Superintendent and author extraordinaire, Dr. Siler reveals one of the most important lessons in leadership. She also shares how she thrives with the small percentage of her work (and life) that are just really hard!
Special Guests: Dr. Jill Siler
Superintendent of Gunter ISD since 2012; was a teacher, campus administrator and district leader prior to that. Jill serves as the Chair of the Future-Ready Superintendent Leadership Network Design Team where innovative leaders from across the state gather to learn, share and grow together and she is the lead facilitator for TASA’s Aspiring Superintendent Academy. Jill’s first book, Thrive Through the Five, was released in September and focuses on how to thrive through the most challenging seasons.
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Brianna Hodges 0:00
Welcome to Lemonade Learning, a refreshing look at learning today. We serve up high impact, practical strategies, alongside honest and energizing stories to help educators.
Lainie Rowell 0:12
Make the most of your moments. Lead and learn with purpose and craft lifetime lemonade from the sweets and sours of education. Join us for a glass.
Brianna Hodges 0:24
Hey, everybody, it's Bri.
Lainie Rowell 0:26
And Lainie. Welcome. Bri, tell us about our guest today. I'm excited.
Brianna Hodges 0:31
So you know I get really really, really excited when my people from Texas get to get to you know, when we get to share, share some amazing this that's happening. And so I am super jacked about having Dr. Jill Siler on our show today. And what can I say? I mean, there's so many things that we could say about about Jill, she is the superintendent of Gunter ISD. She's not originally from Texas. But you know, those of us that are from Texas, we like to say "she got here as fast as she could". So no, no harm, no foul about not being from here. She's been here long enough that she's granted citizenship. And so so we'll definitely give her with that she serves as the Chair of the Future Ready Superintendent Leadership Network design team, which is something that is unique to Texas. She also shares a national roll with us from Future Ready Schools. And so there's there's a couple of different gets a little bit confusing for people outside of Texas. But all of that to say she keeps a pulse on what is happening for schools across the nation, especially leaving in that superintendency role. And I'm super grateful for that. I would also be remiss if we didn't talk about the fact that she published an incredible book, Thrive Through The Five and we're gonna talk about it, I'm sure we're gonna unpack a little bit of it as so many incredible nuggets that are in there. And I just cannot wait to hear what all you're going to add to our conversation. So thank you, ma'am, for joining us today.
Jill Siler 2:00
Thank you. It's so great to be with you Bri and Lainie. Thanks for inviting me.
Lainie Rowell 2:05
Well, you know, I'm feeling a little bit like the odd man out as you to have all of the connections. You're both in Texas. You're both future ready, and you're both... Well, I like to say I'm future ready too. I mean, you're both actually affiliated with Future Ready Schools. And you both keynoted FETC. So I feel like feel a little out. But it's okay. It's okay. I feel like after the conversation, we're all going to be like sisters, it's going to be all good. So thanks for being here. Absolutely.
Jill Siler 2:32
Oh, well. Okay, so we always start with sweet and sour because we feel like this cuts right to like, where are you at right now. And so we're recording a little bit ahead of time. But, but for where we are right in this moment, you know what's going on with you. So I'll start with my sweet, which is the fact that I did write this book Thrive Through The Five and you know, the book is about leading through really challenging times. And it's kind of the running joke, because I wrote the book a full year before the pandemic started. Um, and honestly, like, even then, like that whole notion of I love my job 95% of the time, which is incredible. But there's this small portion that's 5% that is really, really challenging. But the funny part is, or maybe not as funny is that in this past year, man, has there ever been a season that has been more needed for this message, and it has been a really, really challenging year. So the sweet part has been writing that book and sharing it, especially in a time such as this, the sour part has just been the challenges of leading through this year. And the piece that I want to just focus on, which I think will really resonate, regardless of your listeners, if they're teachers or leaders is just that the waves just keep on coming. Right? So one year ago, we're recording this like March 17. But one year ago, we just found out you know that the Coronavirus was coming. And so, as a leader, we're making all those decisions about closure and opening, are we going to close or we're going to open and then realizing that we are going to have to transition to remote learning it was that how do you transition an entire system to remote learning overnight. And we got through that. And then the summer came and we realized that some of our kids were going to come back in Texas, a lot of our kids did come back. And so all of that great work that we did around remote learning, we kind of realized, hey, we can't do that and ask those same people to teach full time for all of their kids. So how do we do that? And then just working through our opening procedures, and then you finally get that through that. And then our Texas Governor made the decision about lifting our mass mandate. And again, school leaders were left with this decision of what do you do and of course, that's very contentious. And so the sour has just been you finally feel like you're at a place where you're like, Okay, we're up. We're doing this. It's not easy, but we're doing this and then the next time you turn around man, there's just another huge challenge in front of you. And that's been what's been so difficult about this past year.
Lainie Rowell 4:53
I feel that I'm mean, I'm sure Bri's with me, this resonates with us. It's like as soon as you start to get your bearings, you find flooding, and it's like that rug just gets pulled right out from underneath you. And I'd love to hear what what Bri has. I do have a question. But Bri, what are your initial thoughts?
Brianna Hodges 5:09
No, I, I mean, I completely identify, empathize and and resonate with, with what all you just shared, because I do think that, you know, again, whether you're in the classroom, whether you're in leadership, whether you're a parent, whether you're a student, you know, the continual changes are happening across, and I've been having a lot of conversations with people in a variety of industries, whether they're at higher ed, or they're in, you know, PK-12, or they're in, you know, corporate, whatever it looks like... how this this change, how the past 13 months have really impacted what normalcy means and looks like, and, you know, and what, that you know, where that's gonna take us. And, you know, I do think it's so I love that you shared, you know, we we moved from the spring response to the summer plan to then the August pivot, then the, you know, fall, you know, changes and, then now we're back into kind of this, what do you this is that time of year, this is March, this is when we start looking at the next school year, and the planning and where all that's going to come in, and I remember this time last year, and even, you know, into April and into May, where we were planning for fall. And it's like, where do we plan? What does that look like? Right? Because I do think that education is that that really, kind of persnickety kind of kind of industry where we really liked to have solid answers. But yet we understand that it's such a fluid circumstance, right? Like, we have a plan that we have enacted for equity that we haven't acted for, you know, you're making sure that it can be really compartmentalised and created across the board and scalable, but at the same time, we have to make it agile enough to where it can be, you know, really applied and implemented for each individual. And Whoa, what a heavy burden to shoulder all of that. And so, you know, I'm curious, and I hope that we'll kind of unpack this as we go through it, because I'm really curious, you know, a lot of us have talked about the good things that have come from the past 13 months, and then what that looks like, moving forward, right, like, we're all looking forward to that day, when you know, we're no longer feeling distanced, you know, that mandated distance. But at the same time, there's been a lot of really good things that have come from that. And so I'm really curious about putting the genie back in the bottle in a lot of ways, and we don't want to pull, you know, we don't want to remove some of those barriers. So that's kind of what's going on in my brain. You know, and like I said, we'll have plenty of time to pull all these elements out, I think,
Jill Siler 8:01
yeah, well, you know, and you just talked about just the changes, and, you know, one positive that I can just say off the bat, you know, our state commissioner of education started immediately with these daily phone calls. And those were so helpful. But as last year, as we were starting to make those plans, you know, you're just waiting for information waiting for information. And I remember talking to another superintendent in Texas, Doug Williams, from Sunnyvale, who's fantastic. And I asked him, I said, When do you really think we're going to know like, when when do you really think we're gonna have a solid idea of what the font looks like? And he just deadpan responded back and said, August 1, and I was like, there's no way And sure enough, it was like late July, August, before we really knew what was going to happen. And, you know, Lainie mentioned that we had the opportunity to speak at FETC. And one of the videos that I shared in my keynote was by adley. And it was a super funny press conferences called Press Conference that she did. And it was like last April, March, April, it was it was when just the pandemic was starting. And we were getting all this conflicting information. And her little parody is just, you know, like, everything is closed, except for the things that are open. And you know, you can't do this except you can do this. It was just super funny. And I still share that now. Because the point you made is so... I mean, things continue to change. And we were at our board meeting, and one of our board members said, Hey, I don't know if you saw but the CDC changed the the amount of distance in schools from six feet to three feet, like we're a year into it, and it is still in this constant cycle of change. And I think that's been challenging.
Lainie Rowell 9:32
So I have a question because I am going to just cling on to this because I know this is something that our work has in common. So I'm trying to try to feel included, and I know you guys have the sisterhood. So you talk about I've heard you talk in the past about keeping your focus, right, like you can't, you can't do everything. You do have to have a focus. And that's something that I think is really important, and has also never been harder than this past year. And so I wonder, you know what has been your focus? And how have you been able to keep that through this very challenging time?
Jill Siler 10:05
Yeah. So that is one of the most important lessons of leadership is that it's not about what you you know want to do or what you think should be done. It's about having the self awareness to recognize the situation and then act accordingly. Right. And so we prior to this pandemic, we're in the midst of like strategic planning, and doing all this kind of work. And it doesn't mean that you stop that work altogether. But it certainly does mean that you've reprioritize, and refocus. This was not the year to roll out huge initiatives on X, Y, and Z that weren't necessarily related to the, to the crisis that we were facing. And so I think that is important for me. You know, this summer, I had the great opportunity to interview Daniel Pink, he wrote the book, Drive. And recently, the book went and had a great conversation with him and asked him, you know, a whole bunch of things. But at the end of the interview, I asked him this question of, you know, given everything that you've read everyone that you've interviewed, in this moment, you know, social unrest, in the midst of a pandemic, so much uncertainty, changing information, conflicting information, how would you suggest that we lead, and his first thing out of his mouth was just that the premium of care has to be on the people. And so I think that's first and foremost, like when, when you're talking about focusing, especially during a time like this, it has to be on the people in your organization, the teachers in our classrooms, our bus drivers, our cafeteria, line workers, all of that. And our students, and the challenging thing about this crisis is to meet all of their needs. It has been conflicting in nature, right? Like I have my kids academic needs. And I know what it looks like to meet their needs in the best way. Right, we've done great work remotely. But we also know that man, when you have them in person, and you're able to do such incredible things in the classroom, that is awesome. But we also have the physical health of everyone in our organization, and then kids social emotional needs, and how to meet those as all conflicting. And so that's been difficult. But my focus this year has been on that. It's been on how to care for our people, and how to ensure that we're still teaching and learning and how to keep everyone safe in the process. And that has been my entire years work.
Lainie Rowell 12:13
Yep. And that's the focus we want to keep, right? Like I'm starting, I don't know if either of you are feeling this way, but I'm starting to have some new anxiety. Although that's probably you know, we're all getting new anxiety every week, it seems like but this new anxiety about, okay, if we do transition back, and it's really, you know, no more masks, no more social distancing, like are we to lose some of the things that were gained this year, the focusing on social emotional learning, the focusing on the just wellness of a child, not just academically, but social, emotional as well. So I don't know that. For me, that's a little bit of an anxiety I have, I'm watching. I'm optimistic, but I just want to make sure we're super intentional and keep that focus.
Jill Siler 12:56
Well, I'll tell you this, that our transition to remote learning, like many others, last spring, was incredibly challenging. Like we had islands of excellence, when it came to just degree of just comfortability, and, you know, savviness with technology. But certainly, that was not easy for us. And we layer professional development. We totally reimagined what that would look like and and came up, you know, with a good plan to meet our kids needs. And so our teachers, although I would not have wished this pandemic on anyone, right, just like what Bri was talking about the good things that did happen, like, wow, did we grow from a technology standpoint, and I too, was worried. But Texas has kind of had a little head run with this, because we have had kids come back. And I'll tell you, when we brought our kids back, we had an option for remote learning. So I had a portion that was at home and a portion that was at school. And because our technology devices hadn't come in yet, we found ourselves without technology in school, right, the kids who needed it had it and they were at home. And then because of that all of our Chrome carts and things that we would normally share were depleted. And we were going one to one, but of course no one could get anything in because everyone in the world was ordering it. And I'll tell you between that and then the Texas freeze that we just had, which was so cold, and we lost power and internet, we're still just building back our internet infrastructure, which is a whole other story. But between those two events, it is crystallized how much our staff has changed in their use of technology. And so like whereas it was just something we would add in it is now man like it is just a like it's a stable part of what we do. It's a main part of what we do. And so that's so encouraging to me now that we've had major troubles with our technology infrastructure, but we are now one to one and it has changed how we teach kids and that has been great.
Brianna Hodges 14:43
Yeah. You're making my implementation heart so happy. I remember, you know, I was really fortunate to be able to help steward a district from no technology to one to one and and I remember so very clearly the frustrations and the pain. I mean, it's through pain that came along with, how am I going to change, you know, how I'm teaching and all of these different pieces and and then moving from that to, you know, even just three weeks, three months, you know, six months later those same teachers being like, I cannot imagine not having this in my world, right? Like, it's just it's one of those pieces where, and I think that so much of that comes from how you implement how you you leverage this right, like, if your focus becomes again, I think that's one of the wonderful things that came from the pandemic. Again, not not to overshadow the terrible things that came from it. But at the same time, like some of the really strong bright lights that came our if we focus on the instructional purposes of technology, not just using technology for technology's sake, but how it actually improves and changes that learning opportunity. That's where teachers and students alike understand the benefit of it. And the reason for it, right. And I think that because we've got kind of thrown from from the, you know, from the frying pan into the fire, like we had to figure it out really fast. And there was no time and no air for all of the, you know, the typical bright lights and distractions that happen in that way. Instead, it was like, okay, we need to get this information to our kids, how are we going to do that, oh, here's this technology piece, that's going to help us because we can't get it to them in any other fashion. And, and it's really wonderful to see how that answers the questions for teachers. And that answers the questions for students. Why do we have to do it this way?
Jill Siler 16:47
Lainie Rowell 16:49
So you mentioned something that's really interesting, Jill, because you're talking about how you've already gotten to see kind of how that transition back is happening. Because there are certain parts of the country that are more in person than other parts of the country. It's not even just states because I can tell you in Southern California, we have pockets of in person in more in Northern California, that's kind of unheard of, unless you're in a really rural parts. And so it's just been kind of interesting to watch as people transition back. And I just, I kind of keep thinking about this long view of like, where do we want to be once we get to a point where we're not getting the rug pulled out from under us on a pretty regular basis? Like, where do we want to be in that super intentional? You know, here's what technology can do really, really well. And here's what the human beings, the highly skilled professionals can do really, really well. And how do we get to... because I think for some, it might be almost overwhelming at points to you know, I work for Orange County Department of Ed, they're my biggest client. And I was working with the team. And we were trying to give suggestions for how districts could do summer school now that some of them will have more in person opportunities. And it was, honestly, it was a little bit overwhelming to me, because I was like, well wait when we start lifting the constraints. Now, it's almost like you know that that paradox of like too many options. And that's where I get I come I keep coming back to focus, because I feel like in the in the midst of the crisis, there was a lot of people jumping onto as many tech tools as they could which terrifies me because I don't think that's the answer. I think we need to pick the if with very good intention, we need to focus on the ones that will accomplish exactly what we need to do. So I just I guess what I'm just hoping for is just this long view of like, you know, what, what do we want it to look like in two to three to five years? Have you had a chance to think about what your hope is kind of on the other side of this? I know, you talked about it a little bit, though, is there anything else you're thinking of, like, really far down the road?
Jill Siler 18:40
Yeah, well, and some of the work that our district has been focused on, you know, innovative learning is the like the the first part of our strategic plan. And we really went to George Couros' work around the Innovators Mindset, in terms of what to look for in today's classrooms, things like voice choice, taking risk, self reflection, all of those pieces. And so I would hope that, you know, technology has really opened the doors in terms of just kind of personalizing education, and giving some of that choice and ability to, for students to share voice on so many different just modes of being able to do that. That would be my hope down the road is that because we have grown so much in our capacity, with technology and understanding how we can really connect with students that we would take those very best pieces and bring those back into the classroom. And that's what I've been really encouraged by as I've seen my own teachers come back. I mean, I'm going to be honest, like we talked about, like, you know, reimagining education, and all of that is someone who has come back, face to face. This was not about reimagining education. This was about making sure that teachers felt comfortable and students felt comfortable and that we had safety protocols in place, and that we were learning like, I'm going to be honest, like that was the bar and our teachers have done incredible things. But like I've said, you know, it's very challenging to ask teachers to do this remote learning. That is incredible, but very time consuming. And then also teach kids the very same people doing the very same thing, which, for the majority of school districts that are smaller, which is the mass majority across our country, that's what we're asking them to do. And so I think as leaders, we want to, on one hand, be that vision casting, what do we want this to look like, but on the other hand, be very grounded into what we're asking our educators to do, and support them and help them grow, but at the same point, be very realistic about the true challenges that they're facing. And so that's that just it's just a very complex piece that we've had to work through as leaders.
Lainie Rowell 20:12
I think you articulated that really, really well, I love that because you do have to have the eye on like, this is what is going to happen now. And we don't want to be putting on people, things that just can't even happen. Still, we're still not there yet. But then also just being thinking ahead of like, this is the vision. I love that. What do you think?
Brianna Hodges 20:55
Well, I kind of want to ask a follow up question with this. Because I think that one of the pieces that that is really important is you were talking about strategic planning. And and we know that strategic part of strategic planning is that it's not limited to one year, and it's not limited to one time, right? So it's this looking at this long view, and then how do we break it into into short elements and, and you know, so that we can have these many goals and then keep things moving and have it you know, kind of spiderweb and move out into all of these elements, yet, at the same time, limit the overwhelm that comes with this right, like so we talked about this all the time in education that we have this like massive buffet of items that are out there, there's a lot of different ways that this can be done and that it can be achieved. And kind of coming back into to the Lainie's question around focus. You've talked about that from from your standpoint. And I think that it's also I'll speak for me personally, the 95% of things that I absolutely love about my you know about leadership, but then also the 5%, that are really, that just really kind of stink at it really, truly often come out that 5% comes when focus isn't clear, like when I don't have the clarity, when I don't have the the emphasis or the initiative that that needs to happen in order to make sure all of this comes down. And that part can like really beat you down, right. And so the phrase that comes to mind that I really cling to is that "you can be anything, but you don't have to be everything" right, like so there's all these choices, and you can pick what is best, there's anything that you can do. But you don't have to have every single component of it in order to succeed. And in order to do that. So when you're looking at this with your strategic plan, and then you're rolling this out through your leadership team, at the school district into your campuses and all of that, how are you helping maintain that focus? Because you know, Lainie and I do a lot of work with districts, with teachers as well as with leadership teams of like, how do we mitigate overwhelm? And, you know, if we're struggling with it as leaders like then that comes, you know, sometimes even magnified at that at that teacher level, because then they're trying to figure out how to implement all of that. So how are you mitigating that for your, for your teachers, for your staff, and really helping them understand that, you know, these aren't isolated incidents that they actually are, you know, can be kind of folded into into your strategic plan. And they're going to be things it's not just, this isn't just our pandemic protocol. This is, you know, these are things that are going to, you know, there's these pedagogical practices or things that you can continue to do for three and five and so years.
Jill Siler 23:37
Yeah, well, and I think just as a teacher, myself, and being in systems where there was just initiative fatigue, right, and so every year was a different deal. And it was, you know, PD one day on this and something different the next, like, I definitely that left a mark on me, and then being in systems where it was more sustained that year after year, you're going deeper in different aspects. And it was there was much more conductivity. So seeing that, as an educator, I, you know, really been hopeful to emulate that as well. And so for, for us, it has been, you know, just what I talked about earlier in terms of having focus, first of all recognizing when the time is to move forward with all sorts of things and when it's not. And so case in point, when we shifted to spring remote learning, you know, there's a lot of different ways that we could go about it, and it's kind of that old model of professional development was okay, we're gonna have a day, a professional development day. And we learned really quickly, like, that's not going to happen, and nor can we teach everything to everyone. And so it was being really strategic about okay, what are the specific tools that our teachers need to know right now. And so and then layering those, you know, so like, day one, you know, like, make a YouTube video or set up, you know, set up your YouTube channel and day two, you know, learn how to screencast and upload it to YouTube and day three, you know, Google Classroom, this specific piece, and so it really changed our narrative around that. Most importantly, it has been just being mindful of what is appropriate to move forward with. And so like I said, this year, we really took a step back in terms of like pushing any sort of new initiative, because we knew that we're in the middle of crisis, it's not necessarily appropriate. But also try to continue that vision and that focus with the things that we were doing. And so, you know, as much as I kind of like beat myself up over like, man, we're not, you know, doing exactly what I thought we should be doing. When I look at where we are right now, compared to where we were a year ago, we've made huge strides towards that. And so I think like just the things that you talked about in terms of having a singular focus, connecting the work to each other, like, those are the pieces that that are most important. It's important to vision cast, but it's not about the piece of paper, right. Strategic Planning is not about the plan. In the end. It's about the conversations that happen with teachers and leaders or and community members and students and staff around the table to talk about what is it that we want for our district? And how can we best achieve it, that right there is where the magic happens. And as a leader, the ways that I can support that with singular focus that's not going to overwhelm people is that sweet spot that I want to get to?
Brianna Hodges 26:07
I love that you said that not that you're trying to introduce a new initiative, it's also that you're trying to reinforce things that have been part of the past. Like, I think that that is so important. And I know that that's one of those things, that often happens, we get stuck in this mentality of like something new every year, like, oh, here's the new piece, here's the new piece, here's the new piece, that we end up not firmly connecting the dots between years of like, this is where we were, you know, and you talked about going deeper and really delving into that. And you have these entry points, right? Like I mean, even if you just look at it from a curriculum focus, right, we don't necessarily do a super great job of firmly connecting the dots. And one of the pieces that I see that happens a lot with from a leadership perspective is that we just dive into that surface, right, so we, we kind of skitter across it. And then here's the new piece that comes in. And here's the new piece that comes in. And we, you know, on the leadership team, we're talking, we're very intentional about how it connects, but the people who are implementing it aren't involved in all of those conversations. So they might not completely see the the connections that we find so obvious unless we make a point on that. So I love that you are, are showing that you know that we want to continue to spiral that just like from a curriculum perspective, we do that, you know, we introduced it in sixth grade. But we're still, we're still talking about the same piece in the ninth grade. And in the 12th grade. It's just at a different deeper level. You talked about reading, you know, George Couros' book, when I first read that I wrote, like all over the margins. Innovation is not the same as invention. And I think that so often forget that we think it has to be brand new, it's never been thought of before. And that's not the case. And I love that you... like that would be peaceful for me to be a part of that district and hear you explain that connectivity and that interconnectedness that happens with with the strategic plans. So on behalf of your teachers, thank you for that.
Jill Siler 28:12
Lainie Rowell 28:14
I know I think I think everyone who listens to Jill is like, I want to work with Jill like she's amazing, she gets it. She understands where we are, she knows where we should go. She's taking care of people as the humans that they are and keeping that focus. So I love that I love that.
Brianna Hodges 28:34
We're excited to have Nicte Creative Design as our branding partner for limonade learning.
Lainie Rowell 28:39
Nicte has helped us refresh our brand identity, giving a delicious new twist.
Jill, will you tell us... Bri, can we ask her about the book because I kind of want to hear a little...
Brianna Hodges 28:50
I was gonna say can we can we shift to the book like Yeah, let's do that. Because we've talked about some of the nights that 95% of things that like, we love we love. So let's talk about this. Like, I have a feeling that you didn't set out to be like, well, this is a celebration of those 95% of the things that we love. You wrote the book of like, holy cow, this is five that I like. So talk to us about this. How did it How did this come to you? And so I've heard because I have not written a book, but I've heard that we write the book that we need, right? So I'm guessing that that was kind of where you were. So tell us about it.
Lainie Rowell 29:21
By the way, I just want to say really quickly. Bri has written enough to write a book. She just hasn't put it all into a bound thing that you get on Amazon but...
Jill Siler 29:30
Talk to me afterwards I'll walk you through how to do I'm just kidding. Yeah, so you know, I always start, you know, talks that I give with with this quote by Marc Anthony which is just that, you know, people say that "if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life" and countering that like I absolutely love what I do and I've never worked harder. Right? And so I love what I do and I love a large majority of it 95 might be a stretch especially after this past year but I love so much of it. But there is a small part that is so incredibly difficult. And it's not just I mean, everyone knows that right is part of our work part of our lives, no matter what you do home, family, personal, we all have things that we love and things that we don't. I think, though, especially when it comes to leadership, but really any profession, that that part that we don't, that we struggle with, that is such a challenge for us that we don't talk about it enough. And I found for myself, like I my go to is I just try to get through that moment, like I just tried to survive, like, you know, my mantra was, this too shall pass, right, which is the funny joke, because we're like, 12 months into this pandemic, it is not past friends, right. And so I just got tired of trying to survive. And I wanted to do more than that. I just I wanted to thrive. And so I had really never thought of that Bri, that we write the books that we that we need. And I think you're right, because I definitely needed this. And so I talked about in the book, you know, kind of three main sections, one are just contributing factors like things that we grapple with, in and out, that really we struggle with. And so getting really honest about failure and fear and dealing with a high pressure. And if there are two things that really resonated with people in my book, it's probably that the failure and the fear part. And I think this past year, going through COVID, where we've had to do redo everything from scratch, you know, how you're teaching remotely, or how we do carline, or cafeteria, or how we do choir, I mean, everything we've had to rethink and redo. And when you have to start from scratch, there's always that element of failure. And so we're constantly butted up against that. And so how do we respond to that? And how do we push through that? And how do we make that help us be better teachers, leaders, and that that is really resonated with people and then just talking about fear that, you know, when I look at my own leadership journey, that has been the main thing that has held me back, and I say that as a sitting superintendent, still struggling with fear about what's coming next. And so, you know, I just have been really vulnerable and open, because I've found that when people have been vulnerable with me, and share their struggles, it empowers me to say, Hey, I'm not the only one. And if she got through it, I can get through it too. And I think especially as women, that's something that that we kind of second guess ourselves, and so we don't talk about it a lot. But I found that it is really freeing when you share with people like this is, you know, thinking about moving into the superintendency. I didn't think that I was ready, I didn't think that I would want to move from where I was at in terms of where we lived. I didn't think that I would like the job. I didn't think that I could balance being a mom and a superintendent, there was just so much fear. But nothing changed from me having those fears and me becoming a successful superintendent, except that I stepped out and did it. And so that has been just something I think that has really resonated with leaders, with readers.
Lainie Rowell 32:53
Yeah. So I would say that I have a rule for myself. And Bri has really helped me with this because I specifically remember December of 2019 Bri and I are in San Diego, she's Future Ready Faculty. I'm just there to connect with people. She's telling me like the... and I think Jill, I think I've even heard you use this reference about a job requirements. It's like though, the man like thinks he only needs to know about half of it. I'm gonna butcher the numbers here, but the woman thinks I need 100% or something like that. And when Bri told me that I was like, that's so that's so me. So one thing that's really I love to talk about the vulnerability one thing that has been a real driver for me is that I'm I get opportunities because of the consulting work that I do. And so my rule to myself is, I'm not allowed to say no to something just because I'm afraid to do it. And so I can, I can say no, because it doesn't align with what needs to happen with my family. Or I can say no, because it doesn't align with what I believe as an educator. But I can't say no, just because I'm afraid of it. And so that fear is just like something that just weighs you down. That really resonated with me. And so I appreciate you sharing that
Jill Siler 34:02
And how about not saying no to something before it even presents itself as an opportunity? Like, I've already talked myself out of it before it even comes to me? So I yeah, I so hear you with that. Um, I talk in the book a lot. I have a love hate relationship with public speaking which is ironic because like, literally, it's literally part of my job and certainly part of this other piece, right? And there is an element, right? Like I can connect in that way. But I mean, just all out if you've ever read um, Dare to Lead by Bernie Brown, she starts off the book talking about like her almost panic attack before she spoke in front of this session. I was like, Oh, thank God, I'm not alone, you know, but um, just as I was getting my feet under me about speaking in front, you know, in front of people, audiences, of course, COVID hits and everything goes virtual. And I started getting opportunities to speak and I was just petrified, like, how do I like there's, it's hard enough to speak in front of a live audience of 1,000 people that are laughing with you, hopefully not at you, and then to talk to a dead computer screen with the zero interaction, and of course, it's gotten much better now with like live chats and all those sorts of things. And I remember at the same time, George Couros again, he had just keynoted at one of my districts in Austin that I lived in, in Leander ISD. And he had gotten such rave reviews. And so I just shot him an email, and I said, I would love to talk with you. And, and he spent an hour with me. And of course, he's done a full course now on, on how to connect through presentations, and it's exceptional. But he just walked me through just some of the ways to connect virtually, he's like, I've done this for six months, here's what I found is really effective. And that helps so much. But I think, you know, Lainie, what you're talking about, like, I'm not going to say no to something just because I'm afraid of it. Like, I shut myself down. And so I've really tried to work hard to say, Okay, I'm not going to say no, but let's find out who is killing it in this area. And let me go talk with them. And that's what I did in that particular circumstance. And oh, man has my virtual speaking, gotten so much better because of that.
Brianna Hodges 35:56
We were just sharing earlier about how incredible you are. I mean, at FETC, I was like, Holy moly, You crushed it. And and I think it's just, it's so I love the vulnerability that you share in that. And I think that it's also one of those pieces, you know, we talk about, don't be afraid of failure and and you know, leaning into failure, and we say all of this from an educational perspective. But then it's, it's, it's one thing when when we're saying it, right, and it's another thing when we're actually living in it, and certainly empathize. You know, I find myself in this all the time, as a leader, like I constantly am second guessing myself and all of those pieces that come into it. But then I also... this actually, even as recently as this past weekend, I find myself in that position where it's not necessarily my peers and my colleagues, but it's learning from my own children and learning from from the kids and how intimidating overwhelming that can be. Right? And so I certainly empathize with our teachers out there, whenever they're finding themselves with someone who had always been, or you know, it's typically been in that position of knowing their stuff, right? Like, this is, you know, you're standing in front of your class, and you're, you're that authority, and now all of a sudden, you find yourself putting, you know, putting information out there that you don't feel as good and comfortable about and so I'll share a really quick story... Lainie, you know, doesn't necessarily, although she's getting to know, Texas pretty well, but she, you know, she finds herself in awe of the fact that I have, you know, have a farm and have, you know, have livestock and horses and all of this. And so, this past weekend, I was at a horse show with my, with my son, and my son is an incredibly gifted rider. And he's really, really, really amazing at what he does. And it's been a day or two since I've riden. And so I'll just go ahead and say that, like, it has been almost as long since I've riden competitively as I rode competitively, so we can do the math on that. And let's just go ahead and say it's been about like, 20 something years and, and so I found myself in this circumstance, where I'm also riding one of my son's horses that he has riden that he has riden competitively, that he has won, you know, a lot of awards on, and now all of a sudden, I'm riding her and I'm not doing nearly as well as he is right. And like, it's one of those things where it puts you like it puts you in your place. And now I'm finding myself like asking my 12 year old son for advice, asking him to like, and I have to learn how to like, it's hard enough to be vulnerable to do that. And then it's hard. And then on top of that, then you add in the like, being gracious about it, right. And it's so hard to not be like, how do you know what all it takes? And so I just, I think that I think there's so much in what you just shared over the fear, and the failure because it's not just I'm afraid of what can happen is also the like, I'm afraid of who I become in those situations and what other people will think of me, if I don't have my scene under control, or if I'm asking for help in this way, like we put so much pressure on ourselves, especially as women again, like I'm a woman, so I know I have a bias on that. But I think there's there's so much that's in there. So thank you for writing the books that we all need at this point.
Jill Siler 39:20
Lainie Rowell 39:21
And I do think the vulnerability piece is... I know we got to start to wrap up here. So I want to give you a moment for final thoughts if you want to share anything else, Jill, but I think the vulnerability piece is really touching a lot of people and it took COVID for people to feel like they could be more vulnerable. I know it did for me, Bri I don't know if I can speak for you. But I would not have done a podcast if it wasn't for COVID. So I think we're all finding a way to step out of our comfort zone but it doesn't always make it easier but it's been a little bit easier for me during COVID and I think the vulnerability piece watching celebrities cooking... like Bri you give the example of cooking shows dimly lit kitchens that people are doing with their phones. And all this stuff, it's kind of given us a permission to use a term I've heard from Tom Murray, fail forward. And so I love that.
Brianna Hodges 40:08
Well, and I think it's not even just the fail forward, like I think, I mean, you've really hit on it like things that we've been really successful at in the past that now all of a sudden, because we have different constraints, because we have different circumstances, we're not as good as we used to be. And like that pressure, right there is so hard, like you were sharing Jill, like, you just gotten used to like handling that on the stage and dealing with, you know, the interactions of all these people. And then all of a sudden, now we got a little change of circumstance. And it's like, oh, that that vulnerability of like, I'm not nearly as good as I used to be. And what are people like, is that rug that's pulled out from underneath you. And, you know, I mean, you have kids as well, like, for Lainie and I, that was the same thing, where it's like, we're really good at telling other people how to do this. And then all of a sudden, we have children of our own at home, and we're trying to navigate this. And that circumstance is different. Like, it's different from doing that in a classroom with kids to then being in your own home. And in handling things I would imagine for you, as a superintendent, it's also different. As a mom of kids, you're dealing with all of that. And so I think just that, that continual, going back to what you said, at the very beginning, like the continual waves of change that are that are all in there.
Jill Siler 41:20
One of the quotes that I share, you know, when I speak often is just the that we need to understand that that feeling of being overwhelmed and even inadequate, is just part of the growing process and not assign that we're not the person for the job that like we're not doing a good job. And I think for all of us, teachers and leaders, this year has been a year of being overwhelmed with everything we've been asked to do and to try to tackle and inadequate because we've had to just be completely outside of our comfort zone. But we have to remember that is a sign that we are growing, not a sign that we are a failure in what we're doing. And I think that's important for people to hear.
Brianna Hodges 41:58
I love that. I think we just may have found our title assigned to grow not assigned to know, I love that. I love that. Like I think what a powerful reminder that it's not how well we do it. It's it's that it's that perseverance and that resiliency to to keep going.
Lainie Rowell 42:16
Oh my gosh, Jill, I think we could talk to you forever. But we have to respect your time. And so we'll start to wind down here. What is the best way... I mean, I hope people check out Thrive Through the Five because you're amazing. And I think you make us all feel better. And so we need to have you close all the time and a book would be a great way to do that. What are some other ways to connect with you social media, things like that? Yeah. So on social media, I am @JillMSiler everywhere. And my website is JillMSiler.com, and I would love to connect with your listeners. Oh, JillMSiler across the web. I love that. That's very nice. That's very nice. We're gonna have a frame around the for the people who are watching, so they can see that as well. But we'll have it in the show notes for people who are listening, and we want to get people connected with you. And thank you so much for your time. This has been an honor.
Jill Siler 43:04
Thank you so much for having me. It's been great.
Brianna Hodges 43:06
Wonderful. Thank you, ma'am.
Lainie Rowell 43:08
Thanks, everyone for listening. And oh, yeah, that was a lot of shout out to George Couros. I feel like we need the soundboard so we could do the air horn like he does. Like this is like the one time I was like, Oh, we really need that. Alright, thanks, everyone for listening.
Brianna Hodges 43:23
If you enjoyed this batch of Lemonade Learning, please check out our website lemonadelearning.us. For more resources, be sure to subscribe today, so you don't miss out on future lessons, laughter or lemonade.
Lainie Rowell 43:35
And if you're feeling really generous, please go to Apple podcasts to submit a review so other educators know the value. One last thing, learning and lemonade are best together so please connect with us on social media using #LemonadeLearning to share your story. Plus, we're always looking to giveaway stickers and swag.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai