Nathaniel Provencio is a career educator who has worked in public education for over 20+ years. Nathaniel has served as a teacher, school principal, and associate superintendent. Nathaniel is an award-winning leader, author, and speaker on regional, state, and national levels, and currently serves as a national school leadership consultant focusing on school improvement, team development, and community engagement.

Show Highlights

Genuine ways to truly advocate for students and families.

Leverage your school’s relationships with families to create greater academic success.

The 4 As every school needs to focus on.
Branding your schools will give you a 5 star rating.
Give your learning communities the “customer experience” they deserve
Stop purchasing the silver bullets in education.
Build instructional and cultural frameworks to avoid the challenges facing school systems.
Don’t have an “open doors” policy but have a “doors open” policy.
“At the end of the day, leadership is service and customer service. How we treat those that engage with our product, the experience of school. And that means our staff. That means our student, that means our parents. Will they give you a five out of five star type of experience if they reviewed you. It’s a good question to ask.”
- Nathaniel Provencio

Dr Chris Jones

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Read the Transcript here.

Earn 5 Star Connections at Schools Transcript

Daniel (00:02):
When you think about being a school leader, what are the things you wish that you were taught in your certification program, graduate school, maybe even undergraduate? Today, during my conversation with Nathaniel Provencio we dig into stuff like service and branding. At the end of the day, leadership is service and customer service. How we treat those that engage with our product, the experience of school. And that means our staff. That means our student, that means our parents. What they give you a five out of five star type of experience if they reviewed you. It’s a good question to ask. What’s the reputation that you have out in the community? What do they say about you? You could put in a ton of money, a ton of work into branding and marketing, saying, we’re the best school in the world, or whatever you wanna say about your campus.

Daniel (00:58):
What people say about you in the community matters even more. Now, don’t get me wrong, the map is not the territory. So yes, Facebook groups and things like that can really go off and say a lot of negative stuff. That doesn’t necessarily mean that is a reflection, an accurate reflection of what’s happening in your school. But what do people say at block parties? What do people say at kids’ birthday parties and that kind of thing as well. We’ll dig into these topics today, and I think it is certainly an interesting conversation to listen to. Hey, I’m Danny, a principal in development retention expert. I’m a two-time bestselling author, and I host two of the world’s most downloaded podcast. This show is for you, a Ruckus Maker, which means you’ve made three commitments, you’ve committed to your continuous growth, you’ve committed to challenging the status quo, and you’ve committed to designing the future of school. I’ll be back after a few short messages from our show sponsors.

Daniel (02:06):
I’m sure you’ve heard that energy flows to where attention goes. If you wanna get more of what you want when you want it, as a school leader, I’ve got a tool for you. The secret is to celebrate the positive things happening on campus and to go multiple levels deeper to tap into why it even matters. When you do that, anything is possible on your campus, and I mean anything. And you start to get more of what you want, when you want it. If you’d like to spread more positivity and create more value for all stakeholders on your campus, go to betterLeadersbetterschools.com/positive and download your free tool today. How would you like to increase student talk by an average of 40% more student ownership? More student discourse? Check it out for yourself by trying out Teach fx. Go to teachfx.com/betterleaders to pilot their program today. If executive functioning skills are integral to student success, then why aren’t they taught explicitly and consistently in classrooms? I have no idea. I have no idea why that doesn’t happen. But what I do know is that our friends over at Organized Binder have created a new course that will teach your teachers how to set up students for success via executive functioning skills. Learn [email protected]/go.

Daniel (03:34):
Ruckus Maker Today I am joined by Nathaniel Provincio, a career educator who has worked in public education for over 20 plus years. Nathaniel has served as a teacher, school principal and associate superintendent. Nathaniel is an award-winning leader, author, and speaker on regional state national levels, and currently serves as a national school leadership consultant focusing on school improvement, team development and community engagement. Welcome to the show, Nathaniel.

Nathaniel (04:07):
Danny, thanks for having me, man. I really appreciate it.

Daniel (04:09):
Let’s start with an idea of what does it really mean to advocate for students and families?

Nathaniel (04:19):
That’s a great question. I’ve always seen the role of educators, whether that’s the school leader, the teacher, faculty, superintendent district staff. We, we are in a true service. We’re in the profession that makes all professions possible. And so oftentimes we take that job of advocate maybe for granted a little bit. And what I like to see is that we kind of take a step back and center ourself to what it means to truly serve our school customers. And oftentimes we don’t really consider the students or the teachers or the families as customers, but they’re our customers, our student, are our primary customers. Our teachers and staff also need to be valued customers or our parents and families are also valued customers. And we have to advocate for them. We have to serve them their needs. And I think that we’ve kind of, I don’t wanna say lost focus, but as I work with schools across the country, I’ve seen this rush and this urge, Danny, to kind of surround ourselves with stuff the purchasing of the programs the silver bullet. It’s very interesting how Adam Smith’s kind of like hand invisible hand of economics kind of capitalism comes into play after a catastrophe like the pandemic. And I’ve seen that in our schools and we’ve invested so much time on stuff, and we’ve invested so much time and resources on programs. I think we’ve forgotten that it’s not about stuff, Danny, it’s about students. It’s not about stuff, it’s about stakeholders. It’s not about programs, Danny. It’s about people. And I think that we need to just take a step back and understand that we’re advocating for stakeholders through the, through education.

Nathaniel (06:18):
Not only serving but also giving experiences. And I think that is where there’s been a disconnect between maybe those that are anti-public schools or maybe have a negative connotation of public schools and are looking for more options for students outside of public schools. I think that because there’s been a little bit of a disconnect between advocating for students and parents and families, and maybe we have diminished their voice in a lot of aspects that they found avenues for other outlets to hear them out. And it’s, and it’s become this, this challenge in our school system. I’m doing this work. I’m not only am I helping build instructional frameworks, I’m also trying to build cultural frameworks and help leverage the capacity that school leaders and district leaders have. And not only serving through instructional means and academic means, but serving through experiences as well. So that’s what it means to advocate for me.

Daniel (07:17):
Can you take me to a moment and really like, dig more into this customer service idea? I like what you’re saying there and I think service oriented campuses and systems certainly perform better than those that don’t think of themselves that way. You’ve touched on it, why it’s important a bit, but let’s keep pulling on that thread. Do you have a story, an anecdote, an illustration of a space, maybe you led it, maybe it’s a place that you’ve worked with that’s like really doing it right?

Nathaniel (07:54):
I think that creating a culture of service and experience is not necessarily something that’s germane to school leaders and teachers and faculty. I don’t remember ever having a single class bachelor’s or master’s level in customer service or experience as an educator. I’m probably sure that you didn’t either. I’m gonna go out a limb and say you didn’t, I probably had more training in customer service and experience as a cart pusher at a Walmart than I ever did as an educator. Yet everything we do as educators is providing an experience, providing service. And so some folks are just natural at it. Like they’ve got this, this balance of warmth and like emotional intelligence and, and, and traditional intelligence. And they’re perfect at creating a culture of service and experience for their stakeholders. Some folks aren’t. And so we have to try to find that balance when we’re hiring people. Oftentimes, I’m a dad, I was a principal, my spouse is a teacher. I live this all the time. I’ll give you a a personal example. I went to my son’s school. I travel all the time. So I usually don’t get a chance to go to my kid’s school, which is when I go, it’s a big deal. So my son broke his leg. Long story it was terrible. I had to change my schedule to pull some daddy duties so I can help take him to his medical appointments in the afternoon. Now, I hadn’t been to his school in a long time. I pull in, I called the school ahead of time and say, Hey, I’m Nathaniel I’m gonna be picking up my son and I pull in to the parking lot and I’d never been to a school before. I walk up and I can’t really find the entrance. I don’t know where to knock, there’s no signage or anything. I’m like, Hey, what’s going on?

Nathaniel (09:44):
I’m looking around. And so finally I see that little silver, button. It’s like a doorbell, like a video bell kind of thing. I’m like pressing on it and pressing on it, and I don’t really hear anything, and I’m waiting around and I’m like, gosh, I think this is right. So I press on it again, and Danny, all I hear was, “ID” like, that’s what I heard in the other end. Now, I dunno if you’re like me, but when someone says, ID, I think of being pulled over by the police and getting like a negative experience. I’m like, oh my gosh, ID, and all I’m thinking about like, it’s almost like a trauma, like trying get my ID. Like, did I do something wrong? Did I say something? I got an experience of maybe I’m not really welcomed here, but that’s just how I perceived it.

Nathaniel (10:28):
So finally I’m like, yeah here’s my ID Nathaniel, I’m here to pick up my son, blah, blah, blah. I go in and then we’re kind of laughing when I go in inside, I was kind of chuckling and I was like, ‘Hey, listen when I rang that doorbell, all I heard was ID. And I was like, is that how the school answers? And you know, the secretary, God bless her heart, she was just like, oh, no, no, like we say this message. And I’m like, oh, okay, well I didn’t hear that. Let me go outside. This is me being me. Let me go outside. Let’s try it again. And we tried it again. I wasn’t trying to be asinine or anything, I just wanted to hear what was going on. And there was a latency between when the secretary spoke and what I received because she had never had to answer the door. She never heard that. That was just an opportunity to cultivate, like, yes, there’s a service there of keeping our kids safe and going through the motions, but the experience was id. And so imagine how many other parents maybe just accepted that as opposed to creating a dialogue and trying to fix it. These little things happen all the time. Another quick example, Danny, when I was a principal, even though there were necessary, I would at horror, IEP meetings, IEP meetings with the sp going through the special education process, I just would sit there and I’d say to myself, if I were a parent sitting at the otheside of this table, I would be mortified at the jargon and the formality and the pressure. It is to sign a lifelong agreement, to give a label on a child that may stick with them their entire educational career.

Nathaniel (12:06):
This is so challenging. I just remember saying to myself, this is such a horrible experience. Yes, we’re providing a service of faith-based service. But that experience for that parent who may be a second language learner, this is not good experience. So when we start seeing things through a student’s eyes, when we start seeing things through parents and family’s eyes, when we start seeing things through visitors’ eyes, I think it gives us a better perception of what the experience is for our school. And once we can see that, then we can change it and we can enhance it. Because here’s the thing, there’s like 97,000 plus public schools in America. Every one of those schools is unique. It’s a snowflake. It’s a fingerprint. It has a certain identity and mystique, a brand about it.

Nathaniel (12:56):
And I don’t think school leaders think about how they’re setting theirselves apart from all those other schools. And yes, we all provide a good academic experience or academic service, but do we really give true, meaningful experiences? And this isn’t just for our students, Andy, this is for our staff. I think what’s the 30% of new teachers lead within the first year That’s insanity right now. What are we doing? And it’s not because they’re leaving the profession, they’re leaving people because the experiences that they were given were not what probably they were promised. It’s the whole bait and switch kind of thing. And we need to make sure that our school leaders not only see students as primary stakeholders, but our teachers and our staff because they’re leaving and they have options unlike ever before. And so we need to be aware of this. We’re not only losing students, but we’re not losing staff and parents and families as well.

Daniel (13:47):
That’s an interesting piece at the end there that you bring up by being a service oriented system and really understanding the human experience, whether that’s a staff member and how they navigate the first year teaching of their career. Or it’s a parent that walks on campus and all they hear is, ID, you could really set yourself apart. And it could be an answer for retention in terms of teachers, but also retention of students. You mentioned people are looking elsewhere these days. And you know, within the mastermind we have everything public, private, faith-based, charter, independent, international, it’s really great. But the schools that are really thriving. They do put an emphasis on service. And they also think about how to be a purple cow. Right? I’m not gonna tell the story there, but it’s a Seth Godin book called Purple Cow.

Daniel (14:42):
And the whole point is just about standing out, being different, choosing your edges when every school might be doing X, Y, and Z. How do you do something differently. And equally as great or better and create yeah. Create a remarkable experience so that you stand out. If that’s true, then people will flock. It will be like a magnet bringing folks to you versus versus repelling. I’m really enjoying what you’re, what you’re sharing there. I’m just curious. Thankfully you were there and you basically had them roll. Let’s role play how to use this buzzer, Because as a former school leader, I’m actually gonna teach you how to use this thing that you’ve actually probably not been using correctly forever. Right?

Nathaniel (15:33):
Oh my gosh. I know. And they were probably definitely glad for me to get out of the there.

Daniel (15:38):
Yeah, sure. But so if you were the school leader, that school though, prior to the ID experience, you get a new technology. How would you make sure that like, it was working well or it was delivering that customer experience that you wanna see?

Nathaniel (15:55):
It’s all about taking the time to look at it through the lens of the person that we’re providing the service for. We spend a lot of time through our own hemisphere of interest. What’s important to our niche like, what’s gonna make our job quote unquote easier. I always like I go back to being as a principal. Like at first I was like, I’m going to have an open doors policy. I’m gonna sit in my office and I’m gonna wait for people to come to my door, and I’m not gonna turn them away because I have an open doors policy. I’m wondering why no one’s coming to my door? Well, that’s great I don’t have to talk to anyone, but I got an open doors policy. And probably after two or three years, I realize that’s the wrong philosophy to have. I need to have a doors open policy. People aren’t gonna come to me unless I come to them. And so instead of waiting and complaining why I don’t have parents and families coming to our school, I need to meet them where they are exactly and figure out why they’re not coming to our school. Instead of them knocking on my door, I need a knock on their door. So let me get a team of people. Let’s go canvass the neighborhood and let’s talk to moms and let’s figure out exactly what’s going on. What do they need? How can we better serve them? What do they love about our school? What do they hate about our school? Let’s get some public perception data, qualitative and quantitative, and let’s figure that out. Well, I could just sit back and wait for people to come to my door, or I could have gone to them. And I think that when we start meeting our parents and families, our students and our teachers where they are, we can take them where we want them to be. I go back to this Danny, the vision and mission statement. It’s such a germane u ubiquitous kind of part of our schools, yet more often than not, most vision and mission statements of schools absolutely stink.

Nathaniel (17:47):
I’m telling you, they’re not very good. They’re like, someone like dissertation, three page long, no one knows what they are. You get one parent member to sign off that you’ve got a vision and mission statement, and it’s not creative collaboratively. It doesn’t really say anything. We need to keep it simple. I was reading, the world’s oldest leadership book. I think it’s called the Bible. And there’s this little statement that I read that stuck out with me and I remember it. It’s like Habeca two. It says something like, make your vision statement, like simple and understandable. I’m paraphrasing, like this has been around for thousands of years, yet our mission statements in our schools, my man, are just like so long. They’re disingenuous. They don’t mean anything to anyone. Well, I can’t create a culture of service and experience if, if I don’t know the direction that the school’s going.

Nathaniel (18:40):
So like, can a kindergartner articulate the intentionality of your school? That’s your vision statement. Can a kindergartner articulate the movements, the actions, that’s your mission. And so that’s how I try to explain it to people is it’s like we’re trying to create an experience and a culture, but yet we do things just for the sake of doing them. And we have no idea why we’re doing it. And if a kid doesn’t help align your staff, it doesn’t help inspire your staff, it doesn’t help motivate your staff, then it’s aimed in the wrong direction. So even something like a vision and mission statement, like we can cultivate that to create a true service culture for our students or parents or family and our staff.

Daniel (19:20):
A hundred percent that that profit you are quoting, I think it has to do with write the vision down so that those who read it will run.

Nathaniel (19:31):
Run run to it Simple, simple.

Daniel (19:33):
It’s simple, exciting, motivating, inspiring. And I will say this, I mean by the time Ruckus Makers listen to our episode, my live event on Vision’s Over, but I will just point out that my fourth book, which is called the Remarkable Vision Formula, is essentially I’ve taught this a number of times through events. It’s a guided retreat in your pocket. So this, this shows about you.

Nathaniel (19:59):
No, that’s awesome.

Daniel (19:59):
Plant that seed for Ruckus Makers, if they wanna do that vision work, because to your point, and you said, stink, I’ll 10 times that they suck most visions and missions suck. And they’re the opposite. Remarkable. They are just easily forgettable because they’re not inspiring, motivating, they’re filled with jargon to your point, like special ed meetings. It’s not what people are looking for. Again, connecting dots. How can we do things differently? Pick our edges so that people get super excited about it. So I’m loving this discussion. This is a good place to take a pause for a quick sponsorship break. But when we come back I just mentioned my book, you have a book, community Connections, and your PLC at Work, A Guide to Engaging Families. So let’s talk about families when we get back.

Nathaniel (20:55):
You bet. Let’s do it.

Daniel (20:57):
In post pandemic classrooms, student talk is crucial. And when classrooms come alive with conversation teachers and students both Thrive, Teach FX helps teachers make it happen. The Teach FX instructional coaching app provides insights into student talk, effective questions, and classroom conversation quality. Teach FX professional development compliments the app and empowers teachers with best practices for generating meaningful student discourse. Teachers using Teach FX increase their student talk by an average of 40%. Imagine that 40% more ownership over the class by students. Ruckus Makers can pilot teach FX with their teachers. Visit teachfx.com/betterleaders to learn how. That’s teachfx.com/betterLeaders, teachers give it their all to empower their students. But what is it that truly lays the foundation for learning what sets all students up for success? As you know, unless students develop a solid foundation for learning, it doesn’t matter how great teachers deliver content or how emergent the technology is, or even how engaging a lesson might be. When students hone executive functioning skills, those seemingly intangible suite of habits and behaviors, teachers efforts find fertile ground and everyone succeeds. Ironically, did you know that executive functioning skills are not taught? Rather, they are best learned when students get practiced using them by virtue of engaging in a predictable daily learning routine? Our friends at Organized Binder have created a new course that will teach your teachers how to set students up for success. And you can learn [email protected]/go help your students [email protected]/go.

Daniel (22:58):
We are back with Nathaniel Provincio, and like I mentioned before the break, he has a book, community Connections, and your PLC at Work, A Guide to Engaging Families. A lot of what we’ve already talked about has to do it right. Service at orientation. Meeting folks where they are at, going on offense. Not waiting around, but any other sort of ideas you wanna share in terms of leveraging relationships with families and how that might translate to academic success.

Nathaniel (23:29):
I’ll share a quick story. I used to not share this story because it was, it’s such a personal story, but I’ve been becoming more comfortable with sharing bits. And it’s really important because it just, for me, it highlights the importance that every, the assets and the beauty that every parent and family can offer our schools. And I’m gonna try to paraphrase this as much as possible, but as a superintendent, during the pandemic, as schools were starting to reopen a lot of our parents in had the opportunity either to choose in-person or virtual. And for a lot of reasons, parents were in and out of the schools. It was in Northern Virginia lots of economically disadvantaged, challenged communities, lots of parents that are coming from other countries.

Nathaniel (24:22):
So there’s a lot of who don’t have insurance. There’s a lot of those types of demographics of schools we’re dealing with and still dealing with. And so when I was a superintendent I would be driving around to the schools, just checking on the schools, seeing how, checking in with the principals, checking in with the teachers, the kids, seeing how everything was going for those that schools were open. And one day, as I’m driving around, I notice a lady who appeared to be homeless on the side of the road. She had the cardboard sign asking for money. And generally we don’t even like pause or notice this type of circumstance. I think we can be kind of desensitized to some of the needs that our community members have. And I’ll be the first to admit that I was one of those.

Nathaniel (25:08):
But as I noticed, this lady was at a big traffic light. And like, there’s all kinds of traffic going on. And I noticed this lady, I looked again and I noticed she had a child with her. Now, as a superintendent, I’m like, this doesn’t look right. This is not a safe situation. I don’t wanna scare this person away, but I need to, I just feel compelled to pull over and check on this family member or if it is a family member, just to see what’s going on. So I pulled over, found a couple bucks in my pocket, and I walked up to the lady and I said, Hey, I’m just want you to know I’m with the school system. My name’s Nathaniel here’s a couple bucks. I’m not I’m not the police.

Nathaniel (25:46):
I’m just for to check in with you and see if this is your child and what we can do to help. So she started talking to me and as she was talking to me, I did notice that the child had a laptop and that the child was actually working on the laptop. She was explaining the situation, which was that she had just got kicked out of her home. She didn’t have a place to stay, and she doesn’t know what else to do, just to try to raise money, do a little panhandling, to just get a place to stay for the night. I’m listening to her, and I just felt this, this sincerity about her, this honesty about this, this mother. And she said, listen, I have my child here, but we love our school so much, even though we moved away, I don’t think I can have him go to that school.

Nathaniel (26:32):
But we love our school so much. We said that we wanna do virtual learning. Even though I’m out here begging for money, panhandling, if you can see, my child is in class right now. And Danny, it just, it just blew me away. This, this mother’s story. And I looked at the child, the child was in class, he’s on the side of the street, he’s, his mother’s begging for money. The background, just like mine is blurred, but he’s participating in class. So I, I told that mom, I was like, listen, I’ve got resources for you. We’re gonna call our social worker. We’re gonna do everything we can. We’re gonna get you a place to stay for the week, and we’re going to you don’t have to worry about transportation wherever you land. We’ll get a bus so that your child can keep going to that school.

Nathaniel (27:12):
And it just hit me like, not only was was I at a literal crossroads intersection with that parent. I think my professional life was also at a crossroads because maybe before I would’ve dismissed this parent as abusive, I would’ve dismissed this parent as, as something less than. But this parent wanted the exact same thing that all of her parents want. She just wanted the best for her child. And she had to do what she could do to keep her child in that school. She said she loved the school. She said that it broke her heart that her child couldn’t still attend that school, but because of her circumstances were so significant, she just couldn’t make it happen. So do we see every parent and family member as assets standing or do we see them as obstacles? Right? And this is not just for our upper middle class schools.

Nathaniel (27:58):
All of our schools, like every parent and family wants the exact same thing. They want the absolute best for their kid. And do we allow them to, to show us that? And do we provide for them so that they can do that? I’ve got four A’s that I focus on with my work with family engagement and involvement to try to help schools create the territory and create the, the platform and the ecosystem to really involve and engage parents. I call ’em my four A’s. It’s basically just attendance, academics, attitudes, and advocacy. So lemme try to break these downs. Attendance is basically how welcoming are we as a school to our parents and families? Like how, what does our actual attendance number look like? How many visitors, volunteers do we have in our school? And are we creating the opportunities for parents to attend not only events, but like in during the instructional day?

Nathaniel (28:52):
Yes, we have to keep a safe environment, but are we keeping a quantitative and qualitative like track of how many parents and visitors we’re having in our school? I’m talking to the Ruckus Maker right now. What does your attendance currently look like at your school? That’s the first day. The second A is academics. Your academic progress is directly related for me to your progress of communicating those academics to your parents and families. Do your parents and families know what your essential standards are that you’re trying to create as a school? Do your parents and families know your actual school data? Are they surprised when they see that your school is a 1, 2, 3 or four, whatever these crazy rankings is. Some states have, like, are you telling them, Hey, look, parents and families, these are our academic needs, these are our academic strengths, and this is what you can do to help support us.

Nathaniel (29:42):
This is what you can do to help support your teachers. So Ruckus Makers, like how transparent are you with the academics in your school? The third thing is attitudes. What is your Yelp review as a school? So Ruckus Makers, if you were to buy a home in your community, I would challenge you to go to zillow.com or whatever it is, and look to see the review the community has for your school. You got a one star school, a two star school, three star school, four star school. Are you actively inviting your parents and your families to share their perceptions in their experiences with you after an event, after an encounter? Like I would say every time a parent and family member comes to your school to enroll, you give them a survey to see how well that service and experience was for them.

Nathaniel (30:28):
If our heads are in the sand, then we think everything is good. When we pull our head out and we’re open to that kind of attitudes and perceptions that our parents and families have, we can improve. And then the final A is what we talked about earlier is advocacy. What resources do we have to advocate for every single parent and family member in our school? What resources do we have to advocate for our communities? And Danny, if we’re advocating for our communities and our parents and families listening to what they need, then when times get hard, they’ll advocate for us. And so that’s what I’ve come to learn and about parent and family engagement. And that story that I shared with you about that mother Danny, her name was Hope. And I get an opportunity whether through through keynotes or speaking or podcasts or or writing to share that message and hope one of the best for her kids. And I think all parents and families want the best regardless of the circumstances. So how can we improve our communication and efforts to raise attendance, to raise academics, to raise attitudes, to raise advocacy?

Daniel (31:32):
A couple things just to highlight for the Ruckus Maker list. one, I love the framing of of seeing all parents. As assets and not obstacles. I’s natural for human beings to sometimes sort of like question or judge things they’re not used to, but self-aware. And we’re getting back to emotional intelligence, which has to do with service and relationships and culture, but knowing you know, who you are, how you’ve been built, understanding that your worldview. And values like they’re important to you, but they might not be the same as everybody else. Their lived experiences, so on and so forth, doesn’t make it right or wrong. Just different. And so if you catch yourself judging certain pockets of people or parents or whatever, stop, it’s not helpful. Instead, how is this person an asset?

Daniel (32:28):
What can I learn from them? What is the value they can bring to the, to the campus? I love the four key areas, attendance, academics, attitudes, and advocacy. And I really want to sort of like bang the gong on this idea of your Yelp review as a school. Shout out to Jocelyn. I’m not gonna give her last name, but she’s a principal in Cleveland Metro. And when she inherited the school, lowestblevel ranking. And for some folks, you gotta be very careful about like, do you accept that label? Is that the story now you tell about our community? Is that all you could ever aspire to be this lowest level school? She had a bunch bigger hope and aspiration for her community and worked hard and just in a couple years turned it around. Now it’s a level three school, and I think it’s out of four or five.

Daniel (33:23):
She’s trending in the right direction. I just wanna encourage the Ruckus Maker listing that you, even in very, very difficult situations, you could turn it into an extraordinary space. Again, service. And I think we’re also talking about this Yelp review which reminds me of branding. Another thing not taught necessarily in the ivory towers, but before the last few questions I asked all the guests, anything you wanna nerd out on in terms of like branding and schools? Because at Zillow review, that’s your reputation out in the community.

Nathaniel (34:03):
Absolutely. Absolutely. I also wanna just make sure your listeners Ruckus Makers, understand that people see through BS very easily, whatever you’d want to say BS stands for. And if you’re putting up perception that our schools like Disney World everything is gray. Look at all these like stock image photos that we have of on our website and look at our Facebook presence and look at all everything’s great. It’s, and then you go to the school and it’s like purgatory, the results are miserable. Your Yelp reviews for, or your whether it’s niche.com or school digger dot org or if it’s they’re great schools, whatever it is. And it’s just like abysmal people will see through that. Like, if your results are not where it needs to be, you can, you can brand all you want and create a, a false perception, a false persona. And I just think that is just so disingenuous. And believe it or not, that happens, that happens a lot. So it’s more important that your branding is the perception that your students, your teachers, your family members, your parents. What are they sharing about your school. So I would say that as a principal, you can brand all you want, but do your parents brand for you. You know, there’s something called W W O M, word of mouth branding, which is

Daniel (35:34):
The best kind too free

Nathaniel (35:35):
Of charge. You don’t have have to pay anything for it, but like, it’s the best kind. So like right now, like if I, if I go to a school and I get a warm feeling, and then people are smiling and their attitude is great, you can tell that there’s a mixture of warmth and intelligence and competency and, and the principal meets me at the door and says, oh, Nathaniel, we’re so welcome to have you. We’re looking forward to that. And I just get this feeling that I’m well received and that I’m well that I’m welcome. Oh my gosh, I’m gonna share that. Like, that’s the school that I want my kid to go to. What’s going on? Oh, and by the way, when I looked at your results, I saw that you were struggling in some areas, but man, look at the growth that you’re having.

Nathaniel (36:19):
That’s awesome. So the results have to match the actions and the intentions, and that’s how you can create a good brand. I just don’t think that we, that we’re trained of that or that we realize, and I’m not blaming the principals. I think that there’s an effort for the whole system. Educational colleges, universities, are we training everyone with that school district and leaders. I’m gonna put some blame and onus on you. And I think they, they shirk their responsibility way too much. I know, I was one of ’em. It’s very easy to blame the principal, but the principals will operate under the direction that their supervisors give them. So I’m gonna call out district supervisors, I’m gonna call out superintendents, I’m gonna call out school boards. What are you doing from the top to ensure that your every one of your schools is a service oriented, great service, great experience, culture, or are you just buying more stuff and putting more managerial tasks? A principal do what they’re told. Principals are great at that. So do you inspire them, empower them, and engage them into creating a service mentality? Or are you checking off the box for another plan to fill out or another product to purchase and, and mandate? Well, that’s not the principle, that’s their supervisors. So just gotta call it as it is.

Daniel (37:36):
Yeah, good point. Good point. Alright, so at the end of every show, Nathaniel, I love to ask guests these three questions. So, number one if you could put a message on all school marquees around the world for a single day, what would your message be?

Nathaniel (37:51):
I have to go back to my personal vision statement. Okay. And I think that that’s what keeps me motivated to do this work. And maybe if it were on a marquee, maybe it would, it would also help. So here it is. It’s ensuring educational excellence for every school. That’s my personal vision statement. What am I doing through, through writing, through speaking, through coaching to ensure educational excellence for every school. So if that message on a marquee would say every school would, it’d be for every student at this elementary school, at this middle school, at this high school, we ensure educational excellence for every child. I think if we can just do that and make sure that our actions match up with our intentions, we’ll be just fine.

Daniel (38:37):
You were building your dream school, Nathaniel, and you had no limitations, no constraints in terms of resources. Your only limitation was your ability to imagine what would be the three guiding principles, building this dream school.

Nathaniel (38:53):
First of all, Danny, you would be work on my staff for the dream school.

Daniel (38:58):
I like that answer.

Nathaniel (39:00):
I would only hire, hire Ruckus Makers to fill those fill those classrooms. I go back to this, it would be three things. Commitment to every student and commitment to best practices. It would be collaboration in everything we do. And it would be a focus on the community. It would be three C’s, commitment, collaboration, and community. If we can be committed to best practice committed to each other, we’ll be just fine. If we can make sure that we’re not working in isolation or, or independence, but working more in collaboration and interdependence will be just fine. And it’s not just about the school, the community inside the school, Danny. It’s about our entire community. So those would be my big three mission actions.

Daniel (39:45):
Brilliant. And we covered a lot of ground today, Nathaniel. So of everything we discussed, what’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?

Nathaniel (39:53):
Oh my gosh, every kid has your last name. And just like we would want the best for our own children, our own relatives, our own family. Why would we want anything less for someone else’s? In short, educational excellence for every kid and man, make sure every kid has your last.

Daniel (40:10):
Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders, better Schools podcast, Ruckus Maker. How would you like to lead with confidence? Swap exhaustion for energy? Turn your critics into cheerleaders and so much more. The Ruckus Maker Mastermind is a world-class leadership program designed for growth-minded school leaders. Just like you. Go to BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/mastermind. Learn more about our program and fill out the application. We’ll be in touch within 48 hours to talk how we can help you be even more effective. And by the way, we have cohorts that are diverse and mixed up. We also have cohorts just for women in leadership and a bipo only cohort as well. When you’re ready to level up, go to Better Leaders, better schools.com/mastermind and fill out the application. Thanks again for listening to the show. Buy for now and go make a ruckus.



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