Lisa is a high school writing teacher & PK-12 principal of a rural South Dakota school district. She leads a 2020 ESEA Distinguished Elementary School and a 2021 National Blue Ribbon Elementary School. She is a co-developer and facilitator of the South Dakota Department of Education’s “Good to Great” Teacher Mentoring Program and a public speaker at a variety of state and national education events.

Show Highlights

Leverage student input to build connections and solutions to benefit the whole school.

Looking through the eyes of who you’re talking to allow you control in any situation

Giving is the best approach to getting things that you want.

Communicate in ways that “softening the edges.”

Tips to “beat the message home” to increase family engagement and buy-in from those that have an aversion or are disconnected.

Invite challenge and criticism with families to dig in and navigate a path together.

Understanding the pitfalls of Happiness, Toxic Positivity, and Perfectionism.

Choose a relationship-based emotional profession to share the load.

“I have to control my emotions. I really get to decide how I interpret something that happens to me. I really believe events don’t have meaning. No event has meaning. We decide what it means. We put the judgment on there.”

- Lisa Parry

Dr Chris Jones

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Read the Transcript here.

Lisa Parry Transcript

Daniel (00:02):
I hope you share your stories with your school community and specifically with your educators. Especially when you see where they currently are. And you also see where they need to be to be the fully actualized versions of themselves to create an education environment that you could be extremely proud of, that opens doors and helps students meet their full potential. We need to be the best versions of ourselves in order to make that happen. And when we’re telling stories, it’s really important to share those ones where you fail, where you made mistakes, and the lessons learned. I have one that I can share. And here’s the very, very short version. I listened to a podcast. It was actually about parenting. And I don’t have kids but I figured these students are sort of like my kids, and I wonder what I can learn from parents about working with children.

Daniel (00:59):
And from this podcast, I learned often we really get in these emotional roller coasters with young people. And for young people, it’s actually quite funny to watch an adult lose their freaking mind. That’s hilarious. And if you decide not to play that game anymore, something really interesting happens. Children stop acting in ways that drive us nuts, because they’re not getting the reaction that they’re looking for. It’s like, what? And so I learned some phrases, and I’m gonna keep it short. But the point is, what I learned, the big idea I learned was that my energy impacted my students. And if I had a calm, collected, I’m not jumping on that emotional roller coaster with your type of energy, students would all of a sudden stop acting up as often. And the day I figured that out, I literally never wrote another referral to the office. Can you imagine that? It wasn’t like I led the school in referrals. I wasn’t a referral writing machine, but I didn’t hesitate either. And I would kick kids out and they’d get in trouble and all this kind of stuff. And I’m not saying that that’s bad. Kids deserve consequences. But when I really understood my own energy and how it impacted the classroom, seriously, never wrote up a kid again. It’s powerful. And if you have a similar story, what could that unlock for your staff? Today’s guest has a similar story of losing her cool. And we start right there. So you’ll enjoy this, and she has a lot more to share with you too, but get tuned in for some fun. Hey, it’s Danny. I am a principal development and retention expert, founded Better Leaders, Better Schools, back in 2015 for you, for Ruckus Makers. And since you love this show, being a Ruckus Maker means you invest in your continuous growth. You challenge the status quo and you designed the future of school. Now we’ll be back with the main content of today’s episode right after some messages from our show sponsors.

Daniel (03:32):
What do the most effective leaders all have in common? After coaching and mentoring thousands of school leaders, I’ve identified seven key areas that make Ruckus Makers highly effective. When you download the School Leadership Scorecard, you’ll identify the highest leverage opportunities for you to grow in the next 90 days. And you can complete this tool in 10 minutes or less. Get your free copy of the School Leadership Scorecard at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com/scorecard. 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? Check out the Teach FX app by visiting teachfx.com/betterleaders, and you could pilot their program today. Go to teachfx.com/betterleaders to see how, why do students struggle?

Daniel (04:37):
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 (05:17):
Hey, Ruckus Makers. Today I am joined by Lisa Parry. Lisa was formerly a high school writing teacher, and she’s now PK through 12, principal of a rural South Dakota School. She leads 22, she leads a 2020 ESE, a distinguished elementary school and a 2021 National Blue Ribbon Elementary School. So quite some cool honors there, Lisa, she’s a co-developer and facilitator of the South Dakota Department of Education’s. Good to great. So we would love to hear about that later on in the show. And participates in his teacher mentoring program and is a public speaker at a variety of state national education events. Welcome to the show, Lisa.

Lisa (06:06):
Thank you so much, Danny, what a privilege to be with you today to talk about things from here in South Dakota, in rural America.

Daniel (06:12):
Did I mess anything up in the bio or anything that you wanna add that I might have missed or anything?

Lisa (06:19):
The only thing I would say is I still teach, I still am a writing teacher. I am a little bit interested in that way. I’m a pre-K 12 principal, and I teach AP comp and literature.
Daniel (06:29):I took a creative license when I was reading that, I was like, there’s no way she’s teaching and a principal, but you are.

Lisa (06:37):
People wonder about that. I will tell you, I have a student body of about 350 kids for which I’m responsible. But I tell people in schools my size, and there’s a lot of schools my size in South Dakota, Arlington is not atypical. I tell other principals who ask me why I love my job so much. I think that teaching pieces, that holding onto a classroom piece is key. It keeps that teacher’s connection. I have to plan lessons, I deal with student management issues, with attendance issues, I have to grade papers, and I communicate with parents. all those things I’m asking teachers to do, I’m still doing. And I think that gives me a little bit of credibility. The other thing it really does, and I like to talk about this, I had seniors and they helped me lead the school. When the TikTok challenges all started coming out, people were ripping soap dispensers off walls. I said to my seniors this is your school and you should not want that. You need to take care of this. And they love that invitation to lead. And because I have a daily relationship with a lot of them 50 minutes a day. And since I’m teaching writing, we’re very much in relationship with each other. We’re talking about experiences and how we can best share those. I turn a lot of things over to them. We had some trouble with the social media app, and I said to the kids, what are we gonna do about this? And within 20 minutes, everything that had bothered me had disappeared. They want to take care of it. And because I’ve been able to keep that connection with those kids as a teacher, I’m able to leverage that to the good of the whole school. And I just encourage anybody. I’m not a big school principal, so I’m in tune to all of the challenges of that. But if you can find yourself in a classroom on a daily basis, doing the work with the kids, there are so many blessings and benefits that come from it. Some hardships too. But it’s fantastic

Daniel (08:34):
I’m glad I messed up the bio, and thanks for being gracious with me. But to talk about that, it brought us into a really nice entry point that’s unique to you and important. As an instructional coach, I still taught and then supported school leaders as an AP. I ran seminars. It wasn’t a daily thing, but it was every other week for 90 minutes, twice. And it was a great way to stay connected. I know of other principals too, that run the school and still teach a course. And it is a great way to stay connected to develop relationships with the students. But then it really does take away that teacher criticism sometimes. These unit plans, the PLC process, the common form of assessments, the intervention and enrichment. I’m doing that too. Not only am I doing it, let me show you where I’ve succeeded and where I’ve failed and what I’m learning. So that’s a great thing. Last thing I’ll say about this too, is some schools that I led before, we rolled out sort of data analysis protocols and that kind of thing, we had our department chairs do it during our leadership meetings first. So they would put up, here’s the data from the last formative assessment. Here’s all the kids that succeeded. Here’s the plan to go deeper with them. Here’s the students that didn’t get it, and how I’m gonna reteach and provide that intervention. But we had these robust, really great discussions as a leadership core team first. And for some, it was a little uncomfortable ’cause you’re pulling back the drapes and showing exactly what’s happening. But then they got it. They started to become more comfortable. They brought it to their departments, and it spread like wildfire in this case, a good wildfire. I want you to bring us to a moment since we are talking about students, and bring us to a moment where you are in your office and you thought to yourself a wonder what I look like right now.

Lisa (10:47)
:I had a moment with a student where, I guess I’m just gonna put it this way. I lost my cool. I’m a loudspeaker, you can probably tell that and I’m a rapid speaker. I’m pretty emotional, too, the good, bad, otherwise. And I had a student who had come in, and I don’t even remember what the situation was that led this person into my office. I remember just rolling in my words for him, my criticism, my disappointment, my frustration, my whatever it was. And at one point, and I have no idea why I all of a sudden had this lucid moment, but through this whole storm cloud, I had this moment where I looked at this kid looking at me, and I asked myself that question, what do I look like? What do I sound like to this child? I can’t even, it was just a moment that took me back. I’ll just say it, I was dysregulated in that moment, and I found myself just slowing down and getting myself back under control in a way that I could feel proud of the way that I was handling the student. And I have never forgotten how terrible it felt to recognize my behavior, my words, my tone, my energy. That’s probably the best way to say it, what my energy was doing to this other person. And I’m not gonna say that I haven’t ever been dysregulated since, or I haven’t ever but I haven’t gotten to that point where I think I’d look at myself in the mirror and say, my goodness, what are you doing? And that was kind of that moment.
Daniel (12:40):It was a turning point for you.

Lisa (12:42):
And it was transformative. And I really wish I knew what I could attribute it to. It was just a moment when I said, it was like a storm, and then the clouds parted and the sun came down and I saw his face, and I just thought, shame on you. Meaning, myself. Shame on you. Right? And you know what I’ve done since then, Danny, when I talked to students and I often talked to students who’ve acted out in anger or acted out in frustration. And I get them to a point where we’re able to talk and be together in space. What I let them know is, I’m pretty upset with you right now and anger can look like this too. Anger can look like control. And anger can look like conversation. And anger doesn’t have to be shouting and tipping a table and punching and profanity and name calling and mimicking, and all the things that anger can look like when we’re dysregulated, anger can look like control. And so when I’m dealing with older students, I like to say, don’t just listen to me from this point forward. Watch me feel my energy. I’m upset. I’m upset with the choice you made, but I’m not going to replicate your actions, your energy, your choices. I’m controlled. Anger can look like this too. And I think that’s important because you and I both know, a lot of these kids have seen examples of anger that look anything but like anything but control. And they don’t know how to be angry any other way than to just explode. And so I really try now not to just talk about how to handle yourself when you’re upset, but I like them to see I’m upset, but I am in control. And those two things are not mutually exclusive.

Daniel (14:34):
You had the moment of having wisdom in insight, nudged you, and you were receptive. And you’re like, whoa, what do I look like? What do I sound like at this moment? And it could be very easy to go back to “normal”, the automatic, but it sounds like you’ve made some progress. How do you stop yourself from getting to that point now that you saw? I don’t know if there’s routines and rituals or ways that you remind yourself. What helps?
Lisa (15:06):I practice? There’s a lot of things that I try to think about when I’m with kids. I try to share that a lot of times when we’re in disagreement with somebody, and this is true of me with parents or with teachers or with students, conflict is always personal. I mean, to say it’s not personal. I don’t buy that. It’s always personal, but that doesn’t mean it’s about me. I think that’s something that I’ve taught myself is that when somebody comes in hot, yes, it’s personal they’re wounded because somebody they care about is hurting or they themselves are hurting. But that doesn’t mean there’s blame on me. And just because I’m the person with whom they have that conversation, I have to understand how much the moment means to them. And I also have to detach myself from feeling like I’m targeted or I need to stay away from this idea that I’m being victimized. I chose a really emotional professional. It’s a relationship profession, which means it’s emotional. I grew up with a dad who was the director of a nursing home, and I didn’t know then how much I was learning about how to care for and about vulnerable people. My dad took care of people’s parents. I take care of people’s children. I don’t know what’s more emotional than either one of those things. But what I’ve learned is, of course, people are upset when they’re hurt or when they’re fearful or when they feel like they’re out of control. But I don’t have to take that as directed at me, which means I don’t have to react defensively or try to put you back in your place.

Lisa (16:36):
And what I’ve learned too is that even though sometimes it feels good to like just go off and speak your peace, it always feels gross later. It always feels gross. But what never feels gross is having restraint and calm in the face of conflict. I have not regretted ever keeping my cool. I have almost always regretted losing it. And I don’t like to feel like thatI don’t want to eat a lot of greasy, crappy fluid because it might taste good, but later I’m gonna pay for that. I’m gonna feel gross. It’s not worth it. And I think the same thing is true when I’m in a conflicted conversation. I might feel good to get my couple jabs in, but I’m gonna feel gross later. I’d rather eat well and feel good. I’d rather be in good relationship and in harmony with someone and feel good than to binge and feel gross. Does that make any sense at all?

Daniel (17:37):
Like I said, a lot of wisdom there in terms of under, we’re really bad as humans thinking about the future and how our actions will impact us positively or negatively. So whether it’s how your emotions are impacting everybody in the moment, or you use the example of like, greasy food.It’s so easy to say yes. In the moment it might taste good or it might feel good emotionally. But it’s like, okay, what about in five minutes or five hours, five days from now?

Lisa (18:09):
The other thing I think about, I know so many times too when I have felt conflicted, it’s because I’m telling myself a story that isn’t true. My mind has to make sense of something. So if a student is being disrespectful, I think that something happened at home, somebody there’s all sorts of things, but don’t we love to fill in the blanks? Don’t we love to A plus B equal C? And so I jumped to this conclusion about what’s behind this. And then when I dig deeper, it’s not something that makes me angry. It’s something that breaks my heart. And I always wanna operate from the position of, I bet I don’t know the whole story. There’s more to it than I know this person is guarding information for a reason, and I need to respect that.

Lisa (18:56):
And I’m a dog lover. I know you are too. I’m wearing a Labrador necklace and I’ve got two dogs in my life. If one of them was biting at me, I wouldn’t be mad at him or her. I would try to figure out what was wrong, because that’s not who they are. Is your foot stuck in a trap? Am I gonna be angry at a dog for biting and snarling at me if its foot’s caught in a trap? No way. I’m not gonna be afraid of it either. I’m gonna say, what can I do to help? And so I try to think about that when I’m dealing with people who are struggling. What could the pain point be that they’re withholding or they maybe don’t even know about? And then how do I nuance this conversation so that it can get the information I need to understand and be helpful, and to not jump to conclusions that just make it very easy to be angry and assign consequences.

Daniel (19:43):
That’s interesting. And easing their pain and suffering. What a gift to them. I think we’re talking about energy, but we’re also talking about communication. And I think principals, and I know Ruckus Makers are really interested in making sure that their communication lands right. Because sometimes we say stuff like, oh, that’s brilliant, but people aren’t hearing it. And there’s a lot going on there. Something that I’d like to ask you about is how can we soften some of the edges when it comes to communication?

Lisa (20:17):
I think timing is really important. There’s times when I could have the best soliloquy that anybody ever spoke. And if that person is not in a place, that person is, I like to use that word dysregulated, because it doesn’t seem judgy, then it doesn’t matter. Nothing’s gonna land. What I find really interesting about people is that people that come in and out of my life, in a level of upset, the next time I see them, it’s almost like that never happened. Again, the storm happened, then the storm passed, and now we’re fine. Those are the moments when you sit down and you say I see you and I hear you, and I know this is hard. What do you need? I had a student the other day who made some choices that we needed to talk about, and the student came into my office and I looked at the student and I said, “I’m so glad you’re here. It’s good to see you.” And I meant it, you know what I mean? Like, and it gotta be more than just saying it. I don’t need anybody to write that down in a sticky note and make sure they say it the next time they see a kid they’ve gotta have a tough conversation with. But you gotta find that in parts. You gotta find that. And when I said that, I meant it, and that sets the tone rather than, okay, I’ve been waiting for you. It’s good to see you. I’m glad you’re here. We’re gonna talk about some tough stuff now, and you’re gonna have to own some stuff, and I’m gonna have to guide you in ways that might be unpopular with you. But I am glad you’re here, and I am glad I can be a part of this journey and this process.

Lisa (21:48):
And you know what I said to this student too? I said, “I hope you’re learning from me because you are teaching me every time we get together. “And that’s another thing that, I mean, there isn’t an encounter like that. It’s powerful. I don’t take something away from that makes me better the next time. I have to have a tough conversation. And we have to be open to what people who are who are angry with us or disgruntled or in a bad space, we have to be open to what they have to teach us. I have a lot to learn about myself, learn and about others and the world and the way we all get along. And I’m 50 years old that I’ve got a lot to learn, and I want all of these people, parents, teachers, and students to teach me so that the next person that I encounter who I might be able to help, that I’ve gotten more for them.

Daniel (22:38):
I appreciate that approach to leadership. We are leaders of learning organizations, so we should be the Chief learning officer right. Of those organizations. Lisa, I’m enjoying this conversation. And we’ll get some messages in here from our sponsors. But when we come back, I’d love to ask you about family engagement and also your take on happiness, toxic positivity and perfectionism.

Daniel (23:07):
In post pandemic classrooms, student talk is crucial. And when classrooms come alive with conversation teachers and students both Thrive, teach FX helps teachers make it happen. The Teach FX instructional coaching app provides insights into student talk, effective questions, and classroom conversation quality. Teach FX professional development compliments the app and empowers teachers with best practices for generating meaningful student discourse. Teachers using Teach FX increase their student talk by an average of 40%. Imagine that 40% more ownership over the class by students. Ruckus Makers can pilot and teach FX with their teachers. Visit teachfx.com/betterleaders to learn how that’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.

Daniel (24:22):
When students get practiced with these skills, they can better self-regulate, and they are more successful academically. 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 to organizedbinder.com/go. We’re back with Lisa Perry. And we were really discussing a lot in the beginning there about how we show up the energy in our presence as a leader, which is really important. You know, I sometimes tell folks that they are meteorologists. Like, on whatever channel you like in terms of yes, watching news and the weather and this kind of stuff, how you show up impacts that culture and climate. And sometimes this might hurt dear Ruckus Maker, but if you’re not happy with where the culture is, look in the mirror. ‘ It’s directly tied to you. Something to reflect on. But as I mentioned before the break, I wanted to talk to you about family engagement. This is something of big interest. To Ruckus Makers, for sure. It is. And so how do you approach family engagement? What do you do to support buy-in? I

Lisa (25:52):
Think it’s gotta be approached the same way that I think about students. I’ll tell you what hasn’t really worked for me, and I’m gonna use the word gimmicks because I don’t know what else to use, and maybe that’s not the best word choice.

Daniel (26:04):
What’s an example of a gimmick, though?

Lisa (26:06):
We tried a family engagement. We called it the A team. And it ‘s Arlington and with a team. And we wanted families to send in pictures of them doing things together. And we were gonna post it, and then we’re gonna have some drawings for a prize. Before it started, I could have predicted with probably about 90% accuracy, who would participate, who wouldn’t. And the ones who participated are the ones I’m not trying to reach, or they’re not the ones I’m trying to reach, I should say. It isn’t that I don’t wanna reach them, but I don’t have to try because they’re there. I put my hand out and they hold it. And it’s a very good relationship. The key and the difficulty, of course, is how do you get parents who, for whatever reason, families who for whatever reason have an aversion, maybe they didn’t have a good K12 experience themselves.

Lisa (27:00):
Maybe they’re overworked and overstressed, and life is just too much. And then to think about engaging with the school is just one more thing. So in my experience, and my belief tells me that it’s gotta be a welcome and a connection that is baked in. And that happens continually. And not once a month with a prize board or every semester with a drawing. And we still do that stuff because there are kids and families who really enjoy it. But I reach out early and often to the people I don’t hear from via email or phone call. And I always start with something I have to share. I don’t wanna put the burden of the conversation on them. If I’ve got somebody who is having a difficult time coming in, the last thing I wanna do is call up and say, Hey, just wondered if you have anything you wanna say or anything you wanna talk about. That’s a burden. I open up with something to talk about and have a conversation, and then I like to end with what, what else is on your mind? What else would you like to talk about? Now that you have me, are there any questions that you would like to ask? Or anything that you would like to share? The other thing I really like to do, if ever I have a student in my office, I reach out to that parent, I try to call. And if I can’t call, I’ll either leave a message or I’ll send an email. And I always say to parents, please discuss this with your child when he or she gets home. I want you to know what they have to say about what happened. And then if you’ve got questions or concerns, let’s say there’s a scuffle on the playground. I called home, the child went home, and maybe for whatever reason, didn’t feel comfortable telling me the whole story. Or the latter you are, sometimes the harder it is to talk to the principal. I want these kids to go home, talk to mom and dad, and then mom and dad to come back and say, when we talk to Lisa, here’s what she said. That wasn’t a part of what you told us, is this new information. I want transparency. I want, every time I have a conversation with a student, I want parents to know it. And I want them to dig in. I don’t want anything hidden. I don’t want anything tucked away. I want those conversations with kids. And then I want parents to come back and say, whoa, wait a minute. Here’s what you told me.

Lisa (29:16):
Here’s what my daughter said. We are not in the same place. We need to dig into this further. Yes, please, yes, please. Because I had three children, I did wanna hear what they had to say. And I do think that sometimes they come with all or part of the truth. And there were times that even as I was an educator, I was interested in talking to their teachers about something that happened after I visited with them. I think sometimes that raises like, oh, okay, you’re gonna come back and you’re gonna ask about this or wonder about this. That’s a wonderful thing. Please ask me. Please don’t go to the gas station and ask, I wonder why they did this up there. Please call me. Because I want to talk to you and I want to tell you the truth as I know it, or the belief as I have it. And then you and I can talk about that and find ways to meet in the middle. But I think transparency and communication and inviting hard conversations is really important for family engagement.

Daniel (30:13):
That’s what I learned from what you shared there. Because sometimes maybe you might try to avoid that ’cause it’s not necessarily fun or it’s not, but it’s hard. The thing is like you’re encouraging the transparency, the open lines of communication, and let’s figure out really what’s happened here and get to the bottom of it. And I do appreciate that. And you’re not operating from, I’m the leader of the school and I know what’s best. And this is just how it happened. It invites relationships. And so that’s why it gauges families. So even if it’s a, even if it’s a challenge or a criticism that you have to navigate together, you’re saying, let’s keep talking about it and don’t talk about it over here. Talk about it with me. I wanna figure this out with you.

Lisa (31:01):
And I always want to be the primary source of a difficult message. I don’t want the third grader to tell them. I wanna beat it home, and then I want the parent to talk to the student. It isn’t like, I’m gonna tell you. So you don’t have to ask him. No, I’m saying I wanna beat it home because I wanna say, here’s what I know. And because of what I knew, here’s what I did. And I want you to talk to your son or daughter. And that if you’ve got concerns or questions, I want you to call. I don’t wanna call the next morning. And this sometimes happens because maybe something happens on the playground and I’m not aware of it, and then I get a call of concern. And that is one of the most difficult moments for me as the school leader, because I want to know that and share that with the parents. I don’t wanna have that call up with the parent letting me know what happened in our school. That should be my message to you so that you can debrief with your son or daughter so that we can work it out together. Because when you hide things or when you don’t know things,

Daniel (32:00):
It’s always, they get found out.

Lisa (32:01):
Let’s go back to telling ourselves a story that’s not true. That’s why we gotta have all the information. Things that we hide, they fester, they grow, they get gross. Bring it out. Let’s talk about it.

Daniel (32:14):
You said, it comes out into the light. And if you’ve been hiding something or something that’s very poor reflection. On your leadership. Let’s talk about happiness, toxic positivity and perfectionism. What’s your take on that?

Lisa (32:28):
There’s a lot to say there isn’t there? What do you think that happy people are? They’re better performers, they’re better communicators, they’re better. Happiness is something that I think that we can influence as educators, as we deal with parents and we deal with students. I don’t wanna use the word control because I think I have to control my emotions and I get to decide. I really get to decide how I interpret something that happens to me. It really believes events don’t have meaning. The meaning we give them. No event has meaning. We decide what it means. We put the judgment on there. The things that we do with kids, we know the kinds of things that are gonna build them up, affirm them, help them grow as people, help them feel better about themselves, help them look in the mirror and have a positive disposition. And same thing with families. And I think that there’s ways that we can support students’ happiness. Now, people can actively choose to be the or. They can actively choose to be unhappy. And I can’t change that, but I can work to provide an environment where, if that’s your choice, it’s an easy choice to make. But toxic positivity is a tough one. My mom died of cancer a few years ago, and I didn’t need people saying, oh, and nobody did. But you read them, oh just hang in there. She is with you all the time. And no, just look at me and say, this must be really hard. I’m sorry. I mean, that’s all I wanted. I didn’t wanna be told it was gonna be better. I didn’t wanna be told that she was in a better place. I wanted her here. All the things that people say, and it’s well-meaning, but , when you embrace sunshine on kids who are in crisis or who are struggling, at best, they’re rejecting it. And at the worst they’re resenting it. And they’re like, you don’t get it. Just keep going. Just keep smiling. Turn that frown upside down. No, can I have a minute? Can I have a minute to feel what I should feel because I’m a human who’s experiencing whatever it is. I’m reading with Beth with my kids right now, and there’s a scene where McDo has told his wife and his children have been killed. And they all are like, come on, get ready to fight. He’s like, I will, but can I have one minute to feel the feelings that a man feels for the people he cares about? And so I just am wary of all of the platitudesI like quotes too, but not the sunny ones. I like things aside from my thoughts, am I okay? Aside from my thoughts, I am okay. A hundred percent of the time I’ve been able to say that in my life or events don’t have meaning. We apply them. I like those kinds of quotes. I don’t love to turn that frown upside down. And I think we have to be careful what we do with it. And we’re well-meaning, I get it, but sometimes that just hurts more. And you think to yourself, I would, if I could, if it was that easy, I would, don’t you think I’d love to smile, but I can’t. So it’s about giving people room to feel what they’re feeling all the while expecting that they’re appropriate. We all go through grief or we stop or whatever. We can’t victimize others because we’ve been victimized. We have to hold kids to that standard. And I have that conversation, what happened to you? Shouldn’t have happened to you. You didn’t deserve it. It’s not your fault. But don’t create more victims because you’ve been victimized. You don’t have a license to create more victims.

Daniel (35:57):
So, recording with me is a bucket list moment for you. Why is that?

Lisa (36:01):
I listen to you all the time, and I learn from you. It’s a weird thing ’cause I’m this small principal in this small school, in this small state, and I listen to you and you’ve got people who are running New York City schools and teaching at Ivys and all the things. And I’m like, I have imposter syndrome. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t know that I belong on the list, but I really feel so strongly about what I’ve learned about people and how to help kids and families and teachers through hard times. And it’s harder than ever. We got teachers leaving like never before. We got students in crisis. We have families in crisis. Now more than ever we have to understand and think, and I’m not advocating everybody put themselves out there to be a punching bag. I’m not saying that. But I chose a relationship-based emotional profession. And I have to do the work to armor myself so that I can take some of what people put on me and kind of help carry them. And that, that’s part of the work that I do. I can do that because I have a good life. I have a wonderful husband, I have great kids. I’ve got my cup full. I can do that. And I think that’s what’s so hard today is we’ve got a lot of people in education. We’ve got families, we got kids. Their cup is empty. They could tip that thing over and not a drop’s gonna come out. Yeah, my cup is full, so I can give. But I’m very mindful of taking care of myself, of the thoughts that I allow to enter and that I marinate on. I try to marinate on things that are gonna make me strong so that I can help people when they’re not. And it’s important to me that people in education, again, we don’t need to be punching bags, but we need to know that the kids that we’re working with, and some of the families are really going through a hard time. Number one, we gotta take care of ourselves. If I can’t walk, I can’t carry you. And number two, we gotta realize that some of these people are hurting and they need to be able to come to us. Kids need to be able to come to me, puke it all over me, and I need to be able to say, I’m glad you’re here and mean it

Daniel (38:02):
And mean it. That’s the important part. You can’t, you can’t fake that, so No, no. I always say you can’t pour from an empty cup. Good reminder, before we get to the last three questionsI ask everybody, the first one being, if you could put a message on all school marquees around the world for a single day, what would Lisa’s message be?

Lisa (38:20):
I gotta steal one. I love the idea that a journey of one mile, 10 miles, a hundred miles, a thousand miles, it begins with a single step. And that’s when I saw myself in that kid, when I saw that kid see me, that was step one of the walk. I’m still on. And you know what, it wasn’t this radical transformation. It wasn’t like all of a sudden I was just this new person, but I’ve decided to take in content. I listen to you, I listen to a lot of podcast. I read a lot. I take in messages that help me take steps toward being the kind of leader and the kind of human that I wanna be. The kind of ruckus picker I wanna be. I want to just disrupt this idea that consequences and coming in hot with kids is the best path. I think sometimes just slowing it down and showing them regulated. Anger, regulated disappointment, regulated frustration is important. But it begins with a single step. It begins with one encounter, and then you find yourself however many miles down the road.

Daniel (39:21):
And how would you build your dream school if you’re not limited by any resources? Your only constraint was your ability to imagine what would be the three guiding principles, building your dream school.

Lisa (39:31):
I want kids to have the opportunity to shine. I I want you to shine. I think that a lot of times we’re putting round pegs into square holes in schools. You know the metaphor of asking the fish to climb the tree versus swim in the pond. I think we gotta ask the fish to swim. We gotta ask cheetahs to run. And I don’t think we do that often enough. And I want kids to have the chance to shine. I want kids to have the opportunity to empathize, to understand somebody else’s experiences. I think we’re sowe’re, we’re so caught up in our own realities that we don’t even realize what kinds of things impact and shape and influence other people. And so we’re very quick to judge an other. And I think once you know another, whatever the other is, you understand that they’re just like you.

Lisa (40:20):
You know that they are exactly like you, and we’re all fundamentally the same. And when we interact with people who are different from us, and who see life differently and have, have different experiences, it’s just such an eye-opening experience. And that’s how you build empathy. And the last thing is, I think you need, and you need to have and be encouraged to, you have the opportunity to fail up. I mean, it’s just, I think kids are sothey’re so tied to grades and so tied to the red pen and the check mark and the 85% out of a hundred, and we just really penalized failure. And that man, that day that I failed with that kid was one of the best days of my professional life. Thank God I failed. And I feel badly that somebody had to be the one on whom I failed, but I did. And I learned something from it. I learned way more from that than I ever have with anything that’s, I would consider a success. And we penalize failure in kids, and we make them scared and we get them tight. And so I want the opportunity to shine. I want the opportunity to empathize. I want the opportunity to fail up.

Daniel (41:27):
We talked about a lot today, Lisa, and of everything we discussed, what’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?

Lisa (41:33):
We’re all just people doing the best we can do. And whether you’re 6 or you’re 50, I really do believe most people are doing the best they can. And sometimes the best we’ve got is not good enough for the context we’re in. Sometimes the best a six year old has on the playground is not good enough for the playground, but for whatever reason, that is that student’s best. And my job, our job is to help that student grow and to manage and to regulate. And there is the opportunity for growth in everyone. But it takes just like you’re gonna put a plant in the wind sill and or windowsill, and you’re gonna water it and get it sunshine. People need it too. We need to be watered. We need to have our physical needs met.

Lisa (42:18):
We need to have sunshine. I live here in the north, it’s 19 degrees. We have 27 feet of snow here, and a storm coming Thursday and Friday. It’s not that easy right now to be happy and to be encouraging and to support people because we need some sun. And, but you know, the metaphorical sun is somebody looking at you and saying, Hey, I’m glad you’re here. I’m good. It’s good to see you, it’s good to be with you. That’s some sunshine and we can give that to each other in dark moments.

Daniel (42:47):
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. Buy for now and goooo, make a ruckus.



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