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School Transformation

  • Baby Steps

    baby steps

     

    Change isn’t easy. This seems to be the battle cry for so many leaders and new initiatives! How many times have we announced this to people with whom we work and how many times have we heard it from others? Change isn’t easy, but that awareness alone doesn’t help.  Here are three truths about change:

    • Provide the why and the how
    • Change is best managed on a daily basis with small, incremental steps
    • It is about people, not things

    Why and How:

    People are happier and more engaged when they know the “why” behind the assignments they are given.  Fullan talks about moral purpose and moral purpose give people the “why.”  People feel part of something bigger than themselves. They want to contribute.

    Effective leaders explain to people that what they are being asked to do contributes to the bigger picture. That each task, each role, each person is important, essential.  And explain WHY that is so. 

    In addition to knowing the “why” people want to know the “how.”  They want to know how this change is going to affect them. What will be expected of them? How does their day change? How does your expectation of them change?

    Effective change leaders provide a coherent picture—that means they connect the dots so everyone sees the bigger picture.

    Baby Steps:

    Change generates big questions and concerns. How should leaders proceed? Baby steps. Change can’t be scheduled as a certain part of the day or as an activity.  It needs to be embedded in the daily work of people—it needs to becomethe daily routine.  People should be provided with explanations, but more importantly, the change and accompanying behavior need to be modeled for them. They need to hear constructive feedback that is supportive and immediate. Just like a baby’s first step, in the beginning they need support, someone holding their hand, but pretty soon they are walking and then running on their own.

    Hate to mix metaphors, but think of the butterfly effect. It is the concept that small causes can have large effects. Attention to detail during the baby steps has a large impact on how the change efforts progress.

    People not Things

    It is easy to forget when we are leading a change effort that we are talking about changing people, not things—not just a process, people. People should not be treated like pieces on a chess board that we can move and use as we like. 

    If you are trying to change your culture, you need to change how people interact. If you are trying to change outcomes, you need to change what people have been doing and how they are doing it so they achieve the new outcomes.  Change is about people not things.  You don’t have to reason with a thing. You don’t have to provide an explanation to a thing. You don’t have to engage with a thing or make them feel important and valued. You do with people. Two rules:

    • How would you want to be treated? What would motivate you?
    • Empower people. Let them know they are important.

    Some big ideas:

    • Make sure the changes are necessary and will result in better outcomes for both the people you are asking to do the work and for the organization as a whole.
    • Collect data and identify the problem and clearly define it. Too often leaders find themselves in the middle of a maelstrom of confusion and address a problem, but not the right problems or they rush forward with a solution that makes sense and sounds good, but it doesn’t address the real problem. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.
    • You don’t have to do everything alone and by yourself. Invite people in to help. Model how people work with each.
    • Create a plan with final outcomes, milestones and a timeline. It should be flexible, while at the same time providing structure and direction.  
    • Realize people will have different needs and be at different skills levels. Differentiate your support to meet the different needs.
    • Share and explain the plan and your expectations. Give the why and the how.
    • Embed desired behaviors into the regular day using baby steps first.
    • Make sure people have the resources needed to implement the plan.
    • Create an effective plan of professional development that includes monitoring and feedback, and supports the change.
  • What Advertising can teach us about building culture

    Adverstising

    Creating an effective culture and context for you and your staff to work in is an important part of any leader’s responsibility. It is not an easy process to create or change a culture, while at the same time it is not impossible. Like most change initiatives it involves reflection, planning and effective implementation. 

    Advertising and Culture

    Here is a question that is fun to ask people and makes a point (also a great way to figure out ages of the people you are asking).   Below are the first parts of some ad slogans. See if you can finish them.  The answers with the years they ran will be in the following paragraph.

    • Winston tastes good…
    • You deserve a break today, so get…
    • Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz…
    • Where’s the …

    Answers:

    • Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should (1954 -72)
    • You deserve a break, so get up an d get away at McDonald’s (1971-75)
    • Plop, Plop, Fizz, Oh What a relief it is (Alka Seltzer 1970’s)
    • Where’s the beef? (Wendy’s 1984)

    How can it be that these ad campaigns ran over 40 years ago, but we still remember them? Advertisers are great at creating a message and making it part of a culture.  They take their message and drum it into our heads via jingles, commercials, print ads, billboards and these days via our mobile devices.  Leaders need to so the same thing!

    I have a Mission Statement, what can I do with it?

    In most cases, organizations have a mission statement, but it doesn’t get used well. Lots of work goes into creating it—a committee is set up, input solicited, draft created and reviewed and then a final approval-- and then too often, it is posted on a wall and forgotten.  An investment of so many people over such a length of time shouldn’t be wasted.  So, have an end game in mind when you are creating a mission statement.

    How would an advertiser use a mission statement? Here is one suggestion. Review your mission statement and pull out a tagline that can be easily used.  Below are some examples:

    Mission Statement #1:

    To achieve our vision, we will prepare our students to become independent learners with the desires, the skills, and the abilities necessary for lifelong learning. This will require creating a learning environment which is centered around students, directed by teachers, and supported by home and community.

    Possible Tagline: We prepare our students to become independent and lifelong learners

    Mission Statement #2

    The mission of XXX School, a diversified community of individuals, is to ensure that each student achieves his/her full potential through educational experiences utilizing technology within a nurturing and motivating environment in partnership with family, business, and community.

    Possible Tagline: We ensure that each student reaches their full potential

    Here are some suggestions on how to use the tagline daily:

    When you see students engaged in learning you can say:

    • You are doing a great job paying attention to your teacher. That is the way to become an independent and lifelong learner (Mission Statement #1)
    • When you pay attention such good attention to what you are learning you are on your way to reaching your full potential! (Mission Statement #2)

    When you want to express behavior expectations:

    • Lifelong learners don’t interrupt, but pay attention and ask questions (Mission Statement #1)
    • If you want to reach your full potential we must listen and ask questions (Mission Statement #2)

    Other ideas:

    • Display your mission statement and tagline prominently in your hallways and classrooms. Refer to it during the day.
    • Display your tagline on your letterhead and memos
    • Close out your memos and notes to staff with your tagline or some form of it
    • Use it as a positive reinforce of student and staff behavior—You are being such a great independent learner (Mission Statement #1) or You really are reaching your full potential today (Mission Statement #2)

    Engage your people

    Last week I was invited to do some training with a district’s leaders about managing change. We spoke about engaging people in the process. We agreed that change can be a chaotic process and that people engage and join the movement the original vision often changes.

    During the discussion one of the principals shared a great idea to engage staff.  She asked each of her teachers to create a sign with these words along the top: #WhyITeach. Each teacher was invited to list a reason and post the sign on their classroom door.  What was the result?

    • Teacher had to reflect on what they do and why they do it.  It developed a sense of purpose and focus. It rekindled passion in some cases.
    • That passion was shared with anyone and everyone who walk through the hallways
    • It created a sense of community and purpose
    • Staff and students felt pride in being part of their school
    • It changed the culture through advertising! (and it may have planted some seeds that will grow into future teachers)

    Conclusion:

    Leaders need to get their message out there. They can learn some valuable lessons from advertising.  Create a clear message that represents your values. Identify the people you want to affect. Get your message out there by embedding it in the daily routine of the staff. 

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