel support or heard by, to feel like you have administration here, everybody feels a lot more supportive because there is administration everywhere really trying to make the school better.
Daniel (30:24):
There’s support everywhere. I hope so and if people are feeling that and it’s landing is authentic, that’s a beautiful thing. So kudos to you. We talked about what you’re excited about. I’m just assuming, so does the staff know about these changes? And if so, like what’s the good, bad and ugly in terms of how they’re reacting to this new model?
Dr Amy (30:47):
So the staff moving into the positions are super excited to take on these new roles and responsibilities. They’re all going places they really wanna be. The staff receive sort of who will be on the receiving end, are excited to have some areas of the school that we’ve identified as being important or having need to have more attention and being addressed. So I think about great four, five Hebrew language coordinators, like, why do you have such a specific micro administrator? Everything else is a pretty broad athletics director. middle school culture, middle school operations, but like, why grade four five Hebrew? So we see it as a bridge. We see it as a place where we can really skyrocket Hebrew language acquisition through middle school and a place where there was a teacher with great expertise who we wanna move to teach elsewhere, but not pull out of that system.
Dr Amy (31:45):
So everyone in that very little niche part of the school is super excited for what could be there and how we could create a great bridge in the school. So the good people are just excited to have attention paid. I think by moving a middle school director out of middle school, the fear is mostly around student discipline and who’s gonna be there to be the disciplinarian. And I guess that’s my fear too, because I know that I’m gonna have to step into that role in a way that I haven’t necessarily before. I’m gonna have to split my time more intentionally between our two sites, which I think is all the good, the bad and the ugly for me. But the truth is, the middle school director wasn’t doing a ton of the discipline the teachers were. And so we have to rethink that model.
Dr Amy (32:34):
So for me, that is the piece of this whole thing that feels the thorniest, but I don’t think we had it right before either. So I didn’t wanna keep someone out of their area of expertise and genius because there was something else that they could be doing better that wasn’t really happening anyways. We’ve played a little bit with that, and I think, again, it’s gonna have to live itself out. We keep talking about middle school as building the airplane as we fly it. I mean, we are soaring now, but I still think that the airplane needs some tweaks to its wings as it carries more passengers.
Daniel (33:11):
I think that as a school leader, you gotta be flexible and you gotta be comfortable in the discomfort and not knowing how it’s all gonna be, how it’s all gonna finish, you know? And but like you said, getting the right people around you and building that team. You have that and so you can be confident that you, everything is figured out above. Right. And that’s absolutely true. Yes.
Dr Amy (33:34):
Everything is figure-outable. Without only me there to solve the problems. Like I really feel like I have a great team of people that I can delegate problem solving to,
Daniel (33:46):
And that’s gonna make you 10 times better or more so that’s gonna be No, it is. I’m predicting it. So don’t, you don’t have to hope that’s gonna happen. What’s the RACI model of decision making?
Dr Amy (34:00):
So the RACI model of decision making, RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. And we started thinking about this at a board level. So as a private school, we are governed by a board of directors of volunteers and any organization, but definitely any school organization that I know of, there’s a constant discussion about what is the responsibility of the board and what’s the responsibility of the school administration. And so for some things we’ve started to say like, let’s really break this down. Who’s responsible, who’s accountable, who’s consulted, and who’s informed? I’ve been able to say to my board we’re doing this, I’m responsible, Alana’s accountable, we’re consulting with this committee, and the board will be informed once a decision has been made before we go public with the announcement. So that’s been really, really effective. When we used it well, it was incredibly impactful over Covid.
Dr Amy (35:08):
When we were making huge decisions about things like being in or out of school, masking, masking outside, masking on school trips, like really, really big decisions. Zoom how many hours of Zoom, how many teachers in a Zoom room. And so was, were those decisions of the board or things they needed to be consulted on and or informed about? And as we saw it being used effectively, and as our administrative team has grown, we’ve started to grow, like implementing that decision making structure in other places. So when we, we just threw a gala, for example. When we looked at different pieces of the gala, not everything could be done by consensus. And if we had to make everyone responsible for it, then we never would have been able to put out lunch for the volunteers. We were really, really clear about who was responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed.
Dr Amy (36:03):
And now we’re starting to think about it with programming in terms of school life and students. So for example, when we’re creating an individual education, who’s responsible for creating it? Who’s accountable for making sure it gets implemented? Who do we wanna make sure we’re consulting outside people, therapists, teachers, parents, and who needs to be informed that ultimately this final document is in place and needs to be carried out, which is likely the classroom teacher, they come in at the informed stage. And so that also is really helpful in allowing faculty to see their place in different decisions. Faculty often say, I wish I’d been part of that decision, and when I have got my process right from the beginning, I can say faculty work consulted on this, but ultimately this is a decision that the head of school and vice principal were responsible for making.
Daniel (37:04):
You need to talk to me about how and why you’re pre-booking meetings and thinking about schedules for the year.
Dr Amy (37:11):
I think that this like loops back to these issues around micro administrators and just making sure that everyone’s using their time well and meeting with the right people. We have gone to a model of helping administrators to set up their time best and helping faculty to set up their time best by pre-booking everybody’s meetings for the year. We consult with teachers at the end of the year, sort of starting in April to say, what meetings do you think you need in next year? And teachers will say, I need a meeting bi-weekly with the vice principal weekly with the student services director quarterly with Amy as head of school. And I want a weekly meeting with my team and a weekly meeting with my resource teacher. And then as we create the schedule, we do our very best to say, okay, which meetings did we as an administration think are most necessary to have? Which meetings do teachers want? And how can we build that into the schedule? So it is imperative for us that teaching teams, which will mean the English teacher, the Hebrew language teacher, the teaching assistant, and the resource teacher all can meet weekly or biweekly to discuss students’ calendar programs that are coming up. It is imperative to us that every classroom teacher has a meeting biweekly with the director of student services to review the whole student list so that we can get information about students and put the right things in place. And teachers can get information from the administration about students. And so when we build our schedules, we build that in. So Danny, if you were the grade four teacher, you would know that in your teaching week you had five hours of prep time, which was your own, to decide how you wanted two and a half hours of recess duty time, two and a half hours of lunchtime, and then two hours a week of meetings, one meeting with your team, two meetings with administrators, and one meeting a week with your resource teacher.
Dr Amy (39:16):
And so your whole week can fall into place. I will often say to a new teacher, okay, what day of the week is your teacher with you, is your meeting with your resource teacher? It’s on Wednesday, Danny, you are my grade four teacher, and you and your resource teacher meet on Wednesday. Okay. So by Wednesday I want you to know what next week’s planning is. So instead of planning Monday to Friday, you become a person who plans Wednesday to Tuesday or Thursday to Wednesday, so that when you sit down with your resource teacher, you’re able to say, this is what next week looks like. Here’s when you’re in my class, these are the kids I want you to work with, and here are the things that you’re working on. Rather than the resource teacher walking into the classroom and saying, what do you want me to do today? Which I feel is an incredibly inefficient use of a very valuable teacher hour. And so we’re trying to create really intentional meetings, not during prep time, but saying, this is time that the school is carving out for you over and above your prep time. It is as valuable as teaching. If you weren’t in this meeting, you would be teaching, and here’s what we suggest your set agenda for that meeting is. And what we’re trying to do for this upcoming year is to present all of those meetings digitally into everybody’s Google calendars, using the Google Notes feature so that people can start keeping running notes and running agendas, which we started in administrative meetings led by administrators last year. And this year we’re going to pilot with some teacher leaders to start using Google apps agendas, running notes more efficiently to really make the best use of that meeting time.
Daniel (41:07):
I’m really interested in applauding your effort running this experiment with the micro admin at your school. Was there anything that I should have asked around this topic that you wish we would’ve discussed today?
Dr Amy (41:21):
I guess the only question is really, if someone else finds this interesting, how might they start to think about it? And so I would say that this idea came out of me being inspired by what my colleague Rebecca in Boston was doing. Although I by no means am doing what she is doing, I was able to take her idea and make it work in my setting. And I encourage people to think about distributive leadership and administration in smaller, easier ways. And then the other thing I would say is that if you have a thorny problem that you’re thinking about, what does it look like to pilot or admit or experiment with a small idea, and how do you go about thinking that through? So we started to think about this idea in January. We finalized it in April, and it took a lot of long conversations to sort of get to the solution. And solving the problem with an experimental mindset feels far more manageable than solving a problem with a permanent mindset. So we’re gonna try something sort of like a growth mindset, we’ll see how it works, we’ll keep tweaking it. And so nobody’s expecting this to be perfect because we’ve really pitched it as we’re dipping our toes, we’re trying something out. Let’s all see how this works and we’ll continue to tweak it as we go.
Daniel (42:58):
That is brilliance. You mentioned this other podcast that got your brain thinking about it. I think you were actually at the live event when the podcast was recorded, but we’ll link that up in the show notes as well. Hey so people can have that as a resource. And if we’re all lucky, we’ll have Amy back on the podcast to talk about what she’s learned after implementing this for about a year. I do wanna ask you one last question. It’s not building your dream school. You’ve answered all those questions in the School of Marquee. We both know Eric. And he was a part of the principal of the Success path. He worked with Joe one-on-one. And can we just end with how you see him change as a leader? What was the value of participating in those programs, whether it’s getting the coaching or doing the principal success path?
Dr Amy (43:52):
It was transformative for our organization, period. I could just say that. I would say that it allowed Eric to truly identify his genius and talk about his genius and advocate for a role within the school where his genius filled a gap. It helped him tremendously with his use of time and his ability to manage time, prioritize his tasks within the time that was given. And I think it really helped Eric to believe in the importance of caring for himself. So post principal Success Path, he talked a lot about what he needed to do responsibly to fill his own cup so that he could serve others. And I watched him maintain those practices in a way that was quite admirable to me. I wish I was doing a little bit more of that. Throughout the course of the year, he had lots of your memes, like lots of your posters in his office. I should have taken here to see his wall and
Daniel (45:08):I’ll be back in October
Dr Amy (45:09):
And I would like you to ask him that by October, he has those translated into two other languages. I would like to see them and you know, we’re trying to put lots of languages around the school, so I, I begged him this year too, reproduce them with French and Hebrew. But it was such a wise investment and we took a nice percentage of our professional development budget as a school and invested in Eric and it was well worth it. The payoff has been exponential. We have got so much more than we put into it in terms of time and money back in terms of faculty or yeah, faculty satisfaction and efficiency within our system. Awesome.
Daniel (46:00):Thank you for sharing that perspective, Amy. I appreciate you. If there was one thing, we covered a lot of ground, but if there’s one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember from our conversation today, what would that be?
Dr Amy (46:14):
I didn’t talk about it at all, but I would say if there’s one thing that I want a Ruckus Maker to remember, it’s that for me, lots of my visioning started with my time in the Mastermind and my four years spent in the Mastermind were an exceptional investment into myself and my professional life. And I don’t think that I could think the way I do now without the time I spent with Danny and the guiding principles. So if you are contemplating member Mastermind membership, experiment with it, use a growth mindset. It doesn’t need to be permanent. Just give it a try and see what it will do. It is a minimal investment for an exceptional outcome.
Daniel (46:58):
Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders, better Schools podcast, Ruckus Maker. How would you like to lead with confidence, swap exhaustion for energy, turn your critics into cheerleaders and so much more. The Ruckus Maker Mastermind is a world-class leadership program designed for growth-minded school leaders just like you. Go to BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/Mastermind. Learn more about our program and fill out the application. We’ll be in touch within 48 hours to talk about how we can help you be even more effective. And by the way, we have cohorts that are diverse and mixed up. We also have cohorts just for women in leadership and a bipoc only cohort as well. When you’re ready to level up, go to BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/Mastermind and fill out the application. Thanks again for listening to the show. Bye for now and go make a ruckus.



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