Jay talks about this career path leading up to where he is today (1:48)
How encouragement from his school leaders helped him decide to make the move from teaching into administration (4:10)
The importance of building a healthy school culture (6:28)
The process of moving into administration (7:32)
Jay’s worst days in administration (or the joys of interviewing) (9:55)
Some of the greatest lessons Jay learned in those discouraging days (14:05)
The greatest moment in Jay’s career as an administrator (16:40)
How the impact an administrator makes is different than a teacher’s impact (19:35)
Students know if you genuinely care about them and it makes a huge difference (and Jay’s 3 R’s of education) (20:30)
Jay shares the best leadership advice he’s ever received (23:02)
How a “Q-TIP” can make you a better teacher or administrator (24:14)
Two books Jay highly recommends (27:00)
Why Twitter is such a powerful tool for principals and other educators (and four Twitter chats Jay thinks are very helpful for educators) (27:55)
Jay’s best advice for principals on working with students – make sure you and the grade level are a good match (31:40)
His best advice for principals on how to work with teachers – it’s about the importance of listening (33:54)
The one question Jay always asks teachers when they come to him with an issue (35:24)
Advice Jay wishes he’d been given at the start of his education career (36:50)
Books mentioned in this episode
Apps or tools mentioned in this episode
Connect with Jay Posick
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Podcast Session #7
How Learning to Listen Effectively Can Help You Become a Better Leader
Show notes: educatorslead.com/jayposick
This is the Educators Lead podcast with Jay Willis, Session #7. Let’s go!
Intro: Jay is the principal of the Intermediate School in Merton, WI. Merton Intermediate is a 1-1 school using Google Apps for Education with 435 students from 5th through 8th grade. Jay is in his 29th year in education with 26 of those years in middle schools and is now in his 14th year as administrator, so if you are doing the math, Jay spent his first 15 years as a teacher before moving into administration. That’s just a brief introduction Jay, tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Jay Posick: Well, thanks for inviting me in Jay. I really appreciate it. I have been very fortunate in my educational journey. I graduated from Marquette University, when they were still the warriors and weren’t the golden eagles. So that was how long ago. In 1987, I graduated from there and started my trip in elementary education. Taught 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 6th grade, and 7th grade and 8th grade. My 13 years of education has been, 12 years as a teacher, was in the middle school, fell in love with the middle school kids. 14 years as a middle school administrator. I can’t believe that’s been that long because the time certainly flies having a great time with the kids. I had some coaching background as well. I coached high school basketball and volleyball and soccer and track-and-field. And some middle school coaching as well, wrestling, I never wrestled a day in my life but I was the head wresting coach and a track-and-cross country coach as well and just thought that I wanted to get into a leadership role. Initially as an athletic director and found out that the athletic director’s don’t get to work with kids but they sure get to work with coaches and parents and disgruntled parents mostly and so I decided that I wanted to become a building level administrator and was very fortunate to get my first job in the Elmbrook School District where I was an assistant principal for 5 years and I’ve been at my current role as a principal of Merton Intermediate School. This is my 9th year so that’s kind of my journey into education.
Jay Willis: That’s great. So, any specific hobbies? I know your job keeps you kind of busy.
Jay Posick: Yeah, any hobbies? Actually, I live for my wife and my daughter. My wife and I had been married for 23 years.
Jay Willis: Great.
Jay Posick: Yeah. Thank you. My daughter’s 15 and is a sophomore in high school and she does competitive dance so that takes up a great deal of time and money so that’s why my wife and I _______. I also like to play golf not very well but it’s nice to get on the golf course. I fish when I can and I have a running streak going of a, over 10,000 days without missing a day of running so that would be …
Jay Willis: Wow. That’s great.
Joy Posick: my biggest hobby.
Jay Willis: That’s impressive. So obviously you’re teaching for did I get the Math right on that 15 years, totaled before you moved into…
Jay Posick: Yes. Yes
Jay Willis: So at what point while you’re teaching did you decide to move into school leadership?
Jay Posick: You know I think what happened was; a principal that I worked with at the middle school named Harvey Still. He saw some leadership qualities in me and I was, I guess the defacto team leader for the different grade level teams that I was a part of it, the middle school and then whenever he or the assistant principal were out of the building, they pulled me out of classroom and put me into the office to take over any role and you know I need this that I needed to be done. I knew all the kids so it was you know I can walk around and be in classrooms and they wouldn’t think anything differently and they knew who that there were somebody in charge in the office so that kind of got me started and then just have some conversations with other principals that I have worked with. Dave Cornell was my high school principal and he and I had some conversations. We have been going to the same church and he saw some leadership in me as well and Joe Vitali was the first principal that I worked for at an elementary school and he and I had some great conversations then I think I got my love of being in classrooms from him because I remember; my first job was a 2nd grade teacher. And I’m what behind the years. I’m scared to death on the first day in school and there sits the principal in the back of the classroom and we got done, you know they went to their first recess break and I’m sweating. It’s you know, its nerve wracking when the principal’s in there and you’re a brand new teacher. When he walked up and he said, “That was really really good” and I said, “How often are you gonna be in my classroom?” And he said, “As often as I can be” And that’s how things have worked out. And I think to be as my teachers, they would say, they never know when I’m gonna be there. The kids and the teachers, they called me ghost or ninja because I walked really quietly and ….
Jay Willis: You may be a ghost ninja, Jay.
Jay Posick: Yeah it could be. I was sitting in the classroom this morning, we have one guest teacher here today and she didn’t hear me walk in and the instructional assistant who’s in there didn’t hear me walking but the kids saw me when I walked in. You know behavior always changes when the principal’s in the classroom both for adults and for kids. So you know, the more often I’m in classrooms, the more I know the kids are gonna be, be on task. Not that we have bad kids by any stretch of imagination or teachers that need to work on classroom management just you know they know that I know what’s going on and I tweet out as many pictures as I can. I just started Facebook at the end August. So I get some followers there too so just trying to share our stories as much as possible.
Jay Willis: Yeah, well and I would guess your level of involvement would indicate how important you feel like not only what you’re doing but there doing is. And I think that would probably non-verbal and communicate that to the teachers and the students.
Jay Posick: Yeah, you know, what’s interesting is, there are kids who see me take my phone and get ready to take a picture and they’ll say, “Are you gonna tweet that out?” and I say, “Well, more than likely this will be tweeted out” “Great, I like being famous” those kinds of things that I get those from the kids and you know what’s great is I can sit down with the teacher after being in class so we can talk about all the great things that we saw and then I would ask them “Is there something you want feedback or something you think that I can give you some insight on that maybe, maybe you’re struggling with” We had a very, very open conversations. It’s just that, it’s a tremendous atmosphere that we have been able to build here as a school. We have a great culture so it’s good.
Jay Willis: So kind of tell us a little bit about the journey, just the path, I mean I’m sure you know some challenges along the way like how did you find the time to take the classes and get the additional education that you needed just kind of tell us about that journey.
Jay Posick: Yeah, so I started to get my degree. I got my masters form Marian University in Fond du Lac Wisconsin. So it’s about an hour and 15 minute drive from Waukesha where I was l living at that time but they had some satellite campuses so I was able to take classes relatively close to, close to home but I also had to balance that with being a husband and being a coach. And my daughter was not yet born when I, when I started my journey. So you know you find you make time for what you think is important and I thought that was important for me to do all that I could to get my degree as quickly as possible and then try and become an administrator as quickly as possible. I had you know, never was I; my first interview was not my best interview. And my last interview probably was. But in between there, there are interviews were you get home and you think to yourself, well that went really well and I can’t wait for the call back and you sit there by the phone and it just doesn’t ring and it’s in the day before social media and the internet was really big so you know you seriously had to sit there by the phone and wonder if they will ever call.
Jay Willis: Yeah.
Jay Posick: And what I learned from that process is, whenever we do interviews whether it’s for a teacher or for instructional assistant or any other member of our staff, I always makes sure that I reach out within 24 hours so that people know where we are on our journey for hiring because I remember there’s still calls I’m waiting for that I haven’t got with from districts but you know it was a great experience, I made some good friends, going through that whole experience. One of my buddies is actually the principal of Catholic Memorial High School on Waukesha, Wisconsin. And he and I took many of our classes and actually took the final exam the same day and the same room. It was, we had but we had great study session on the way up and then we find out the great way to celebrate on the way home. So it was, it was a good day.
Jay Willis: Yeah. That’s it. So somewhere along the, you know along the path from teacher to administrator, I’m sure there are kind of some ups and some downs and you kind of talked about that at least for the interviewing process but just along the path, what was one of your most difficult moments in the journey to becoming a school administrator. Tell us that story.
Jay Posick: Well, there are, there’s little bumps along the way and I think the biggest, the biggest bump for me was, so I’ve been a middle school administrator for 3 years and it was in the district where I hadn’t been a teacher. And there were 3 openings for administrative positions and the district where I grew up I moved to Wisconsin in 1977 in the middle of my 7th grade. And you don’t ever move your kids in the middle of the year in the middle school, my goodness, me that was fun. So that wasn’t part of my administrative journey but I remember that difficult time too. But I soon as I get into the interview process what I found was they didn’t want somebody who had connections with the school district. They wanted some new people in. Bt they didn’t tell me until it was the 3rd interview for the 3rd different position and that became you know be honest with me. If you’re not gonna hire me, don’t just say we’re gonna bring Jay in because he is a nice guy. You know, let’s do this, let’s do this right.
So that was difficult and then once I got to that point, I think that was the point that opened my mind to “Hey, you know what there are other districts in the state of Wisconsin that are relatively close to Waukesha so let’s start looking at some other one” So my, the principal that I worked for initially in Elmbrook. She retired and I applied for that position and I was always the first runner up. You know, I was always, you were the next guy if this person doesn’t take it Jay, we’re gonna give it to you. And I can be, although it’s nice to hear, it really stinks. You know, so then finally I got the position out here in Merton. I applied 4th. I was fortunate that Mark Flenning was the superintendent and at the time when he called me up and invited me in for the interview. I remember it was two days interview and the first, first interview was two and a half hours long. You know they wanted to do their due diligence to find the right person. And there were five people on the interview committee and the candidates came in and spend the half an hour with each one of the person, each one of the people individually so there was the superintendent, the school board president, the primary school principal. Well there’s only two schools in our district. It’s a K4 III district. So and then the gifted and talented coordinator and a classroom teacher so after that was all done, I get the call back.
And I was one of the four finalists. And then it was another two hour meeting. Two hour interview and it was four different groups. There was the entire school board. There was a choir room full of kids. That was my favorite part of the whole interview. I was sitting there talking to the kids. There was, we have what’s called a little theater that probably sits about 150 people. The little theater was filled with about a hundred community members and then I got to meet with the staff from both buildings. They were all in the library so I went through that. It was a half an hour each spot and then the drive home was probably about twenty minute. So that’s February and you know it’s cold and snowing in Wisconsin in February and I got home and my wife said, “So how did it go?” and I said “I think it went ok. They said they’re gonna give me a call by tomorrow” and no sooner had those words come out of my mouth and the phone rang and it was Mark Flenning on the other end. I got a little choked up about this. And he said, “You’re our guy” so I’ve been here for 9 years since. It was you know so, through the tough times, the good times happen as well. So I put my heart and soul into these 9 years here. And I you know, it wasn’t until recently I realize how lucky I am to be where I am and just remember that every day.
Jay Willis: Yeah, I loved the just the heart and determination that you show in that story just like you know after rejection after rejection, but you just stuck with it because you had a vision and a passion for what you wanted to accomplish and gosh it is such a great story.
Jay Posick: Thanks.
Jay Willis: So let’s see now you’ve been in school administration now for going on your 14th year. Well, actually before let me back up, I guess just in talking about that story and some of the externals that you went through. I note that through some of my greatest adversity have been some of the greatest lessons, you know it seems like when we’re super successful, that’s great but we don’t learn as much as the times that we just bomb and fail miserably.
Jay Posick: Right.
Jay Willis: So in some of these challenges that you dealt with, what were some of the greatest lessons that you learned?
Jay Posick: Well, I think it’s interesting we have, we’ve tried to have certain words that we live by here in Merton and when I first started in, I said Merton is the best school and best stands for Believe, Encourage, Share and Trust. And I actually am looking at that right now. The first Christmas present I gave each one of the staff was a pad folio that has, our old pit, it’s a well-worn piece of equipment, let me tell you but it’s kind of old, our old symbol on it and then believe, encourage, share and trust. That has stuck with us for 9 years. In fact we had an Eagle Scout project. We had a very drab looking stairway that went from outdoors, upstairs to our 7th and 8th grade hallway and an Eagle Scout remembered believe, encourage, share and trust. He’s a junior in high school and he actually made sure that that was part of the stairwell as the kids are walking in every day. That’s what they see. So you know I have those little things like that perseverance is always been something I’ve had to, I’ve had to work pretty hard for certain things. You know, I told you a little bit about my running , I’ve run 27 marathons and there’s always a point in time during a marathon where you question your sanity and then you question if you’re even gonna finish. But I November 1st, I ran in the New York City Marathon and was able to share that with my wife and daughter and probably the most powerful part of that whole trip was running the 5k in the morning before on Saturday morning with my daughter and it was the first one that she and I had run together. And I didn’t ask her to run it. She asked me to run it with her so we kind of have gone through those sorts of things, too. So school you know, those little perseverance sorts of things, you have to go through, you just kind of have to look deep and figure out, once in a while you question, is it worth the way I want to go? And then you just have to put your mind to it. And you know put your feet to the fire and say, “This is what’s best for kids so let’s keep moving forward”.
Jay Willis: Yeah. So, you’ve been in administration now for 14, it’s on your 14th year is that right?
Jay Posick: Yup, yup yes.
Jay Willis: So I’m sure you have lots of amazing stories at this point to share but if there was just maybe one of the most meaningful or best stories, one of the best moments that you’ve had as a school administrator, share that with our listeners.
Jay Posick: Sure. It goes back probably 3 years ago. We have an 8th grade promotion ceremony here and students, the 8th graders are allowed to write a speech and then it’s voted on by the students and the staff to see which one of the people that wants to speak you know, gets to do their speech and I remember the young man who was chosen 3 years ago, he got up and I had not heard his speech until the morning of the promotion ceremony because we go through that so that the kids know what its gonna look like and so on. And there in the end of it is a mention of me and how I helped him become who he is today. Now the back story for that is; he is a student who had some significant challenges with the family life, with academics. He was a special education student, had some significant emotional behavioral issues and if you had seen him when he was at the time was a 4th grade middle school that I was at. The building now is a 5th rate grade. I worked with him for 5 years and if you’d seen him as a 4h grader and then saw him as an 8th grader, you wouldn’t recognize him. Just because how much, how much he had matured, I’m not saying that it was by any stretch of imagination I’m not saying that it was, that it was me but what happens is; if you do things right as an administrator, you hire the right people to put in front of the children every single day, they’re gonna make significant relationships that make sure that these kids are successful as they possibly can be. So that’s probably the biggest thing as an administrator that I would put my you know, put a feather on my hat for is that I had been able to hire some very quality people to put in front of our children and our children have performed exceptionally well. And had made great relationships with these, with these kids as well and I think that what that’s what I’m also proud of.
Jay Willis: That’s great. Sounds like you’re, you’re doing a great job leading the charge you know, leading by example. So that’s great.
Jay Posick: Well I certainly try, the kids know where I am, where I am at the beginning of the day, they know where I am at the end of the day. They see me at lunch and recess every day. My teachers don’t do lunch or recess duty that’s all me and a couple of instructional assistants on a daily basis so we make sure that teachers are available at lunch and recess time for the kids who needs some extra academic help so you know that’s how we are able to pull that off so it works pretty well.
Jay Willis: Yeah. So what would you say is the difference that you’ve noticed between the impact that you had as a teacher in the classroom and obviously you are still in the classroom but just what have you noticed between that impact you’re making then and the impact that you’re making now as an administrator or since you became an administrator?
Jay Posick: Well I think one of the things that I remember as a teacher and I remember that’s a long time ago when I’m a guy so when you’re an old guy, your memory really doesn’t work all that well anymore. So what I remember is as a teacher and I still have students to this day that were in my classroom that contact me. It’s a little easier with social media when somebody follows you on twitter and they say, hey by the way I was in your 7th grade language arts class in 1992 or something like that right so those are the kinds of things that I really remember. I think what I brought from teaching to administration is the importance of relationships because kids aren’t gonna do anything for you unless they know that you care about them and that’s one of the things that I really impressed upon our teachers you know the 3 R’s is supposed to be reading, writing and ‘rithmetic even though writing and arithmetic don’t really start with R’s but the sound is there, right? Our 3 R’s, for me my 3 R’s are relationships, relationships, relationships. So I do my best to build relationships with kids and I do my best to build relationships with the staff and then I do my best to build relationships with families so you know if you’re able to do that then you have a much better chance of having successful students and a successful school.
Jay Willis: Yeah. So would you say now, just as far as the difference in impact you know then it was just kind of a small group even then and now…
Jay Posick: Right.
Jay Willis: You did see that impact in a larger scale? What was that?
Jay Posick: Sure you know, when you’re middle school teacher you probably see a 125-150 kids a day, I have a Fine Arts teacher and a Spanish teacher here who see 200 kids a day so they have a pretty significant impact but I see 435 kids every day. I do my best to get to know all of their names and a little bit about them and sometimes I can even match the parent with the child which is good but I think the fact that I have been able to share the power of relationships with the staff that I worked with, I think that power was just taken from the classroom and I knew that if I had a good relationship with the student that they were going to do the best that they could for me. And they might not be an A student, they might not even be a C student but they’re gonna do their best every single day for me because they know I care about them. So that’s the same sort of message that I try and send as the principal so you know I look at one Wednesday a month. I have an assembly with all 435 kids by myself in the gym so the teaching staff has an opportunity to collaborate for an hour and 15 minutes without any disruptions either from the kids or for me, right.
Jay Willis: That’s great.
Jay Posick: So in order for me to be able to pull that off you have to have some kind of relationship with the kids that they know that the message that your sending is really really important so that they pay attention because you can have 435 kids for half an hour or have no control or you can have 435 kids for half an hour and teach them a life lesson that’s going to be something that they’re gonna talk to their classmates about other teachers about other families above so that’s, that’s where I sit. Relationships is the key for me.
Jay Willis: Yeah. That’s great. I am about to roll through some rapid fire questions if you’re ready for those?
Jay Posick: Alright.
Jay Willis: So what would you say is the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
Jay Posick: The worst place to be a principal is in your office. Get out of your office otherwise you don’t have… there are certain times you have to be in your office. I completely and totally understand that but if you’re in your office majority of the time when the kids are in the building, you’re not being the principal. You’re just being a manager.
Jay Willis: That’s great.
Jay Posick: You need to be out to be, get out of your office and factors once in a while I have assigned, I can see in the back of my door right now that it says, “If you’re looking for me just wait, I’ll be in your classroom and if it’s an emergency tweet me or call me or email me and I’ll be right to your room” So you know I have no office days at least twice a week or at least no office afternoons just so that I stay out of, it’s not that I have a bad office, it’s not want you to think but I can’t be with kids and with staff if I’m sitting in my office.
Jay Willis: Yeah it’s kind of goes along with the business quote that I’ve heard or a leadership quote which is spend time with people not paper. You know because you can, there’s a billion things that you could do to get caught up on or organize your desk or whatever but as a leader, it’s you being with the people that makes the biggest impact.
Jay Posick: Right.
Jay Willis: What would you say is your biggest strength as a school administrator?
Jay Posick: One of the teachers I have worked with in the past and worked with from time to time shows us the Q-TIP thing which is Quit Taking It Personally.
Jay Willis: I’ve never heard that. It’s good.
Jay Posick: So, I think for me I know that in my heart of hearts I’ve been doing what’s best for kids on a daily basis. But there’s gonna be sometimes or people think that that’s not where, that’s not where I am so they’re gonna say things that I don’t agree with. There gonna say bad things about me or bad things about what’s going on in the school. You can’t take it personally but you also have to make sure that you reflect on what’s being said so that you can make it better at least in that person’s eyes. So for example recently I had an email from a parent regarding our, the comments that we have on report card. Now remember we’ve got some teachers that have got 200 kids a day, we’ve got teachers with over a hundred kids a day. And to personalize report card comments, although it’s really really important to do, it’s not always easy to do. So what I wrote back to the parent was I’ll share that with my teachers and then I did share on Friday and I had some great conversations with teachers and I said, “So how would you like me to respond to this, because I know that you’re emailing these parents not just this particular one but you email parents daily. You call them on the telephone. You have everything there and your website for them to be able to see the grade book is always updated and they go back to one comment that’s on a report card” and I said “The reason that that’s important for the parent is that is a documentation of the fact that you really know their kid. So what can we do, if were not gonna use report card comments, how are we gonna make sure that we let the parents know that we know their kid” So that as a great discussion that we had so once again that goes back to relationship thing so I just do my best to, our new families make sure, the first day of school when we have new families or new kids in our school. I find them, I take a picture of them. Smiling and enjoying themselves and I email it to their parents on the first, on their first day of school. To just as just you know Johnny’s having a great day and here is the picture and that’s all I have to send.
Jay Willis: That’s great.
Jay Posick: Well that starts thing off on the right foot. So we’ve had you know, as of all schools there are students who joined you during the school year. We’ve had three join in the month of December. We’re up the 14th of December already. And the same thing I sent a picture, emailed the parent with a picture of their child on the first day of school and I just can’t you know alleviate some of those concerns but that’s the way you start building relationships is showing that you care.
Jay Willis: Yeah. Relationships, that’s great. Do you have a book or two that you would like to recommend for other school leaders?
Jay Posick: I have one in particular, a Todd Whitaker book; Shifting the Monkey. It’s one of my favorite books. If you’ve never read that I encourage you to read that. And then the other book Lencioni is the author and The Five Dysfunctions of the Team is what it’s called and its basically I don’t know if you’re familiar with that one but it basically talks about a business as a leadership group and how there’s these different dysfunctions and how you can work through those. That one I actually read with our administrative team here and it led us to some really powerful discussions about moving forward so those are the two that I definitely stick with.
Jay Willis: I heard of that one. I haven’t heard of the first one. What was that called again?
Jay Posick: Shifting the Monkey.
Jay Willis: Shifting the Monkey; ok.
Jay Posick: It’s a great book.
Jay Willis: Is there a technology tool or an app or software kind of thing that you’ve recommend for other school leaders that you use?
Jay Posick: Yes. Twitter. You’ve got to get your people on twitter. I am connected with I don’t even know how many people I’m following or following me but twitter has taken me to places that here I am sitting in Merton Wisconsin you probably wouldn’t be able to find it on the map. Unless I gave some you know specific GPS location tool or something but I’ve been able to connect with principals from all around United States and educators in. Australia, Great Britain, Canada. And just being able to learn 24/7 whenever it’s good time for me. It has really really helped me become a better leader just because I may be able to bounce ideas off and I think the very close 2nd would be Boxer. I’m a, I’m in a number of different groups, Boxer groups and just have some great relationships with people through Boxer that kind of take the conversations from a 140 characters in Twitter to we probably have opportunities to write books for each other. If you really wanted to so it’s a good stuff.
Jay Willis: So if somebody or just kind of getting started with Twitter as a teacher who had aspirations one day of becoming a school leader, where would you have them started there like certain hashtag like a certain chats that you want and begin to engage in?
Jay Posick: Yeah I think right now, SatChat is on Saturday mornings that’s where I got my start. And the educational leaders that are there started moving me in a whole bunch of different directions. I also, let’s see MSChat because I’m a middle school person which is on Thursdays. I’m a fan of that one. EduCoach which is on Wednesday nights, even when you’re a principal, you’re still a coach, you have to be able to coach your teachers and conversations there are very very rich for me. PTChat is another one that also on Wednesday nights. That’s a parent teacher chat. That got me started with, we did a book study of Beyond the Bake Sale with a number people from that chat and that’s helped me realize how much more I need to get our families involved and to have them engage them in school.
Jay Willis: That’s great.
Jay Posick: Those are, those are a few.
Jay Willis: Ok. What’s your favorite educational quote?
Jay Posick: You know I saw that had a time when I was trying to think what it would be, I’m a quote guy and I never remember where I get them from which is kind of be a problem but the relationships, relationships, relationships that I said before is actually something that I stole from the Twitter Chat and I just, I still go back to be in a relationship builder in order for our kids to be a successful as they can be so it’s not really a quote but a I kind of took those 3 relationships and you know you have the students, you have the staff and you have the families. And if you can do that you’re gonna have a really really successful school.
Jay Willis: I think that’s a great take away if nothing else you know if somebody gathered nothing else from this conversation I think that just the main thing I mean theme that I’m catching is just relationships and how valuable they are to both your teachers, or students and their parents. So what advice would you have for working with the students that you serve in your school?
Jay Posick: Alright. So I’m a middle school guy you can probably tell. 26 years I’m into middle school. Some people can be middle school people when some people can’t. Some people can be well there’s those few let’s say I always wanted to be at elementary school teacher and that’s what I initially thought but my first gig was as a 2nd grade teacher and then I was a 4th grade and that was for a year. I was a replacing position for a year the 3rd and 4th grades spot that were long term sub positions that I you know, that kind of stuff was my first 3 years and then a middle school spot opened and I applied for and the funny thing was I applied for social studies middle school position and they hired another guy who was much much better deserving of the position than I was because he was a world traveler and really knew a lot of about, a lot about all different parts of the world and I had traveled I think to Canada once by that time so my world travels really weren’t that expensive but I got the call that’s said, well we offer the social studies position to somebody else, well thank you so much for the phone call. I appreciate that. And the next question was we have a language arts position that opened this morning, are you interested? Well when you’re you know 24 years old and you really don’t have a full time job of course I would have been interested in teaching just about anything at that time. So I started in my Language Arts career there and then I taught Social Studies and Science in middle school as well as a number of different things so you know it’s just making sure that you have the right fit. That would be the advice that I have. I am actually probably a middle school kid in a 51 year old body. You know I have, I hang around the lab at recess with the kids. I can sit down and eat and they continue to have the conversations they were having even if you know even if I had been there so you just have to be able to be like a kid and remember what was it like to be like a kid and never put kids in those positions that you remember when you’re I school. We all have those, like one is the teacher gonna shut up moments and you just gonna make sure that we don’t have that, that going on at our school here so just find that right age level for you that you know but also don’t discount the fact that you may think that you’re a great elementary person but you could be even a better high school person you don’t even know at.
Jay Willis: Yeah, so what piece of advice kind of along those lines, what one piece of advice could you has for working with the educators that you lead, like the other teachers as a school administrator?
Jay Posick: Yeah, I think the biggest thing is that as my dad would say you have two ears and one mouth for a reason and I know that my dad didn’t coin that particular quote but you need to listen more than you talk and sometimes, sometimes if you talk too much it just sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher and nothing really good comes then after that so if somebody comes you and said, “Jay we have this issue” I like to make sure that they have a chance to say what the issue is and they have, they know now that if they come to me with an issue, they also better come to me with at least one idea for a solution. Then after that, we can talk through things about what’s the best way to handle that maybe a tough parent situation or maybe a tough kid situation. Maybe a situation they have with a colleague so I think the advice is listen and don’t give advice until you’re asked to give advice. Because sometimes you like to solve somebody’s problem before you really know what the whole problem is. And sometimes they don’t want us to solve the problem; they just want somebody to talk to.
Jay Willis: Like I do that with my wife all the time, gets me in trouble every time pretty much. Yeah. That’s great. So hear them out. Hear what they have to say and then helped them very quickly moved from problem focus to solution focus.
Jay Posick: Right. And then I always asked this question to what would you like me to do because if it’s a. “Jay we just wanted you to listen” good I’m off the hook but if it’s “I need your help” than it’s ok let’s walk through what kind of solutions have you thought about already and you know that kind of thing there.
Jay Willis: Yeah. Great, what’s the best way to connect with you if people want to reach out?
Jay Posick: Just one on Twitter it is: @posickj, all lowercase p-o-s-i-c-k-j. My Facebook page just started in August and I actually started the Facebook page with our school email address so that I could have a page that just for our school. So you looked at Merton Intermediate School you’d see our school Facebook page that way. Well I’m also on Facebook, under Jay Posick as well and then the website is a really long thing, Jay I already emailed that to you so if you want to put that in and for people that would be great.
Jay Willis: Great. I’ll put that on the show notes.
Jay Posick: Sure. And then my email, I’m more that welcome to have you connect on email as well. It’s the same as my Twitter handle firstname.lastname@example.org. And if people are on Boxer, and they want to connect I am at jposc498@boxer.
Jay Willis: Ok. There it so last question, in this kind of a little bit unique question but if you could go back to when you’re a teacher and had just made the decision to move into school leadership. If you can go back and visit with that former you, like what advice would you give to your younger self at that point?
Jay Posick: Wow. That’s a great question. That was not one that you gave me in advance.
Jay Willis: Sorry about that.
Jay Posick: That’s ok. That’s ok. I think the advice that I would give was don’t limit yourself to what’s familiar. I limited myself to just looking for positions in Waukesha and that was probably not the smartest thing for me to do because it pigeonholed me and there were other administrative positions that were open in the area that I just showed no interest in. I think because of my loyalty to Waukesha to be honest with. I was a; an educator. I was a student from 1977 till 1982 when I graduated from Waukesha South, a high school there and then I was a teacher from 1987 until 2002 when I left to go to administration in Elmbrook so don’t limit yourself to that one district where you’ve always been because there are other opportunities out there and you don’t want to not take that so take a chance step out of your comfort zone a little bit.
Jay Willis: That’s great. Edu-leaders this has been a great interview today. For the show notes of today’s show and other resources visit educatorslead.com and type the word posick into the search tool to find his show notes. I would say put jay in the search tool but then I would just pop up several times. So put his last name in the search tool. Jay, thank you for sharing your journey with us today!
Jay Posick: It was my pleasure! Till next time Jay.
Jay Willis: Absolutely. Thanks for being on. And that represents another episode of educatorslead.
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Educators Lead is a podcast created to help launch educators into the next level of leadership. This show is for you if you are interested in educational leadership as an assistant principal, principal, superintendent, teacher or someone who hopes to be a school leader one day. Educators Lead offers inspiration and practical advice to help you lead more effectively. Jay Willis interviews school leaders weekly to discuss why and when these educators made the decision to move into school leadership, challenges along the journey, and stories that made it all worthwhile. Educators Lead is a great resource for any educator looking to make a greater impact.
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