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Unleashing Leadership Skills
I think being an educator, being a principal, being a Ruckus Maker is a calling. You are called to it. It’s in your DNA. Maybe you didn’t start off that way, but we’re ending that way and finishing strong as well. And that is today’s story with Lynn Hardin. She was in a whole different industry. She was told, don’t be a teacher, discouraged from that. But deep down, she knew that that was where she was supposed to be. And then the opportunity literally fell into her lap. She flipped on the lights and said, I’m home. Hey, this is Danny. I am a principal development retention expert, bestselling author. I host two of the world’s most downloaded podcasts. And this show is for you, a Ruckus Maker, which means you’ve made three commitments, you’ve committed to investing in your continuous growth, challenging the status quo in designing the future of school right now. And we’ll be back after some short messages from our show sponsors.
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How would you like to increase student talk by an average of 40% more student ownership, more student discourse? Check it out for yourself by trying out Teach FX. Go to teachfx.com/betterleaders to pilot their program today. If executive functioning skills are integral to student success, then why aren’t they taught explicitly and consistently in classrooms? I have no idea. I have no idea why that doesn’t happen. But what I do know is that our friends over at Organized Binder have created a new course that will teach your teachers how to set up students for success via executive functioning skills. Learn [email protected]/go. Hello, Ruckus Maker. I am here today with Lynn Hardin, a retired elementary school principal and certified life coach with over 20 years of experience working with school leaders at all levels. Lynn is passionate about staying current with the latest research and trends in education leadership, but most importantly, she’s committed to helping her clients achieve greater success, both personally and professionally and become the leader everybody loves. Lynn, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Danny. I’m so excited to be here. I’ve really been looking forward to it. Thank you for having me.
Brilliance. Yes. And I know that I’m gonna be on your show too, so just Saying that because Ruckus Makers, you should definitely check out that show as it gets released as well. Let’s talk about why and how, I guess teaching was in your DNA right? But you were discouraged to become a teacher. So what’s the story there?
I think it’s an interesting story ’cause it’s about my life and I’ve been doing some ancestry as I am retired from public education and went all the way back to London and Ireland and family and the militia, the American Revolution in the Civil War. And they were all farmers and laborers, and some of them teachers as we got closer down. But this was on my mother’s side, so this was the fifties, and my mom was kind of quiet, I think about her input. And my father had stronger opinions. He wanted me to make more money. His definition of success was making a lot of money. And as we’ve talked about, we all have different definitions of what success is and right. I pursued that and went to Texas A&M, became a scientist, and worked in clinical laboratories and hospitals. And I did pursue that for 20 years. And then lights happened. I don’t think anyone was misbehaving. I think that they just had different perspectives about education. My mom knew the value because she was a special education teacher. My grandmother taught in a one room schoolhouse. My great-grandfather taught one room schoolhouse and the rest were laborers and farmers. So they saw the value. But my mom was quiet, but I must have her voice inside of me because in my early forties, I went back to school and became a teacher.
What was the catalyst for that shift?
I’m a believer in miracles, taking, pausing, and looking when they show up. And I was at my son’s baseball game, just relaxing. And a neighbor came by and dropped a substitute teacher application in my lap just out of the blue. And I’m like, whoa, okay. Alright, universe. I’m listening. That was a pretty direct message. So I applied in Irvine Unified School District and became a substitute teacher. And we was so excited and nervous and got there really early and walked, it was an elementary school classroom, I can still see it. And walked in and it was dark and it was cool. And the desk were all shadowed. Nobody else was there. I think maybe the custodian and I flipped on the light and I just knew I was home. I knew I was where I was meant to be. And so I took that emergency credentialed and hustled, went to UCII got my credential. And within two years, maybe a year and a half, I had my own third grade classroom in Irvine.
And then you became a principal too. I don’t remember who said this, but somebody asked you, are you sure? What do you think was behind that question? When people are asking, are you sure you wanna be a principal?
Well, I think, and principals listen to this and probably relate if you’ve ever lived the job, but while I was in the third grade classroom, I wanted to make a bigger impact. Believe it or not, I only had 20 kids. But part of a story that came down in my family was that at a terrible time in our history, children of any color, whether it was Native American or African American, were not allowed to learn how to read. They weren’t allowed to go to school. They weren’t allowed to learn how to read. And I have a feisty family member, which I can identify with, and the way the law reads, you couldn’t teach them to read on the land. So they would rowboat out into the middle of a lake and they would teach these children how to read. And I’m still a little bit of a rule breaker, Ruckus Maker. That’s a real Ruckus Maker, isn’t it?
For sure. Especially when it comes to equity. You know, I think that’s where Ruckus Makers really champion a lot of the work. And you see something that’s clearly so wrong, disadvantaged certain kinds of kids. And so, okay, I can’t do it on land. Well, let’s do it by sea. Reading’s beautiful with the waves around you and the breeze and whatever.
Also I believe education is true freedom. That’s probably why the patriarchy or whatever was going on at that time, kept these children suppressed, because that’s how you enslave them, is to not educate them. So I have some ancestry that was quiet about it, but did that and taught these children how to read. I don’t know if it’s true. I’d like to believe that it is. So I had that in me to make a greater impact. And as school leaders, we serve more than our classroom. We serve so many, we serve a community, we serve parents, we serve our teachers, we serve our children. I just wanted to make a bigger impact.
I think that’s a big reason a lot of Ruckus Makers decided to become a principal and it has to do with that impact and change at scale. And so they throw their hat in the ring and there you go. So you did quite well as a principal. You’ve led many award winning schools. Obviously the context of each school is gonna be radically different. But if you sort of zoom out from the trees, are there any dots that you can connect between those award-winning schools in terms of what works in terms of high performance.
Good teachers, good teaching, that’s all I needed. I didn’t need programs. I didn’t need more technology. I didn’t need more textbooks. My philosophy has always given me good teachers, and that’s where I put my blood, sweat, and tears. It was good teaching. That was the golden thread that ran through all of ’em. And the last one was one of America’s best urban schools. And they kind of picked us because of our STEM lab and all that was going on in there. But without good teaching, having all of this technology means nothing.
It’s about the quality of the people. How do you define, like, what do you think about when it comes to good teaching?
I think there are categories. I think there is a teacher who’s gifted in the womb, God put them on, you are a teacher, they are just naturally gifted. They just know how to connect with a child and to take whatever knowledge it is that they wish to transform or transmit. And in their teaching, it’s magical. I mean, I can sit in the back of the room and watch them and go, I got nothing. I have no suggestions. This is a gifted, and I would say that you are naturally gifted and I don’t know what percentage. And then it’s not the highest percentage. I don’t know, 20, 30% in my experience. But the rest are good teachers , number one, they care about kids. They love children, but not they care about their wellbeing, whether it’s mentally, physically, spiritually. They know that in order for a child to learn, they must first feel safe. So they create that emotional and physical safety and a relationship. And when a child loves their teacher, they’ll do anything. They’ll do anything. They work so hard for you, and they’ll make any of the adjustments that you need. So that’s some of it. And of course, there is the ability to be engaging, to be interesting, to be fun, but it’s never the content, it’s never the standards. It’s the engagement and the motivation first, safety, and then the ability to be super engaging and super motivating. And humble enough when like, time out, nobody got We’re gonna roll back, ladies and gentlemen and, and redo this. And being willing to go back and not feel pressured by the district with their pacing guides to keep marching on to see what’s best for their kids and pull back and try it again. And it’d come at it from the right, come at it from the left, the top, the bottom. So for me, those are kind of the two categories of teachers.
I always remember moving from Illinois, I was sick of the winter, so I moved down to Atlanta, Georgia for my first teach in position out in, Marietta. So that was Cobb County School District. And it was a lovely experience really enjoyed so much that I learned about the culture. And the people were great and just, it’s just awesome. But the pacing guide. That wasn’t something I was prepared for because in my training, and then at my student teaching, we had standards that we needed to meet kids, had to master. And then we created really great lessons to have that happen. And nobody told me, teach this, read thisdo this activity on this day. And so that was a stretch. And as a novice teacher, I didn’t know that ask about like, is this a thing? But it really, it kind of messed with me a bit and couldn’t be my long-term teaching home because the creativity just wasn’t there for me. I found a way to be creative within it all, but whatever it was a challenge. But I share all that to say it’s not necessarily the curriculum. Or the standards, it is that what you bring the engagement the ability to be interesting, more importantly, to show that you care. That you create a safe space for kids to take risks and learn. And so I really appreciate what you said about high quality teaching there.
And I would say that’s why those three schools were successful. In my leadership I am able to attract good teachers and repel those that were not a fit. Do you know what I’m saying? And there weren’t a lot of terms. But it was sure in strategic places within three levels that made a difference.
Let’s stay there for a minute, because I know the Ruckus Maker listening would be very interested. How do I attract more a-player talent and repel folks that clearly probably don’t even like kids? Why are they teaching? What did you think about or what are some practical things that you did to attract and repel?
Some of the things that I did was, I don’t even wanna agree. My colleagues don’t always agree with this. I thought it was important to have beauty on campus, not necessarily the landscaping or, but it was super important to have a campus that was attractive that the buildings were clean, they were picked up, trash was put away. It was obvious that this building, that whoever lived here and worked here had pride in it. So it was very important to have it to be clean, to have it clutter free so that that energy that you’re wanting to attract has a space to come. If you’re so cluttered in your space, or your classroom, or your office or your school, I don’t think you’re going to attract the type of teacher that I wanted.
So whenever I went to a school site, the first thing that I looked at or did though, they say you’re in our first year, don’t do so much. But it was hard for you. Remember, I have an ancestor who rode out on Tula Lake. Who faced probably being hung if they’d ever been caught. So I found a little bit of flax sometimes and maybe stepped on some few toes. And as I look back as a life coach, I might’ve done it a little differently, but I would clean up the campus, I would, and be in the classrooms for sure. And encourage teachers. It wasn’t too hard for 90% of ’em to create that environment that would attract another, because teachers talk too, by the way, in a large district like mine, teachers talk. Another way that I would attract the type of teachers that I wanted would be to be the type of leader that they would want. I wasn’t a micromanager the few times that I had to ever be one, I hated it and they hated it. It’s not my style, my style was more one of trust and love and caring. And I think you’ll attract good teachers when you know that you’re creating a space for them to step in and be their authentic self. The district writes your checks. The state of California wrote our checks. We still have to teach the standards, I mean, and do the things that our bosses are asking us to do. But within there is a room to be your authentic self and be that engaging and be creative. So one was actually creating an attractive, physically attractive environment. And then the second one would be the type of leader that they would want to work with because teachers would talk and then they would share with other schools that I might. I wasn’t somebody that everyone would wanna work with, but I definitely attracted the type of teachers where I was able to build the culture and the community, the environment where kids thrive.
A hundred percent. Created that environment. And once you got ’em there created more space for them to be creative and be authentic. And so that would be hard to pass up as a teacher for sure. Before our break, can you talk a little bit about repelling? We talked about attracting, what about maybe I made a wrong decision here with this hire. It didn’t work out the way I thought, or I’ve inherited this person and they’re not the right fit.
It’s a lean in California, you have three years before someone is tenured. And so I took that very seriously as I groomed and worked. And of course, there’s never enough time. To do what you want to work with a new teacher. And I would be honest with them about the expectation, what it is that I needed from I get them tons of support, whatever they needed from me. If it wasn’t for me, if I didn’t have time, then I would get another teacher to work with them. I would get whatever support they thought they needed first. And then if that didn’t work, I would suggest, I think you need this. But tons and tons of seeing it, hearing it a lot, lots of support from teachers, maybe from another in my campus or my district. We had teachers who just did this, who taught new teachers. Because when I’m looking at a new teacher, I’m looking at whether she will be with children for 30 years. Is this someone I want my children to be their teacher or my now my grandchildren, I have grandchildren. I didn’t have grandchildren at the time, but it would be, do I want my children to be in her classroom? So that was kind of my standard. But tons and tons and tons of support. And I think that it worked out very well. I can only think of one time where it really didn’t, and that teacher left the profession. She was able to acknowledge this isn’t for me, this is this kinda like I knew teaching was for me and she ended up going on to another career and being
Perfect. Lynn, I’m enjoying our conversation. We’re gonna pause here for a second to get some messages in from our show sponsors when we get back. I know that you’re coaching school leaders, so I’d love to hear about your model. And I know you have a free gift that principals and Ruckus Makers will wanna pick up, and we’ll talk about that too.
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Our friends at Organized Binder have released a new self-paced course and it teaches you how to teach these executive functioning skills and set up your students for success. Learn [email protected]/go and start setting up your students for success today. Again, that’s [email protected]/go. Alright, we’re back with Lynn Hardin, and we were talking just a second ago about attracting and repelling folks on your faculty. And now we’re gonna transition to talk about Lynn supporting school leaders these days through coaching. And so what’s the model that you use Lynn, when working with clients?
It’s actually called the Model.
It’s called the Model. Nice.
Called the Model. What we did, it’s just one of the tools that I use there is just some little quick, we have Brain 1 0 1, we have two brains. We have a primitive brain, which is all about survival, and it’s super negative and always looking for problems and isn’t always our best self, but it will keep us from stepping in front of a bus. And then we have that part of us that is logical, creative, and can make all those wonderful choices. However, the primitive brain usually rules first and is always throwing out thoughts. In the Model, all humans, not just principals, something will happen. So a parent will yell at you. A teacher will pop in when you have a dentist appointment, we have a sixth grader in their classroom, and they’re like, or you’re in your office and they’re like, I had nothing to do with it. That wasn’t me. I did not do that. But there’s some kind of circumstance. Every human being will make a story or narrative about what has just happened. And it is a thought. And we usually believe that it is true, though if I’m thinking it, it’s gotta be true. Well, thoughts are just stories and narratives. They’re facts or reality. So we know that when you think about something, it will evoke an emotion. If you think that this parent yelled at me, you might be scared, you might be angry, you might be upset If a child won’t cooperate in your little investigation, you might be frustrated If a teacher pops in, you might be frustrated. It’s like you, she’s really dear to you or he’s really dear to you and you might be happy to see them and willing to cancel your appointment depending on the thought that will evoke the emotion. Our emotions drive our actions that will determine what we do. And actions create results. So many humans, not just principles, spend all their time in the actions trying to change their actions, not knowing that behind it are thoughts and feelings that are motivating the action you cannot find or get the results you want without first going back to mindset and emotional intelligence.
And this was a big one with my clients. Not only do I help them see what their mindset is, and then they get to decide if they want to think or see it differently or change their perspective. And I have tools for that. But the biggest part of my practice right now is emotional strength and emotional intelligence. Being able to process emotion without it being a problem. Not being afraid to process emotion. And I wish I’d had this with some of my teachers because I saw that the one thing I saw was stress and burnout. The inability to process the emotion, which is actually really, it’s not that hard. We’re just not taught, we’re not taught in school how to do it. We’re not taught at work. It is something that is coming out of the life coaching community is encouragement to process their emotion.
Jonathan says, the emotional tail wags the rational dog. So we all wanna believe that we’re smart, that we’re rational, that we’re logical. Our emotions are dictating a lot of those choices that we make, that get to the actions, that get to the results. And a lot of folks are totally oblivious to that invisible reality in the inner world. So that’s where the investigation of story and emotional intelligence comes in. Really comes to fruition there.
And it’s easy, it’s really easy to do. The client comes on and I just say, tell me what’s going on. And in my training, I’m able to pick those pieces out and then, then we begin to work within the model. And it is just one aspect of life coaching. I’ve also personally and professionally started doing inner child work, which was really poo-pooed at one time. He’s 90. But I think that it, when it’s done in a certain way, because we’re not therapists, we’re not psychiatrists, but it’s safe and it’s, and if it’s not safe, you stop. But it’s easy to go back and change your perspective and even rewrite the story.
Talking about changing perspectives, I think you told me in our pre-interview that school leaders should not necessarily want to get rid of stress entirely. And that’s a provocative idea. So why should they not want to get rid of stress entirely? And again? Yeah. So one provocative idea that you’ve shared with me before, Lynn,and this has to do with change in perspectives. A lot of us as leaders, like just the idea of getting rid of stress. Getting rid of stress. Like let me get rid of it. I’m too stressed out. But you believe that right? Leaders should not want to get rid of stress entirely. It’s interesting. So what’s going on there?
I’m not suggesting burnout, I’m not suggesting Health issues or anything like that. But some stress, like in when you, if you’ve ever taken, you’ve ever taken a rubber band and launched it to maybeI don’t know, student neck, the, your buddy next to you as a Ruckus Maker. I bet a few of you have played with rubber bands as slingshots. Right.
I’ve done a number of things that I can and cannot talk about on the show. So, yes.
But the stress of pulling the rubber band is what propels. And I think that stress will propel you into new ideas, new content, being able to make decisions till feeling that pressure or the stress stop. Procrastination gets us to move. So I do not think that I need to be stress free. One, it’s not realistic. Human beings cannot be stress free. And so I would, that is a thought that is not real. So, and part of being able to manage stress or live within this life, which has stress, is learning how to manage your emotions, which is learning how to note what it is that you’re thinking that could be driving this anger, driving this feeling, this stress, or taking a look at the actions. What am I doing that’s causing this? Because there’s some kind of mindset or emotion behind it. So I think that stress and, and to ha I’ve had three babies, you have to have stress to have a baby there has a forward emotion. It has to be stress in order to do it. So stress is not a bad thing. And think that is a thought to maybe a story we tell ourselves to keep from, I’m just so stressed to maybe keep us from being self-reflect self-aware and doing the things that you would faithfully look at was underneath. So as a c that’s gonna help clients with that.
And maybe one way that you help with that as well is you have this free gift, which is a principle planner for Ruckus Makers. Can you tell us about this gift and where to get it?
I have on my website lynnhardin.com. I have a planner for school principals. It’s very focused. It uses the right and the left brain and it’ll help you be focused and organized. When we’re focused and organized, we will decrease our workload. I take a look at the bigger picture, the year plan, and then I go down two months, week and daily rather than just, and I’ve done that as a principal. You just walk in and you just, I have a to-do list or just wait to see what’s presented, what’s gonna hit me for that day. I’m encouraging having more, a little more planning with your time and organization. And it doesn’t take a lot of time. And it will save you workload, save stress, save worry. Because I can remember being, when I didn’t have a plan for the day, being pretty anxious about wondering what’s gonna show up.
Yeah, definitely. And encourage Ruckus Makers to check it out. At least right now, I don’t offer a plan or a tool like that on my website. So this is a great resource and I just wanna shout out a thing that Ruckus Makers should check out. And I’m in a program called Strategic Coach and they have a weekly planner, which you could see that I’m filling out and it works. And I told you before hitting record, I’ve been really in a six week flow state ever since the live event in Denver this summer. But part of that is having the plan and feeling good about it. And the interesting thing, the last thing I’ll say here before we move to our last questions, there’s an emphasis not only in work, right, in creating value, but there’s also free days, which even though I know they’re important, and I coach and mentor school leaders take free days, I had found myself in a place where I was struggling to do so. And now that’s, I’ve turned that around. And I can tell you actually, so far since joining the coach program, I’ve had 32 free days, 22, what they call focus days and 18 buffer days. I’ve worked less and I know you’re coming out of six weeks of rest as well. And there’s an interesting thing, I think the last thing I’ll say is that what that forces you to do is, one, it refills your cup. You can’t pour from an empty cup. So you’re more creative when you turn on work and then you’re crystal clear on what’s important, what’s not, and you just stop worrying about not important things. So anything you wanna add to that? And then we’ll get to the last few questions.
I’m just dying to know, what was the shift for you that you went from working all the time, working all the time, and using a planner? That’s an action, using a planner is an action. What was the shift for you?
I journal, I have planners, I’ve always sort of planned out and I’ve sort of prided myself on being quite unquote productive. And I’ve always been really good at that, but I just know there’s more to life than work. And I’m trying to model the leaders that I support. And I knew that I was sort of missing the mark here and I could improve. And another thing that I’ve always just known since 2015 when I started investing in myself. If I wanna grow in an area, I will join a program, get a coach, pay a lot of money, and now I’d be really stupid, honestly. I would be really stupid to not implement things that they’re teaching me after spending that kind of money. And so that’s sort of are some of the conditions that will push me to implement the plus this guy’s sort of focused, he says, in my context, I wanna grow better leaders, better schools, serve more school leaders. And he really, he says, you can do that and work less. And I’m like alright, prove it. I’ll join the program and we’ll see if this really works. And so far it actually has been.
I pulled out from what you said is the thought that motivated me that there’s more to life than work. And I think that’s when you think that thought, how did that make you feel? There’s more to life than work. How did you feel?
I know that, and I just basically, I wanted to crush, like that’s such like a masculine, like crush it. I wanted to excel not only professionally, but I wanted to excel in my family and in my personal life also. And my family and personal life were getting worse compared to my work life. And that’s just, that’s silly. And so I was ready to make a change.
And that’s beautiful. Iit sounds like from that thought you were able to see that your family was maybe paying the price for so much work. So when you thought that life, maybe, did you feel hopeful that this program might work?
Yeah, for sure. Definitely hopeful.
In order to implement what he had, you had to feel hopeful or encouraged or excited because even though he is a great coach and doing good stuff, if you’re feeling, imagine trying to be in, that’s what I would do with teachers. What space are you in? When you’re in a space of, when you’re in a space of fear or anger or disappointment or judgment, it’s very difficult to implement these wonderful tools that whoever’s providing for you. But if you can come from a space of hope, it’s a lot easier to influence those tools.
Yeah, that’s an excellent point. Well, Lynn, if you could put a message on all school marquees around the world for just one day, what would your message be?
Great. And if you were building your dream school. You are not limited by any types of resources. Your only constraint was your ability to imagine. How would you build this dream school? What would be the three guiding principles?
The three guiding principles, which are not new ones, are, well, no, and maybe they are. The three guiding principles would be that, that the kids, first, that we do what’s best for kids. It’s not necessarily what’s best for the adult necessarily, but we always do what’s best for kids. And that a guiding principle would be that our thoughts and our emotion, our emotional strength matters. And what I would like to do in that school, if I had known all the money in the world and the willingness to do it is what I would love first to have. ’cause As a principal, we wear so many hats. I would love to train them to be a life coach, to know what I know to be, not, not necessarily, I mean, you have to be with a coach initially, but to actually embrace being a life coach as a principal, and then be able to pass that onto their teachers. So in the classroom, teachers would have these life coach skills, and then they would be able to pass them on to the children. So the children would have the life coach skills. They would know how to process emotion. They would be able to recognize when it is fact or story, they’d be able to recognize, oh, it was just like a primitive, scared brain. And they would be able to when they’re triggered, what’s underneath that and what to do about it. So that if I can do that, I would do that rather than the stem. If I could go back, I would create a skull. Do you imagine if everyone on site had those skills?
Yeah. They can do anything. We covered a lot of ground today, Lynn. So of everything we discussed, what’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember
That the world is so grateful for what you’re doing and the impact that you’re making and the future that you are creating. I may not live long enough to see it, but I am personally so grateful for the changes and the impact and the future that you are creating. Education is going through. Life is 50 50, and so education is 50 50. It’s in the negative 50 50 right now. And I’m so grateful that you’re hanging in there and you’re persevering and you, I’m so excited about what you’re gonna create, what’s gonna happen out, what’s gonna come out on the other side. So thank you. The world thinks you,
Thanks for listening to The Better Leaders, better School’s 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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