Adam shares a little about his family and background, including how living with a family in China for three weeks while helping Chinese schoolteachers learn how to teach English had a huge impact on himself and his career(2:05)
How a person who speaks no Chinese gets past the language barrier in China – it’s all about relationships with other people (6:06)
Adam’s career path from college to today, and his career as an education consultant (10:22)
The five pillars of Adam’s consultation work with principals to help create a great school culture and climate – systemic planning, mentoring, instructional design, data analysis, and community engagement (13:10)
When and why Adam decided to move into school leadership (15:04)
Adam describes some of the struggles he encountered on his path to becoming an administrator (17:30)
That quote that kept Adam moving toward his goals during those early struggles –“You must be the change you seek in the world” (19:13)
The importance of making it a priority to maintain family and other relationships as you pursue your career goals (20:35)
Why you should consider online education opportunities for graduate degrees, and the importance of planning backwards (21:45)
The only day in the year when you have nothing to plan for is the first day after the last day of school (25:25)
How becoming an educator has shaped Adam as a person and how he has capitalized on his natural strengths to help others (29:42)
How Adam uses a calendar to set his goals, and why reflection on your goals is so critical to constant improvement (31:58)
One of the most memorable moments of Adam’s career so far – knowing that he was leaving the school he had led in good hands (33:45)
One student’s amazing transformation from an apathetic and troubled 2nd grader to a successful middle school student and leader (35:20)
The key to igniting powerful change in students is helping them see the respect you have for them (37:54)
The best leadership advice Adam has ever received – think twice, act once (41:46)
A good leader has the ability to see what’s coming and make plans to deal with it before it happens (42:00)
Adam’s top book recommendations for school leaders (44:20)
Adam’s advice to school administrators on working with the students that you serve – make time to be visible (46:14)
Adam’s advice to school administrators on working with the teachers that you serve – you can’t make everyone happy or be everything to everyone (49:10)
Here’s the advice Adam would give his younger self if he could travel back in time to when he was just starting out in school administration (50:44)
Books mentioned in this episode
Connect with Adam Drummond
The five pillars of creating a great school culture and climate that dam talked about in the broadcast:
Systemic Planning—Creates structures and processes to ensure schools are working toward a common goal based on your vision and mission, and how to reach that goal without over assessing student learning.
Mentoring—As a new administrator or teacher, mentoring is critical more than ever before in education. Develop a plan for mentoring or even work one on one with us to develop that support system.
Instructional Design—Utilizing a lesson design that has been the foundation of teaching for years, vertically and horizontally align skills to maximize student learning in the classroom with effective instructional design which includes 21st century and soft skills for today’s learner.
Data Analysis—What to do with all the data you have collected is a common concern among educators. Organize and analyze the data to coincide with systemic planning and instructional design for students.
Community Engagement—Unique to DEI includes the importance of developing community engagement for your school or district. The more input from your partnering community and the more open the school is to working with organizations, the stronger the foundation of your school becomes.
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Educators Lead Ep. 38
The Key To Earning The Respect Of Your Students And Teachers Is Through Relationships And Showing Them You Care
Show Notes: http://www.educatorslead.com/adamdrummond/
Welcome to Educators Lead where we interview leaders in education to offer inspiration and practical advice to help launch educators into the next level of leadership. I’m your host Jay Willis and I want to thank you for subscribing to our show.
Intro: Dr. Adam Drummond is a veteran educator who has served as an elementary and middle school teacher, K-12 technology specialist, elementary and secondary professional development coordinator, assistant principal, and most recently as a principal. He earned his doctorate in education in 2014 from Ball State University. He currently serves as the Zone Five Board of Directors for the National Association of Elementary School Principals. He and his wife Tiffany have three children and reside in Huntington, Indiana. That’s just a brief introduction Adam. But tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Adam Drummond: Thanks Jay. Well first and foremost I am an educator and I was born and raised in Huntington. And went to college and made the decision to come back and give to the community that helped raise me and my wife. Tiffany also is from the Huntington area so when we moved back to Huntington, we were definitely committed to wanting to make a difference in education and in our community and have had the pleasure to do so for the last 14 years. As you mentioned in my introduction, my three most wonderful things I’ve created with my wife are my children. Chase is a fifth grader currently and his birthday is actually tomorrow. And then Carson is my six-year-old and then my daughter Carter is 15 months. So we run a very busy family from morning to night. And our passion really is about how to make the world a better place for our community. And for our world in general.
Jay Willis: Yeah. Well that’s great yeah. We have three kids as well – a nine-year-old, a four-year-old, and a two-year-old. So I understand how busy your house must be.
Adam Drummond: Absolutely.
Jay Willis: Yes and tell us something interesting about yourself that most people wouldn’t know.
Adam Drummond: I think one thing that’s interesting about myself that most people would not know I was I had the opportunity to go to China with a group of educators back in 2008. And spent three weeks in China and actually lived with a host family. And then during those three weeks I worked to help Chinese teachers learn how to teach English. And so it was a fascinating experience and I was able to learn a lot about a different culture and realize the same problems we face in American education are similar problems that China faces as well. And I think across the country and across the world we really do all have the similar challenges that we face.
Jay Willis: This is something I’ve been curious about, but I never really asked it this way before with other guests who’ve had kind of a similar experience. How do you think that working in a different country like that for the time that you did – how do you think that has shaped you as an educator?
Adam Drummond: That’s a great question and I’ve actually spent a lot of time reflecting on that because I definitely came back to the states a changed person. I came back understanding that the world is way more complex than what we realize. And that what we do every day matters to kids. And I’ve always been somebody who is relationally driven. But when I came back from China I realized the importance and power of relationships. And if we can’t connect on a personal level and have a solid relationship nothing else is going to matter. And that foundation has really helped me as an educator, to work to create a culture of excellence at my school and really helped me to create a priority of what I wanted to accomplish and so I think that really helped solidify for me when I came back from China just an understanding and appreciation for the world that we live in.
Jay Willis: Yeah. Yeah it’s about relationships.
Adam Drummond: Absolutely. In those three weeks the ability to form relationships was very important from the beginning. And it really helped me then move to what we needed to do as our goals in that three weeks’ time and some of those individuals that I worked with when I was over in China, even though it was a three-week period, I’m still in contact with those individuals today. And so I think that impact experiences can have can be forever lasting. But you have to be willing to invest in those relationships. And that’s really what education is all about, is investing in those relationships in order for us to work together toward a common good.
Jay Willis: So was there a kind of a language barrier at all. And how did you get past that?
Adam Drummond: Definitely there was a language barrier because I spoke no Chinese. And so my house family that I was living with – Hopkins, he was the dad in the family. And so he spoke English; he taught English as a Second Language in China. And his English was very good. His wife spoke limited English and their daughter spoke probably pretty fluently. Because that’s an important value for them is the understanding of English language. And so in the home that I was staying in there was very little translation issues in them when I moved into the teaching part of the three weeks that I was there. I had a core of teachers that I worked with about ten and in the morning they would watch me teach their students. And then in the afternoon they would actually debrief with me. And even in that group there were two individuals who spoke very fluently and so if there was any translation issue they were able to help work it out.
Jay Willis: So would you say that the relationship component was kind of the key to kind of breaking through and still being successful in life even with the language barrier?
Adam Drummond: Yes I think that you know. A language barrier is only a language barrier if you allow it to be. And it’s how you present yourself. It’s your non-verbals. You know there’s been lots of research done on communication and how much our non-verbals really share the the message that we’re trying to share. And so understanding that and then knowing that I’m there to help and wanting to be helpful and having a smile on my face. That instantly created those relationships and those bonds. And so there were some really powerful connections that came as a result of that.
Jay Willis: Do you think that just that experience with and a very apparent language barrier with obviously just a completely different language…do you think that has helped you to relate to student to maybe obviously they speak the same language, but maybe they’re coming from a completely different perspective because of their own experience of their own kind of background and family situation? Maybe that you don’t have any experience of because your upbringing was completely different than theirs but do you feel like it’s helped you kind of figure out how to I guess sort of speak their language and relate to them, even though you’re coming from kind of two different places?
Adam Drummond: That’s a really great question and as I look at the school that I was at. You know we had a free/reduced lunch rate of about 80%. And so one of the areas that I really worked on with our staff and that starts with me modeling it is how do we help students come to the realization that at school there are there is one set of rules and at home there may be a second set of rules. And we’re not saying that what you have a home is good or bad we’re not saying what we have at school is good or bad. They’re just different. And so we have to realize as educators that all of our kids are coming with different experiences. Because the other 20% of our population, they may be lower middle class, middle class, or upper middle class. And they have a different set of experiences. And so we have to realize that when our students walk through the door we’re going to take them from where they’re at. And we’re going to move them forward. And so one of the emphases that we really placed on the instruction in our building was building that common ground and giving kids a shared experience. Even if that was going out into the field next to our school and they were doing some type of activity that involved earth science or physical science and they’ve now had a shared experience that they could come back and talk to those students with. You know our first graders they do a community visit through the community so they go to the post office. They go to a local restaurant. They go to the park. And then they’re able to come back and teach from those experiences. So we’re not assuming any child has an experience that we’re wanting them to have when they come through the door. We have to create those experiences and then once you have that common ground, you can develop an instructional life from that.
Jay Willis: So tell us a bit about your career path, like from the time you graduated from college to where you’re at now.
Adam Drummond: You bet. So once I was finished with student teaching a position came open in the spring through the end of the year to teach high ability students. And so I spent about an eight week stint working with high ability students and I traveled every day to different schools. And then landed my first classroom position that fall and I taught third grade. And then for the next several years I actually was RIF’d (which is reduction in force) and every summer it was like “Do I have a job in the fall or do I not have a job?” and really persevered through that and looking back it really helped me become the educator I was today. Because after my third grade year I was moved to a fourth grade classroom and then I moved to a sixth grade position teaching middle school English and then moved to a different building teaching fifth grade, and then moved into a district training position.
And so really in my first several years of my career in education it was a different experience every year. And that created unique challenges in and of themselves but it really did help me on my leadership track and helping to identify what are my priorities and what do I want to do in education? And so the opportunity came for me to work at the district level and I spent the first probably a year and a half of the district focused at K-12, providing instructional technology support. So how do you utilize technology in the classrooms? And at that point technology was not one to one – iPads weren’t even invented yet. It was literally, you know, a projector, a laptop, creating webquest, how do you utilize the computer lab effectively. It was very different than what technology looks like today.
So then I moved into an elementary professional development coordinator position where I specifically was focused on K-2 and working with teachers in kindergarten, first and second grade. And it was about creating classrooms that were brain compatible. So taking the brain research and then applying it to education. And what do your classrooms need to look like? What does your curriculum need to look like? How do you present that? How do you foster collaboration in those settings?
And then moved from that position to a middle school coordinator position. And that was really about curriculum alignment and spent a lot of time with master mapping our curriculum, diary mapping, reflecting on our teaching. And then moved into the administration world where I was a principal for the last several years and most recently just left that position as an elementary principal and am currently in the process of working with my consulting company Drummond Educational Innovations, where I really focus on some of those experiences that I had to help make school and education a better place across the country.
Jay Willis: So what type of client would you consult with there?
Adam Drummond: So with Drummond Educational Innovations, the clients are really based at the school level. And working with the school principal. And then through the school principal and working with them, moving into the culture and the climate of the actual school setting. And so there’s really five pillars that I offer with that consulting company and it’s about systemic planning – you know having the structures in place in order for you to be successful as a school leader or even in the classroom for the teacher to be successful as a schoolteacher and what they’re offering in the classroom. Then mentoring is another component – I think today more than ever you need to have a mentor because education is changing so quickly and there’s so many facets of education that having somebody who’s been in those shoes who can help support is critical. Third is instructional design, which is about curriculum alignment; it’s about implementation and delivery of instruction. And then which leads in to the assessment component which is data analysis. And then the last area that I really work with schools on is community engagement. A lot of research is going into the support of how community members – not just parents – but how community members can be part of your school community and make that school community a better place. And we have to invest as community members into our schools because those are going to be the individuals that we want as productive responsible citizens coming down into our workforce whether it’s directly out of high school or then after college. And so that really spends a lot of time building upon what does community engagement look like.
Jay Willis: Yeah. That’s great I like that I’ll make sure to put the five pillars in the show notes. Sounds like you’re doing some good so I like that. So kind of backtrack a little bit – at what point along your journey did you make the decision that you want to move into school leadership?
Adam Drummond: Great question. It really was when I was an elementary professional development coach. At that time, I was working with teachers in K-2. In my district there were seven or eight elementary buildings at that time, so I was working with several administrators and really had the opportunity to talk with them, interact with them, talk with teachers…learn what are struggles teachers have, what are accomplishments teachers have, what do they want as a teacher and in a principal? And the more I worked with teachers in the professional development role, the more I realized that I could help foster change, even greater, if I were in an administrative capacity. I loved my professional development role. I loved the consulting component of that and working with teachers but I knew that as a building leader I would have more flexibility in providing that push and that support on a daily basis. You know as a P.D. coach you’re not there every day with the teachers. As a principal you’re there every day. And I missed that daily relationship building. And so that really was when I decided I really need to get my administrator’s license and move into a leadership role at the school level.
Jay Willis: So it what point did you start taking additional classes that would lead you to the administrator role?
Adam Drummond: Well, my wife would laugh and tell you that I’ve never stopped taking classes since I graduated with my undergrad. But I really started working on my administrative coursework in 2007, I believe. I already had my master’s in college administration. Because having been RIF’d several times, I thought you know if that continues, could I end up with something in the K-12 area? Could I do something at the college level? So I actually got my master’s in college administration. And then quickly saw as a P.D. coach that I wanted my administrator’s license. And so we started working on that in 2007 and really moved pretty quickly through the coursework to get my K-12 license and then once I had my license in 2008 I just kept moving and I realized at that point I had the momentum; taking classes was part of my routine. And so went on to get my superintendent’s license and my E.D.S. and then my doctorate in 2014.
Jay Willis: Wow So. Along the way what would you say were some of the biggest struggles? I mean obviously time management – I could see that as an issue. Like how did you find time to juggle all the different roles that you were in while taking classes and still manage to be effective in all those areas?
Adam Drummond: You know looking back my wife and I talk often about that time period because she was actually going back to get her degree for nursing at the same time. And we had just one child at that point, our oldest, Chase. And we look back and we really structured our time well. And we made sure that if I was taking a night class on a Tuesday then she was structured her schedule so that she was home. And so really it came down to a lot of situational awareness as Marzano would call it or planning about what that looked like. So I would tell you that making sure I had to do lists, checklists, we had a plan for the week, we knew what was going to be happening over the next month. That really helped us. I would also tell you – lots of hours in the evening. You know once we put Chase to bed around 8, it would be completely realistic for me to be up till one o’clock or two o’clock in the morning working on course material, and then back up at six. Looking back now I’m not sure how I did it. I don’t think I could do it today by any means but when I had that passion and that drive of, “I want that license so I can go impact in a different way” that really motivates you. And gives you a lot of energy that you don’t normally have I think when you don’t have that vision or that passion.
Jay Willis: So what was it that kept you going I guess during those times I mean good grief -you’re sleep deprived, especially having a small child. Was it just kind of that passion that kept you going? In your darkest moments what do you think it was that kind of made it worth it to keep going?
Adam Drummond: In my classroom and then in my offices. I have gone by this quote: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” And for me that truly is a driving force. You know I wake up every day with that sense of urgency not that I have to get all these things done. But you have one March 2nd 2016. What are you going to do with it? And so really getting up every morning and telling yourself, “OK you have this day in this year. What are you going to do to make the most of it?” And not that you know everything was rose colored glasses and cup half full all the time because it certainly wasn’t. But going back to that one foot in front of the other one day at a time and making the most of your time. That’s what drives me as an individual. And even drives me today in what I do. Because you are only here for a short time and you want to make the most impact in the world and leave it better than you found it. And when you take the time and the energy to put toward that great things can happen.
Jay Willis: Yeah, so tell us about some of the other struggles that you encountered I mean obviously time management and sleep deprivation were a couple. But what else or what are some other challenges that you faced during the journey?
Adam Drummond: You know I think some of the challenges, obviously…relationship wise you know whenever you or your spouse are going back to school, that’s always challenging because that’s time away from family. That’s time away from your spouse. You know for Tiffany and I we were both in school at the same time. And so there were a lot of times where we were going different directions because we knew this was what we needed to happen for our family at that point. And then it was, OK so how do we create opportunities for ourselves. And really we had to make our relationship a priority in that process. And so making sure we had a date night you know, or we had an evening free where it could be just the two of us. And spending time there so I think that that’s another piece that’s really important for people to keep in mind that your support system is your support system because they believe in you. And they value what you’re doing. But then you have to make sure you’re feeding that support system on a regular basis too because you can get so caught up in the course work and the deadlines and the moments that it can be challenging at times.
The other piece that I think was really helpful for me and may not be for other people is a lot of my coursework was through online live courses or online blended models. I had a Saturday class. I had evening classes. I had classes that were asynchronous so you did it on your own time. So that flexibility really allowed me to schedule out opportunities. And I think if it had been only live classes where I had to be on campus so many days, so often, that definitely would have made things a lot more difficult for us. But I think with the technology and how we can provide instruction and provide distance learning now – that was definitely a huge feature that, as I worked on my superintendent’s and my doctorate specifically really came into play. I think the other piece that was really challenging looking back was the fact that you did miss things. You know you did have to make decisions. And sometimes you missed a family event or you missed a school event and you know you have the guilt of not being able to be there and be for everyone. And so I think open communication is really important because you can get so caught up in what you’re doing at that precise moment that you’re not communicating well and as educators, as people that communication is critical. And again the more you can communicate the better you are in that process. I think going back that’s probably something I would have done even more than what I did. Is just make sure that I’m communicating and being open with people and my support system.
Jay Willis: So would you say some of that communication is just helping to manage expectations like, “Look, I’m not going to be able to be at this event because currently I am pursuing this. But there’ll be a time when I won’t have to miss because I won’t have this other thing going on”?
Adam Drummond: Yes. And I think a lot of that is as you look at coursework – and for those individuals that are listening who are teachers wanting to be administrators or principals who are looking at the superintendency – the coursework is such a small part of your entire life and you can easily look and, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to get my masters and it’s thirty credit hours” and that can look really daunting. But if you backwards plan and look and see where do you want that goal to be and then you start building it. Day by day week by week. That can really be helpful in making those small steps and you know the last two years I’ve not been in school and I’ve been in classes and there is a different level of freedom there in what that looks like, And you can spend more time at the family level or you can spend more time at the school or spend more time at whatever your hobbies or interests are. That can all come back into play for you. But if you’re looking at I’m a teacher leader and I really want to help support my school or a school at the building level”, don’t let thirty credit hours or X amount of dollars be the reason you don’t move forward. There’s always a solution you just have to look and see what that is. And so I think as you look at that communication then being upfront and honest in that communication with those who are around you and closest to you even my supervisor you know I would talk with him and he was very supportive of me in my coursework. And he would even help me plan and say, “OK, you know what this is OK not to attend but we really need you here at this” and so being able to have a support network even from the administrative level up is critical.
Jay Willis: Yeah. Well I love what you said there’s a couple things here, a couple kind of themes that I hear in a conversation so far. One is that you just put one foot in front of the other but. I think part of what makes it easy for you is that it’s kind of like how do you eat an elephant? You know, one bite at a time, that whole thing. I think what you’re saying is applicable to any large goal that you might have where like you initially look at it and it seems just like this huge insurmountable goal and you’re like, “There’s…I just don’t see how I’m going to pull this off.” But if you really just try not to swallow the whole elephant all at once so to speak but you just kind of, “OK, but what could I commit to?” you know and kind of break it down and figure out exactly what it’s going to take maybe more on a weekly level and say, “Well could I do five hours a week. Well yeah I could do that OK well then if I just do five hours a week for this length of time then I’ll be where I want to be.” But a lot of times people just look at this huge goal and are like, “There’s just no way.” But if you really break it down and just kind of make it so you set yourself up to accomplish little victories instead of trying to take on the whole thing all at once then before you know it you’ve accomplished what you set out to accomplish.
Adam Drummond: I think you’re exactly right. And you know even if you’re in your career and you’re working as a teacher… you know a teacher today – that is a full time position, plus some. And you know what I would tell teachers is the only day in the year in which you don’t have anything to plan for is the first day after the last day of school. You know that is really your let down of “OK, I’m finished this year is over. We’ve had a great year” and then it’s starting to reflect and look back. And what are those changes that you make? And you do that as a good educator. That reflection piece is good and so you can apply that to any goal that you have. If it’s working on grad school, you know, and looking back, “OK, this is how I did semester one. It worked really well this way. But I really need to fix things for this next semester.” You have the flexibility to do that because you set the goals on what you want to achieve for yourself. And looking at, “How am I as a learner? And then what do I need to do to help myself become the best learner that I can be?”
Jay Willis: And never stop growing. That’s a big theme and I think that. You know sometimes. I don’t know but probably especially during the journey that it’s easy to kind of get tired and be like, “Man, when I get to this goal…” I think though that what I’m really learning from any great leader, especially from all of the interviews that I’ve had a chance to do with this podcast, is just the message is you never stop learning. I mean that’s how you continue to be good at what you do is you just constantly are trying to learn as much as you can and grow as much as you can as a person.
Adam Drummond: Absolutely and my wife laughs because she probably would tell you that I have an Amazon addiction with books and wanting to find books and just continuing that learning process and one book that I’m reading right now it’s called Too Many Children Left Behind and it’s a qualitative study of American education compared to three or four other countries who are very similar to the United States and it’s based on you know a longitudinal study of students. And there are so many fascinating things that America does well. And there’s things that other countries do well and how do we learn from the other countries and then apply those things? So being a lifelong learner is a critical piece. You know when I was an elementary principal my students knew that I was always reading and I was always learning, and we’re modeling that for today’s kids. As teachers we should let our kids know you know you’re taking classes you’re working on your masters. You know when I got my doctorate and I help kids understand what a doctor in education means. You know I can’t fix a broken bone and I can’t write a prescription. But as a doctor of education if you’re struggling as a learner I have a lot of strategies or ideas. And I have a network of people that I can go to help. And so even just teaching what you’re doing and what your passions are. Model for our future citizens and future leaders so that they can do great things too.
Jay Willis: Through all the struggles that you encountered as you were pursuing school administration. What are some ways you think you’ve grown through that process as an educator and maybe as a person?
Adam Drummond: I think first and foremost, my ability to set goals and then to backwards plan that increased over time. You know I would say I am much more goal oriented than I was when I started my educational path towards administration. I knew what I wanted but I wasn’t necessarily always sure how to get there. And over the last several years I’ve been able to take that and really apply that in what I do. You know I had another book that I utilize quite a bit is about strengths based leadership and it’s a Gallup poll where you can identify your strengths. And one of the strengths that I learned about myself is the ability to be strategic about how do you surround yourself with great people annd then make sure that those great people are helping supporting that common vision and that common mission. And so that was definitely another area that I really worked to improve on and have seen great results with you know and it’s very similar to getting everybody on the bus on the right seat and that good to great concept. And making sure that you have the right people at the right spot at the right time. And you know things don’t happen by accident. You know you have to be systematic in putting plans in place to be successful. I think that’s probably the other thing that I’ve learned is you are the one in control of you and in your role you’re in control of what happens in that role. So if I’m working with students that maybe have a behavior issue and they’re mad, it’s not that they’re mad at Adam Drummond. They’re mad because it’s the principal. Or they’re mad it’s because the teacher. It’s not personal. And I think so many times in education especially at the building level we can take things personally and when we do that then we start to make decisions out of emotions and not out of cognitive thinking. So that was probably the other piece that I would tell you is the ability to separate the emotions from your cognitive thinking in order to make the best solutions.
Jay Willis: Being objective yeah. So is there a process that you go through to help you to set your goals now?
Adam Drummond: You know I do a lot of goal setting. And I really goal set this sounds probably silly but I really goal set by calendar. So you know this is the month of March and what is it by the end of March that I want to see different in my life? Or what is it that I want to see different in my professional career? And what is it that I’m going to work on over these next you know twenty nine days that I have? So instead of going day by day and week by week I really got into a month process of saying, “OK; here are the goals that I want to accomplish during this month.” And then I progress monitor myself essentially, and use Fridays as my reflection time. I think we often jump over this particular skill as educators. And it’s that power of reflection and looking back and then making adjustments as we go and that is so critical in order to make yourself a better person. And if we don’t put those junctures in place for ourselves nobody else will. And so for me I really a made month by month as opposed to a week by week because then I can use that weekly Friday time as that reflection for, “OK – what do I need to change for the upcoming week? What worked well? What isn’t working well? And we’ve even applied that here on our home. We have a board in our house that we do on Sundays and it’s about, “OK; what are our goals for the week? Where are we going to be? What are the plans for dinner? What do we have going on? What do you want to see done by the end of the week?” and even teaching that to our own personal children.
Jay Willis: Yeah, that’s good. So you’ve been in education for a while and I’m sure you have some great stories to share of the impact that you’ve been able to witness and be a part of. But what has been one of your best moments as a school administrator?
Adam Drummond: That’s a really great question. As I shared earlier, I recently left my building position as an elementary principal. And the last day that I was principal in that building I visited every classroom and walked through each room and took a photo of the classroom and whatever they were doing just kind of took a picture and I could walk out of every setting with a smile on my face. Because amazing things were happening in our building. And the quality of instruction, the integrity of the teachers, and the love and passion of learning was so evident. And what better way to end a professional career as a school principal by knowing that you have a staff that’s committed to ensuring that the most – the best and the most talented of your teaching is coming out each and every day for those kids. And as an administrator there is nothing quite like that – knowing that you can leave a classroom or leave a school and know that there are passionate people who are ready to make a difference in the world. So I would say that was definitely one bittersweet moment for me as that transition happened.
The other piece is I have lots of student stories. But the one story that sticks in mind for me is I had a second grader my first year as principal, who just really struggled behaviorally. Spent a lot of time with this student. Had to remove that student several times and we had lots of conversations and lots of second chances and I was able to see this student transform as a student who could not control his emotions and could really care less about school…transform himself into a leader for good. In his fifth grade year, in our building he was community council or student council president. And then I kind of got to watch him continue on his path. He’s a wrestler and in middle school did really well with wrestling and then this fall at our homecoming parade in our community he was elected for his grade level court. And so his peers of four hundred plus students saw him in that role as a leader that they could elect them to represent them in a homecoming. That was just an exciting moment for me to see as an educator. And I claim very little of that success because that was really his success and him choosing to do so but to hope and know that maybe we had a little bit of change in trajectory of that student’s life is pretty amazing.
Jay Willis: Yes. For him to go from like really not caring about school at all to being elected in that position, that’s pretty neat.
Adam Drummond: Yeah. And to continue into you know athletics obviously you have to have grades in order to be in athletics. And as a high schooler he was. And to see the potential that he had and for him to choose to use that potential – that’s the part that is so amazing. All kids have potential, but how do you get them to see the potential in themselves and how do you help them foster that potential to do good things with it? And I think that’s really what education is all about. It’s not about test scores. It’s not about letter grades for schools. It’s not about how did you do on the state assessment. Those are all accountability measures to be able to tie the dollars we have and types of funding. I get that that’s the political side of education. But the real side of education the real changes happen even in individual students’ lives. And I would rather have 450 stories like that than 100% pass on a state assessment.
Jay Willis: Yeah. Well so what do you think the key is to igniting that in a child?
Adam Drummond: I think first and foremost it’s helping them see the respect you have for themselves. And that’s really hard to share and to show to students. And it is for a variety of reasons. It could be about experiences that they had growing up as a child whether it’s a poor home life, a poor situation that they found themselves, making bad choices… But it’s letting them know that you care about them as a human being. And the difference between a five year old and a thirty year old is twenty five years of experience. And brain development. That is really the only difference hopefully. And so you have to value where they’re at as a five year old as a seven year old and as an eight year old. It doesn’t mean you don’t have consequences and you don’t have structures in place. Because my friend that I shared with about earlier, you know, he had consequences. There were structures in place. But the change was we invested in each other in relationships. And I think that’s where we often get so worked up about. We’ve got to pass the state assessment or we have this letter grade as a school and we have to change that and we have to put our school improvement plan in place for a reading or an improvement plan in place for math. And we have to have this percentage of gains. None of that can happen without a relationship with kids. And excellence is not a skill it’s an attitude. And so I think we have to instill with kids that we want you to be excellent every day. Doesn’t mean you’re going to be perfect. But we want to demonstrate excellence every day. And part of that is making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. And we have to invest in each and every child and that’s hard to do with the demands of everything else that’s happening politically and in education.
Jay Willis: Right. Kind of going back to what you mentioned early on like one of the things, even, working overseas, you know, it’s just it’s all about relationships. It starts there. And then you have the opportunity to make a significant impact in the life of someone else. But, minus a relationship I think you’d have a hard time doing that.
Adam Drummond: I have a friend that I’m very close with here in Huntington and he shared the advice with me that you know they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I know that’s a quote that I can’t tell you who originally said that, but he shared that with me and it rings true in everything not just in education but in any facet in which a group of people come together. They are not going to care until they know you care. And we can demand respect, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. You have to earn respect and it works both ways. You know trust takes a long time to build and can be destroyed in a matter of seconds. And I think we have to remember that as educators that we’re dealing with little people that are five six seven eight nine ten years of age or maybe fifteen sixteen seventeen and eighteen. And they still need grace. They still need second chances. And they need somebody to love them and. If you don’t love them who will? And maybe they do have a great home that has two wonderful parents in the home who are going to love them. And that’s great because now there’s a third person there. But they also may unfortunately be from a home where that love isn’t there in so you may be that only person that cares about that student that day.
Jay Willis: Yeah. So I’m going to roll through some rapid fire questions. If you’re ready for those.
Adam Drummond: You bet.
Jay Willis: What’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
Adam Drummond: Think twice; act once.
Jay Willis: What would you say is your biggest strength as a school administrator?
Adam Drummond: I think my biggest strength as a school administrator is my ability to be strategic. And to put the right things in place at the right time and know ahead of time what’s coming so that I can do that successfully.
Jay Willis: I want to go back to your first one because I like that – think twice; act once. That kind of goes like with the carpenter’s “measure twice, cut once” kind of thing. I can think of how this has saved me a few times like, just even with emails. Because there’s, you know, sometimes when you are frustrated about something, potentially you could compose an email. And then there’s been lots of times when I’ve kind of just sat on it I said you know I’m just…I’m not going to send this. I’m just going to sit on it like for at least twenty four hours. And it’s amazing how many times I never end up sending that email or I delete it or you know instead of emailing it just go have a verbal conversation but now I’m objective. Like just the whole thing you’re talking about earlier about how you’ve kind of learned to be more objective. I think that’s one of the things that you develop as a leader with experience is that you kind of, over time, learn not to just react to things but really just kind of step back and think about something for a while before you respond. Especially if it could be potentially emotionally charged.
Adam Drummond: Absolutely and really working even with my office staff with that concept too that there are very few times when an immediate decision has to be made about something that is monumental. When you have those type of decisions you really need to invest the emotional and intellectual energy to make the right decision and…I chuckle about your email. Because I certainly have done that as well and I’ve learned that what you think five minutes after something happens and what you think twenty five minutes after something happens will already have a change in your thinking in your philosophy so that has saved me more times than not, the ability to think twice and act once.
Jay Willis: Yeah. You mentioned a couple books during our conversation but is there may be kind of your top one or two books that you would recommend for other school leaders that have made a significant impact on you?
Adam Drummond: One book, which is really a foundational book that I actually used for my dissertation as well, is School Leadership That Works: Research to Results and it is Robert Marzano, Timothy Waters and Brian McNulty and that really was a great book for me. It’s about looking at the qualities of leaders. And then where do you find yourself and where do you move forward in so I think that was definitely one that is a pivotal book for me. Another one that I have is Crucial Conversations. And that is a book that I would highly recommend. Because it really is about when things aren’t working well, how do you change that trajectory? And how do you have those tough conversations that happen in so that was a really powerful book that I utilized and continue to go back to. Often for me. And then probably the last book that I would recommend. This is more Looking at education in the globalization of today’s world it is Jim Clifton the book The Coming jobs war and. It’s not a book about how to be a better educator. But it’s a book all about how as educators we need to be aware of the world around us. Around us and what are we going to do. Because our leadership decisions that we make. Will impact the trajectory of our community and of our world. And so that’s definitely a book of focus as a lot about the business and government. But it has many implications to education today. So that’s another book that I would highly recommend.
Jay Willis: What advice you have for a school administrator for working with students that they serve in the building?
Adam Drummond: Make time to be visible. The students in your school, they need to see you every single day. They need to know that you’re there. They need to know what your job is. And that you care about them as students. My students when I was an elementary principal knew that my two jobs were to keep them safe and to help them learn. And when I was in their classrooms I was one of those two things. I was either taking care of a safety issue or I was watching them learn, asking them questions , talking with their teachers. And that anything else outside of that can Wait. And I think as a new administrator, that was something that I had to learn very quickly. That the paperwork, the e-mails, all of that’s going to be there. But those kids are only in your building so many hours a day. And when you move into the role as an elementary principal, middle School principal, high school principal, this isn’t a forty hour a week job. And I think that the quality, passionate leaders, they’re the ones that put in the extra time. Because they know their kids need it. And that’s where for me, I was able to do the email, the paperwork, outside of the school hours. Did that mean that when I was in the hallway I didn’t have my phone and I was answering e-mails? No; I could definitely do that. But if a student walked by me I would stop and say hi to that student, ask where they were going, what were they doing. I made sure, I tried to make sure every day that whoever talked with me knew they were feeling special.
I know that one thing that was really hard for me was when I would sit in my office with a teacher and want to have a conversation – whether they came to me or I came to them – that the distractions are everywhere. And so it would be turning off my computer screen, putting my phone in my desk, making sure my office door was closed. And having a pad of paper and a pen out. And I’m very tech savvy; I love my. My MacBook. Or my iPad. And I do a lot of my organizational items there. But I found when I was trying to have a conversation with the teacher and that was that was a distraction. A pad of paper and a pen is all you need to be able to stay focused on those conversations. And they may not notice that. But they will notice if your computer is just distracting you or your phone’s beeping or your eyes are on your computer screen.
Jay Willis: And they absolutely won’t feel heard. The other question I’d have along those lines is what advice would you have as an administrator for working with the other teachers in the building?
Adam Drummond: I think that first as an administrator you have to understand and know you’re not going to make everybody happy all the time. And you’re not going to be able to be everyone to everyone. You know I had 68 people in my building working. I worked really hard to make sure that they knew they were valued and appreciated. But I know I wasn’t successful at that every day but that was always my goal as a school leader. I was doing something every day to let some teacher, paraprofessional, custodian, whomever, know that what they’re doing matters. That was definitely something that was a forced process for me. You know I’m not by nature a card writer but I realized very quickly how powerful that tool was. And so I would work hard every day, even if it was just a couple teachers, to just receive a note about something that they were doing well and stick it in their mailbox or put it on their desk. And then I also reached out to our social committee and said you know I can’t be everything to everyone. Can you help by doing some pick me up activities throughout the year, some social events throughout the year? To help us make sure that those needs are being met as well.
Jay Willis: So last question. If you had a time machine. And you could hop in it and go back to the point in time when you first made the decision to go into school administration. What advice would you go back and give the younger version of yourself?
Adam Drummond: Well that’s a really tough question. You know I think that the advice that I would give to myself is to slow down and listen more. Because I think as a young leader you want to come in and you want to impress your boss. You want to impress your teachers. You want to impress the community. You want them to see that you’re competent. But part of that competency is listening and learning from others as well. And I think that you know if I could go back to my first year and do it over again. I would definitely say there are opportunities that I could have been invested listening more to teachers. To mentors to colleagues and then reflect on maybe their opinion. And their ideas. And I think that’s an important skill. That we don’t often talk about is how do you listen with intent and purpose? And so I can go back to myself and in 2008 and say hey make sure you do this. That would be the number one thing I would tell myself.
Jay Willis: Yeah I hear that a lot so I feel like it may be even a message that I need to hear more often. Especially you know just in interacting with my kids, my wife, just in so many areas. I feel like if we just took the time to kind of like what Stephen Covey talks about, to seek first to understand, and then to be understood, that things would go so much better.
Adam Drummond: Well and I have had people I don’t know where I heard this one too but you know. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. And that’s so that we listen more and talk less. That definitely sticks with me as well.
Jay Willis: So if any of our listeners wanted to reach out to you after the show and connect, what would be the best way for them do that?
Adam Drummond: Now you have multiple ways that they could connect with me. Definitely through Twitter. I have a Twitter @AdamDDrummond and I also have a Facebook page. A personal one and then my professional one which is Drummond Educational Innovations. So they could go straight to that page. And connect there. I also have a LinkedIn account so they can find me through LinkedIn and then our website for our consulting company will be up very shortly and that’s DrummondInnovations.com.
Jay Willis: And I’ll make sure to include that in the show notes as well so people willbe able to find you.
Adam Drummond: Great.
Jay Willis: Eduleaders this has been a great interview today. For the show notes of today’s show and other resources visit EducatorsLead.com and type the word Adam Into the search tool to find his show notes. Adam thank you for sharing your journey with us today.
Adam Drummond: Jay thank you for the opportunity and I look forward to learning from other Edu Leaders out there.
Jay Willis: Great and that wraps up another episode of Educators Lead.
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Educators Lead is a podcast created to help launch educators into the next level of leadership. This show is for you if you are interested in educational leadership as an assistant principal, principal, superintendent, teacher or someone who hopes to be a school leader one day. Educators Lead offers inspiration and practical advice to help you lead more effectively. Jay Willis interviews school leaders three days a week to discuss why and when these educators made the decision to move into school leadership, challenges along the journey, and stories that made it all worthwhile. Educators Lead is a great resource for any educator looking to make a greater impact.
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