Jon keynotes, leads and designs Professional Learning experiences all over the country and is a Google Certified Innovator, has been a Lead Learner for a Google Teacher Academy, and is also an Apple Distinguished Educator and has facilitated sessions in Final Cut Pro for the 2013 Apple Institute in Austin, TX. Jon was the co-designer of Minarets High School, which has been named an Apple Distinguished School three times. Jon has been named a CUE Gold Disk Recipient, Madera County Teacher of the Year, and CVCUE Teacher of the Year. Jon has served as an Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and Director of Technology at the county level. Jon’s last district was selected as a Future Ready District, implementing 1:1 from 7th grade up, adding coding, 3d printing, PBL and Minecraft Edu in all K-8 schools, among other notable innovative activities.
Jon, a “formerly disgruntled student”, shares a little about himself and his background in advertising and playing college football for a nationally ranked Division 1 team, Fresno State University (2:57)
Jon talks about his work with CUE, the biggest and first education technology conference in the state of California, and how he came to be a part of CUE (5:07)
Jon describes the Rock Star Camps that he created at CUE, which bring together all the “crazy teachers” out there who are really pushing the limits when it comes to creativity and innovation in teaching (6:35)
Jon’s long and winding career path – from graduating from college with a degree in advertising, through beginning his teaching career on April Fool’s Day with an emergency certification, to becoming the education leader and innovator he is today (14:55)
When and why Jon decided to from teaching into administration – the quote from a Tom Peters book that inspired him to make the change (19:58)
Some of the struggles Jon has dealt with over the course of his education career (22:44)
Jon’s surprising advice for teachers and admins whose bosses aren’t open-minded about innovation and taking risks (24:15)
How to convince reluctant administrators to shake things up if you can’t follow Jon’s first piece of advice in these kinds of situations (26:30)
How to be a change agent the right way – be a ninja, not a rebel, and take the long view (27:15)
A couple of Jon’s favorite experiences in his career, including being a part of creating a brand new high school from scratch (32:36)
The best leadership advice Jon has ever received – it came from his wife (37:00)
Jon’s advice to school administrators on working with the students that you serve – listen to your students (39:55)
Jon’s advice to school administrators on working with the teachers that you serve – don’t try to force teachers to change (42:24)
Here’s the advice Jon would give his younger self if he could travel back in time to when he was just starting out in education (45:40)
Books mentioned in this episode
Connect with Jon Corippo
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Educators Lead Ep 40
Show Your School Leaders Results and They Will Buy in to Your Innovative Ideas
Show notes: http://www.educatorslead.com/joncorippo/
Welcome to educators lead where we interview leaders in education to offer inspiration and practical advice to help launch educators into the next level of leadership. I’m your host Jay Willis and I want to thank you for subscribing to our show.
Intro: Jon Corippo is a director of academic innovation for CUE, leading professional learning in his creation, the CUE Rock Star Camp series. These small hands on campus will be led by administrators and be designed for administrators focusing on new skills that are needed for 1:1 deployment, Common Core, project based learning, social media skills, and many other skills that there are simply no equivalent for in education. Jon keynotes, leads and designs professional learning experiences all over the country and is a Google Certified Innovator. He has been a Lead Learner for a Google Teacher Academy and is also an Apple Distinguished Educator and has facilitated sessions in Final Cut Pro for the 2013 Apple institute in Austin, Texas.
Jon was a co-designer of Minaret High School, which has been named an Apple Distinguished School three times. Jon has been named a CUE Gold Disk recipient, Madeira County Teacher of the Year, and CVCUE Teacher of the Year. Jon has served as an Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Instruction and Director of Technology at the county level. His last district was selected as a Future Ready District, implementing 1:1 from seventh grade up, adding coding, 3D printing, PBL, and Minecraft Edu in all K-8 schools, among other notable innovative activities. That’s just a brief introduction John, but tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Jon Corippo: Well I like to describe myself as a formerly disgruntled student. And I spent my whole career bouncing around the B-minus grade point average and being fairly disenfranchised by “school”; school wasn’t that engaging to me. But luckily I met a really cool professor in college and I got into advertising as a major. And it turned out that advertising is pretty much a project based learning class. I really took off as a learner when I started looking at education through the lens of projects rather than just endless essays.
Jay Willis: Yeah. So tell the listeners maybe something about yourself that’s interesting that most people wouldn’t know.
Jon Corippo: Interesting that most people wouldn’t know …I guess most people wouldn’t guess that I played Division 1 football. I’m 5’6 and back in the day I weighed about 160. I played defensive line at Fresno State. And we actually finished my junior year we finished sixteenth in the national rankings. So people don’t usually get that about me when I’m just walking through the hallway.
Jay Willis: 5’6” wow that’s impressive.
Jon Corippo: Yeah, yeah. So I was blessed to have a very stern psychological build up. And I really liked playing football. And I bumped into a couple of fortunate situations and ended up at Fresno State and it was a really great experience. It actually gave me a lot of leadership skills for the classroom. My head coach at Fresno State was really into learning theory; he talks a lot about our Sun Tzu and strategy and it’s paid off handsomely for me in the education field.
Jay Willis: So we’ll get into your career path little bit because it sounded fascinating just from what you kind of told me before we started recording, but I’m really interested in learning a little bit more about CUE.
Jon Corippo: OK. More CUE has been around since 1978. We are ISTE affiliate for California and Nevada which is the International Society for Technology and Education and so CUE has about 8,000 members. And actually in two weeks we’re going to be in Palm Springs, with about 7,000 folks there, just totally geeking out on learning and teaching and technology and web pages and things like that. We do a lot of work with Google, Apple, Microsoft and probably the thing that got me started at CUE was about seven years ago. I pitched CUE with the idea of a different kind of learning event besides a classic conference because when I think conference, this is what you should pre-visualize: you’re going to get a bag around your neck. You might get some binders. And a lot of handouts. And you go to the sessions that are either forty-five minutes or an hour. And by two o’clock you’re having blood sugar issues and you’re not sure exactly what you did at eight, nine, ten o’clock this morning. So you have to look through the handouts. So I took that as the baseline as was a conference is and we tried to. We try to rescan what that might look like and what that came out to be was the Rock Star Teacher Camps.
Jay Willis: So tell us more about the Rock Star Camp.
Jon Corippo: So basically Rock Star Teacher Camp was built around the idea of connecting all the crazy teachers. It occurred to me that every school I’ve ever visited has one or two teachers that are willing to really push the limits. And really try new things and really create. And what happens is when you’re one person like that in a group of thirty or forty people, it can be a lonely experience because a lot of people are trying to be “the same.” And you’re trying to be “different.” So it makes it a lonely experience but one of our operating ideas was if we could connect thousands of those singular teachers into a network with social media we could really empower them to make a much bigger impact. So that is one of our initial big push items but the other bit is that we really focus on hands on learning. So again, at a classic conference, when the speakers start they’re going to spend three to nine minutes kind of ingratiating themselves, like “a good thing they didn’t lose my luggage this time, I would love to tell you about this time they lost my luggage.” Or, “my kid plays soccer and they just got second place in the tournament.” And a lot of those things are antiquated techniques to kind of warm up the crowd and pander to them a little bit. So a lot of our sessions are really built around more like an instant start scavenger hunt. So we will, you know, we’re just going to throw people in the deep end and say OK. I want all of you guys to get your phone and make a Twitter account right now. Just make a Twitter account download the app I’ll help you. And then we’ll put up a slide that might say “follow these ten people.” And then we have those ten people ready. So that when the people in the session that say, “Hi, Jon Corippo said to say hi to you”, those people on the list are ready and they say, “Good to meet you! Welcome to Twitter!” So we have an experience instead of a set of slides and we don’t show people charts in our presentations. We do a lot of building and a lot of inventing and creating so that when you go back to your school you have skills.
And a lot of conferences just talk about ideas and once you’re 40 or 50 ideas into the day you’re kind of blown out at that point. So what we do is two two-hour sessions; we have a two-hour session in the morning and a two-hour session in the afternoon. And then the middle part of the day is a two-hour lunch and that allows people’s brains to kind of process what they did that morning and it allows them to chat about what they did that morning. And then they go into the afternoon and they’re ready for the second and so it’s a three-day experience and probably one of my favorite things that we have been good at – if you’ve seen an Ignite session, or any kind of session where people come and do the sharing of an idea…all of our faculty at a rock star camp, we do what’s what’s called a shred session every morning. A shred session is where faculty members attempt to attract people to their session by being interesting. Instead of having like a blurb. Cause blurbs can be very inaccurate sometimes. And so people have a chance to really see your persona. And your personality. And differentiate. And so people. Make much better decisions and sometimes they’re going to the session where they don’t even want to learn the thing they just like the person. That’s presenting. So we have a lot of fun with those.
Jay Willis: Well so how do you merge that you know because obviously, as a speaker, as a teacher you want to be prepared in kind of a general outline but at the same time essentially if you’re presenting the same material like fifty times you want it to kind of be fresh. So like how do you merge to like where you want it to be kind of unique content, to where it’s still interesting and engaging, but at the same time be prepared with what you’re going to present as well. Like how do you come up with material that kind of…
Jon Corippo: So what we really work on is frameworks. And so there are about three different aspects. One is, you have to go in with an open mind that it’s OK to change the path on the way. Because I’m not trying to get people to do exactly this; I’m getting them to think about doing things like this. So they don’t have to come out with an A.B.C. skill set. What we’re going in with is a sense of wonder. And so if we have this tool and if we were going to do this thing, how might that look? And we’re actually kind of well-known in our events for people actually literally jumping out of the attendees and co-presenting at certain times. I’ve done that multiple times where maybe you’re doing a session on Google and it turns out that there’s somebody in the room who’s a Google certified teacher. We’ll just bring them right in and say OK you going to co-present with me and sure enough almost every time that person has one or two really good things to add to the sessions. So it’s more of a flat environment where it’s almost like a Meet-up, like imagine if you went to a beer brewing conference, right, you don’t come out going, “Well my I.P.A a better case exactly like this.” And then so it leaves that open ended, so what would be the badass way to make the best I.P.A. you ever could? And so you have more openings when your mindset is that way going in and so we try to leave it open ended, and it’s about the experience. So that takes care of a lot of that.
Also we really try to focus on folks that already have skills when they get there. So like one of our famous quotes is, “If you don’t know what Command-T is you probably should not go to this session.” Command-T makes a new tab in your browser, right. So what we try to homogenize the groups to some degree so that we’re not we’re not teaching them how to use computers; we’re teaching them how to teach kids with computers. I think the other piece is, it’s really a framework idea; that we’re not. trying to get you to assemble this Ikea cabinet. We don’t know exactly where it’s going to go and that’s OK.
Jay Willis: So how do you pull that out of somebody who’s sitting unsuspecting in an audience and then maybe at the beginning of a conference for they’re kind of more reserved. And then you get them to the point where you get them on stage and they’re, not only do you get them up there, but they’re able to perform, where they’re able to actually pull out some of the best information they have that would be relevant to the topic you’re discussing.
Jon Corippo: Part of that is a selection process for the faculty and you notice we’re not calling them presenters – they’re faculty. Presenters stand there and talk to you; faculty facilitate. So with the actual sign up process we have a set of questions that we ask people things about. And then we screen the titles in their blurbs of what they’re sending in so that we have a feel for what’s going on. But it’s pretty amazing how…I really thought we were walking a fine line when we first started this. I didn’t know if we were going to have very many folks they could be this and. And what’s amazing is there’s something universal about being able to do this that many, many people can. And I’ve seen people just completely blossom after their first experience. I’m thinking about a friend of mine a couple years ago. She didn’t have, you know, teachers don’t always make the most money. And she didn’t have enough cash right then because of family issues to be at the camp. And so I set her up so that she could attend. And do some do some of my registration assistance and things like that. And so the first year that she went she was strictly just like a helper and observing. Well the second year that she went she actually was a presenter and did one of the best sessions for the whole camp. She did her session as a rap song and had everybody up on their feet clapping and stomping. And within three years she is now an assistant principal and moving into administration. So I think there’s a connection there between, you know, releasing somebody’s inner potential with kind of a blank slate.
Jay Willis: Yeah. Well so I want to kind of dig in here a little bit and just have you share if you don’t mind a little bit more about your career path – so maybe like from the point where you graduated from college. To where you’re at now.
Jon Corippo: Sure. So I graduated from close to my degree with my degree in advertising and I went to work for a small business as their inside advertising guy – I was buying local T.V. spots and newspaper and stuff like that, setting up little events for them. Did that for a couple years. And then ended up getting married to this this gal whose dad owned a big air conditioning company. And it wasn’t computerized at all they were doing everything on paper… this is 1991 or 1992. And I brought my Mac Classic – remember the little the little gray Mac? I ended up bringing it into the office and installing Filemaker on it and I networked up their L C 3’s, if you remember that, using AppleTalk. And within about six months we had the whole thing on computers and we were actually sending alpha-numerica pages to our guys for their work orders, out of Filemaker in like 1993. So we thought we were pretty awesome yeah. I did that for a while and then we did some of the actual contracting stuff, did some of the building controls for them and when I had an opportunity to go for a go to work for a computer store in town, I had done good enough with the networking that our computer vendor said, “hey you should come to work for us and skip the air conditioning part.”
So I did that for a little while but I didn’t really like being a full time tech; I like training people. And so I had a cool opportunity where my wife’s high school cheerleading coach was actually an assistant superintendent at a local kind of medium sized school district about 30,000 kids… and we were at a time of our life when we kept meeting at weddings, it was wedding after wedding, and he and I would just hang out and talk and. And he said, “Dude, you should go in to teaching. You’ve got the right energy for this.” So one day I called him up and said I’m going into teaching. And so he literally put me in his car and drove me around to about seven schools and introduced me to principals and said “This is Jon and you should take a look at her and him.” And one of them did and I started on what was called an emergency credential on April Fool’s Day and taught for the rest of the year -I took over a gal’s classroom who had gone out on pregnancy and I just absolutely fell in love with it. And I just loved it and it was so exciting and so fun and so fulfilling. So I came back the next year and taught sixth grade and then the year after that we had a kid on the way so my wife said you need to get a job closer to home. And so I went and worked in a little mountain area school with about six hundred kids for about five six seven years. A job opened with the Fresno ______ education. To be a teacher trainer. And I thought Hey that sounds pretty cool. So took that job did out for about two years. And then my local school district was opening a brand new high school from scratch and the superintendent said, “Jon I want you to open this school for me.” So I switched jobs again and came on board as a teacher and Director of Curriculum and Instruction and so built that high school. We opened that high school in 2008. And we went with 1:1 Macbooks that every kid took home. And we were Google Docs and project based learning in 2008. We just went for it. And we grew the high school to about 550 kids over the next 3 years. And what was my favorite thing – we actually attracted kids from about a dozen local high schools. So it wasn’t that kind of thing where kids had to come to the school. They chose to come to the school. I thought that was really neat and that was the best. So did that for a couple years. Cool job opened in the local county at Mariposa to be a Director of Curriculum there, and ended up taking that job. If no one knows where Mariposa Count actually is, that is the county that contains a little thing called Yosemite National Park. So that was great fun and did that for a couple years and then the CUE job opened up. And I now, I’m basically doing the same thing. But just focusing on the professional development aspect.
Jay Willis: And how long have you been there at CUE?
Jon Corippo: As you hear this… well let me check my calendar. This is month eleven. Month eleven just started. And then my first year here we’re right on the cusp of quadrupling the amount of teachers are serving the very first year I’ve been here. So that’s been really cool.
Jay Willis: So at what point along the way was there an actual point where you made a decision to go into school leadership? Or was it kind of one of those things where it just kind of happened? Or do you remember kind of a defining moment?
Jon Corippo: OK so first of all I got to tell you I really enjoy reading business and management books. And I’m a big Tom Peters fan and I know he’s kind of an 80’s guy at this point but a lot of the stuff that he did with Thriving on Chaos and the Circle of Innovation is just completely timeless. And I’m pretty sure it’s in one of those books where he says neither Gandhi nor Martin Luther King were ever elected to a single office. So whenever somebody says, “How did you start in educational leadership?” I say, “I was teaching sixth grade and I decided to quit being a follower. That’s how I got started in institutional leadership.” But the admin piece was, and this is kind of a fun story too, so we were pulling so many kids out of one local high school. We were up to 200 – 300 kids from their school. But they basically said, “OK – that’s enough we’re not allowing transfers anymore” which I kind of have a disagreement with because it’s America,right? You shouldn’t trap kids at your school they should choose your school. And if they’re not choosing your school you should probably get a mirror and figure out why they’re not choosing your school. (Well, that might be a different podcast!) So I had this opportunity at this new high school when we opened it up we were getting all these transfer kids (well this just kind of flashing back) and then the other school cut off the transfer switch, and we’re like, “Uh-oh, how are we going to get kids if they can’t w transfer?” So my superintendent did a really smart thing he said, “Let’s become a charter.” So that high school, Minarets High School, to this day is half public school and half charter schools. In the same campus. I don’t know when that happened. It was kind of funny because my superintendent, he didn’t realize this when he when he proposed it, but each school has to have an administrator. So my administrator career started on April Fool’s Day 2011. Because they needed a director of charter. And that was me by default. So I kind of backed into it. It’s pretty funny how I got started in that.
Jay Willis: In the journey, as a teacher or administrator, with all the different roles, what have been some of your biggest struggles in education?
Jon Corippo: My biggest struggle…I’m now going to jump back to the Rock Star thing we we’re talking about. We serve between 1200 and 1500 teachers a year in the Rock Star summer camps. And they go back to their school and they’re ready to do stuff different. And then what happens is they hit the glass ceiling with their administrator who’s like, “Whoa, whoa, what are we doing here? What is THIS all about?” So kind of on a lark we have the ability…we made contact with Skywalker, so we knew we could have an event there, and it occurred to me that what we should have was a Rock Star camp for administrators. Because if the administrators were asking for what the teachers already wanted to do, that would be a powerful push/pull scenario. So we’ve done…three of them have been completed and the fourth one is going to sell out next day or two. And so now we have about 400 administrators , let me get this straight, maybe 350 administrators in California who are now thinking more like a rock star school. Where, instead of telling kids what they can’t do, they’re trying to encourage kids to do more than they’ve ever imagined. And that’s an important shift. So my challenge would be that I’m always kind of outside of the box a little bit and, you know, managing expectations for people who aren’t ready to get outside of the box. You have to be very mindful of what you’re proposing and whom you’re proposing it to.
Jay Willis: Well so what advice would you have for a teacher who maybe attends one of your camps, and then comes back and finds himself with an administrator who maybe isn’t quite as open minded to the change that they would like to try. Do you have any kind of tips for someone in that situation?
Jon Corippo: Yeah, I have one tip. Quit. And I’m serious. If you’re not in – what I what I realized after my third or fourth job that I’d left to level up, what I realized over the last ten years what I’ve been seeking is an optimal work environment where I be as efficient as I wanted to be. And what I also realized is if a teacher stays in a district for twenty years, and they’re always having to explain to the leadership why this is not working, you’re not going to win that fight. You are better off to go find a school district that’s looking for that kind of answer, and living in a better scenario. There’s nothing that says you have to stay at the local school district for twenty years; they’re not making you do that. So that’s my first answer, which is kind of a harsh pill for some people to swallow but I want to tell you, at my last job I was the director of curriculum and structure and I was a director of technology at the same time. I had a lot of leeway at the county level and I still didn’t feel like I was able to work at my optimal level. So when the CUE opportunity opened up I said, “Well let’s take a look at this. So you’re saying that I could basically have a chance to interact with 8,000 teachers a year and help them to be better teachers and they want to do that and that there is no “boss” to talk to in terms of the amount of change we can do?” I mean I do have to a CEO and everything there’s your normal politics of being a change agent. But I don’t have a school board that’s, “Why are we doing this???” All I have to do is put out the vibe and have people say “You know what? We are interested in being there, too.” So you have a forward momentum instead of always having to explain your purpose.
Jay Willis: Well do you think there are situations where maybe there’s a principal who – it’s maybe not that they’re just completely grumpy and closed minded but it’s just more maybe they just haven’t had kind of the scales removed from their eyes or maybe they just don’t have the vision. For that type of principal where it’s like you think you might be able to get through to them. What would be a way that you could start?
Jon Corippo: OK. But I also have a backup plan. Let’s say that you can’t quit or that you need to live there because of your family or whatever the case may be. In that case, that’s where we really go to the CUE rock star model which is – find other schools that are already doing the things your boss is afraid of. Nothing will convince a boss that this is a good idea faster than showing them an EdWeek article about another school that’s doing it. Whereas if you’re starting from scratch that scares a lot of administrators because, “What will legal say? What will the school board say? How will parents respond?” But if you can show people a working model the uptake rate is much higher. And I’m going to give you my super super super-secret sauce for being a change agent. OK, so this is where some people go wrong on being a change agent. Being a change agent is not about being a zealot. It’s not about being loud. It’s not about being abrasive. And that’s how some people attempt change and what happens when you attempt change that way you give the people that just don’t want to change – they don’t even care about what the argument is; they just don’t want to change. When you act that way you’re giving them the seeds of your own destruction. So change agents can never be seen as rebels. They have to be more like ninjas. So that nobody knows exactly where the idea’s coming from. It’s just becoming more common. That’s how you want to do it.
So I like to work through change by being very fluid and keeping a long view. Like, here’s an example -you’ll see school where the superintended will come in and say, “We’re going to go 1:1 this year!” which means when do they try to deploy all the devices? Typically, the first week of school. When is the worst time to deploy 3,000 devices? It’s going to be the first week of school. So we coach and counsel people to say things like this, “Look, if you’re going to move 1:1, it’s a forever plan, right? Three years from now you’ll be 1:1. Five years from now you’ll be 1:1. But that doesn’t mean you have to be 1:1 this week. Maybe if you do eighth grade first.” I like to start with eighth grade because they’re getting ready to go to high school so you’re pre-prepping those kids for high school. If you do eighth grade first you can get your paperwork right for parents to sign, you can get your website updated, you can train the first wave of teachers so they’re really good at this. Nothing will ruin anything new faster than it failing on a wide scale. If you want to look at like L.A. Unified when they try to roll out the iPads. Thirty thousand iPads with no training? Dude, you got a problem. That’s a problem. Even if you watch the biggest companies they do it in very sneaky ways. Like the Fresno area which I live by is a test market for all kinds of foods because apparently they think Fresno has a very diverse population. In terms of we have a lot of different minority groups. And yet a kind of a sense of Americana. So Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, companies like that, they will test market a new item to see what the customer reaction is before they go big. They don’t just say we’re going to do this nationwide at the sweep of a hat. By the time you see that national ad they’ve already proven that this works on a small scale. So if we’re going to go 1:1 this year, why don’t we do this – why don’t we go 1:1 at one school for two months? And make sure everything works. And then you add on layers as you go. There’s no need to wave a wand and force everybody through that filter at one time with really no need. So, actually if you have a long view, right? So if you can get eighth grade up and running by Halloween, you can have sixth and seventh grade up and running by Thanksgiving. And then that gives you all spring to do the rest of the school. Way more manageable because the biggest problem in doing a high level 1:1 roll out is the teacher part. The handing out of the technology and upgrading the Wi-Fi? That’s actually easy. That part’s not bad. The teacher part’s gonna take you three to four years to finish off. That’s the hard part. So there’s no rush because it’s going to be a long process.
Jay Willis: And get the bugs worked out with a smaller sample size before you roll it out on a larger scale.
Jon Corippo: Exactly. The military calls this proof of concept. You know, they will make twenty or thirty tank designs or rocket designs before they finalize. They don’t just say, “Hey. let’s make a new tank and it’s going to be perfect.” They do a lot of proof of concept and modeling.
Jay Willis: Yeah a lot of startups do that thing too. Like they’ll test it out with maybe, if they have an idea for a product they’ll just try to get some customer feedback, maybe try just a few and see if they’ll sell before they order a whole truckload of them.
Jon Corippo: Yeah. Even if you – I’m a pretty big Gladwell fan. Remember I mentioned earlier about I’m kinda geeky about management books. One of my favorite parts, and I’m sorry, because the two books blend into my mind, so if I if I’m misquoting…but I think it’s from Outliers. But it could’ve been The Tipping Point, where Sesame Street would consistently ask their kids after the show, “What did you like and what didn’t you like?” And that’s part of how Sesame Street settled on things like only one letter and one number per show. Because before that they were giving kids seven or eight numbers and letters and they just couldn’t process that many in a show. But that was all based on customer feedback and incremental improvement. So one of my favorite wrinkles was that originally people and puppets never appeared together on Sesame Street. And they realized that it was minimizing the impact of both characters to have them separate. So now you’ll see the puppets and the people interacting. But originally that wasn’t part of the plan.
Jay Willis: That’s interesting. So you have been in education for a while and I’m sure you have some amazing stories just of the impact you’ve had a chance to make in the lives of others or at least be a part of. So if you could share maybe just one of the most significant stories that you’ve had a chance to…
Jon Corippo: Like are you talking about I maybe some something I’m proud of that got done or are you talking about something I observed or…
Jay Willis: Yeah just some kind of story of impact you had a chance to be a part of on a student’s life or maybe even since you’ve been with CUE you know maybe even on a larger scale but just you know. Kind of a neat story of the impact that you’ve been a part of I guess.
Jon Corippo: Let me think. The problem is I’ve got a lot of them so I got to think what my favorite would be. I think you know…let me do a couple quick categories. From my leader/ business/professional development side I think my most favorite thing is going to be CUE Rock Star. The idea of teachers being in charge of their own professional development. And de-commoditizing themselves… I’m really proud of that and I’ve been very pleased to see that I was able to kind of set up a framework and then release it into the wild. And it’s taking on a life of its own. I’m pretty stoked about that. I mean it’s been tremendous. I’ll give you example – this year we’ll have eleven hundred teachers coming to our teacher camps and we’ll have four hundred administers come into our admin camps. And we’re going to have probably four or five hundred teachers coming to our TOSA camp. Now, I’m not sure if you know the what a TOSA camp is – it stands for Teacher On Special Assignment. They’re basically like a teacher trainer. They’re not an administrator, but they don’t have a classroom anymore so they go around and help. So we’re looking at maybe two thousand to twenty five hundred folks that we’re gonna directly train on that kind of stuff or put them in learning experience and so when you relate that to how many kids we’re talking about, that could easily be three or four hundred thousand kids. So to be able to be assisting the way that that kind of a group sees what education could be instead of what it currently is -I’m pretty stoked about that. As far as my personal, in my own classroom…I think creating a high school from scratch that was project based and…there’s actually a fun blog article about a guy who was touring and he interviewed a kid and he said, “What’s Minarets High School about?” and one of the kids said “Well, I guess it’s kind of a love-based school.” That’s a pretty cool thing for a high school kid to say. And at Minarets we have things set up like our student Bill of Rights and Student Success Ladders; our kids can actually go and look at the wall and point out various rights that they have as students. And I think creating a model of a high school that can be…not the creepy, classic high school that you and I probably went to where the kids were quiet all day. And the adults didn’t talk to them and…you know we had things like …all the students in the whole school had access to our cell numbers. They could ask us questions or touch base with us 24/7. And this is the funny part – they rarely did. My co-administrator used to say, “ We’re not that important. Get over it.” You know it’s not like I spent all weekend answering “Prince Albert in a can” texts. But creating a high school where kids could go and follow their passion instead of just doing what they’re “supposed to do” – that’s been a pretty fun experience as well.
Jay Willis: I was going to run through just a couple more rapid fire questions if you’re ready for those?
Jon Corippo: I’m always ready for rapid fire.
Jay Willis: So what’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
Jon Corippo: For me personally was when my wife told me to be more presidential. (Laughter) Sometimes I’m too much of a zealot. So that whole thing I was talking about earlier in this podcast about being a zealot? I had to dial that back a bit and be more strategic in my thinking. Because I’m rarely telling people what I’m really thinking because that will get me in trouble. What I’ve got to think is about winning the war instead of the battle. I’llI give you a fun example of what I’m talking about. When I got to Mariposa, the primary teachers of 4th grade down, they were still literally doing their grades on paper – they were still literally at the end of the quarter sitting down and adding up all the grades and then students didn’t know what their score was until the end. I don’t consider that to be a good feedback model. Can you imagine your high school football coach telling you how you did in practice on Saturday morning after the game? It’s not a good growth model, you guys. It’s not. So, it took a few months to get all the pieces in place (there’s the patient thing). And so we basically said, “Look, you guys need to be on a grade book by the end of the second trimester.” That gave the teachers about five months to assimilate. And most of them jumped right on and the last third we provided extra face to face training; we even would send a person or people out to enter their first couple rounds of grades for them so they could see the flow. So we had lots of support. But in that process it was really good because I had a teacher email me who said Jon, “I want you to know that I’ve been teaching for thirty-seven years. And I do not intend to learn this, nor will I go to any professional development to do it.” (Laughter) I’m sure she was very pleased with herself when she hit Send. And so I got it, and then my football coach side wanted to say, “I can’t believe you’re doing this.” You know, I had some very choice words. And then I said, no; let’s think big picture. Is she retiring this year? She is. Why would I drag her through all that? So I just emailed her back and I said, “You’ve had an amazing career. Have a great spring. You do not have to do any of this. Smiley face.” And so that’s kind of my point of m I don’t need to make people do stuff. She’s retiring. What’s the advantage of her using an electronic grade book for the last two months or three months of a thirty-seven year career. Plus, guess what? Every time I saw her after that she gave me a big hug and said, “You’re the best!” That’s that presidential bit, that leadership bit, of knowing when to push and when not to push.
Jay Willis: Smart! So what advice would you have for a school administrator as far as working with, first of all, the students that they serve, and then second the teachers that they serve?
Jon Corippo: OK; so the student one is easy. We got really big into this. Really, really big. We did a student survey every quarter. Every quarter, each of our students was able to give feedback on their teacher’s performance. And you know the classic is going to be that teachers are going to be pretty afraid of that scenario. What might the kids say? That was the pushback :“What are the kids gonna say?” And here’s what we told them. If your kids are going to curse you out and say bad things about you on the survey, we have a big problem. If you’re worried about how the kids are going to act on a survey that will have their name on it, we have a way bigger problem. We have got to deal with that right now. And you know what was amazing? The kids were cool. They were articulate. They had really good ideas. And they told us quality feedbacks. So my biggest thing is, just listen to the kids. Can you imagine Starbucks saying, “I’m sorry. We just don’t think half and half is good for you people. We’re not doing it anymore.” Or how about when Starbucks did the thing with no Christmas cheer on the cup this year? I predict the cups will look different next year. Because it’s no good way to stay in business, ticking off your customers. And what’s happening now is kids are capable of going to other schools at the drop of a hat. And I really like what one of my early administrators said – “Jon, you’ve got to remember that kids vote with their feet.” And I think that applies to electives, it applies to teachers, and I believe it applies to complete schools. If your school isn’t going up in attendance you’ve got to figure out what the problem is. So that’s my feedback for administrators talking about kids. When you’re talking about teachers well my simple mantra is, you cannot make anybody do anything. That’s the reality, tenure or not. You can’t make people do stuff. So my best advice for them comes from my advertising days when I learned about the four types of purchasers. Are you familiar with the four types of purchasers?
Jay Willis: I’m not sure if I am.
Jon Corippo: And you probably will recognize this. Given any type of product from French fries to Ferrari’s to shirts at Target or whatever… There are basically four groups that look at any opportunity to acquire a product. And those come down to your innovators, your early adopters, the masses, and the laggards. And so you have that within things like a Toyota Prius. You know the Toyota Prius commercial at the Super Bowl where they have a stupid bank robber chase scene going, right? What’s Toyota trying to accomplish with that? They’re trying to get Prius to be seen as a normal car. They’re trying to move from innovators and early adopters into the masses. That’s why they pick the guys in the car to be every day kind of guys that you would sit next to at a Buffalo Wild Wings. So they’re positioning their product. The Prius is a very normal car; there’s nothing weird about it. But they don’t say that; they just infer it through the characters and the story line. So that same thing applies to changing schools. If I come in and say, “Guess what? Everybody! You have to use this app next week because I think it’s awesome!” (and it may be awesome). But what’s going to happen in that situation? Half the teachers will not like the product for various reasons. And someone will be texting their brother in law or sister in law who’s on the school board to tell them you’re an idiot. So you’re way better off to take that kind of a cool thing and send it to just your inner crew. Every principal have a group of teachers that are their inside group. Have them live test and tell you if they think it’s as good as you do. And then what happens is at lunch they’ll be telling people, “Oh my God you should see this new tool that Jon showed me. It is so awesome.” So now a lot of the early adopters and innovators are on board, now who’s going to join? The masses. The masses are going to say, “Well if that’s the new normal I’m down with that.” And so then you get down to the laggards. And this is not a teacher thing – I can’t be clear enough about that. But the bottom line is there’s a point where if this is normal, the laggards don’t want to be left out of that. And it takes a few cycles; you have to go around a couple times to get it done. But that’s the simplified version of the process.
Jay Willis: So, last question. If you had a time machine and you could jump in it and go back to the point in time when you first made the decision to go into school administration or maybe to go into education, what advice would you go back and give to the younger version of yourself?
Jon Corippo: Be more presidential. I caused myself undue harm in the early days by speaking my mind a little too freely and not thinking two moves ahead.
Jay Willis: That’s good. So finally if one of our listeners wants to reach out to you after the show what’s the best way to connect with you?
Jon Corippo: The fast and easiest is going to be on the Twitter. And it’s just @jcorippo.
Jay Willis: OK very good 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 Jon into the search tool to find his show notes. Jon thank you for sharing your journey with us today.
Jon Corippo: It’s fun to share and I’m hoping that maybe through my experiences and odd and asymmetrical journey some other leaders might say, “Hey, that’s a good idea!”, so I love sharing.
‘Jay Willis: And that wraps up another episode of Educators Lead.
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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 three days a week 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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