The Minimalist Educator Podcast

Episode 009 - Prioritizing in Leadership Roles with Dr. Chaunté Garrett

October 17, 2023 Tammy Musiowsky-Borneman Season 1 Episode 9
The Minimalist Educator Podcast
Episode 009 - Prioritizing in Leadership Roles with Dr. Chaunté Garrett
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Chaunté discusses what needs to be considered when prioritizing your time and attention in leadership positions. Her pare down pointer is a reminder about honoring our true selves.

Dr. N. Chaunté Garrett has decades of experience in education serving as chief academic officer, building and district level administrator, teacher and superintendent of a K-12 campus in North Carolina. In her career, she has successfully supported and led school transformation efforts in multiple school districts achieving remarkable gains in student achievement and academic growth. As superintendent, the campus achieved meeting academic growth across content areas with all subgroups of students. The foundation of this work is creating equitable learning opportunities and a “whole child” approach emphasizing high quality instruction, STEM, SEL and College and Career Preparation. Dr. Garrett is the Founder and CEO for ELLE Education in which she partners with schools and districts to empower learners and leaders to excel.

Today's episode was brought to you by Plan Z Professional Learning Services, Forward Thinking Educator Support. Find out more at Follow us @PlanZPLS on Twitter and Instagram.

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The Minimalist Educator Podcast is a Plan Z Professional Learning Services adventure.

In this episode, Chaunte discusses what needs to be considered when prioritizing your time and attention in leadership positions. Her pair down pointer is a reminder about honoring our true selves. Dr. N Chaunte Garrett has decades of experience in education serving as chief academic officer, building and district level administrator, teacher and superintendent of a K -12 campus in North Carolina. 

In her career, she has successfully supported and led school transformation efforts in multiple school districts, achieving remarkable gains in student achievement and academic growth. As superintendent, the campus achieved meeting academic growth across content areas with all subgroups of students. 

The foundation of this work is creating equitable learning opportunities and a whole child approach emphasizing high quality instruction, STEM, SCL and college and career preparation. Dr. Garrett is the founder and CEO for L Education, in which she partners with schools and districts to empower learners and leaders to excel. 

Welcome to another episode of the Minimalist Educator Podcast. Today, we are super excited to have with us a fellow emerging leader who's in my 2014 class. So we've known each other for a bunch of years already. 

Dr. Chaunte Garrett is with us today. Welcome, Chaunte. Yeah, thank you. I was gonna say welcome to my space right here. No, thank you very much. I'm always glad to help and support and always excited about the different ways that you're supporting educators. 

So thank you for inviting me to the podcast. Yeah, thank you. Yeah, we're excited to be on this journey. We're some episodes into it and we were talking a little bit before about how when the before the book came out, we sent it to you to do a review of it, which was exciting to have you as one of our first readers when it came out. 

So thank you for that. I guess we'll just kind of get into from that. We spoke a lot, in the book, we speak a lot about finding purpose and prioritizing and things like that. And you're in a leadership role where you have to navigate a lot of people and decisions and all of the things that go into managing schools. 

And so can you talk a little bit about your experience at that kind of higher level leadership in that type of role? Yes, sure. It's probably one of the things that I enjoy the most is talking about who I serve and how we serve them every single day. 

And so yes, we are very complex. You're talking about 180 different people on any day, at least 110, and whose roles look very different but all have significant contributions when it comes to educating young people. 

And in my role in reading that campus, that's one of the things I have to keep in mind. That's even a conversation that I've had as we've introduced new people to our space and they're trying to find their way and navigate relationships and space and understanding that my role is to support everyone and to ensure that everyone is equipped to do the best that they can. 

There's no sides or no favoritism. It's what does each person will be in this space in order to be able to serve well. That's the language that we use in order to serve well each and every day. Anything specifically, in addition to that, you would like to. 

Well, that just made me think, you speak about having to navigate individuals. So there are certain things that you can blanket statement or share with people, but when you want everyone to succeed, how do you prioritize people because you want everyone to be successful and get their needs met so that they can teach well and serve students well? 

So how did you prioritize people and relationships in that role? Absolutely. So it's prioritizing the work that's closest to kids. Basically, the work that we do. So most of my conversation is centered around, yes, the student experience, but when you're navigating personnel, definitely looking at the teacher experience. 

What experience our teachers have whenever there's a change in our community. How does this impact. Our teachers, you know, it was all hard to believe if you take care of the teachers, they will take care of. The scholars and so that's one of the things, you know, so that's where the bulk of the prior activation go. 

You know, what does this experience look like, not just for scholars, but also for the adults who are closest to serving them. You know, what are the needs, how do we meet those needs? How does that, how is that managed through our budget through our customer service model. And just our day to day, you know, how do we create an experience that our teachers are willing to come back to and do this hard work, especially over the last 30 weeks. 

That's amazing that when you're talking about the purpose and the priorities of your role in leadership that you go straight to relationships. That's awesome to hear. I love hearing that. Sometimes I feel like leadership roles, admin roles are sometimes a little bit invisible to classroom teachers. You know, we, what we're doing is very visible where we're with the kids all day. We're on duty. We're supervising lunch. We're doing duties outside things like that. 

But, you know, sometimes our administration, our leadership are in an office and we don't see everything that they're doing. So what sort of things do you want us to know? What is the, what is taking up the time to meet the relationships, the needs of those relationships that you were speaking of that maybe we're not aware of and that we don't see? 

Yeah, so relationships is something that I have to be very attentive to. And Tam, you can tell you I'm an introvert. So it's something that I have to be very cognizant and strategic about. Because I do need time to myself, need time to process and I need time to think, I need time to strategize, I need time to plan, I need time to recharge. 

And then figure out how those were like, how we use those relationships to support the movement of kids. And so it's having to be intentional about visibility, especially for me, because I mean, in honoring my introversion, I lean into making sure I get opportunities to recharge and process and think. 

And so it's strategic placement throughout the day where, where, you know, what part of the campus and am I on this time of day? What part of the campus? Who am I supporting this time of day? And prioritizing that in my calendar. It's also leaning into how I build relationships best. So, you know, our team will tell you, I step on stage when I have to, you know, so when there's times where we're having a whole campus meeting or I need to be a part of a divisional meeting that I'm in those meetings. 

And I'm communicating what needs to be communicated at that point in time, but also being strategic about setting aside time for one on one and what accessibility to me looks like. So that I can remain accessible to our staff. One of the most frustrating comments that comes is when somebody says, I know you're busy. Right. And I don't want that to be the perception of me. Right. I want to be accessible. 

What I love is that over time, you know, folks understand what accessibility looks like. You know, so they'll try the hallway grabs, whether I'm in the elementary school or the middle school or the high school. But also they know that they can come and get time on my calendar. 

Or, you know, if my doors are for making definitely pop in. You know, we might not be able to have a 30 minute conversation. But, you know, we can have a five or maybe even attend. So one of the things that my coach supported me in developing is the 10 minute meetings, which is a big lift for introverted me. 

Because in those 10 minute meetings, I reserve a week beginning of the year, middle of the year, end of the year to meet with each staff. And it's, it's a lot. It's a lot of energy. And by the end of the week, by the end of the week, I've spent some really good time learning about our staff. I mean, in 10 minutes, we can light up in 10 minutes. We can crack. 

in 10 minutes, we can solve all the problems of the world. Now, executing the strategy is a different thing, but that's a great opportunity for me to be able to connect. And when I have missed that opportunity, it shows, but it's relationships, but being that I am introverted is also building relationships in a way that allows me to lead the best, but in a way that also allows the team to feel connected to me. 

And I think also in our structure, we have a divisional leader, right? So it's also, as we've been navigating staffing challenges and trying to get those holes filled, it's also giving them a place in a resource so it doesn't always have to be me, that they don't always have to come see me. 

They have a space to go and helping those school readers understand their ownership in the mission and the vision so that they can carry out those pieces. And once again, it doesn't always have to be me. It's exhausting if it has to be me all the time. 

They're frustrating for team members if they have leaders in their buildings, but they're having to lead their building to get the answers there that they need for their desires. And that's not the experience we're designing for our team in fact. 

You've said a lot there. And so my head is kind of going into all different sense and I was trying to jot a couple of things down, but something that really popped for me was the structures that you've put in place for yourself knowing who you are as an introverted person. 

And I think that I'm on the cusp of introvert extrovert. I can be extroverted for a long period of time, but then I do need to be alone to recharge too. I need that a way, time to process and have the decompression. But it's hard for people to put those kinds of structures that you have in place, especially in a very, that kind of higher leadership role, right where you're managing a lot of people. 

And so when we think about the educator or like the classroom teachers that you're working with too, it's hard for them to put these kinds of structures in place. Do you have a suggestion or a tip or something where just thinking about the way you've set things up for yourself so that you know that you can then meet the needs of other people? 

What do you recommend for people to set a structure and then stick to it? Because setting it up is one thing, right? Because if we're trying to prioritize all the things, because we're making all these decisions all the time, or doing all of these things, it's one thing to set it up, but then it's another to stick with it and monitor yourself, which you have done in your role. 

So is there something that you can, do you have the magic sauce or something? I would love to believe that I do, but I absolutely do not. It's been a kind of trial and error kind of deal, kind of trial and error type situation, but one it started with transparency. 

And just being a transparent with our team, and I can tell you one of the things that I always do, and I promise you for the number of years, it still gets a laugh. I will walk into a meeting with a plan and linear focus on these are our outcomes, and when it's time, hey, good afternoon, de -de -de -de -de, and we're going, and then I'm reading the room, and I have to stop and say, I'm sorry, how are we today? 

And they chuckle, right? Because they know me, but I, and I appreciate that. So one of the things I think the team for is letting me show up authentically every day. Right? And so putting that on the table at the very beginning. 

So when I transitioned from as chief academic, I did not have to be, I would say as president, I did not have to be as, as statuesque as I did when I became superintendent, and I was very much hands -on and side -by -side in PLCs and in doing this as the chief academic. 

And then in transitioning, transition is hard, right? Books have to figure out. There's a lot of unknowns when transition happened. You know, so one of the things I sat down with the leadership team and I followed a very dynamic and very boisterous and enjoyable leader. 

And Tammy, you know, I'm not that person, right? The opposite. I mean, you have a beautiful presence about you, but yes. Right, it's different for me. And I definitely sat down with the leadership team and I said, there is not a day that I'm gonna come here and stand on the table. 

You know, there's not a day that I'm gonna come in here and crack jokes up and down the hallway. There's not a day that I'm not that person. I said, I don't want you to expect that of me. You know, I just need you to expect that I'm gonna be here, I'm gonna be present, I'm gonna support you, those types of things, but that is not the way I'm going to do this. 

I'm not gonna try to be something that I'm not. I said, but I am going to support us as we navigate this transition. The next thing I did was have a heart to heart with the entire campus as we started to navigate our transition and just helping them understand where I came from in the terms of why I believe what I believe and why I believe the way that I do. 

And I think that was one of the most powerful moments that could have been provided to our team and to your point, Christine, the relationship that we built as this transition was happening, right? Because there was a foundation for that. 

And so in that, we began to look at how we worked together and a series of pieces as to how we work together. So one thing is we established those norms, right? And it came over time, you know, and a lot of this is happening during the pandemic. 

So there's a lot of people shifting going on as well, but establishing those norms and operating in those norms. And so it also makes way for the office authenticity as well. Lungs are always being mindful of those, right? I get to admit that this is what we honor in this space and honoring that for everyone. 

And sometimes, you know, we derail or have you, but bringing everyone back. But I think ultimately it starts with the transparency and it starts with the integrity and then there's also the integrity behind it. So they know exactly what to expect from you. 

They don't expect anything different. And I love it when I get the affirmations from them. You know, thank you for being strong. Thank you for standing tall. Thank you for leading us with character. Thank you for, you know, all of those things. 

That's when I know I've done the right things. You know, and that's true. Everybody does not appreciate that there are folks that are gonna want to have you step on tables, jump on tables and, you know, put on a show every time. 

But I show up authentically myself. And that is absolutely appreciating. And I let them know how much I appreciate them honoring me as I honor them. It's such a good reminder for us all to be ourselves and that there is a place for us, no matter our personality or what we're like, you know, we can have a role and we can do these different positions in education. 

And that's okay. I love that. Be authentically you. It's really important. It is so very important. You know, it's a hard thing if you have to show up and try to be something that you can't even imagine. 

Especially when you have to get the move out as you get the move people. And that's the priority. But I think it also created space for us to honor and acknowledge what different types of people are joining our community. 

You know, we take diversity for granted. And we're, you know, majority of people Minuitized populations, but that also brings itself to making sure that we're being culturally responsible to each culture that might be a part of our community. 

So, one of the things that I've appreciated is that families of different nationalities and ethnicities has joined our community more over the last several years. We're seeing our demographic changing. And one of the things that they are coming in there saying is, thank you, we feel included here. You know, we feel honored here. And by no means have we done everything I would have loved for us to do. 

But I also believe that it's the people, our team, learning how to honor themselves as well as differences in people. And what that, what that means and how that significant begins to change, change culture and change people's reality. Yeah, that's awesome. I love that. Is there anything that you see leaders in education doing that you would just love to get rid of? 

Like, is there anything that you're like, we need to stop doing that? That's not okay anymore. Let's get rid of that practice. Is there anything you can think of? I think, let me tell you when my heart has been stoned and Tammy can tell you was my heart a step there last summer. But it's really when we're not being, the word that's coming to mind is honest. 

About the challenges. And so I've given, you know, in the conversation I was having the other day, it's as leaders, we always have to paint the roads. Right. It was the thorn, but here was the road. 

Right. And, you know, every thorn may not become a road, but it doesn't mean that you didn't do a good job and didn't do what you're supposed to do. And you didn't. I'm on our and in new in that space. 

Well, and so I think leaders, we're for leaders, especially going through this time and everybody hasn't had the same experience over the last three years. But I think it's important to be integral about the experience and about the story because somebody is needing to know that it may not have come out. But it's definitely all right. 

Right. And you have served well when these things have happened, even though you didn't have the rose, you know, from the break of the thorn. And so that's carrying, carrying that instead of being, you know, honest about that is something I wish we were. 

Like, you know, you know, I'll walk away from our retreat last summer just, yeah, no, like I'm, I'm just being authentic. You know, I'm still, I'm just saying, I'm tired. Because I am. Right. And making it okay. The same. Yeah. I'm tired and we might not be having the same experience, but saying that I'm out, open the door for someone else. 

And I think that's what we need to be doing. We need to be open the door to truly support each other where we are. You know, I think one of the one of the exercises and if I'm going to be honest, this has come with staffing. 

It's not something that I could do trying to wear three or four hats. In my role, as we have navigated different staffing challenges, but as we have become stronger staff and more fully staff, it's getting back to some of the basics, right. 

So schools and districts have been have been reported as their funding. And there's a lot of money that has been spent over the last several years that's running out. You know, so getting back to not this coming out of this space of grabbing though, right. 

I seen this is great. Let's grab it and wait for this. I seen this is great. Let's grab it and wait for this. This is great. Let's grab on paper. And we're just getting really, really focused. This is what we're doing. This is what we need for kids. And these are the resources that we need and taking everything else off the board with staffing. We were able to do that this summer. 

And we saved a ton of money incorrectly. We saved a ton of money, even in some ways in personnel and then able to repurpose that money. And so I think that's one of the big rocks. and feeling strategic, very thoughtful about what truly needs to come off the plane. 

So we can be really focused on learning recovery, writing it. And I think that's a big one. And maybe more practical than the other. But definitely significant. I value too that this entire time we've been talking, we've really been focusing on people, right? 

And not the things that take the space. Like you mentioned, now you've gone through your budget and looked at programming and things like that. And just when I think about all of the decision makers who do have to look at budgets, which breaks me out, right? 

Because it's a huge daunting task. But being so thoughtful about the spending and knowing and really looking at where do we need to put our money so that everyone can be successful, like from the littlest learners to our adult learners, so that everyone feels like we have people at the forefront of our mind, right? 

And not just like, oh, we have to grab this new program because it's the 14th edition and that page 93 is different or whatever. You know, it's so silly sometimes, like we have to replace things. But I really appreciate that the focus of our conversation has been people. 

And I knew that coming into this conversation with you because of who you are. And being able to work with you in the way that you are such a strategic thinker and honoring who you are as a leader and your people would be just like the best place to work ever. 

Because like, who wouldn't want to work with someone who is so thoughtful, right? So you're welcome. And really, it's all you. And we could keep talking, obviously, but we try to keep our episodes around like 20 minutes or so because we want nice, bite -sized pieces for people to listen to on their walking commutes or their driving commutes. 

So at the end of each episode, we do ask our guests for a pair down pointer, which is just some little idea that you have that can help someone, whether it's in their role or their personal life, to just kind of pair things down and keep it simple. 

I would say, I think when you talk about pair things down and keep it simple, I think one is when you are to a place where you're going to honor who you are, then there are some things that you don't take off. That would give you some example. 

I have been able to say at work, you don't have the capacity for that right now. Can we schedule this at this point in time? Let's look at this here. Or in delegating it, because I appreciate that you are looking to me for this. 

But if I'm being honest and honoring who I am, I don't have the capacity to do this. And I love that that's honored in our community and it's empowering for others to be able to say, I don't have the capacity, even if it's to do this this way. 

Can we look at it a different way? And I think that is the beginning of pairing things down. Because when I could start to say that, I could start moving some things out of my audience, because that's not going to belong to me. 

That's going to belong to someone else. I can begin decluttering my mind, because this is not going to belong to me, but someone else is empowered to do this. And I can get really focused on what the main thing is, not just in my service, but in my role in everyone's service. 

So that we can begin to push people in the directions that they need to go. And also pushing them so that they're not taking on things that don't pertain to their roles. It's great to help people, but this cannot keep you from actually serving well in your space. 

When deadlines come, it can't be because you were helping this person or you were serving on this interview committee or those types of things. And creating space to be able to provide support, as well as accountability. Excellent, such another good reminder as well. 

Thank you so much for joining us today, Chaunte. It's been a pleasure chatting with you. Thank you so much, and hopefully we'll get another chat with you again in the future. Absolutely. I look forward to it. And I look forward to the eye cast and all of the brilliance that you offer out into our space and stress. 

Thank you so much. Today's episode was brought to you by Plan Z Professional Learning Services, Forward Thinking Educator Support. Find out more at Plan Z PL Services dot com. Be sure to join Tammy and Christine and guests for more episodes of the minimalist educator podcast. 

They would love to hear about your journey with minimalism. Connect with them at Plan Z PLS on Twitter or Instagram. The music for the podcast has been written and performed by Gaya Moretti.