Ryan Steuer is the founder of Magnify Learning, a Project Based Learning professional development organization. Prior to founding Magnify Learning, Ryan was an engineer for a Fortune 50 company, an eighth-grade English teacher, and a missionary. He shares his educational leadership insights on YouTube and on the PBL Simplified podcast.

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Show Highlights

The adventures and life learning from RV education.

Bridging the gap to connect the dot between essential concepts and real world experiences for students.

Wake up kids with relevant and authentic learning with these tips on how to create a PBL curriculum.

The importance of having a WHY behind student learning to identify standards learned and transferred.

Ryan shares a story of failing at PBL and why it is critical to have students in on the unit planning process.

The benefits of a Mastermind “is you get somebody that knows the work enough to like slam your foot down on the pedal to really move your work farther.”

PBL Simplified, has a proven 6-step process directed at supporting leaders in motivating staff and maneuvering through the creative constraints.

Madeline Mortimore

Read my latest book!

Learn why the ABCs of powerful professional development™ work – Grow your skills by integrating more Authenticity, Belonging, and Challenge into your life and leadership.


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Read the Transcript here.

PBL Simplified

Danny (00:02):
So if you really were gonna give the keys to the curriculum to your students, what would they create? What do you think they might be interested in? What would change, shift, adapt, and evolve in the school, in the district? Would it be interesting? Would you like to find out? The neat thing about today’s guest, Ryan Steur is he’s an expert in project-based learning. He’s built a school, one of the first schools or the first school in Indianapolis to be PBL based. And his company, Magnified Learning, is experts. They’re experts in PBL and he has a new book called PBL Simplified. So if PBL is an interesting topic for you and you wanna explore it or go a bit deeper, then you are absolutely gonna love this episode. Hey, it’s Danny, chief Ruckus Maker over at Better Leaders Better Schools. And this show is for Ruckus Makers, 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 with the main show. After a few introductory messages from our show sponsors.

Danny (01:18):
Learn how to successfully navigate change, shape your school’s success, and lead your teams with Harvard Certificate in School Managemåent and leadership. Get world-class Harvard Faculty Research, specifically adapted for pre-K through 12 schools. Self-Paced online professional development that fits your schedule. Leading change runs from February 15th to March 15th, 2023. Apply by Friday, February 3rd, enroll by Thursday, February 9th. Get started at BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/harvard. Teach FX helps educators see how their instructional practices lead to student talk and learning in both in-person and live online learning for any subject at any grade level. See Teach FX for yourself and learn about special partnership options for Ruckus Makers@ teachfx.com/blbs. All students have an opportunity to succeed with Organized Binder who equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning, whether that’s in a distance, hybrid, or traditional educational setting. Learn [email protected]. All right, here we are with Ryan Steur the founder of Magnify Learning, a project-based learning professional and development organization. Prior to founding Magnify Learning, Ryan was an engineer for a Fortune 50 company, an eighth grade English teacher, and a missionary. He shares his educational leadership insights on YouTube and on the PBLSimplified Podcast. Ryan, welcome to the show.

Ryan (03:06):
Danny. Super excited to be here with you and your Ruckus Makers.

Danny (03:10):
Awesome. You have such an interesting story and I didn’t even know if I remembered or forgot, like the engineer piece. I might have questions about that later. You sold your house, let’s start here. You sold your house, you now live with your family full-time in an RV, and that’s certainly making Ruckus. I’m sure your family had questions and stories and whatever, but what was the catalyst for that decision?

Ryan (03:37):
We tested it out first. We did a short sabbatical of two weeks, then we did a full sabbatical of a month, and then it was like the wheels didn’t come off of the family or any of the work that we were doing. We sold the house and if you remember, there was the bubble where all of our houses were worth one and a half times what we bought ’em for. It’s like that only works out if you don’t buy another house in the same market. So we said, well, let’s sell our house, buy an RV, which is where I’m at right now, and then just travel the country. The podcast still works, YouTube still works. I go and visit schools around the country for the work that we’re doing with Magnify Learning with schools, and in between we visited all these really cool places. So like, so we’re birders. So just this morning we’re in southern Texas, which is a big migration route for birds. So we got to see some birds you can never see in Indiana where we’re originally from. So we added a lot of birds to our life birding list.

Danny (04:37):
Got you. So you have a list and you’re like tracking the birds you see and like where you saw ’em and that kind of thing.

Ryan (04:43):
Absolutely. We saw an American Oystercatcher today that we had never seen before. It was on the coast and I kind of joke, I don’t think it’s very hard to catch an oyster, but that is the bird’s name. We just keep adding to the list and it’s really a pretty neat way to see the country.

Danny (04:59):
It’s authentic learning right there. Have you seen a bald eagle? I have to ask.

Ryan (05:05):
Yeah, we’ve seen bald eagles all over the place, whether it’s over a lake in South Dakota or out in Acadia in Maine. We’ve seen ’em down in Florida, we’ve seen ’em about everywhere, which is really neat. A Bald Eagle that you can see, once you kind of get its outline, there’s a majestic piece to it that still makes you stop and look. I love them.

Danny (05:25):
Yeah, I haven’t seen one yet, so that’s like a bucket list item, I guess. Shout out. I talked to Lisa Perry in South Dakota yesterday, so just like, Hey Lisa, if you’re listening, you’re super cool. Let me ask you one more question in terms of RV type life. What kind of adventures are you getting into? So you’re doing the birding and that kind of thing, but what kind of ruckus are you making traveling around with the family?

Ryan (05:50):
For sure. We’ve been out to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We’ve seen bears, moose, elk and a little bit of everything. So like you said, it’s just this authentic learning opportunity for the kids. We’ve got five kids that are in this RV with us and a happy wife. We go around and we just learn from different cities. Sometimes we’re in a rural setting, sometimes it’s urban. We’ve got a couple canoes with us that we jump into at times as well.There’s a fair amount of ruckus happening pretty much everywhere we go, whenever we show up.

Danny (06:25):
Sounds like it. And , you take guests, like if I just show up and knock on the RV, do I get to hang out with the Steur family.

Ryan (06:34):
For sure you do. It has been a really neat place. I’m in a Mastermind and our Mastermind friends are all over the country so if I’m in New York I stop and see Michael, and if I’m in Chicago, I stop and see Maryanne and see Dan, and I’m in Florida. So it really is an opportunity to see family and see friends in different places that you probably wouldn’t otherwise. So, and yeah, for sure. You’re always welcome.

Danny (06:59):
Yeah. Cool talk about your mastermind experience just for a second. I’m sure people that if you’re not new to this show that we serve school leaders through masterminds, but folks aren’t really familiar with the structure and that kind of thing. Maybe a brief overview, but like, why is it something that you invest in and why do you continue to show up and the value. How have you grown?

Ryan (07:20):
I can’t imagine that I would ever not invest in Mastermind at this point. I’ve got 20, 25 people that are leaders that are operating at a very high level. So if I’ve got an issue or a concern or a thought, or really the part of a mastermind that’s hard to get the ROI around is just the aura of high flyers. We meet weekly, we meet in person, which is really important. Like go to the in-person event and you get to be and know that there are high flyers out there just like you. The ones that get up and exercise and journal and take cold showers and read like crazy. Like, do all the things that high flyers do. You can have conversations that you can’t have with everybody like you’re Ruckus Makers. You can’t always talk to the principal at the school district next to you or even other principals in your district.

Ryan (08:10):
If you’re really a Ruckus Maker. It’s like, not everybody gets that idea and mindset. So a mastermind, you’re bringing together people that have a similar mindset of making things happen. Again, operating at a high level. And there’s just an aura in that it’s changed my life. It’s like literally, even within just two years, it’s completely changed all the work that I do and the way that I think about the world. So I couldn’t recommend it enough, especially I know that, again, if you’re listening, if you’re Ruckus or maybe if you’re on the fence with the masterminds, with better leaders, better schools like jump off the fence into them. Like if you think about if you could meet with high flying the top tier principles and just glean from them, what would that be? Worth, worth you. Like, it’s well worth the investment. A hundred, 200 times worth the investment. It couldn’t be more for masterminds. All

Danny (09:02):
Thank you for that endorsement. I’ll never forget when Lizzie, I affectionately called her Spikes. So Spike, if you’re listening, what’s going on? When she joined, she’s like, finally people get it. Like everywhere else. You express the idea, you want to evolve, innovate within education. Maybe it’s your district, your supervisor, maybe you guys got an echo chamber type of thing, or a fishbowl going on. It’s like, no, we can never do that. Never Are you an alien? Like, what do you mean? Like, do that in education? And then she gets in the mastermind, she. Said like, oh yeah, we’ve done that before. Here’s some things you should try or that’s a great idea. How can I support you? So cool. I don’t wanna make this about me.

Ryan (09:43):
Can I give you one more though? Because I got the chance to be in an opportunity seat for a new venture that I’m looking at in supporting missionaries in their work. Being in the mastermind, they just expanded my, like there aren’t too many rooms where I have to look for the break. Normally I’m pushing the work and pushing the work and pushing the work. It was like suddenly it was like, whoa, where’s the break on this? . Because they had me moving to such a high level, it was exciting for me. Again, just like Spike, I forgot my real name. Sorry, I probably don’t get to call you.

Danny (10:13):
Don’t worry. Spike’s the name that matters.

Ryan (10:16):
The same thing with Spike. It’s like you get somebody that knows the work enough to like slam your foot down on the pedal to really move your work farther. It’s exciting.

Danny (10:28):
Back to you. I don’t wanna make this about me. So you’re in the RV, you’re having these adventures Yellowstone, the Tetons, that kind of stuff. But talk to us about what authentic learning looks like for your kids. They’re obviously having this really generous and rich experience. What does learning look like for them?

Ryan (10:50):
So it looks like a lot of the way I do life as well. Kind of pass that down to my kids. I actually just switched podcast editing companies and I was really happy with my last one, but now my kids edit, produce and post my podcasts. I saved money on that, but I’m also paying them pretty well to do that work. That’s their public work. Like they’re building that portfolio. My daughter has her own podcast, like she’s created. I think her podcast is better than mine. Like she’s so natural at it. It’s called the Amazing Cocoa Land. We bought the URL for her, theamazingcocoaland.com and she’s got this whole world, there’s a map and her stuffed animals kind of interact with this. She’s got different voices that come in. She brings in my younger kids as a different voice in the land as well. And they just go through, it’s hilarious. It’s legitimately funny. And yeah she sees that turning into a business at some point. She doesn’t know yet. But she’s gonna get a following. I’ve got a son who’s a birder, so he’s got nature photography on Shutterstock and he gets downloads.

Ryan (11:57):
He gets paid for that. He’s got to print five shops that you can buy his artwork from. So all within that, like are they learning math like a hundred percent They’re learning math, like they know percentages really well because they’re working with them every single day and they’re writing scripts, they’re writing copy, they’re doing all these pieces as they’re creating real world authentic work that goes out into the world and people see it. Their YouTube channel’s growing. I think more than I do. So again, there’s like some pieces, it’s like I’m gonna have to circle back and learn from them, I think. But that’s what it looks like for us and it’s great.

Danny (12:31):
That’s super cool. And they’re managing their time. I read all the time. Different like principal groups and this kind. Do you still use planners? Do they work on paper? Do you have to do ’em electronically? Hall passes? At the end of the day we’re talking about executive functioning skills and that kind of stuff. My Buddy Mitch over at Organized Binders, like great at that. But like your kids they’re figuring it out, have a lot of autonomy and agency and if they don’t show up, well the podcast doesn’t go out, they’re gonna lose listeners to all this kind of stuff. So they’re in it right now as young people, which is super cool. And you said the amazing cocoa land, like watch out Disney. It’s coming for you. So cool. Help us bridge though from your setting where the sky is truly the limit. I think we could argue that the sky’s the limit in the school setting as well. But , folks that I call play it safe principals, that’s the opposite of a Ruckus Maker. They might have trouble, they might put a ceiling right here. We can’t do those things. Bridge the gap. How can schools create some of these like really authentic experiences for their students?

Ryan (13:42):
It’s a similar process. It’s like where are the passions and gifts in your kids, . In learners and then what’s the need in the real world and what’s the audience that they could reach out to and authentically serve. Because that’s what it’s like. When we get out into the real world, if you will. Like we should be serving someone well, providing value and that’s how we’re compensated. So what’s that look like in a classroom setting? It’s a similar idea. So if you look at let’s say eighth grade science standards, you have to cover the punnett square. You can do that through a textbook and you can look at vocabulary and test on those things. Or you can say like, where is the punt square really used in the real world? It’s like doctors that are studying genetic disease, but science teachers can. So it’s like we can’t connect those dots sometimes I’m like, well this is a great science teacher in eighth grade because you are the perfect person to connect these dots. Most of us can’t do it. I have no idea why the punt square is important. It’s not inherently important to teenagers. So the teacher in the classroom becomes really important. And to give that teacher the autonomy to do this, it’s like, where is this used? Well, it’s used in doctor’s offices. Well what if eighth graders created a pamphlet that talked about this genetic disease? So then when a parent finds out that their kid has a genetic disease, they wanna know two things. One is that my child’s gonna be okay. Two, they suddenly wanna know everything there is to know about that genetic disease. Why can’t your eighth graders create that? It’s known facts and research. That those things are known. Why can’t they package that to a PSA or a podcast or a website or a pamphlet the audience can consume and benefit from.

Danny (15:23):
Good questions. And , it’s probably the type of thinking and the questions you are using and leveraging. Years ago you helped start one of the first PBL middle schools in Indianapolis. Can you tell us the story of launching that school?

Ryan (15:38):
Yeah, that’s the big aha for us, I think we did just that. We took all the standards from language arts, math, science and social studies and just said, what are our big themes and where do they connect with the real world? Where can we serve people? And PBL units just pop off the page or the dry erase board wherever it is that you’re poppin ’em. So it’s like suddenly our learners, we can take the age old question, why are we learning this? And we put it right up front and say, this is exactly why you’re learning this because we need to help these people. their kids have a genetic disease, we’re gonna help them. Well kids wake up to that, like I’ll do that. Like that’s real work. And to do that, they’re gonna have to hit all of these different standards.

Ryan (16:18):
We set up structures like that and then we had 25% of the kids in a large comprehensive middle school, we had 8% of the discipline. We were, the attendance rate was a percent and a half higher. And in a failing school we would’ve been a B on standardized tests. So it was like kids generally showed up to school and did what they were supposed to do and then engaged in the work. They were still kids. So they were still 8% of discipline. It’s not like discipline disappeared completely, but creating a bridge from the standards to relevance and authenticity, it did get kids to put their head up and really engage in the work.

Danny (16:54):
Yeah, that’s brilliant. Who wouldn’t want more engagement On any campus. Yeah. And so maybe PBL and working with Ryan and Magnify learning is like something to really explore. So, awesome. I love how you put that why in the front of it too, because it helps. I mean that’s what Simon next says. He kind of got famous, start with the why and I think what I’m hearing, your approach at the school you launched on did the same type of thing. I’m enjoying this conversation. We’re gonna get a message from some sponsors and when we come back I want to hear about some of the best projects students completed, maybe a story of failing at PBL and what you learned. And of course you got a great new book out called PBL Simplified and love to hear a little bit about that.

Danny (17:40):
So learn how to successfully navigate change, shape your school’s success and empower your teams with Harvard Certificate in school management and leadership. Get an online PD that fits your schedule. Courses include leading change, leading school strategy and innovation, leading people and leading learning. You could apply today at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com/harvard. Now I’ll tell you that teachers use Teach FX to record a lesson and they automatically get personalized insights into their classroom conversation patterns and teaching practices. You can see Teach FX for yourself and learn about their special partnership options for Ruckus Makers just like you by going to teachfx.com/BLBS .in today’s show is also sponsored by Organized Binder, a program that gives students daily exposure to goal setting, reflective learning time and task management, study strategies, organizational skills, and more organized Binder has a color coded system that’s implemented by the teacher through parallel process with students, helping them create a predictable and also dependable classroom routine. Learn more and improve your students’ executive [email protected]. We’re back with Ryan Stauer, the founder of Magnify Learning and the author of PBL Simplified, which you should pick up. Tell me maybe your favorite project you’ve ever seen or just one of the best projects you’ve seen in PBL.

Ryan (19:15):
There’s a lot of ’em cuz it really works like K-12. We’ve used PBL implementation and into higher ed, but one of my favorites came out recently from the school in Kentucky, an elementary school. They had kindergartners and first graders. They said, “well we’re gonna go to a senior citizen’s home, so we’re gonna go visit other people’s grandma and grandpa’s. And they couldn’t do it cuz and then I guess kindergartner’s, first graders, they said, well how are they communicating with their family? I don’t know, it’s a real problem. So they’re like, well we should get ’em iPads so that they can communicate via FaceTime. That would be great. That makes sense. How are we gonna pay for those? And the teachers are just kind of guiding them through this conversation. Eventually they decide they’re gonna write a book.

Ryan (20:05):
So if they do that, write a book about their town, they illustrate it and they have a publisher publish. So you can go and buy their book right now. And I had the kids on the podcast, I had the kids on the podcast. Which is awesome. And they just started out with I’m in kindergarten and I’m an author and I also like to play soccer. It’s like, right. It’s like what a great identity piece. Like identifying as an author in kindergarten, first grade and then the next, the next learner was like, yep, I’m an illustrator and I really like to run it. It was like all the same normal elementary stuff, but I also snuck in as an illustrator and author. It’s like it’s like I, I still have a hard time identifying with the author, . And so like my second book and like they’re gonna start out at like six years old. I can be an author, no problem.

Danny (20:56):
Yeah. So why not me?

Ryan (20:58):
Exactly. Why not me? So it’s like one the empathy to say, “hey, here are these other people that are suffering in some way. How can we help them? But the identity that the learners get to take with them outside of this project and the tangible thing that they created, it was really, it was about their town. So they actually sold quite a few within their town. So they had sales too right off the bat. So they learned this whole process. But again, for me, the exciting part of that PBL unit is really the identity that the learners leave with because of the authenticity of the work they’re doing.

Danny (21:33):
Yeah, that’s brilliant. And that’s cool. I mean it was a project that really succeeded in that kind of thing. And I’m sure there were failures along the way, but I think failure’s a great teacher. So can you tell us a story of just blowing it, really failing at PBL and what you learned?

Ryan (21:49):
I’ve got these in the book and PBL simplified, we go through wins, failures and where to start. And I usually take the fails on myself. I celebrate the wins of schools across the country that we’ve been working with. And I take the fails. So one of my big fails early on was I was just excited. I’m like, I’m gonna use this classroom, we’re gonna change the world. So it was like, all right I see 125 eighth graders every day. If they all change some small part of the world, we’ve made a dent in the universe, Steve Jobs. So everybody creates their own service learning project, their own PBL unit if you will. And all of my learners in the Midwest were pretty sure that everybody that needed food was in Africa. So everybody was gonna collect food, canned food, and we were gonna ship it to Africa.

Ryan (22:35):
And I was excited. So I was like, let’s do this. Like let’s everybody do it. You’d think that with my background, so I worked at UPS as an engineer, you’d think I’d understand the shipping costs of canned goods to Africa. Not to mention the fact that I feel like the address in the box was just gonna say Africa. Like we didn’t do the work to like work with a missionary or work with somebody on the ground. So there were 125 different ideas of, again, most of them canned food because I didn’t really let them explore enough or I probably didn’t, I didn’t give them enough rails to work within. So they just went to what they know and I didn’t introduce them to enough ideas. They had 125 different ideas, we couldn’t pay for it. So then it’s like, well we should have a car wash. Well how are we gonna buy those supplies? Well, we’ll sell lollipops at lunch. Well, okay, so now we’re doing lollipops so that we can do a car wash so that we can pay for postage then. And then finally one kid comes in. So that’s the epic failure in case it didn’t fully come through. But here’s the cherry on, as Billy finally says my mom volunteers at the local food pantry, she’d probably let us go there for free.

Danny (23:44):
What in the backyard?

Ryan (23:45):
Yeah. Like why didn’t I have you in on my planning? Which by the way is an aha that you should write down. Like why didn’t I have the kids in on my planning because it seems so obvious now. Like thinking globally, working locally. But that one definitely blew up. We never finished it. I just told the kids, “Hey this didn’t work at all. You still have to write compound complex sentences. “Like those are the standards we’re working on, but the service learning project we’re gonna have to shelf or adjust.

Danny (24:14):
I hope that they had some powerful insights from that, but sounds one of them being like, hey there’s a food pantry right here where we can serve is really important. So let’s talk about PBL simplified. You do add that new book that’s available and I believe you share a six step process in the book to PBL. Can you give us a brief overview of that process?

Ryan (24:38):
Yeah, absolutely. And the whole idea of PBL simplified is like, it’s not PBL watered down. So it’s still authentic, they’ll be rigorous, but we really wanna reach the majority of schools. So 51 by 2051, I wanna reach the majority of schools by 2051. It doesn’t have to just be me, I just, we need to make that shift from passive to empowered. So to do that, we’re past the innovators. And your Ruckus Makers know this, like if they look at their staff, you’ve got innovators, you’ve got early adopters, early majority, late majority and some laggards like somewhere in the innovation curve. Simon Sinek goes, no good talk on that. So PBL Simplified as really for those teachers. Like there’s a structure for PBL. We’re not just making it up as we go along.

Ryan (25:24):
We don’t use any of that language of mess in the middle at this point, . Like there’s six steps. So you’re gonna define the problem, you’re going to create success criteria. So what’s it look like when that problem is solved? And then you’re gonna research possible solutions. What are all the different ideas we have? We’ll pick one of those solutions in step four, in step five, we’re gonna test it, we’re gonna run it, rerun it, and present. And in step six we’re gonna reflect and we’re gonna run that, those general six steps for every PBL unit we do, it’s gonna be standards based, it’s gonna be authentic, there’s gonna be a presentation, . So there’s a structure to these things. So your teachers in the classroom are not just making this up as they go along. Cuz that just freaks some of us out. And some of your innovators are like, sure, I’ll run.

Ryan (26:09):
But if you’re gonna get the majority of your staff on board, there needs to be a structure and a process. And that’s what the book’s really about. There’s two chapters specifically that I think your Ruckus Makers, your leaders would really appreciate. And it’s the school implementation of PBL and then also leadership specifically around PBL. Oh how do you bring this in? . Do you just, because you don’t want to come in and say, Hey guess what, January one we’re all doing PBL go. It’s like, so how do you create a leadership team? How do you get a buzz? How do you create a grassroots movement? And I go through a couple different examples there.

Danny (26:42):
Yeah, it’s so pet peeve. And so I’m just gonna say it on the podcast cuz I’m in a bunch of big principal groups right online and I love when people are like, yeah, they’re asking for help, they need help, . And then they’re like, go. And I don’t know why I resist that. Whenever somebody puts that in a post, I’m just like, I don’t wanna help you. I don’t know, maybe that says something about me, but it’s just like, I don’t know, this is, it really annoys me. So I’m just being real at this moment. PBL Simplified out, at least at the time of us doing this. I think it’s for pre-order. By the time the podcast comes out, it actually will be available. And so just really, yeah, encourage Ruckus Makers to check it out. I love that there is a specific chapter A around leadership and thinking through implementation is what I’m hearing. And maybe the last thing we’ll say in regards to this book, it’s great, you get this proven process six stops and it’s a framework. Constraints there and a lot of creativity within those constraints. But you can use it over and over again. But just in terms of implementation how does a learning team help with full school implementation of

Ryan (27:51):
Yeah, that’s probably my favorite implementation plan at this point. And that’s what we work with districts with. This is now like some schools will create a PBL school, which is great. You create your own culture, but then sometimes PBL gets stuck in that school and not the rest of the district. PBL, leadership implementation team, they go out and they explore, they say, Hey, we’re gonna learn about project-based learning. And they go learn about it, they get trained, they come back and they do it with their kids. So it’s teachers in the classroom as well as administrators, but now they’re doing it with their kids and they’re trying it out and it’s very successful. It’s how teachers have always wanted to teach. You wanna open up new opportunities for your kids, you wanna have a why behind the learning. So when that implementation team goes through, the messaging is always, Hey, we’re gonna see if this works for our school.

Ryan (28:36):
Does this work as Southport Elementary or not? Let’s go find out. And then the whole staff gets to see, wow, this is really working. And what we see with this plan is then the implementation team goes and the rest of the teachers say, well when do I get trained? When do my kids get to do that really cool stuff? Oh yeah, well how about next summer? . But do you see the shift now teachers are wanting to get trained, it’s not, I’m making the next group go. They wanna get trained. So that’s your, your early majority . I Am now saying, yeah, I wanna try this out because they’ve seen it work with students in their actual school, not just a school where it’s like, yeah, I, I know it works over there, but what about . They see that Ryan who’s a struggling student and typically doesn’t do any work is engaged in this work. And that’s, you start to get your own stories from the school that you’re within and you start to build a truly a grassroots movement, which is really exciting as a leader. Cuz now you’re really doing the visionary work that you really want to do. You’re not just managing people. you’re doing visionary work, you’re putting the flag out there and you’re helping empower people to go out and do it.

Danny (29:41):
Brilliant. Cool. So check it out. Ruckus Makers PBL Simplified. Ryan, if you could put a message on all school marquees around the world for a single day, what would your message read?

Ryan (29:53):
It would be, life is a choice. This is what my mom would sign every letter to me in college. At the end it said Life is choices, mom. Oh wow. And so I brought it to my eighth grade classroom in urban school in Indiana, Indianapolis. And every day when kids left my classroom it was life is choices, life is choices, life is choices and every now and then I’d put it out on the board and say though, here are the choices you can make if you decide to not smoke for the next six years, you can actually go to Hawaii. I just put some of those things out there and I’ll still have kids that hit me up on Facebook or I saw a guy, a kid at the grocery store, he’s not a kid anymore, but he’s like, oh yeah, you’re the life is Choices guy . Life is a Choice . So it would definitely be that.

Danny (30:36):
I think I used to end the podcast ages ago. I’ve had this show for seven years, and haven’t missed a Wednesday, seven years. It’s kind of nuts. But I love it. I think the quote, I don’t remember, so sorry for the attribution, but I’m pretty sure the quote was basically like life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of like how you choose to respond to it. So thanks mom. Life is a choice. Listen to your mom, listen to your, that’s right. So Ryan, you’ve built a school, but I’m gonna ask you this question already again. If you were building another school and maybe this time it’s your dream school, you had no constraints in terms of resources, your only limitation was your imagination. How would you build your dream school? What would be the three guiding principles?

Ryan (31:19):
This is a great question for leaders to wrestle with and actually write down. I think I would connect the school to a large corporation of some kind. Like a UPS for instance. So you can go out and see the professionalism right there. You could pull ’em in, you could go sit in some meetings. So that’d be the first thing I would do. And so maybe that’s the, one of the first pillars is community partners or industry partners, but somehow very direct correlation to that so that you can see what that looks like. Number two is you would just have to build in a ton of curiosity. Like that would be a major priority. And then the third priority would be the empowerment I think through vision. So for me, the vision of a leader is really important. Like I think your Ruckus Makers, like that vision is so important for them to get out there. Like the staff want that cuz it’s empowering. They wanna be a part of something bigger and then our learners wanna be a part of something bigger. So right, the community partner, industry partner, curiosity, and then the empowerment of a great vision.

Danny (32:16):
Awesome. And now just a shout out to Brenda who left us a comment on LinkedIn. She said, love Ryan, you are so right. I use that as well in my two rules. So super cool. Thanks Brenda for the comment. And Ryan, we covered a lot of ground today from birding in the RV life and Masterminding and PBLand your new book, PBL Simplified of everything we discussed today, what’s well and that listened to your mother. So of everything we discussed today, what’s the one thing you want Ruckus Maker to remember? And it’s okay, you don’t have to go with the mom one. It’s okay. I give you permission.

Ryan (32:52):
It felt like I should have gone with listening to your mom, but I’m gonna, I’m gonna take that cuz she’s, maybe she’s listening, but I think it would be more. Yeah, there you go. So listen to your mom. I would go with even just like, I love that Brenda just chimed in with that. Like the collaboration with other leaders and I know the mastermind was a side conversation, but I can’t express enough like the loneliness of leadership is real and everybody listening knows that and feels it in some way. And the mastermind opportunity, the collaboration within this community is the way that you deal with that, if you will and excel beyond that because you have people that get you and that can push you like so that you don’t get complacent and that you have a place to really try out those big ideas before you go implement. I don’t think that I can be behind that enough.

Danny (33:39):
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 #BLBS. Level up your leadership at BetterLeadersBetter schools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, “class dismissed.”



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