We’ve all been there before. Running out to pick up pizza for a school party or to keep people energized as they work long hours. I can’t begin to count the number of pizzas that I’ve purchased in my career as an educator for events like yearbook work sessions and after-school department meetings. And let’s be real. Pizza is easy. It’s cheap. No plates are needed and most people are happy to grab a slice and get back to work.

But the easy way isn’t always the best way. I recall returning to work from a conference a few years ago. There was cold, leftover pizza in the workroom refrigerator. I asked about the pizza and discovered that it was delivered to me from a business partner. Days old pizza is not so good. The partner didn’t think beyond the easy way to determine what might be a better method to show appreciation for our team.

This discussion with colleagues about pizza led to a conversation about partnerships and the importance of engaging with partners in a meaningful way. Partnerships are a two-way street, and I hope that schools as well as organizations that partner with schools will benefit from this post. Partnerships cover a wide spectrum from a classroom teacher connecting with a business partner for mentoring to a school district engaging with a partner for a variety of services including consulting, professional development, or products. With so many businesses and organizations offering services, we must be careful to engage with the right partners. We don’t have money or time for everything and can’t afford to be burned by failing initiatives.

Here is my eight slice pizza with tips to guide you as you engage with partner organizations and businesses:

pizza

  1. Research – Do your background research by looking at credible sources and calling other schools that have used the product or service. Talk with people beyond those who are recommended by the potential partner. Testimonials on a website are great but they don’t tell the whole story.

  2. Customer Success – Does the organization or business have a customer success representative who is assigned to work with you? Organizations that don’t invest in someone to make others successful are setting themselves up for failure. I recall a recent conversation when I called a customer service center about repairs needed to my home Internet access. I was very frustrated with the response time but the support person on the phone with me never once got mad. He continued to talk calmly and worked with me on a solution. If your organization is receiving services from an business and you provide feedback, they should welcome feedback and work with you on solving the problem.

  3. Ongoing Support – The beginning of a partnership is a lot like a honeymoon. You and the partner will spend a lot of time together and you get used to this support. What happens after the honeymoon? The partner will move on to find new clients. Will they continue to check in with you and provide ongoing support? Will the cost go up over time? Ask support questions before you enter into an agreement.

  4. Agreements – Is there a partnership agreement that clearly spells out what services or products you’ll receive? If you’re receiving a discount on a software product, what are the expectations from you in return? If a partnership fails, what are the loose ends that you’ll be left to tie up? How will the partner help you with the transition beyond the awkward breakup?

  5. Privacy – If you’re using an online platform provided by the partner, are there clearly defined privacy statements about ownership of data and how that data will be used? In the age of analytics, all businesses are collecting data about customers. Take some time to discuss the privacy policy with others and include your attorney if there are questions about the policy. If the partnership ends, does the business still have access to your student or teacher data and can they continue to use that data?

  6. Total Cost of Ownership – Beyond financial costs, what is the cost that your school will pay for implementing a product or service? How many hours will people devote to the project and is it sustainable in the long run? Ask what it’s worth to you and always be clear with the partner about your goals for the partnership.

  7. Outcomes – What is your vision for the partnership? Doe your definition of success align with that of the partner? Metrics and funding are important, but the bottom line is that you achieve the desired outcomes for your partnership.

  8. Opportunities – Most important, what opportunities will be opened up for your school and the teachers and students who engage with the partner? Will the product or service benefit your organization? Will professional development and consulting services empower participants with skills and tools to improve learning?

Good partnerships are about telling each other’s stories, celebrating successes, and supporting each other when things aren’t going well. Our success as a customer means their success as a partner organization. Let’s go beyond the pizza party to form partnerships that bring value to students and teachers in our schools.

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As I wander through bookstores and online communities, I pick up quite a few books for learning and enjoyment. After a great year of reading and reflecting on my learning, I’m happy to share out my reading prescription list for 2017.

Creativity and Thinking:

What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund – How do we visual what we’re reading and fill in the gaps in the text? Understand more about your own reading and also learn how you can help students become better readers.

Originals by Adam Grant celebrates our unique talents and skills which allow us to go against the status quo and have success in our work and personal lives.

The Autistic Brain: Helping Different Kinds of Minds Succeed by Temple Grandin. Temple shares her unique and personal perspective on autism and provides us with great strategies for connecting with autistic students.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. What’s not to love about an octopus? This personal account by Sy Montgomery allows us to peek into the lives of these intelligence creatures and learn more about how they connect with each other and with humans.

Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry. Any teacher who struggles with  creating the required course syllabus will love this interactive approach to teaching writing and creativity.

Maker-Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their World by Edward P. Clapp, Jessica Ross, Jennifer O. Ryan, Shari Tishman. The authors provide a firm foundation in maker learning and a framework for integrating maker learning into classrooms and schools.

So Many Ideas:

What Do You Do With an Idea and What Do You Do With a Problem by Kobi Yamada. When you’re facing a big problem or you have a big idea, these books will inspire you to keep going. Suitable for young children as well as adults who are young at heart.

Innovating for People Handbook of Human-Centered Design Methods by the LUMA Institute. The LUMA Institute provides a wealth of activities to use during the design thinking process. Keep this book handy!

Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques by Michael Michalko. Think like a genius and unlock your creativity with these techniques. Use the Thinkpak to jumpstart your thinking when you’re feeling stuck.

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. Use this book as a guide to run your own five-day design sprint to solve tough challenges for your organization.

Being Our Best:

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Take a deep dive into the research about how habits are formed and learn strategies to bring winning habits into your life.

Healing Spaces: The Science of Space and Well Being by Esther Sternberg. Our senses, emotions, and immune system all work together and can bring us a sense of well being or feelings of disaster and anxiety. Find a great place to read this book and reduce the stress in your life.

Unsubscribe by Jocelyn Glei. Unsubscribe, disconnect, and get yourself loose from those pesky e-mails and messages that take up so much of your time. Tame the beast and bring sanity back into your life.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown. Brené’s exploration of the research behind shame led her to some surprising discoveries about our need for connection and community. By becoming shame resilient and opening ourselves up to vulnerability, we also open up the door to wholehearted living. Watch her TED Talk to be inspired!

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington. Through her own experience of being over-worked and stressed, Arrianna Huffington shares strategies that helped her to unplug and feel more connected at home and work.

The Human Condition:

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. You’ll grow to love this cranky neighbor! Ove inspires readers to look beyond the exterior and see the person inside.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. Walk out of the door with Harold Fry and you’ll go on your own journey of self-reflection and discovery.

Off the Road: A Modern Day Pilgrim’s Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route into Spain by Jack Hitt will inspire you to take your own pilgrimage and do it your way.

There Is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love by Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D. and Emily McDowell. The authors explore empathy and how we can connect with others who are encountering challenges in their lives.

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