Blog: Redmond's Rules
If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything (Mark Twain)Posted by Superintendent Mike Redmond on 10/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
Redmond's Rules #6: If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything (Mark Twain)
As a child, the idea that who you are is much more important than what you are was firmly imprinted on my brain. Thank you Mom and Dad, and others. This simple precept has been an enduring core value in my life. This idea places high value on being trustworthy, honest, and truthful. If one’s actions are truthful over and over again, over an extended period of time, one will develop genuine trusting relationships filled with respect. I would argue that such relationships are the key components of real happiness and terrific markers of a life well lived.
The quote, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything” has been attributed to Mark Twain. However, it is unlikely he said these exact words. It is more likely that he, and others at roughly the same time, used expressions that were similar in nature to the quote attributed to Twain. I think the follow up to the quote attributed to Twain is equally important. Lying takes more effort and brainpower than does telling the truth.
There are several other quotes I like that demonstrate the power and importance of being truthful:
- “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” (Henry David Thoreau)
- “Between whom there is hearty truth, there is love.” (Henry David Thoreau)
- “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” (George Orwell)
- To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night.” (Yoda)
- “Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.” (Elvis Presley)
- “The fact that a great many people believe something is no guarantee of its truth.” (W. Somerset Maugham)
- “If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both.” (Horace Mann)
- “Stop hanging out with people that tell you what you want to hear. Hang out with people who tell you the truth.” (Eric Thomas)
The last quote from motivational speaker Eric Thomas reminds of the key point being made in the classic book Groupthink by Irving Janis. The book highlighted the grave mistakes made by leaders when those around them were not free to speak up and offer critical feedback. As an educational leader, I want those around me to speak up and share their own thoughts and critical feedback. I strongly believe this is an important element in high quality decision-making, clarity, and building a foundation of trust.
If You Have Too Many ‘Top’ Priorities, You Really Have NonePosted by Superintendent Mike Redmond on 8/5/2019 9:00:00 AM
Redmond's Rules #4: If you have too many ‘top’ priorities, you really have none. Focus on a few things and do them really well.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the saying, if you want to get something done you should ask a busy person. This is because persons who are busy know how to get things done. I think this is true, especially if the busy person knows how to prioritize. I would argue those who are able to prioritize and focus on just a few priorities at one time are far more productive than those who aren’t so good at prioritizing and are attempting to focus on way too many things at one time.
In the world of education, we are incredibly susceptible to trying to do way too many things at one time. I think this problem comes from a good place. In education we want to do everything we can for every student, and we want to do it right away. We want to have maximum productivity, and we want to have it immediately, if not sooner. Unfortunately, what often happens is that instead of working on a couple, or possibly as many as 3-5 top priorities over a period of time, we try to tackle 10-12, or more, ‘priorities’ all at once. This almost always ends up with very poor results. If we’re trying to implement 10-12 new things in a compressed period of time, there is very little chance we will be able to successfully implement even one of these ‘priorities’. It takes time, effort, and most importantly, dedicated focus and thoughtful marshalling of resources to deeply implement a single educational strategy or practice to the point it will become permanent and part of the ‘way we do things’.
As our district leadership team and principals have been working this spring and summer on planning for the coming school year and beyond, one of the things I’ve shared with them is my strong belief in focusing on a few things so we can do them well. Over time this will allow us to more deeply implement those initiatives that are most important and will be most impactful on student learning. Once these top priorities are well implemented, we will then move on to additional areas for improvement. This process sounds simple, but in practice it is extremely challenging. It takes a tremendous amount of sustained energy to really focus, and really dig in to making the necessary changes in systems and structures so that we can consistently produce better student learning results in the future.
Our Work is Always About Each Individual STUDENTPosted by Mike Redmond on 6/3/2019 9:00:00 AM
2. Our work is always about the STUDENTS
3. See #2. Or better yet, our work is always about each individual STUDENT
I get it, you read this one and go, “Well, duh.” But, not so fast. Sometimes we adults get caught up in the day-to-day buzz of activity and the flow of work that we occasionally, often without realizing it, shift the focus to ourselves, or shift the focus to task completion without regard for the meaning of the task. It’s actually part of human nature and quite easy to change to a self-oriented or task-only perspective without even really knowing it’s happening. I think because educators put so much of themselves into their work on behalf of students, and due to the incredible effort, emotion, passion, care, and concern that comes with this work, that we are especially prone to temporary, unrecognized slips in our focus. So, when I say Our work is always about the STUDENTS it’s primarily meant to be a gentle cautionary reminder for folks whose work is incredibly intertwined with student well-being to pause on occasion and check to make sure we’re still looking at things from the perspective of what’s best for students.
This concept is one of the reasons I’m such a big fan of employing more in the way of design thinking into the world of education. Design thinking requires envisioning a process, in our case student learning, through the eyes of the customers it is being designed to serve, in this case students. But, I digress…..
Rule #3 is about moving from a generalization, all students, to the specific, each student. It is certainly a positive action to care for all students. In fact, I would hope this is the feeling of every employee in our organization, and every member of our community, for that matter. My concern is that when we frame students in the plural sense, as in all students, we can sometimes miss significant variations between individual students within the group. From my perspective, that’s simply not good enough. For those of you really into all things math, it’s the idea that a representation of average or total can hid a lot in the way of disparity within the calculation. In some industries, especially those producing tangible goods, it’s normal to throw out some of the inputs due to flaws or imperfections. In education, our inputs are kids, my kids, our kids, and I want each child to grow as much as possible and develop to the greatest amount possible to become the best learner and person he/she can be. I see our job as fostering and supporting each student to chase dreams and realize her/his fullest potential. In our ‘industry’ of education and student learning we simply do not and cannot have anything resembling disposable inputs.
I guess this is as good of time as any to share one more piece of ‘soap box’ ideology. It is my deep belief that our nation’s public schools are the last and best bastion for a person in our amazing country to pursue the American dream. Education can, and does, unlock doors to incredible futures for even the most initially disadvantaged among us. This is a part of why I get up and go to work every day as an educator.
Faith and Family Come FirstPosted by Mike Redmond on 5/6/2019 9:00:00 AM
I’ve always been a bit confused about why when we educational leaders are in the ultimate people business, student learning, we often don’t seem to care about our employees, or team members, quite like I think we should. I’m a big believer in the notion that if members of our team are living healthy lives, committed to their preference in terms of spiritual grounding, and are part of loving relationships with friends and family, they will be better able to serve the needs of students. Rule number one, faith and family come first is my way of stating this in concise fashion.
In practice, this is my way of giving the dedicated, hard-working employee a nudge when there is a choice to be made between caring for a family member in a time of great need or coming to work. Care for the family member. It’s also my way of giving the same dedicated employee a nudge when there’s a choice to be made between attending a their own child’s concert, sporting event, or things of that nature versus staying at work a bit longer and getting another task completed. Go watch your kid perform.
Please don’t be confused by this rule. It’s in no way meant to be a cop out, or a lessening of expectations. I have high expectations for myself and those with whom I work. I don’t think there’s anything unique in these expectations. Every good educator I’ve ever known also has very high expectations and a strong work ethic. What I’m trying to do is make sure these incredibly dedicated team members maintain balance in their lives and are truly present for the people they care most about. Ultimately, this makes them even better employees who able to do even more in terms of serving our students.
What in the World are Redmond's Rules?Posted by Superintendent Mike Redmond on 4/8/2019 8:00:00 AM
And why are you blogging about them? That might be the next question……
From the beginning as an 18 year-old playground supervisor and basketball coach at the elementary school I attended to my current role as the superintendent of Shakopee Public Schools, my journey as an educator has taken a few turns and covered a significant distance. On this journey, I’ve come in contact with a wealth of wisdom. Sometimes this wisdom was gained through trial and error as a teacher, coach, or educational leader. Other times it was learned through lots of reading and research. Quite often it has come from observing and listening to other educators. Creating a list, now called Redmond’s Rules, was my way of sorting the key components of all this wisdom into something that might be useful in explaining what I value most in the world of education.
The Rules are also an attempt to encapsulate who I am as an educational leader and for me to go on the record in regards to what the guideposts will be for our team. I’m keenly aware that when one goes on the record that means it’s okay for other members of the team, in fact it’s expected, to call me out if my actions, or the actions of the team, don’t align with the Rules. Another important feature of sharing Redmond’s Rules is to help clarify what I value as it relates to the contributions of each of our team members.
1. Faith and family come first.
2. Our work is always about the STUDENTS.
3. See #2. Or better yet, our work is always about each individual STUDENT.
4. If you have too many 'top' priorities, you really have none. Focus on a few things and do them really well.
5. Hustle mistakes are encouraged.
6. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything (Mark Twain).
7. Listen. You have two ears and one mouth, use them in this proportion.
8. Treat others as you would like to be treated (Golden Rule). Or even better, treat others as they would like to be treated (Platinum Rule).
9. Two heads are better than one.
10. Healthy organizations have honest discussions.
11. Culture eats strategy for breakfast (Peter Drucker).
12. Play like a champion today.
13. Positive people who work the hardest always seem to have the most 'luck'.
14. We are preparing students for their future, not our past (Ian Jukes).
15. In education, nearly everything works, or has a positive correlation. Spend more time doing the things research shows work best (see John Hattie's research for details).
Every kid is MY KID.
I will be sharing a series of blog posts. Each of these blog posts will be my attempt to add detail and provide deeper meaning and more clarity to each of the fifteen rules that make up Redmond’s Rules. I will wrap up this current blog post by sharing some thoughts about the tagline that follows the fifteen rules: Every kid is my kid!
The phrase Every kid is my kid! is much more than a cliche or some form of positive edu-speak. The phrase starts with the idea that I want and expect the same for each and every child in our school district, which is exactly what I wanted for my two sons, Ryan and Reed. On one level this is pretty simple and straightforward. On other levels, the concept goes much deeper. It means as an educational leader I will advocate for those who may not have the advantages of having the ‘inside the education system’ voices that my kids did by having my wife Carol, a terrific teacher, and me in their lives. In other words, when I’m taking a look at a situation involving a student, I will make sure the perspective of a loving parent is part of the equation and helps guide the process and decision-making. Caring for a kid is one thing. Caring for each kid as though she/he is my own child is quite different.
I mentioned in the previous paragraph that my own sons had the advantage, although I’m sure to them it felt like a disadvantage at times, of having two parents who knew the ins and outs of school culture, and could help them navigate the system. As with any institution in any part of the world, a particular public school, all public schools in Minnesota, or the U.S. for that matter, there exists a particular culture. This culture is the way of doing things. The rules for how to navigate this culture successfully are often taken for granted by those who ‘live’ there, and difficult to find or interpret for those who aren’t familiar with the culture. So, when I use the phrase Every kid is my kid! it also means I have the expectation that we will help each child navigate our school culture. We will make as many of the rules explicit and as easy to understand as we can. We will ‘translate’, or bridge, when the culture is nuanced and challenging to explain. And, we will do everything in our power to make sure that each child feels welcome in our schools, and that the ‘way we do things’ will not inadvertently determine winners and losers in the system.