In response to answer for the question concerning Brezina’s Rule, a reader writes:

“This was a brilliant analysis and spot on. I just did my first master schedule and all we (me, the other AP, and the Principal) talked about was how to strategically place the weak teachers where they would not do the most damage and how to give them the worst conference. At the end of the day we were still not satisfied because some of our lazy teachers got to “piggy-back” on lunch for their conference period and that burned our butts.

You are exactly right. We spew rhetoric about what is good for kids and we never live up to it. If we ever truly put kids first, oh what a day that will be. Our hypocrisy knows no bounds apparently.”

SC Response
The first step in solving a problem is being aware of a problem. The easiest thing for any of us to do is to fall into habits and routines. As a species, we are hard wired to do just that, for survival. So our problem is two-fold. 1 – We naturally fall into habits (to which we become blind). 2 – We have the innate need to promote our own self-interest.

Just to reach this level of understanding is difficult, It requires us to face some uncomfortable truths about who we really are and the real motivation for the things we do. Most people aren’t willing to do this. Fortunately, these same people generally do not become school leaders. School leadership does require an above average capacity for empathy and self-reflection. As the reader writes, “Our hypocrisy knows no bounds.” This is not the realization of someone who is unaware and does not care.

So, if you agree that there is a problem, the question becomes, “now what?” Here is the three step process for breaking the cycles that cause the problem.

1. Get an external coach to work with you and your system. Why an external coach? The external coach isn’t subject to your habits, routines, and biases. The external coach asks why you do things (you will be surprised how many times you answer, “I don’t know, that just what we do”). The external coach speeds up your learning curve. And the external coach stands in your blind spot, helping you address the things you can’t see.

2. Build a system that removes choice. There is an entire book I will one day write on this concept, because what you need is a flexible, adapting system that removes choice. But today you just get the short version. As humans, when we are given the choice between doing what is easy, vs. what is right, over time the majority of our picks are “easy.” We cannot help ourselves, it is basic human nature. So you have to build a system that removes the “easy” choice. The system has to present us with only one option, do what is right.

3. Focus on the most academically fragile students in the system. Most systems make victims on the most academically fragile students. Don’t believe me? Who teaches your weakest ninth grade math class? Is it your best math teacher? Who staffs your ISS classroom? Is it your best motivator? When you put the success of your most fragile students first, it forces you to make decisions that improve the overall system, whether you want to or not. Consider the scheduling example that the reader used. If you put your weakest English teacher in the 12th grade AP English class, you would quickly get parent complaints and central office heat. You would have to do something and do it quick. You would have to coach that teacher to success or you would need to fire the teacher. Welcome to system based, student centered leadership.

Think. Work. Achieve

Your turn…