Session notes from “Fearless Schools,” presented by Doug Reeves.
What was the speaker’s main message?
It is okay to make mistakes and admit it. For psychological safety, it is imperative that principals do this for staff and students to see. It is imperative to build trust in the classroom and throughout the building by acknowledging mistakes in kind and caring ways.
What was the speaker’s best quote?
“How do you know you are in a high-trust environment? When mistakes are admitted quickly and publicly.” An example: a superintendent who sends out a weekly email to staff with his top three “oops” of the week. Trial and error only happen in a fearless environment with high trust and psychological safety.
What were the top ideas from the session?
- If kids are afraid, they don’t learn; if adults are afraid, they don’t learn.
- We need to be able to disagree with one another in safe and respectful ways, and kids need to see this, too.
- Rule No. 1 about change is to talk about what will not change.
- Buy-in isn’t necessary for change to be successful.
- We have to stop looking for perfection. “I’ll only do this new approach if you can prove to me that it will work.”
- If you have more than six programs or initiatives, you aren’t going to be able to implement them well. It’s people and practices, not programs, that really matter.
- To maintain trust, we can follow a rhythm of “promises made, promises kept.” We can use language like, “In our last meeting, we agreed to … and in this meeting, we will show our results.”
What are strategies you will implement immediately?
- Visit a music classroom as my first instructional/evaluation visit of the day. You can see immediate feedback in action: students making mistakes and teacher providing kind and caring feedback with automatic implementation.
- Ask staff: What are the factors that influence student achievement? After the brainstorm, sort into three categories: I can’t control or influence, I can influence but not control, and I can influence and control.
What is are strategies that will help you with instructional leadership?
- Watching for trial and error in the classroom. If there are no errors, then it’s not creativity and innovation; it’s just a game. Getting things right the first time is not the goal.
- Host a teacher learning fair where each teacher or team creates a three-panel poster with a challenge they had that year, how they practiced solving that challenge, and then results from those practices. This is a great way to demonstrate how staff have made a difference in their work with students.
What is one idea that you want to learn more about?
Fixer vs. Multiplier. Once you move into an administrative role, you need to move from being a fixer (I can fix this problem) to a multiplier (I can help you fix this problem).
What are resources you will check out?
- net, a website with videos, articles, research, and tools to use with staff
- Fearless Schools (book)
- Multipliers (book by Liz Wiseman)
- The Illusion of Engagement (Gupta and Reeves)
- Reclaiming Conversation (book)
I can’t wait to tell my teachers about this idea:
- Continue to use strategies like equity sticks into 4th and 5th grades; this helps continue to have engagement and a trusting environment.
- We need to move away from using averages for grading because students should be struggling, struggling, and then having success. When you average students’ trials, you aren’t honoring students’ perseverance.
Notes by Courtney Goodman, principal, Field Elementary School in Park Ridge, Illinois.