Jill White: “In the field of education, you get used to working with teams”

I wish someone had told me how lonely being an entrepreneur can be in the beginning. In the field of education, you get used to working with teams; but starting your own business with your own funds means you’re going to be working by yourself a lot! It was good for me, though, because I […]

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I wish someone had told me how lonely being an entrepreneur can be in the beginning. In the field of education, you get used to working with teams; but starting your own business with your own funds means you’re going to be working by yourself a lot! It was good for me, though, because I was forced to learn so much!

The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jill White.

Jill is the Founder and CEO of Jill White Coaching and Consulting where she guides school leaders to help their schools move from struggling to surviving and ultimately to thriving. She is the author of 5 books for teachers and parents as well as the developer of Toolbox for Teaching Well, a video series for helping parents ensure their children are receiving the very best education possible. With over 3 decades in the field of education serving as a teacher, a principal, and a school superintendent, Jill has a passion to do everything she can to ensure students receive the absolute best education possible.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in Oklahoma City. Although I was an only child, I was so blessed to grow up in very close proximity with many of my cousins and had a happy childhood spending time with my cousins as my best friends and with my grandmother (who had been a teacher in her younger years) who served as a guide for our lives. She quietly poured into all of us; and interestingly, I became a teacher like her as well as a good number of my cousins and aunts.

I fell in love with helping people learn when I was a scrawny little third grade girl. Playing school was always fun and I was blessed with some amazing teachers; but I knew I loved teaching when, at 8 years old, I sat at my next-door neighbor’s kitchen table and taught her kindergarten daughter how to read. She actually learned to read from my teaching! Even when we were adults, her mother told me that her daughter learned to read easier and better than any of her other five children.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” –Thomas A. Edison

Education is all about trial and error, thinking and learning, and failing and growing. Leadership guru, John Maxwell says, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.” This is as true for the teacher as it is for the student. We all learn best when we learn from our mistakes, and therefore it’s important to let people make mistakes — whether that’s in school or in life.

I’ve learned so much more from the many mistakes I’ve made, but I can look at these mistakes positively in at least a couple of ways. First, making mistakes means I was trying and therefore moving forward in my personal and professional life. Someone once told me that it’s almost always better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing at all while shooting for perfection. Second, those mistakes I’ve made have truly guided me to better and greater things all along the way. I’ve learned from my mistakes how things work but more importantly, I’ve learned how they don’t work.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I have been following the podcasts and videos of three influencers who continue to make a difference in my life and in my career: John Maxwell, Michael Hyatt, and Darren Hardy. Each of them is so unique but speak to the different areas of need within me.

I am grateful to have become a certified speaker and trainer with the John Maxwell Team. This has opened so many more doors for me to speak, present, and network. I continue to learn from him and from his team almost daily about leadership and living.

Michael Hyatt is a quieter soul who challenges me to become the best I can be. His style resonates with me and makes me want to strive to continue to climb higher and higher to help more and more people.

Darren Hardy is a strong, no non-sense kind of leader. His challenges aren’t as comfortable for me as Michael Hyatt, but they are necessary to move the needle in my leadership.

I’m thankful for each of these three thought leaders. They are being used to influence thousands of others through the work I get to do in life!

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

As I mentioned earlier, I have been in the field of education for more than 35 years. Not only have I worked as a faculty member and an administrative leader in school, but I also had the unique privilege of serving on and chairing an accreditation commission where I learned a great deal about all the intricacies of leading schools, working with boards, developing strategic plans, operating within school budgets, fundraising, etc. I’ve been blessed with a well-rounded background which has enabled me to help so many others.

In 2011, I was requested by a school leader to come to his school and help him as was trying to take a potentially dying school and turn it into a thriving organization. At that time, I also felt an urge to move into a new stage of my professional life, so this was very enticing to me. I traveled to a new state and started a new journey — a journey I have grown to love. For the past 9 years, I have been a thriveability consultant for numerous schools and have enjoyed seeing these schools grow, improve, and thrive.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

I realized that teaching was going to continue during after the Pandemic, but it would be more and more in the hands of parents who were feeling less and less confident in their abilities and unsure that their children were going to be able to get everything they needed in their education during a quarantine and lockdown. So, while I have still maintained my consulting business for school leaders, I pivoted to helping families build the confidence they need to educate at home. I have developed the Toolbox for Teaching Well series, a video series to help parents know how students learn at different levels, how they think, and how they are best taught.

With my rich background in education, I knew there were really only five levels of learning that needed to be addressed: the PK level, lower elementary (K-2nd), upper elementary (3rd-5th), middle school (6th-8th), and high school (9th-12th). This program is divided into those five levels so that parents can get an almost individualized program to help them as they help their children, whether the children are being homeschooled or if they are attending class virtually.

Additionally, I began to offer parents two group coaching programs — one for elementary levels and one for secondary levels. These are fun virtual meetings in which parents get tips, ideas, and strategies from me as well as from other homeschool parents.

Pivoting to helping parents more and more has helped to fulfill my vision for ensuring children get the very best education possible — even in a worldwide pandemic!

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

Throughout the late spring and even into the summer of 2020, I continually saw parents posting on Facebook about their concerns regarding whether or not their children had missed important key elements in the education while not in class due to the quarantine. Over and over I read comments that really boiled down to this, “I just want to make sure my child has gotten the best education possible in this situation.”

One morning I suddenly woke up and a thought almost yelled itself within my head! “I can help these people!” I realized that all my previous training and everything I had been through in my career had led me to this point. I even had another training experience that I had never thought of as a key step in my career path. For 5 years part of my duties as a principal was to direct a homeschool satellite program associated with our school system. From that experience, I found I even knew how to homeschool!

That very day, I dug in and began the development of the Toolbox for Teaching Well training series. It was a huge project, but I persevered because I knew so many families are concerned and wanted confidence and guidance. Whether their children are in class virtually or whether the family has chosen to homeschool due to health or other concerns, families now more and more a key part in the education of their children. They want to do help their children well, and I can help!

How are things going with this new initiative?

I got a lot of great feedback from the initial beta-testing group. The Toolbox for Teaching Well has just recently launched and already I’ve been asked to share about it on multiple platforms and stages. Parents are purchasing the video series program rapidly and are quickly enrolling in the group coaching. They really want some help and I’m honored to walk this journey with them!

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am grateful for one of my mentors, Mr. Michael Pinkston, who initially encouraged me to step out into the coaching and consulting field. He saw in me something that I never knew I had. I saw others reaching out to me for help when I didn’t recognize it. He saw a vision for my future that was missing.

I’m also grateful for my mother who continually allowed me to bloom and grow in the areas where I had the most interest and talents instead of shaping me into another model of herself. She was a fantastic mother. I lost her during the pandemic but instead of grieving terribly I find myself rejoicing thankfully that I got to have a mother like her!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

It seems that every time I’m in a group lately some parent says something to the effect that they are concerned that their children may not be getting everything they need to get ready for the next grade since they are in virtual education right now. When I tell them what I’m doing, they immediately give me more feedback than I could ever need, and I was able to do my beta testing without having to sell anyone on the product. Even some of my former students have been part of the beta testing with their own children. It’s great fun to think that I’m actually touching two generations with these kids I call my “grandstudents.”

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. I wish someone had told me how lonely being an entrepreneur can be in the beginning. In the field of education, you get used to working with teams; but starting your own business with your own funds means you’re going to be working by yourself a lot! It was good for me, though, because I was forced to learn so much!
  2. I wish someone had told me about virtual assistants at the beginning of my entrepreneurship. Doing every aspect of business on your own means vital things are going to fall between the cracks. But I’ve found virtual assistants now and I use them all the time. I’m grateful also for a team of my own assistants and coaches who now walk alongside me in this organization.
  3. I wish someone had told me how much joy I was going to find in helping school leaders, teachers, and parents in their journey toward excellence in education. I wake up almost every morning excited about my purpose in life and how I get to help them.
  4. I wish someone had told me how hard it would be to have to pick between all the opportunities that come along in regard to marketing, networking, and presenting. It took some time for me to learn how to identify what was best for me and the organization. In that time, I found myself almost too busy to do the good I wanted to do; but it all finally fell in place and I’m able to be a bit more discerning with my time and talents.
  5. I wish someone had told me earlier how to connect with media outlets and get on other people’s stages and platforms. As a leader in education, I never really knew how to connect with people like you who help people get their message out. I find great joy in how interested the media is in helping people get their passion in front of people. Thank you!

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

First, I have been trying to get enough good sleep. Like everyone else, I still wake up two or three times and night and can find it hard to get back to a restful place, but I’ve been doing lots of meditating on peaceful and good things with my head on pillow. I picture myself talking quietly and lovingly with the person I love the most. I keep my radio tuned to quiet music so that when I wake up and need to meditate, I can press the snooze button on the radio for some peaceful background music.

I’m trying to eat better and exercise. The pandemic time really hit my waistline (well, so did all the snacks!), but I’m doing what I can now to restore health in that area, and it truly makes me feel so much better about myself.

I have also made a schedule on my calendar for calling friends and family. This has allowed me to stay connected with others outside of my home when we couldn’t get out to see each other. People really do need people. Without others, our physical and mental selves begin to deteriorate.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would love to see the field of education not be run by so many outside agendas and philosophies but be driven solely by what is best for the students and their needs — not only their present needs but also their future needs as thinking, productive adults who will be making a positive impact in their families, their communities, their nation, and their world. If every single one of my students could grow into someone who would do nothing more than lead a healthy family and enjoy working at the thing they love best, everything would change for the good!

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I’d love to have lunch with Dr. Phil McGraw (good luck and fingers crossed!)

How can our readers follow you online?

Those who want to follow me to find help for parents wanting to educate well can find me at:

www.toolboxforteachingwell.com and www.jillwhite.org

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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