Just Be Visible with Dr. David Franklin
2022-11-29_79_Franklin_School Success_Unedited Audio
Can every school succeed? That's a big question and I'm not sure about the answer. I do know that every school can get better. Is that enough? Again, I don't know. But I do know someone who knows, and he's our guest on today's show. Hello colleagues, and welcome to the Assistant Principal podcast. I'm your host, Frederick Busky. The goal of this podcast is to help improve the life and leadership of assistant principals. This podcast complements Quadrant 2, our free bimonthly micro journal, and you can find a subscription link in the show notes or go to frederickbusky.com backslash quadrant two. Today I'm joined by Doctor David Franklin, the district strategy consultant for Nearpod. David is here with us today to share how to help your school succeed. Hello, David.
Hello, how are you doing?
Today I'm great and I'm so excited to have you on for multiple reasons, but I just want to let listeners know that I first came across your work in Facebook and confession. I'm not really a huge Facebook fan, but I noticed that you have a tremendous community of school administrators and school leaders on community called the Principals desk, which I'll encourage listeners to go and check out. Can you tell us a bit about that group in particular? And then also kind of your journey to forming that group and then where you are today.
Yeah, yeah. I think actually I can probably explain the group by kind of talking just a little bit about my journey 1st and and get into it because it it all kind of builds up to the group. But I was a I was a teacher and a principal for 15 years in California public schools. I was a music teacher, middle school music teacher and loved my job and I was encouraged to to get into administration. And so I, I kind of tossed my hat in the ring, got my masters and said, OK, let's, let's see what happens. And at 27 years old, I got, I got the call to be an assistant principal. And so I moved from Southern California to Northern California. I went from a kind of a high income school to a school in a kind of a difficult neighborhood where just a lot of crime, a lot of gang involvement, poverty and kids going through a lot of different things and kind of got thrust into this. I spent one year as an assistant principal there learned a ton under my principal, who had been a veteran for about 2530 years. She left to go to the district office and then all of a sudden, at 28 years old, I was asked to become the principal of that same school. And I was terrified. And like I made every mistake in the book multiple times. I didn't learn from my mistakes. I didn't even know I was making them until I made it two or three times. But we had a good run there. Except for five years total. And and we we did a lot with school culture, a lot with student academic achievement. But after about five years, I did move to an elementary school a little closer to home. Because I have I have little ones at the time and I want to get some elementary experience and as well was there for five years. We became a California to see where school for the first time in the school's history and then I seem to do everything in five year chunks as what I do. So I was there for five years and then I moved on to higher Ed, Professor of Education for three years total full time. I've been an adjunct professor now for 12 years, but full time for three years and decided to get into more consulting roles here I joined up with Doctor Robert Marzano. So I'm an associate of his and so I have delivered professional development around the country for for him and I worked for Edtech startup for about a year before moving into my role at Nearpod as a district strategic consultant. So I get to work schools and teachers around the world and just developing their use of instructional technology and really enhancing student engagement. Around the time I left my principal ship is when I started the principal's desk Facebook group. I wasn't on Facebook. Microsoft wasn't a huge user. I didn't really want to find people from my high school. I had just had no desire to doing that. But I got on Facebook and I wanted a place where I could actually post the things that I was starting to write. So I started a blog called the Principal's Desk and I was posting a couple of different groups and I was like, yeah, I'll create my own. That way I can post whatever I want in there. It build, it built very slowly. Had maybe a couple hundred for a year and then went up to maybe a couple thousand and right around 2020 is when this boom hits and. I watched it go from just a couple thousand to fifty thousand to seventy five thousand it seemed like overnight and right now as of i haven't actually checked it today but as of yesterday two hundred and three thousand educators from around the world and we represent about two hundred and nine countries around the world and this amazing group it's like a think tank of different educators asking questions providing feedback best practices it's just an amazing group where anyone can say hey i've got this question and then within ten minutes you have you know fifty responses and you pick the one you want to go with so it's been it's been a journey for sure awesome well, and what I love about your journey is just the variety of experiences and I think that's one thing that's really important for school leaders is to learn to be able to take those different perspectives. And so you having that, I think it was high school and and then also elementary and different parts of the state for people that don't know California, different parts of the state are vastly different from each other and then dabbling in higher Ed and then having all that consulting stuff going on so. What a great variety of experiences.
So I feel very lucky just to be able to just work with different educators and different things. It's been, it's been great. I've learned a lot from all them. Other years too.
I think that's the secret. That's what I always say. I don't know if I have any original thoughts. I just steal from the smartest, best people I can find.
So we like to begin with celebrations. What are you celebrating today?
Well, as we were talking about offline, I have, you know, haven't had a voice for a few days. And so doing these podcasts, I did one the other day finally after about a week of not being able to speak. And I just really enjoy the conversations. And so like I'm celebrating that and also celebrating something I was doing actually last night. I do have a new book coming out and I was working on the artwork for it last night, which is. The fun and and more scary thing for me because picking colors or something I'm not good at and so, but I've got a great team and so, but that was fun. So I've got some really, really exciting things on the horizon. So excited about that, celebrating that.
Cool artwork versus editing. I think artwork would be.
Cool for sure. The editing process is no fun, but important nonetheless.
So listeners of the podcast, hear me preach. Better teachers equals better schools. And you have a book out entitled can every school succeed? And I think the book is really a road map to school improvement. So can you give listeners an overview of that road map and then we'll dive deeper into the role of the assistant principal and the role of teacher development in school success yeah so can every school succeed?
Came out wow it's it's been almost five years, I believe. And it's been that book was an amazing journey. I wrote it. With two superintendents in Kentucky and Jason Bacon and Brian Creasman. And it's it's it is a road map. It's eight steps to school improvement. And I guess just to get kind of the nuts and bolts there, it really has to do with school culture. And like you just said great schools have great teachers. You want to have great teachers, you got to have a great school culture. And so this really. Help school leaders and anybody in general just understand what that could look like and some of the issues that are. Roadblocks to positive school culture. You know, great teachers, equal happy teachers. And I've written about this happy teachers. Our great instructors, great instructors, get through to kids. And I've worked with some amazing teachers over the years, and I've worked with some teachers that were struggling to find their place. And they had bogged down in a lot of negativity. And when we were able to break through that, kind of see the forest through the trees a little bit, you just saw everything change within their instruction and you just saw everything in their classroom change. And teachers are happier, kids were happier, parents were happier. And that leads to. I think, you know, things like increased daily attendance, decrease student disciplinary issues. And you know, again, 8 simple steps, practical steps in that book that kind of lead you through it. And in there I also share out some real life experiences that I had over over the years, you know, and, you know, things that I look back on and I I laugh now. But I remember in the time and the moment these were these were tough things to deal with. But I want everyone to learn from my successes and also my mistakes. As well because again, I made every mistake in the book multiple times.
Yeah, it's is learning from the mistakes. I think is really where the key is, because that that's when you grow. When you're successful, you don't reflect on it and learn from it, but when you fail.
And I've failed hard and I've had some some real deep reflections. And you're right, I mean, out of that came some learning from me. And again, thinking about positive school cultures, you have to be in a position where it's OK to fail in front of everybody. Because if you can't do that, like there there's a culture issue. But I I went back many times to my different stakeholders. Say I got that wrong. This is what happened. And but we were OK because my heart was in the right place. I was trying to better something and we took the wrong path. But hey, let's course correct. And then the next time we did it. Most of the time it was a lot better yeah
And in explaining that I'm imagining that you had already created a culture of transparency and honesty. So you are able to say, whoa, OK, I got that one wrong. What do we need to do? And people know that that's that's sincere and then you can do that course correct. So I guess I don't want to steer us off course. Do you want to just kind of hit on those eight steps and then maybe we start to talk about. Where assistant principals really fit into some of that yeah yeah.
So just to kind of get it back down, a lot of it is, it's transparency. I mean, that is a theme throughout the book, Transparency, Instructional leadership, communication with stakeholders. I mean, those are kind of the large tenants that are in there. And when you go into a lot of schools, transparency is something that's lacking and the schools that I took over. As principal I I think I can look back and say previous administration maybe didn't have the best open door policies and so. Educating current and future administrators, how do you create that notion of transparency without, you know, without having that fear behind it as well? Now everyone can see everything that I've done wrong. That's OK you know, we're not. Educators are not. We're we're not operating on someone. We're not brain surgeons. You know you don't want to make that mistake. You know when you're operating someone for us we're dealing with intangibles so often and we're dealing with feelings and these are things that there's no there's no manual for kids. You know I'd be so much of a better parent if my kid came with a manual but they didn't. And so being able to kind of work through that and have that culture transparency but also be able to to to not just. Talk the talk, but walk the walk. Be able to get into classrooms. Be able to be an instructional leader. Be able to make. Would give really constructive feedback that leads to growth. When we a lot of times we talk about evaluations and observations, there's a stigma to it. And so I always started every, every evaluation cycle, every observation cycle was saying, hey, I'm here to highlight every great thing that you're. And that really just kind of set the tone. You could see like, teachers who were nervous about it, just their guard went down. Like, oh, this is a positive thing. Like, absolutely, if there's any sort of issue, we've already discussed it. So don't. I don't want you freaking out because I freaked out when my principal came into my classroom. It was a terrifying experience. So I was in classrooms all the time. It was one of those like, oh, it's, it's Davidson here again, and the kids finally to it, too. And I was just there so you're visible, you're communicating with everyone. Transparent, you're creating this great culture, but at the same time you're that instructional leader on top of everything and and guiding the school forward. So it takes you through those steps and at the end of it hopefully you're you're. Your outlook is a little brighter than it was at the beginning yeah all right.
Well, that sounds good. Let's dig a little bit deeper. When this episode is going to air, I think the 3rd or fourth week of November and the the two episodes prior to this are about what I refer to as the flywheel. And the flywheel is, is that kind of the foundational structures and practices that drive teacher development. And so you've talked about the importance of instructional feedback. You've talked about the importance of being in classrooms. Those things don't happen without intentionality, and they don't happen without building some systems. So for leaders out there that are finding themselves saying I I can't get into classrooms I want, I know I need to get into classrooms more and. And who then? We want to get them into classrooms and then providing positive feedback and building. That cycle where that's that becomes common, what are two or three of the keys you think for them to to get themselves to the point where they can be in those classrooms doing the instructional leadership stuff?
Absolutely that is the number one issue I hear is I don't have enough time, I'm too busy. So what I used to do and what I I tell my students now, I tell you know, folks that I do consult with. Lock it on your calendar. And you know, principals typically share their calendars with their office staff. I used to block it on my calendar. It's a classroom observations and I told my office staff do not book any appointments during those times and it would be like a two hour chunk every day. And the other thing I said was because, you know, administrators care around radios. Well, walkie-talkie I said. I'm going to turn off my radio when I'm on my classroom observations. If there is an emergency like the school is on fire, or I have a or there's a serious injury or like a true emergency, text me. And because that, it's so easy just to call someone on the walkie-talkie it's like, you know, there's an issue in the lunch room. We ran out of pizza. I'm in a classroom. So that usually set the stage for it and again I encountered it out and I did have some parents. The first year I did this, I had some parents who I found out were a little upset with me because I came down to the school and you know, I was told he wasn't available. I had to work through that, but then they learned. Call ahead and don't just show up, call ahead. And that time is sacred to me. My staff knew that too, so we worked around it. So again, we were educating parents at the same time and and I wanted them to know, hey, being in classrooms is something super important for me. And I want the best education for your kids and for me to ensure that for me to provide feedback and to be there for my teachers, I need to be in classrooms. I'm not going to sit in my office all day long. I will absolutely meet with you, just not during that time. I can give you a call. We can schedule another time. And so it took about a year for everyone to realize that, oh, he's, he's really not going to come back to the office. And my office staff, they they took some hits too. I would buy them coffee every time that happened and we worked through it. So I mean, there's some tangible things that you can do, but you, you make that time sacred. It's the same thing I say about like PLC time like it is sacred, you do not mess with it. My classroom modification time sacred. And the other thing, the other tangible thing to do once you're in the classroom is you leave, a positive posted. Behind I don't care if it was the worst classroom observation you've ever done. Like you find the one thing. You have some nice work on the classroom, work on the walls, bang, post a note on. You know, you never leave something negative, always a positive. And that again helps to bring that fear down from teachers who are not used to you doing this. And they're going to be scared about that posting of the first time. Like what did he put on there? Like what did I do wrong? Oh, he liked, you know, the discussion I was leading. Teachers then talk about that in the lunch room and that spreads. That's that positive culture that you want to spread.
One of the things I really want to draw attention to, and what you were talking about was that that by blocking the classroom observation period. That's not a time management strategy, that's a priority management strategy and and that's that's one of the keys for moving from that zone of urgent leadership to being able to be strategic leadership is that we stop focusing on time and we start focusing on priorities. So I love that. I love that tip for people. The other thing that you did was you started to condition and teach the people around you. And and I've heard just what you talked about, about parents coming in and being upset, getting called out of the classrooms. There is some education to do on the front end and then continually through as as you do implementation. But it is that that issue of helping educate people about what the most important priority is. You know, I can be meeting, I can be pulled out of the classroom and meet with you. As a parent, anytime or I can be in helping your kids teacher become better and stronger, right?
Exactly, two weeks down the road, we don't have to meet exactly and and also conditioning people on how to get in touch with you because that's another one of the things that we often don't do well. We have all these intrusions of beeps, pop-ups, messages, calls and so for us to start to manage the communications in a way that's really intentional and that again reflects our priorities. Is really critical, so those are fun things to share. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. The other thing, too, is when you get in the classrooms and you make that time a priority, kids go home and tell their parents, guess who's in my classroom today? That's big. I asked my own personal kids all the time. The principal pop into your classroom no they don't know who the person. They don't know who he is. And so I'm like, OK, and that's so important because I would have parents come back later on back to school night, open house night, whatever. Be like my kid says, you're in their classroom. At the time. Yeah, I am. I can tell you what they're working on. That's important. That shows that I am there for the right thing. I'm not just sitting in my office. Writing emails yeah.
Can we go deeper into the idea of building trust? So I I'd like to think about some of the key practices for that one. You've talked about being transparent about why you're in the room. That's one of the things I advocate too. I I think we, we have a problem with the language around observation. Because if I say I'm doing an observation, why don't even know what that means beyond you being in my room. I don't know what that means and I don't know what to expect. And so I really push this idea of different kinds for patterns of observation, but one of them being performative. So performative observation, I'm going to your performance for my enjoyment. For me to learn, not to help me become a better teacher. And so if teachers know if we can use that language, we're out doing performative observations. They know it's not about them, it's about us just trying to to learn and understand better what's happening in school. So you talked about frequency, and you also then talked about leaving that positive note because we don't have to be correcting and trying to teach people all the time, right? It's showing up. So those are two things to building trust. What are some other key practices, especially for assistant? Principles to build that trust with teachers.
Assistant principals and I'm gonna generalize here for a moment. Well lot of it with this assistant principals do is there there is a lot of student discipline management that that gets put on the assistant principal shoulders and I I went through this and it it can be very very challenging. Follow through is extremely important to teachers and you know the notion of, you know, discipline and consequences for kids. It's a touchy subject because everyone has their own opinions on what is best for the for the teacher, for the child, for the school as a whole. What I recommend is, and most schools and districts have these. If you don't, I recommend you work together with your whole school and create one of these is a matrix. You know this happens. And these are like the different consequences in order of like you know how many times it occurs. Again, a lot of districts have this already and So what we did was have a lot of professional development around this and. We did follow this very, very closely. And so teachers knew that we're here on this. David's going to follow through. What's what's on there? Did I always agree with it? Maybe, maybe not. But it was important that the teachers trusted me in the process. That's where a lot of head butting happens is like, oh, you just sent the kid back to me. And that's I'm, I'm oversimplifying it. But that's the teacher's perception of it, and that's where things go haywire. So following that disciplinary matter, responsible getting into the root of the problem and following up, it's following up. Because a lot of times what I found is that the problem could be corrected in the classroom by working together. It wasn't always just the kid, and sometimes it was and I as a teacher, sometimes it was. Lot of times it was me. And I didn't know that till later on. But that's that's where that trust thing comes into because that's a difficult conversation to have. But there have been times, you know, in my career, I I'm not necessarily proud of this, but it's part of my history. I suspended a lot of kids. I expelled. A lot of kids and I was following our matrix for a district here, and I'm not happy about those things. And I think about those kids all the time. And I think about if I intervened earlier on, could we have prevented some of these things? And I don't know, you know, I'd like to think that I would have a lot of power at my school. Chances are probably, probably not, but. It's it's that follow through but then also bettering everyone around you. I think that is super important in building trust because that will spread in the lunch room. You know soft on discipline, soft on this. It's it's it's a, it's a slippery slope. You got to play both sides of it. But you know, my line was always I want to do what's in the best interest of the kid and you can't argue with that statement.
So, so David, you're you're. Poster child for strategic leadership, because we talk about strategic leadership as the first thing is that we focus on on purpose and what's important and not urgent. And you already talked about, right, managing your priorities and blocking things off. We focus on solving problems instead of just treating symptoms and you just hit that. And and that's that's so essential for assistant principals to get out of that cycle of urgency is to realize, whoa, I've gotten 4 kids this week from this classroom at this same point in time. What's going on? Here and and then you get in the classroom and then you figure out what that root problem is. And then you can go to the the fourth principle of strategic leadership, which is focus on the on the person, not the task, and help that print, help that teacher grow so that they're they are happy, they're enjoying their teaching, and you don't have all those discipline.
Problems and then a lot of what I like to say too is to you, we want to be clinical, not critical. And so if we can identify the problem, we can also help to address. The issue as.
Well, yeah, absolutely. Ok wow i think we put a lot of different stuff out there. Let's start to kind of bring it together. If you had maybe three, when we're talking about culture specifically, what three pieces of advice do you have for assistant principals?
Ah, wow, 3.
Things like 2 or.
Five, too. I know. I mean it's it's one way, it's hard to you know, to find 3 and then others. It's hard to like you know, pare it down to three. But as far as culture goes, get out there, you know, get out of your office. I played a lot of basketball as assistant principal. You know, it's out there during lunchtime out there. I went down at PE and a lot of basketball. Got to learn a lot about kids and. I picked PE. I like basketball, but also PE teachers don't get a lot of love. And my PE teachers were down on the back 40 where the locker rooms were. And I remember them saying no one really ever comes down here. I'm like, I'm going to come down and play basketball like every day with your kids if that's OK with you. And they like, because I was another adult that was down there supervising. But same time I was building relationships with them, I was building relationships with the kids. So get out there, be visible. That helps to build it. Dismissal time and drop off time. Don't be in your office. Be outside. Let the parents see you. Let the kids see you. Say hello when I go into when I when I do school observations i tell folks when you walk on a school campus, you can feel the culture. You can sense it from the moment you step on campus. No one has to say anything to you. You can just feel it. And I always look around and people happy. Are they smiling there, greeting each other, saying hello. Those are all really important things. If they're doing that, my day is going to go great. If it's not, I'm like, OK, we got our work cut out for us, so be visible in those in those current spots and then. That follow through is just so important. You know, it's when you leave the, you know, your classroom role and you become an assistant principal. It's it's you're trying to figure out like what is my life as an educator outside of the classroom? And I remember going through like, wait a minute, like. I don't have like, my bell schedule. It's different. It's weird. Don't get sucked into that. You know, like, figure out your role. Be in classrooms, you know, talk to parents, be at sporting events. Just get out there. Be visible. That helps to build culture. There's nothing worse than, you know, your your school community saying I don't, I don't. Where's David? He's never here. What is he doing? umm. So get out there, be strategic, have those great conversations with teachers and, you know, have your have your eye on kind of what's next as well. You know, hopefully you're with a great principal who can show you the ropes. I was with an amazing principal who she threw me into every possible situation, and then I tried to do the same with my assistant principals. I was like, let's have you do all these things and they're looking at me going, I'm not ready for this. And then we'll go back to them and say I wasn't ready for it either. But guess what? You're running that EP. You're going to be in there, so how those experiences learn from them, talk about them and have some fun too.
You know in some ways the job is complex, but in other ways it really is simple. Be present, be present and listen to people and engage with people, respect people and care for people and and that's that's that foundation. It's I do think it's that simple. Now it's super hard to execute because of all the other stuff that's happening.
It's hard, hard, hard, hard, but the basic strategies are simple. Connect to people, be present and listen. And from there then they will tell you what they need absolutely absolutely. And there's going to be hard hard situations to deal with and and you know I said before I I've expelled my fair share of students and they were for reasons that I could not work around it just it, it is what it is what I can say at those hearings that we held. The vast majority of times, the parents and I, we understood each other and I felt, I felt for them. They understood where I was coming from and that was really important because I was. Recommending that a very traumatic thing, which again like that's a part of the job. There's a process. But at the same time they respected and understood and they would for the vast majority of time, they would come back after the hearings, say, like say Doctor Franklin, like thank you so much for working with our child. Like we've got some more work to do, but we, we we understand and appreciate it and that just tells you that culture piece is there.
When and big tip, people don't always have to win their arguments, but they want to be respected and understood absolutely, absolutely. Ok.
As we wrap up, I have three questions for you. And the first one is what part of your own leadership are you still trying to get better at?
Wow all of it. But I would say keeping up with the current instructional practices that keep changing our our world keeps changing because kids keep changing. And so when I'm recommending a strategy, I want to make sure that the research states that these are the best strategies. And that does change over time because kids have changed over time. And so I'm always working on that. I'm always reading, reading blogs, reading articles, going to conferences, learning, learning more about that, and staying on on, on the cusp of what's what's the best right now
excellent and number two if listeners could take away just one thing. From today's podcast what would it be?
I think you said it a couple times, but be present, be visible, you know, be out there. You do not want to be the Invisible assistant principal. You want to be very visible. You want kids going home saying. You know my, you know my, you know mister. Smith or you know, Missus Jones was in my class today and that to be in a a common occurrence because it's not in so many schools. And if you want to stand out and you want to be that like that superhero assistant principal, that's how you do it.
Great advice, great advice. All right. Anything else that you'd like to share with our listeners?
You know the journey is difficult. The journey is hard. You're going to have good days, bad days. The best thing that you can do here is just surround yourself with people that you can talk to. Being an administrator can be a very, very lonely job because there are things you cannot talk to the general staff with confidential and different things. So have that support system and that's again. Going back to the principal's desk Facebook group, I have folks post in there anonymously all the time, and then all of a sudden, you know, I check it like an hour later, 50 responses on how to deal with the situation or just words of encouragement and people will message me all the time and say it's just what I needed. I just needed to hear that everything was going to be OK. I remember getting emotional coming home. I had horrible days and I had no one to talk to. I wasn't on Facebook at the time. My wife could only do so much. She's not an educator so she didn't understand everything I was going through. So have that support group. If the principal's desk can do that for you, check us out on Facebook. You can always message me you know, and I'll be happy to help you out any way that I can. Or just go to the principal's desk.org and you can find me there as well. We offer a variety of professional development services and and just advice and and different things to help you out. So please let us know what we can do for you on your journey yeah and that's so important.
Most leaders have pretty good opportunities for professional development, but the opportunity for professional community can be really limited. So again I hats off and I appreciate what you're doing there at the principal's desk and I know you've you've had several books and and you've got a lot of other things going on and if you want to talk about those right now this is the time. But also we'll get links to all of your stuff and make sure that that's.
Notes, yeah. So if you're interested in can every school succeed that is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Those can be downloaded as a Kindle, or you can grab a paper bag or a hard copy. So that book is available now. My new book, advice from the principal's desk, is being published by Jossey Bass. It will be released actually a year from now. So we're still, we're still writing it, but you can go again. Go to. Principal 's desk dot org and you can find out more information about the book. You can find more information again about we have a weekly newsletter subscription. We have again, professional development services around PLC's We also do some PD around first year principles. So as you make that transition out, we can always, you know, be supportive of you as you navigate that first year journey as a principal. But check us out and again reach out if there's anything that we can do for you. In the future, in your journey, we're community. We're all here for each other.
Excellent, David, thanks so much. This has been great fun. Thanks for sharing today.
Thank you. It's been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Ok, if you enjoy today's show, please subscribe and rate this podcast. It really does help people find the show. I'm always trying to improve the show, so if you have feedback for me, please email at frederick husky dot com. If you'd like more content tailored towards the needs of assistant principals, you can head over to my website at frederickbusky.com that wraps up today's show. I am Frederick Buskey and I hope you'll join me next time for the Assistant Principal podcast cheers.