Figured out how to multiply yourself, and be in two places at the same time.
The benefits of leading multiple schools and how to honor the differences of schools and staff to create a trusting environment.
The key piece necessary to implement change is the mistake that many leaders make.
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Chuck’s 2 minute TED talk on the importance of distributed leadership in really letting go.
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Read the Transcript here.
How To Effectively Lead Two Campuses
School leadership is tough. Understatement of the year. And can you imagine being a principal of two buildings at the same time? That’s today’s guest reality. He has two campuses with two distinct communities, two distinct staffs and groups of students. And he’s just one principal. You’re gonna hear Chuck’s story and how he resists the urge to become a split personality, how he multiplies himself and all this kind of stuff. But really it’s a great story of how to understand the needs of those who serve and show up and meet those needs in different circumstances, which we all need to do as school leaders. Hey, this is Danny, Chief Ruckus Maker over at Better Leaders Better Schools. And 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 a few messages from our show sponsors. Learn how to successfully drive school change, and help your diverse stakeholders establish priorities and improve practice in leading change. A certificate in School Management and Leadership course from Harvard. Get started at BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/harvard. Teachers use Teach FX to record a lesson and automatically get personalized insights into their classroom conversation patterns in teaching practices. See Teach FX for yourself and learn about special partnership options for Ruckus Makers @teachfx.com/blbs.
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We’re here with a legit Ruckus Maker because Chuck is in the community and super excited to have a conversation. Dr. Charles Warfield has served the head township school district since 2002, where he has simultaneously been the principal to two schools, Stoy and Jennings Elementary Schools. Prior to his tenure in Headon Township, Chuck spent three years in the Cherry Hill School District as an AP at Kasi Middle School. He also taught elementary school in the Penns Grove Carneys Point Regional School District. That’s a mouthful, Chuck, by the way, before becoming an administrator. So, Chuck, welcome to this show.
Danny. Thank you. I’m glad to be here. It’s really exciting.
You’re an awesome leader and so this is, I love talking and speaking with and investigating leadership with people I know. And I still have the Philly shirts that you gave me too, so thank you for that. You’re a principal of two schools. You became a principal of two schools, two with very different personalities as well. How did you go about honoring the difference that exists in both schools?
First of all, thanks for having me on, Daniel. I really appreciate it. Yeah, this is great. I too love talking about education and leadership and educational leadership, so this is a real treat for me. So thank you for inviting me. Yeah. So when I first came on board here, it took some time to just get to know the folks that were in the school, to get to know the teachers. Took me some time to get to know the students. I had the opportunity to work with both sets of APAs. So it wasn’t something that came right away. It took some time to develop a relationship with all the different constituents, both buildings, to really sort of understand where they were coming from in terms of their expectations of the school, their expectations of the principal, and what direction they wanted to go with their students. So it took some time.
So time is a component of figuring out these different personalities. Listening I’m sure. What else worked for you in terms of just uncovering and identifying.
The way I went about it was I was very upfront about it initially. I just went around and asked groups of people. I asked faculties at my first faculty meetings like, what are the things that you’re most proud of here? What are the things that we do best here? What are some things you think might need to change? I surveyed the teachers, I surveyed the PTAs, I surveyed the kids. I went as far down as first grade. I didn’t interview the kindergarten students, but I let the upper elementary students fill out a real brief survey. The younger, the primary elementary students, I went in and we talked about their school and why they love school and what was so great about school. And then asked them, if you could change one thing, what would it be? It’s interesting, I still have those surveys in my filing cabinet. It’s something that I held onto over the years and it’s really important to me to know what they were thinking at that time. And still now, but I mean, as I came on board it’s a very small community, it’s a very tight knit community.
So into that environment, I needed to tread cautiously because I didn’t want to come in and say, well this is it, this. What were you thinking when you did this? I really wanted to get into what was important for them. That’s how I kind of immersed myself. Again, I go back to time, it took time for me to try and establish trust with all of those constituents by saying what I’m gonna do and informing them of how I’m going about doing it while I’m in the process of it. And that constant feedback and then at the end celebrating, Hey, look what we did.
That’s a key piece there. I wanna highlight that you get an in data. But a, a mistake that many leaders make, they survey and they learn something and they forget to tell people. What they learned. That’s step two. We’ve collected the data right now and what we’re talking about, here’s what we learned. Another thing, here’s what we’re gonna do about what we learned. And then the key piece, and you learn this in the mastermind when we write up Tiny Habits for stuff to stick, having a celebratory process. That’s really important. I don’t know, maybe as high achievers as Ruckus Makers, it’s like very easy to move on and oh, okay, now it’s the next thing to go after. But you have to pause, you have to slow down, you have to celebrate. So thanks for sharing that.
Danny, I think a key part of that is the transparency, of always coming back, not before you celebrate, say like, this is what we’re doing, just to what you said, Hey, I, this is what I understand, this is what I’m doing about it. And sometimes that you may need to revisit that two or three times, like, oh, okay, so this is part two. All right, this is part three. Now I’m moving on to part four. I’m talking, yeah. Very overt about, and then, hello, here we are.
I would say review it two to 3000 times. Honestly, Chuck, no, seriously. Jeff Weidner’s, former CEO of LinkedIn, says, until you are sick of sharing a message, that’s the point when people actually start hearing you for the first time. So that’s like, whoa, because I get sick of telling the same stories. Or with your teams and this kind of stuff, but people haven’t absorbed the information yet and you have to communicate in a multitude of ways. Good point. So, alright, you got two buildings, two distinct personalities. How about Dr. Chuck Warfield? Do you have two distinct split personalities when you show up as a leader? How does that work?
No, it’s me and I lead the same in both buildings. I focus on communication a little differently, but I am the same person in both buildings and over the course of the years in team building in both buildings, I’ve been able to massage and mesh those different personalities to support the needs of the community. The way I approach things is pretty much the same. I think from a communication stance, I have to be careful about my message in terms of who’s hearing it. I have to make sure that I’m conscious that both sets of communities are able to hear the message. One community may rely on email or Twitter or whatever, more than the other. So I need to be conscious of that.
Well let’s talk about, specifically the parents, did you see any differences there? You got two campuses, two faculties, but there’s also the parents.
It’s worth noting that in for both campuses, they are both neighborhood schools. It’s like a helicopter drop the schools right in the middle of the neighborhoods. And neither school do I have a faculty parking lot. It’s literally the school and then a house. A house. A house. A house. In both neighborhoods. There Are different neighborhoods and different socioeconomic statuses. Even though the campuses are a mile apart, the schools are different. The expectations of the parents are different In one community, I have stay-at-home moms who are very involved, very able, very willing to come in and help in the library at lunchtime, whatever. The other neighborhood, not so much. Both parents are working and their approach or their expectations or their needs of the school are different. They’ll try and meet the needs of both sets of parents.
Yeah. And that’s important as a leader, you gotta be responsive and you can’t have some sort of ideal vision of what the perfect community is. Per community is the one you’re serving. You had the opportunity. This is a privilege. Like you get to serve this community. Wow. What a gift. I love that, that you’re responsive in that way. I think C0you told me that being split between the two buildings has actually been a benefit to the staff. What do you mean by that?
For me it’s very important for teachers to be autonomous, for teachers to have a say in what happens in school, but also to serve the school as an informal leader or as a pseudo formal leader. And what I mean by that is when I’m not at one of my buildings, I have a head teacher at the other building. So then if there is an issue, an emergency or whatever that person is the point of contact. However, teachers in both schools are required to problem solve, to find solutions, to bounce ideas off of one another, to hold each other as critical friends and make sure that those lines of communications among them are open. That’s really important for me. So by bouncing back between two schools, it offers opportunities for teachers to step up as leaders, not just the head teacher. Anyone can step in or come up with an idea, take a project that we’re thinking about doing, and be the point person on that. So that whole individual or informal leadership component is really important in this situation.
I remember you telling me you had some interesting stories to share. One about a playground, one about a garden. Do you mind sharing those stories quickly?
Our garden now I’m looking out because I’m very fortunate I have a window that overlooks the garden. Years ago, that’s probably 15 years ago at this point, we were told that our playground was out of compliance with estate regulations. So we needed to update it. All the equipment needed to be taken out and we needed to replace it with equipment that was state compliant, filed the state regulations. As we were in, I involved the PTA. I asked the teachers and we all met and we started talking about what we want to purchase? How did we want it to look? And that conversation turned into, well, rather than re just replacing the equipment, why don’t we take this space and move the equipment to the other side of the school and take the space we have now and turn that into a garden. And over the course of that year, it took an entire school year to plan. By the time we were done, we created the plans for a learning garden where the old playground was. And we took the side of our school and turned that into the playground area. So now we have ended up with this beautiful learning garden that teachers take their kids into and do science projects, or they might take a class out in the garden and do some drawing or some painting or some type of artwork. It also allows an alternative activity for the students at lunchtime. It allows students to go out and sit. They can’t go out there and play tag, but they can go out and sit, read, draw at lunchtime, not all kids wanna be in the kickball game and may not wanna play on the equipment. They just might wanna go out and enjoy some quiet time. So that area’s open and we still have the equipment, we still have the playground area and that works really well. But to watch the PTA members of the community and our teachers come together and bounce ideas off of each other and then ultimately end up with this beautiful area was really something to behold. It was really, I was really proud to be a part of.
Absolutely. You should be proud. I’m enjoying our conversation, Chuck. We’re gonna take a quick break to get some messages in from our sponsors. When we come back, I wanna ask you about your dissertation topic, which Ruckus Makers will wanna stick around for, because that has to do with distributed leadership, which is a great model of leadership. Learn how to successfully navigate, change, shape your school’s success, and empower your teams with Harvard’s certificate and school management and leadership. Get online professional development that fits your schedule. Courses include leading change, leading school strategy and innovation. Leading people in leading learning. You can apply today at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com/havard. Today’s shows are also sponsored by Teach FX. I love Teach FX for a number of reasons. Let me give you two right now. One, as a leader, you can’t be in every classroom all the time.
And with Teach FX, you could actually scale, not evaluation, but effective feedback. Teachers can reflect on their practices and grow, and you don’t even have to be there. Imagine that. The second reason I love Teach FX for many reasons is that they do something really great. They help teachers see and celebrate the moments of brilliance in the classrooms. And what is it worth to be able to find those moments that are just like, chef’s Kiss, . A golden moment that you wanna celebrate and that you wanna see amplified within the building. So Teach FX helps with that. You can see this for yourself and learn more about their special partnership options for Ruckus [email protected]/blbs. Today’s show is also proudly sponsored by Organized Binder, a program which gives students daily exposure to goal setting, reflective learning time and task management, study strategies and organizational skills and more Organized Binders, color coded systems implemented by the teacher through parallel process with students, helping them create predictable in dependable classroom routines, learn more and improve your students executive [email protected].
And we’re back with Dr. Chuck Warfield. We’re gonna talk about his dissertation here. And from what I remember, this topic was on distributed leadership. I know you could get very academic, obviously you’ve written a dissertation on this topic, but without getting too professorial or lecturing us, can you give us like a two to three minute TED talk on the importance of distributed leadership in really letting go?
It’s easy to go down that rabbit hole for me. It is a topic that fascinated me from all or from a variety of perspectives, both as a teacher and an administrator. It’s obvious that informal leaders do come up and being able to control that and help direct, that was something that was important for me as an administrator. What I did was I found how teachers were connected using the tool that we used. I used it as a social networking tool that allowed you to take a survey and a way of finding who the leaders were in the schools around certain subjects or certain topics like a school discipline or a classroom mentor or a writer.
It allowed you to identify who those leaders were in your school. And then being able to tap into those people to leverage their knowledge, leverage their influence to help direct the school. It was a long, lengthy process to study that. I studied schools in our area and it was very interesting. The information that came out was fascinating for me. There were two things that really came up. It really came out of that study. Obviously, there were leaders in the building as I suspected, but it wasn’t as many people would have thought. You would think that the veteran is an interesting leader. The person with the 25 years of experience that’s gonna be Sure.
Building leader, that wasn’t always the case. Oftentimes it was the person that had between seven and 10 years of experience. And that was consistent actually across the board. They were the leaders around some of the academic areas as well as school classroom management. The questions that I asked were to whom would you go for a question involving writing, math, technology, classroom management, student discipline? And by and large, the folks that were identified within the buildings were those teachers that they sort of fell in that sweet spot between seven and 10 years. And I was surprised by that. I kind of was thinking later, the veteran, the 20 plus year teacher would be the one that everybody would turn to, and that wasn’t the case. The other thing I found curious was the special education special director of special services, that department, those teachers that fell in that department strayed or kind of landed in their own category, which was fascinating to me. I would’ve thought they would be consistent with everyone else, but it’s almost as if they formed their own mini school within the school’s own pocket. It was fascinating to me as well.
I asked my guests the same three questions at the end of each show, so I’d love to move to those. Oh if you could put a message on all school marquees, around the world for a single day, what would your message read?
Oh boy. Around the world, one size does not fit all.
I think you have to have that sort of perspective. If you’re split between new buildings. Shocking that you said that. Chuck, you’re building your dream school from the ground up. You don’t have constraints in terms of resources. Your only limitation is your ability to imagine. How would Chuck build his dream school? What would be the three guiding principles?
See the three guiding principles be forgiving and an Im parentheses of yourself and everyone else. Do your best. And the third one, there are so many third ones. And be okay with your neighbors. Help your neighbors help your neighbors. I’ll say, yeah, okay,
Everything we talked about today, we talked about a lot. What’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker who’s watching or listening to remember?
Just that you have to be open to differences with the people that you work with. We’re in the business of working with people. From the people who are the teachers to the students, to the parents. We’re all individuals, but we’re all people. We need to be conscious of the fact that we need to be forgiving of each other, we need to help each other out and we need to lean on each other. And It’s okay to do all of that. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to show a little bit of emotion, , and it’s important to show empathy toward everybody. I think that’s important.
Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders, better Schools podcast Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, [email protected] 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 BetterLeadersBetterschools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, “class dismissed.”
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