Dr. Leena Bakshi McLean is the founder of STEM4Real, a nonprofit professional learning organization committed to combining STEM and standards-based content learning and leadership with principles of justice-centered pedagogy. She currently serves as the Director of Multicultural Education and Equity for the National Science Teaching Association. Leena has worked with pre-service teachers at UC Berkeley and Claremont Graduate University teaching STEM methods and Universal Design for Learning. She is a former county and state level administrator and mathematics, science and anatomy teacher. She is also the author of the children’s book, “There’s Something in the Water”, a story that highlights the real life of Dr. Tyrone B. Hayes, an endocrinologist from UC Berkeley. As a woman of color and a mom of two girls, access and opportunity in STEM are personal for her. She believes that in order for us to increase our representation in STEM, we must create an identity in STEM. Her doctoral dissertation was on “The Successful Implementation of STEM Initiatives in Lower Income Schools”. Leena travels the world as a keynote speaker, inspiring audiences in education, leadership, and technology to think about equitable STEM education and how to ensure access for all. Her next book, Teaching and Learning in STEM, #4Real will be coming soon in October of 2024.

Show Highlights

Investigate the hesitancy of teachers towards discussing justice and anti bias topics.

Provide support, coaching, and mentorship for teachers that focuses on building strong relationships with students.

Tips to unbind yourself from the system, to lead within the system to implement changes.

Don’t attach yourself to results by experimenting, observing and pivoting where the results take. you.

Create a transparent budget aligned with the priorities of your community.

Pull leaders out of the weeds with a candid assessment of school priorities.

The challenges created by neglecting science and history curriculum.

“The system is not set up to disrupt itself, to innovate, to redesign, but we need that because just looking at the results that kids experience we know that they’re inequitable. If you’re okay with that, keep doing what we’re doing and maintain the system. If that bothers you. Our kids deserve better and equity is something we should all be fighting for, then how are we changing the system to produce a better result?”
- Chief Ruckus Maker Danny Bauer

“There’s a program called the Anti Bias and Education Grant that came out of California, and this word anti bias has so much energy where some leaders are saying, you know what, I think we should just call it something else or let’s kind of tippy toe around the word or let’s not say the word. I don’t want to dissuade people from coming. And there’s part of me that’s like, no, there is bias. We’re going to address it, we’re going to go head on. And then another part of me that’s like, well, yeah, maybe we can change the word and invite people in and call them in and see what way we can handle it. And that’s just with one word, anti bias.”
- Dr. Leena Bakshi McLean

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Read the Transcript here.

Unleashing Excellence: A Conversation with Dr. Leena

05:28 Leena Welcome, Danny. It is an honor, a pleasure to talk with the chief ruckus maker. How are you doing today?

05:38 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
I am doing all right, Lena. So thank you so much for having me here. It’s an honor to serve you absolutely.

05:48 Leena
So what I want to know, and I’m sure our audience would love to know, is why leaders? You have your niche in better schools, better leaders. And I noticed that a lot of the people that you work with are school leaders. What gravitated you to school leadership?

06:09 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Ages ago, when I started Better Leaders, better Schools, for me, I was at an event called the Global Leadership Summit, and I just remember from the stage the facilitator saying, everybody wins when a leader gets better. And that’s become pretty much the guiding principle of what we do. And I remember thinking at that moment, well, it’s cool that I’m here two days learning from top leaders across a variety of industries. What else is on my calendar?

That’s there to push me to grow? Because if it’s true that when a leader gets better, everybody wins, this seems kind of like a moral imperative. And the honest answer, Lena. When I looked at my calendar candidly, there wasn’t much more on it. It was that event and nothing else. And so at the time, I think I was moving into administration, and I just wanted to get better. And that’s why I started the podcast as well. Talked to other folks in our industry, and figured if I could learn from your stories of success and failure, I’d grow my skills. What I didn’t realize is that doing that in public, talking about what I was experimenting and tinkering with and how I was growing, that would change my life, really, and open a lot of doors.

07:33 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Fast forward today, at least that podcast, Better Leaders, Better Schools. It’s been downloaded over 2 million times and ranks in the top .5% of all shows worldwide. And it really has changed my life. So it’s just such an honor to serve ruckus makers and Stem for real folks today on this show. And leadership is just like what it’s all about to me.

07:56 Leena
I love that. I love how you took an idea and it caught on like a wildfire, which is great. And I’m noticing that too. Even when we started Stem for real, we saw this fantastic teaching and all these teaching methods, and then we found that our teachers were sometimes at odds with our leaders. So, for example, there’s a teacher that wants to teach science daily, especially at the elementary level, and sometimes the administrator discourages this because we have to focus on math and focus on ela. And then on the other hand, we have an administrator that really wants to implement the next generation science standards and look at the dynamic instruction. And the teacher doesn’t want to be observed, or the teacher just is doing the usual key terms in the back of the book.

08:57 Leena
How could we balance this when the teachers and the administrators are at ODS?

09:07 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
It’s a good question, and I think part of it I’m curious if there’s alignment in terms of vision. You know what I mean? My fourth book will be coming out.

09:18 Leena In a little bit.

09:19 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
It’s called The Remarkable Vision Formula, and it was a live event that I taught a few years ago in Taos, New Mexico. About 50 something leaders were signed up. But this was in the pandemic, good old times there. And so not everybody can make it. So it ended up being a smaller group, about 20 people. But I saw just like, how much incredible growth and results that people got learning that framework and then implementing it. And to me, a lot of stuff ties back to things like leadership, like vision. And so I’m just curious if there’s alignment there, and if not, okay, what’s going on? Has a leader communicate the vision clearly? Has he or she really done the hard work of incorporating all voices and trying to build that in a collaborative way?

10:14 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
If there’s misalignment there, then some tough choices need to be made. Is this a part of a team that I want to be a part of and bring my talents to. Teachers are in a huge position of power. So are principals these days. If you read the news, there’s not a lot of people sticking with education. And we need talented, awesome, creative educators in space. In many ways, that sort of like the bargaining and negotiation strategies. You’ve never actually had more power than now as an educator, quite honestly, if I was teaching in a building that wasn’t aligned to my values, why would I be teaching there? I would look for another position. And I don’t mean to be like, cavalier saying that. You got to have the resources.

11:04 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
You were talking about the little ones before we hit recording. I understand people can’t just pick up and go, but I like to tell, at least for me, I’m the school leadership guy, and I help remind principals, I help remind powerful people how much power they have. Same thing is true with a classroom teacher. We forget how much autonomy, how much voice, all that kind of stuff. We serve an international audience. I just got a status update from a leader in Nigeria that we serve as the mastermind. She’s just been really growing and creating some tremendous results for her community and was nervous to ask for a raise. But with support and encouragement, that kind of thing was pushed and challenged and got a substantial raise there in Nigeria, which is, like, life changing for her, right, we just heard about that. So it’s a small, little case study, but just remember that you have power. So, long story short, is there alignment with the vision?

12:08 Leena We could keep riffing.

12:09 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
That’s just one idea, but I think that’s a good one to start with, at least.

12:14 Leena
And it’s interesting you mentioned that, because so much of your theme is making a ruckus. And many of our leaders have to lead within the system. And same with our teachers. I’m going to include our teachers as leaders. I love how you said that teachers have power as well. And so personally, as I shared on your podcast, I was a leader that was fed up with the system and decided I’m going to create my own. However, so many of our leaders and our teachers are bound by their own systems. And so you mentioned l, let’s go find somewhere. Where can leaders begin with this concept of making a ruckus? Ruffling feathers, pushing boundaries.

13:10Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
There’s a poem by David White. I wonder if I could find it really quick if I looked it up. But the title is called Start Close In. And David White’s one of my favorite poets in the world, and I’ve actually paid to license his poetry twice in my books because his words speak so much to me and really set the stage, you know what I mean, with the exact question that you’re asking about. So let me find this because I do want to get it, like, 100% correct.
The chapter is even called Start Close In. But David says start close in. Don’t take the second step or the third. Start with the first thing. Close to the step you don’t want to take. So whether it’s achieving these really big goals because we have high hopes and aspirations and dreams, or if it’s this idea of being a ruckus maker, and challenging the status quo, designing the future of school right now. You don’t have to change the whole system. And it’s a big bureaucratic system. It’s going to take a long time. But again, we need great educators in the space, and it’s that first step. So I like to tell people, like, what are experiments that you want to run? And when I use the word experiment, I feel a little less attached to the results. I hold it with an open hand, I observe, I collect data, I pivot. And where sort of the results go? Tell me, like, is this something to keep going or do we need to look from a different perspective? So first step. That’s all you can do. First step.

15:08 Leena
I love that. And that’s what we’re asking our teachers and our administrators to do, even with teaching science every day. Well, let’s start with teaching once a week. Let’s just take some baby steps and see what that looks like. Where it’s not just the science specialist, it’s everyone as a school is taking that. And we’re already hearing why I have to do this? And I thought this was the science specialist. As a butterfly transforms, there’s that cocoon stage that’s not very pretty. And you talk about this idea of, again, making a ruckus. And it’s very similar to our Leadership for justice program, where we talk about recognizing, dismantling, rebuilding. And both themes have this element of disruption and being a disruptor. Why is it important for leaders to make a ruckus, to have this element of disruption?

16:15 Leena I’ll tell you right now, I didn’t learn about disrupting my Edd program, that’s for sure. And I don’t think it’s taught. It’s something that you learn with experience.

16:28 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of challenges there to maintain the status quo and to keep doing what the system has always done, even in education, where we might talk about innovation and learning from failure. But in reality, when people do experiment, innovate or fail, it’s almost written up or people are disciplined for being out there and doing it. So you have to have wisdom in terms of understanding the setting. Again, you don’t have to make the huge, most monumental change. Start small, start close in, start with that first step. But to me, that’s why support, why working with somebody like you or within your offerings and surrounding yourself with other individuals who are asking similar questions is so important because you can’t do it alone. The system is not set up to disrupt itself, to innovate, to redesign, but we need that because just looking at the results that kids experience and we know that they’re inequitable. If you’re okay with that, keep doing what we’re doing and maintain the system. If that bothers you. Our kids deserve better and equity is something we should all be fighting for, then how are we changing the system to produce a better result?

18:03 Leena
It’s so true and it’s so hard. I have to just honor that. There’s a program called the Anti Bias and Education Grant that came out of California, and this word anti bias has so much energy where some leaders are saying, you know what, I think we should just call it something else or let’s kind of tippy toe around the word or let’s not say the word. I don’t want to dissuade people from coming. And there’s part of me that’s like, no, there is bias. We’re going to address it, we’re going to go head on. And then another part of me that’s like, well, yeah, maybe we can change the word and invite people in and call them in and see what way we can handle it. And that’s just with one word, anti bias.

19:05 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
There’s a lot going on there. People could get tied up to the meanings and all the things like that. But to me, again, just like alignment with vision, with value, are you for equity or not? And then what are you doing about it? Just align your actions towards the stuff that matters.

19:27 Leena
I wanted to get into some of the weeds that our leaders talk about. We’re thinking about chronic absenteeism or attendance and looking at parent meetings and whatnot. There’s this long to-do list of what principals have to do daily. And you talk about this where you’re constantly in the weeds and you’re working two times, but how can you do less and achieve more? How do we pull our leaders out of the weeds to get to this bigger picture?

20:11 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Did you see today’s email? Because that’s what I was talking about. I don’t know if that sparked the question. I tell a story. One, don’t trust a coach that’s not like getting coached and joining groups. And growing themselves. So a program I recently joined was called Strategic Coach and I want to have a bigger impact in education with school leaders. But yes, the guy who founded that Dan Sullivan has this idea that ten X is easier than two X. And that is just such a provocative idea to me. He has a book about it. And there’s a lot of great content and practical things you can do. But the thing that really challenges me, Lena, is that when you’re thinking about doubling the value or just increasing results a little bit, typically people just do more of what’s already working and they’re working harder and putting in more hours. And to Dan, you could actually create even better results, ten X in his terminology, and work less. And the provocative idea is because you get so crystal clear on what matters and what doesn’t, you’re only putting effort towards those big items that are going to create the most value for your campus, your students. There’s a principle called the Pareto principle. Other people call it the 80 20 principle. But it’s really fantastic because you asked like, how can we do this and get out of the weeds? Again, hard to do on your own. So get around people that have the same questions and want to grow in the same way. And then maybe in a space like that you could really explore what is actually creating value on my campus or in my classroom. Because the answer is not everything and there’s a lot of stuff that you can do that’s just an absolute waste of time.

22:11 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Maybe it feels good to check it off your to-do list and you might put in all these hours in this plus effort for what it doesn’t do. I’m reading another book about 4000 weeks, like the average amount of weeks. A human being, I think, lives or something like that. I think the subtitle is time management for mortals. But the author has an interesting point that he highlighted and never thought of before. But some people, they want to be an inbox zero type of hero. Just get no emails in my inbox. And that is like the nirvana or whatever of modern day working. But the thing is, if you get really great at processing email, this author’s point, you just create more email because people know you respond quickly and all this kind of stuff. And then more emails, it always is coming in. So that’s just a very small example. Email is never going to create tons of value for your students if you’re a classroom teacher or for your campus, if you’re a building leader. Now you can’t get rid of it entirely, but just don’t spend a lot of time on it. So think of 80-20. What are the 20% of activities that really do create the most value? A contextual example for me in my business and how we support school leaders, I think about how do I grow our leadership community all the time? That’s a question I’m always pondering. And there’s a billion different ways I could educate and market and make people aware that this community exists for them. We’re doing one right now. Being on a podcast and I might talk about it, which I do, but I realized the number one way outside of podcasts that people hear about our community is when I host live events. Because they get to experience real transformation and our coaching and our tools and our really just brilliant team. Over a number of days. And for a group of those leaders that go through live events with us, they’ll say, you know what, I don’t want this to stop. I want it to continue. I want to go deeper. I need the support. I’m worth it. And so that’s a great way for us. That’s a 2080 thing for us and everything else. Like, okay, let me just ignore that these days.So that’s my practical example and my reality and yeah, just challenge leaders and classroom teachers to think about what does that look like for you all?

24:44 Leena
I feel like our team had the same epiphany when we were spending so much time on social media. Yeah, sure. It was great. We had such a great, beautiful social media set. So I’m sure you can see a little transition where there’s a little less posting and a lot more interacting, like just having more conversations with people and networking and getting the word out, which has been a lot better then, because social media is just such a big empty place, you don’t know who you’re speaking to.

25:19 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
That’s another great example and an example too, of how companies might engineer notifications and all this kind of stuff and the endorphins and that hit of excitement we get, oh, we’re important. Look, x amount of people read or liked or commented, but did anything really change? And so you’re rightfully so, seeing how interaction and producing results and being there present with a person in the moment is a way better use of time. So in a classroom example, just something I’m thinking about like 80-20, like 20%. And this so often gets overlooked. I can’t even believe that I’m going to say this, but still, for people today, how much time are you truly investing in relationships, right, with your students? And it’s a cliche. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. But if you see and hear your kids, hold them with high regard, with lots of dignity, I believe that you can succeed. You care to know about what they’re about, what motivates them, they’re going to perform. You know what I mean? But how much look at your class, right, and look at your lesson plan. How much is really devoted to building those strong types of relationships? I just know if you put more time there, you’d see better results, period.

26:43 Leena
I love that. And I think so much of what we’ve been talking about has been a lot of theory, a lot of coaching, and that’s great. I would love, if you are okay with it, I would love to play a game of being in a hot seat. How do you feel?

27:01 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
I’m up for anything.. Am I in the hot seat or are you?

27:04 Leena That’s a good question. We’ll throw other people in the hot seat and see how that works. I want to pose some situations to you and see what we’ll call it. What Would You Do? The first situation is there is a group. So the entire district is very committed to antiracism and looking at social justice, looking at the Learning for justice standards. And so at the leadership level at the district, they’re very much in line. And then when you see it in practice, we saw that there was a group of teachers that said, we really like this science and Stem stuff. We don’t want to do any antiracism stuff. So as a leader that’s closer to this group of teachers, what could that leader do?

28:04 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
A million things. But I’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do. Don’t blame it on their motivation.
So you might check out a book called Tiny Habits by BJ. Fogg. And a lot of times when leaders don’t see their faculty doing a thing that they expect or would like to see happen on campus consistently, that kind of thing, they usually pin it on the idea of they’re not motivated, they don’t care, whatever. And that’s actually, like research has shown, that’s rarely the case, so you need to investigate a little bit further. And so if I was that leader and there was a group of teachers that were on board with curriculum but were hesitant around these ideas of justice and anti bias and everything we’ve been talking about, I’d get very curious. Try to figure it out. You need to do some digging and see why, because there could be a million reasons from how those teachers like what their lived experience has been, what kind of background are they coming from and what are their worldviews and what do they represent? So maybe there’s a lot of fear, potentially because schools are becoming more of these sort of like political chess pieces, it seems like, these days. And it’s totally unfair to educators. So there might be a lot going on there. If you could get people to be honest with where they’re at and what the hesitancy is, then you could obviously make a change.

29:37 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
I talk a lot about turning critics into cheerleaders, and this is sometimes an epiphany with leaders I support. But often the chief critic or somebody that’s not doing stuff, they use the Jim Collins well, they don’t have the right seat on the bus. They’re not even on the right bus. And that’s just, like, code for I need to fire, get working on the paperwork and move this person out. And leaders move that way too fast. So I think curiosity, the open mindedness, that kind of thing, because if you can understand what the blocks and obstacles are, you now have a professional development plan for that teacher, but maybe for the staff. And if you can turn resistant people into your chief evangelist from critics to cheerleaders everybody else that had the same questions, objections, obstacles, hang ups, whatever, are going to fall in line because they see the person who was outspoken and at least where it’s candid about, I’m not doing this because people are having those conversations at the water cooler, in the hallways via text and all that. At least the person told you where they’re at. I would start investigating quite a bit, try to get to the root of what’s going on there.

30:56 Leena This is fun. Okay, I’ve got a few more. Okay, so the next one is a coordinator who went in and did a series of observations, and the exact words were that the instruction that she saw was soul crushing. Soul crushing? Yeah. Where just kind of the typical, you just go around and I believe it was Williams visit, and we saw the know, like just questions in the back of the book, key terms, just not what you’d expect if you were going to walk in and see students are engaging in experiments or engaging in argument from evidence. So it’s kind of none of that.

31:52 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny Okay. What would I do? Am I the coordinator or is the coordinator working? Like, is part of my team? What is my role?

32:01 Leena
Let’s see. How about we’ll call you the coordinator, okay. And you’re working with principals, or you could be the principal. Hey, we’re making up the game as we go.

32:15 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
The thing that I was drawn to when you were sharing this sort of, like, case study, I’m curious why the coordinator used the word soul crushing. Because as a classroom teacher, I’m sure that would feel soul crushing to get that kind of feedback. And I’m wondering how I can relay the same message more objectively without judgment.. To your point, 100% of the questions came from the back of the textbook.

32:48 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
That’s an objective fact. Then during a conversation with the teacher, we could say, there’s so much about the campus I don’t know, but maybe they’ve been working on levels of questioning right. Or something with engaging, like, all members of the student body and that kind of stuff. But you know what I mean? Because then I’d align it to priorities and that kind of thing and try to lead the conversation that way. But yeah, that’s where I was drawn to. How do we not necessarily judge with our words, just provide, this is what I saw objectively, and then unpack with the teacher. What does that tell you now, hopefully they’re aware enough, and that’s only a percentage of human beings, period.

33:30 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
And if they’re lacking the awareness of, like, oh, this was a soul crushing lesson, then a different route would have to be and you might have to be a little more direct. Again, I would try to avoid any kind of language, because here’s the thing that could potentially shut down that teacher, and they won’t hear a word you say for the rest of the year, maybe the rest of your career. And another book that I could point your listeners to called Radical Candor by Kim Scott. She has a graph. X axis, y axis. But one of them is the amount that you are candid with somebody. And the other axis is about how much you demonstrate that you care. So the sweet spot is being direct, but delivering feedback with high regard, with compassion and candor so that it can be received versus everything else, right. Being super direct and no compassion. We all have a word for that kind of person. Being not direct at all in not caring, you just totally don’t seem like you’re even connected to the community. And what’s the other one I missed? If you have high care but you’re not direct, kind of a pushover. So, yeah, that’s a good resource for folks.

34:51 Leena
Yeah, I love that. And I also think this brings up a good point, because I’m sure in the actual coaching, those words would never have been used. However, it got me thinking about, well, what if we are doing the work, or we think we’re doing the work? And I’m sure leaders, they’ve done coaching. We’ve had the standards out now, at least in science, for over ten years, or we’re at the 10th year, and then you’re doing it, you’re doing it, and you’re just like, oh, my gosh. Still? how do you help with your teachers, the leaders that have that burnout.

35:36 Chief Ruckus Maker: Dannyn Help leaders with burnout when they see.

35:40 Leena
That, when they think they’re doing everything, at least in terms of instruction, and it’s just like, here we are.

35:47 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
But the teacher hasn’t changed yet. Well, here’s the thing. You’re probably not doing as much as you think. So there’s some like, listen, I coach school leaders, so I got to be honest. And if you know me, you know I love school. I can. I need to be like, you’re probably not doing as much as you think. There’s the former CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner. He knows people don’t even begin to start hearing what you have to say until you’re sick of talking about it. So you probably just haven’t even gotten to that level yet. And it’s very possible with initiative, fatigue, and sometimes leaders are like squirrels. You know what I mean? Like, oh, look at that. They put it on too. Much on their people.

And I think the quickest path to average and below average mediocre schools is trying to do too much, you know what I mean? So a candid look at everything your school is doing, and are you tightly focused on a handful of things that you could do really well? So you might have a spread out focus, maybe you haven’t talked enough, maybe you haven’t given as much support as you think you have. And then there’s other options. Like, are you pairing them up with expert teachers?

36:57 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Because again, I don’t know in the scenario, if the majority of the staff is doing the thing and then you have a group that isn’t, all right, well, can you get them access to the teachers that are getting it? That kind of thing? Coaching mentorship, and maybe you do have to go a paperwork route and just like, hey, this is what we expect and it’s not happening. And so here’s the improvement plan type of thing.

37:23 Leena
I really caught on to what you just said, especially with the idea that if you aren’t sick of your message, that’s when people just start to hear about it. And I’m sure even with me, I’ve been talking about the Next generation science standards for a decade, and I’m like, all right, maybe people are sick of this message, or maybe, like you said, people are just now hearing the message.

37:50 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny Yeah, they might just now be hearing it, more likely.

37:54 Leena
All right, let’s do one more. This is let’s there’s a school that they have well, let me rewind a bit. So with science instruction, it’s really easy to fly under the radar, especially because it’s not tested every single year, like math and Ela. And so it’s tested three times, once in elementary, once in middle, once in high school. Typically that’s the case. And if it is tested every year, it’s not a huge part of the accountability system. So people play their cards right. They’re like, let’s focus on math and Ela, get our scores up, and we’ll just figure out the science later. So then in elementary, they’re not getting daily science instruction, so they don’t have that foundational science learning.

38:49 Leena
Then in middle school, well, again, the focus is on math and Ela, but by then, the students haven’t had that foundational learning. So middle school, they’re playing catch up. And then in high school, students have already been labeled as a science person or not a science person based on whether they had good behavior or teacher recommendation. And then we’re seeing that those biases tend to affect black and brown populations. That’s kind of our school to stem the career pipeline that we’re seeing and those breaks that are there. So that’s why it’s very easy, really, to get away with, quote unquote, bad science teaching because science has always been under the radar. And I’m sure sometimes history teachers can also relate to this as well. So with that said, let’s say you’re an administrator, and you recognize this, and you provide the feedback.

39:57 Leena
Of course, we’re not labeling it as bad science teaching. We’re seeing it as, all right, well, how can we look at engagement and whatnot? And then there is the concept of the union. And the union I’m very grateful for. I don’t have to wear ankle length skirts anymore, thanks to the union. So there is that. And so when you want to be able to do this work, and the union says, I don’t do this, I don’t do that, we don’t do this, yada, yada. So I’m bringing in the union. What could we do?

40:37 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
And they’re resistant to teaching science in this way? Is that what you’re saying, too?

40:44 Leena
Yes. And also, there’s a lot of things that could come up. One, changing the science teaching methods to have this three dimensional learning. Another is, well, why do we have to teach all standards to all students at the high school level? Some students can just get rocks for jocks. That’s okay. So some pushback like that.

41:10 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
I’d never heard of rocks for jocks. Was that just like a watered down curriculum for athletes because they can’t do it?

41:18 Leena
That’s what I learned. Apparently I had to learn about that, too. I said, what watered down curriculum that’s not aligned to any graduation requirement or.

41:31 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
College requirement for science when it comes to the union. What I’m wondering here is, are there any sort of quick wins or things that you could negotiate on or just sort of do for them so that maybe you get some ground moving with the science stuff? Because usually it’s not just a few issues. If you could give a little to get a little, I think that’s probably a wise approach. And it’s just understanding to me. Again, goes back to vision, goes back to what do you stand for? These are strategic priorities. So if you’re about increasing the rigor and relevance and the equity around a science curriculum, then you have to really align all your ducks in a row for that goal, and then otherwise the other stuff shouldn’t matter as much. It seems sort of simplistic, but without being there and understanding the exact context, that would be my approach. At least I would see what I could give the union in order to get some like that.

42:39 Leena I love how your approaches are very simple, very root cause analysis based and llet’s be curious. Let’s ask questions.

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Yeah. You know what’s interesting? So I was in a district in Utah, and I was training their leaders over two days, all leaders in the district, day 1250, all principals, day 290. And one of the things that we do with them, I teach them the hot seat protocol, which we’re kind of doing now, but I was more in a consulting role versus necessarily hot seat, but we have a protocol for it, ask a lot of questions and this kind of stuff. And probably because we are so tied to devices and the pace of life has increased. I don’t remember the research, but the amount of stuff that we read right in a day or whatever is like more than what people used to read in a lifetime or it’s something like that.

43:38 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
All right, don’t quote me exactly, but there’s a lot thrown at us every day too. All this to say is we have lost the art sometimes to slow down a bit and to deeply listen without interrupting, without figuring out, like, oh, what am I going to say to prove my point or to win the argument or whatever. And by giving these leaders a protocol where at certain points during the hot seat protocol, they have to zip their lip and shut up and just listen and ask questions. And also powerful people that are used to just telling people what to do as well have to slow down, be more curious, more open minded. I had a cabinet team of executives, central office, say, we solved the problem in 20 minutes that we’ve been talking about for six months. And I said, what was going on there? I finally got to speak and be heard. Slow down. Questions were asked, people listened to the first time. So yeah, that is my approach. But that’s a coach’s approach. The approach works. So listen more, ask more questions, love it, judge less.

44:47 Leena
Let’s talk about money. Let’s talk about money. I promise. Last one. In terms of budgets, there’s a lot of mistrust. They have money. Like, for example, there was this huge scandal where a county office kind of just took funds, over half a million dollars of funds that were meant for students and during the COVID epidemic or pandemic, and instead they gave each other $8,000 here, 20,000 there. Yeah. Yes. A lot of the teachers and even administrators, they saw that and they said, for what? What are we doing all this for? How can we create a budget that is transparent and where everyone feels like they are putting the money next to or directly in the hands of our students, teachers, families, et cetera?

45:57 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny And how does the leader do that with his or her community?

46:01 Leena Yes. In a time when there’s so much mistrust.

46:08 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Listen, when you sign up to be a leader, you can’t make everybody happy. Not everybody’s going to agree. But can you try to over communicate what the priorities are and then align your budget toward that? You know what I mean? A lot of budgets are public because it’s using public dollars. But understand, there’s different worldviews out there and they’re not necessarily right or wrong, they’re just different. Depending on anything. I mean, honestly, it’s just what people believe in. And do you align your resources while you’re leading to make the tough choices and take the heat when the heat is needed, and structure everything to point towards what you’re all about. But I know that Lena might not share my views on leadership 100%. So can I learn about her views? Can I educate her on why I believe what I believe? And again, we’re probably not doing enough around that.

47:09 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
And if it’s not transparent, what would it look like to make it more transparent to say, this is the total bucket, here’s all the budget lines, and because our priorities are X, Y and Z, our budget reflects that. I would assert that probably most campuses and systems aren’t really crystal clear on what their priorities are. And so the budgets are wildly all over the place. And there’s some spaces where people are just going to be dirty, rotten, scoundrels at times and abuse the system and try to get away with it. And sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. But to me, that stuff is just noise, you know what I mean? You really have to focus on what you’re about, because if you’re looking over there and they took this money from kids and tried to get away and you obsess on that, to me, it’s going to put you in a negative space. So I hope that doesn’t sound like a toxic Positivity type of thing, but it’s just like, what’s the next step again? Connecting dots, what’s within your control, what’s out of your control? I work with that, with leaders all the time and obsessing how people are doing it over there. Do you really have time to invest that much energy and your resources on that? So if you’re the leader, what are you about? How do you align all resources towards those priorities? How do you communicate, communicate to your community what those priorities are? And that’s why the budget reflects what it’s about. And it’s back to 2080, too. knowing really what creates value for you and what doesn’t?

48:54 Leena
I love that. I feel like that was so good for me, too, because I know that I personally, I see it and I’m like, oh my gosh, what are they doing over there? And it’s great to have that reminder of like, well, what are we doing here?

49:09 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Yeah, what are we doing here? And celebrate your successes. And you could do so much more of that. Actually, I wasn’t going to talk about the goal setting tool, but I think it’s appropriate time. Let me just bring up what I call the positive spotlight tool.

49:26 Leena That’s a great way to end on Positivity.

49:30 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
So if you go over to bareliersbearschools. Comresources, there’s six downloads. Like Tools. I love making the complex job of education simple, so there’s a lot of tools around that. The Positive Spotlight Tool is just like many campuses known to celebrate the good things happening. They certainly aren’t doing it enough, and they don’t dig the four levels deeper that I teach in the tool. So when people download the tool, they get the tool and a quick coaching video. It’s like five minutes, like, how to use it. And I just model, I demonstrate. And you can do the tools, like all our tools, in ten minutes or less.

50:07 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
But whether you’re a classroom teacher, right, trying to celebrate good things happening with the kids and aligning it with maybe your classroom norms or agreements and that kind of thing, or you’re a building level leader or system level leader, trying to celebrate just the great stuff happening right at scale, this positive spotlight tool. Here’s the promise. If you want to get more of what you want more consistently, use this tool with your people, whether they’re little people or big people, it works.

50:37 Leena
Awesome. That is awesome. Danny, thank you so much. Thank you so much for being here, for the wealth of knowledge that you’ve provided. We have all of Danny’s tools on our show notes, and thank you. Thank you for everything that you’ve provided for our audience.

50:52 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny Yeah, it was great to be here. So thanks for extending the opportunity and invite.



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