By: Marcus Jackson, Ed.D

Many of us can recall the old saying taught by our parents and teachers for many years, “April showers bring May flowers.” It’s the most popular saying during springtime. However, every growing season is not the same, just as every child is not the same.

The beginning of May indicates we are approaching the last month or two of school. This is the time for testing for many, but for many administrators, teachers, students, and staff members, they eagerly await the results of the state assessment. This can be a very stressful time for everyone. However, for many the results will be met with great disappointment, despite the long hours and hard work the results will be the same, dismal.

According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Unfortunately, this happens frequently in education. Let me explain.

Every year we teach from the same curriculum, schools use the same school improvement plan (some administrators simply change the data points and implement additional remediation programs), the same resources are utilized, the same group of students get all of the attention, the schedule is the same, the amount of time allotted for each content area is the same, the same lesson plans are utilized and approved by the principal (the dates are changed), year after year, first year teachers come in unprepared (especially in urban communities), the same teachers who were struggling are still struggling (without a professional development plan implemented by the administrator or the district), the same group of students continue to struggle and fall through the cracks, the district offers the same professional development for principals, teachers, and staff members, districts fail to provide proper training for assistant principals, and finally the goal, mission, and primary focus is for students to meet the standards and be proficient on state standardized assessments (which is still failing). Yet, we expect different results.


There’s one thing I’ve learned as an administrator, specifically turning around a low performing school is that you must be courageous, innovative, and you MUST DO something radically different to achieve the results desired to move your school forward. This means, you must be willing to challenge the status quo. While reading First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham there were 10 quotes that resonated with me.

1. “People don’t change that much. Instead of trying to put in what God left out, try drawing out what God left in!”
― Curt Coffman,

2. “You cannot learn very much about excellence from studying failure.” ― Marcus Buckingham

3. “Great managers play favorites and spend most of their time with their most productive people. Not because they discriminate, but because they deserve the attention and have so much to teach you.”  ― Curt Coffman

4. “The talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world-class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive he is while he is there is determined by his relationship with his immediate supervisor.”
― Marcus Buckingham

5. “…every time you make a rule you take away a choice and choice, with all of its illuminating repercussions, is the fuel for learning.” ― Marcus Buckingham

6. “In most cases, no matter what it is, if you measure it and reward it, people will try to excel at it” ― Marcus Buckingham

7. “The hardest thing about being a manager is realizing that your people will not do things the way that you would. But get used to it. Because if you try to force them to, then two things happen. They become resentful — they don’t want to do it. And they become dependent — they can’t do it. Neither of these is terribly productive for the long haul.” ― Marcus Buckingham

8. “You will have to manage around the weaknesses of each and every employee. But if, with one particular employee, you find yourself spending most of your time managing around weaknesses, then know that you have made a casting error. At this point it is time to fix the casting error and to stop trying to fix the person.” ― Marcus Buckingham

9. “People don’t change that much. Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough.” ― Marcus Buckingham

10. “As a manager your job is not to teach people talent. Your job is to help them earn the accolade “talented” by matching their talent to the role. To do this well, like all great managers, you have to pay close attention to the subtle but significant differences between roles.”  ― Marcus Buckingham

In conclusion, change is a permanent reality for any learning organization. Change, generally, elicits a positive effect in turning around organizations. However, it carries a complex component that must be managed. In schools, especially failing schools, change must be constant.

Change occurs in an infinite number of forms depending on the situation, the organization, and the timing; and while some organizations are proactive about change, many are not. Unfortunately, in education although everything around us is changing, everything within schools as it pertains to practices, procedures, and protocols remain the same: class schedule, time allotment for each subject, teacher duty days, school year schedule for All student irrespective of student performance level and school hours.

For educational leaders to foster the type of change that is necessary to turn a failing school around they must be willing to bend the rules and they must be courageous and willing to stand on their convictions. We can’t keep implementing the same practices, setting low expectations and getting the same results. Differentiation has to be the focal point of what we do if we expect to get different results. District personnel must be willing to allow autonomy at the building level if we are to grow students both academically as well social and emotionally. We must be the change we want to see!

To be intrepid on your leadership journey, read and reflect on these 10 quotes about bravery and leadership; these insights can help you channel your inner warrior as you face the ceaseless challenges of a principal.

1. “Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard.”– General Colin Powell

2. “Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” –Dr. Maya Angelou

3. “As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.”– Robin Sharma

4. “Self-reflection encourages great bravery. Rationalization is your greatest enemy.”– Awa Kenzo

5. “You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of. ” –Jim Rohn

6. “I believe that the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare.” – Dr. Maya Angelou

7. “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” –William Faulkner

8. “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” –John Wayne

9. “Get involved in something that you care so much about that you want to make it the greatest it can possibly be, not because of what you will get, but just because it can be done.” –Jim Collins

10. “You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.”– Brene Brown