This is a dual-post including a podcast interview with Principal Adam Beauchamp who shares the digital tools his school is using for enhancing communication.
Adam shared with me via a recent webinar on Communication Strategies that Work. If you want to see the Webinar, you can watch it here.
I’m also including a companion blog post below of an additional Q & A exchange between Adam and me. I am thrilled to share his insights! If you’re interested in interviews with previous guests, you can check them out here.
Adam Beauchamp is principal of Waller Middle School in Enid, OK. He graduated from Tahlequah High School and Northeastern State University. He has had teaching, coaching, and admin experience in Allen, Texas; Coalgate, Oklahoma; Rice University, Houston, Texas; University of Tennessee – Martin, TN; and Bixby, Oklahoma, and Enid, Oklahoma. He is husband to Robyn who is an elementary special education teacher and, they have three little girls.
WDP: Congrats on being Oklahoma’s Digital Principal of the Year! Can you share some of the innovative ways you are using technology at your school?
Adam: We received the OETT Grant my first year at Waller and created a video productions studio. In our studio, we create a variety of movies, broadcasts, and short films to highlight our school and students. We also added clubs to our schedule where students get an additional elective course. Students created clubs and several have had a technology focus.
WDP: How have these learning experiences also helped you grow as a school leader?
Adam: Our mission is to be recognized as the very best middle school in the state of Oklahoma at helping students reach their potential. This mission challenges us to constantly find ways to make sure we are doing that with every student.
By making a commitment to every student, we have challenged our entire staff to continue to grow to meet our students changing needs. We have adopted a goal process that focuses on three areas for every student: Attitude, Academics, and Attendance.
We analyze these results weekly as a staff and address them with our student body every month. One of the biggest changes we have addresses is our RTI and grading process the last couple years.
WDP: Can you take us back to a failure, obstacle, or challenge in leading your school community and how you overcame it?
Adam: Every month I meet with a student advisory council and get their input on a variety of things. We speak very openly and honestly and have some crucial conversations. They have been very blunt with their feedback, but it has allowed us an opportunity to understand each other and ways we can improve.
Our student clubs came about from this process. As a philosophy we embrace failure as part of the growth process and understand that to be able to achieve great things, we must constantly push our limits and experience failure so we can grow and reach our potential…ultimately there are no failures as long as you continue the process.
WDP: What is an example of something you or your team have done that required risk but created great results?
Adam: We embraced RTI during the middle of my first year. We had some great conversations with staff, sent four teachers to get trained on RTI, scheduled staff training, and completely changed our schedule mid-year in order to offer remediation and enrichment for every student during the school day. It was a big change from where we were, but ultimately all students have been able to benefit and be challenged at the appropriate level.
WDP: Can you give an example of an “aha!” moment where you realized a key truth that you turned into a success?
Adam: One day I was having a discussion with an individual student about his club, and he was discussing the difficult process of learning that he went through…the multiple “failures” and working to overcome them, working with others, asking for help, working over and over to accomplish something he never thought possible.
Having that conversation with him, we were able to relate it to his academic courses when he then had an “aha” moment of understanding: that if he wanted to achieve in those areas, he needed to apply himself the same way–that the process of growth and achievement is the same no matter what the field. It’s about habits; it’s about dedicating yourself to doing the simple things over and over again.
We have been able to make this connection with multiple students by creating clubs and opportunities to showcase their talents and develop other talents where they have been able to buy-in to working hard to achieve goals.
WDP: What are you most excited about looking into this school year?
Adam: We have continued to get more specific with our programs and procedures, and we really anticipate a continued progression of achievement. We get excited about students being able to display at high levels how they are producers and not just consumers of their education. We have challenged our staff in three areas and expect our students to really grow by focusing on procedures, engagement, and lesson summary each period.
WDP: What is the best leadership advice you have received that you would share with a new school leader?
Adam: It’s about being the “first follower.” Derek Sivers gave a three minute TED talk on “How to Start a Movement” where he discusses the importance of being the first follower. It’s not about leading from the front; it’s about supporting the ideas and passions of your students, staff, and community. The talk is here.
WDP: What is a resource or digital tool that you just love that you would recommend to other leaders?
Adam: There are several out there, but the newest one I am a fan of is VOXER. It is an app on my cell phone where I have a group of other MS principals that we share the same forum. It is a walkie-talkie, text message, and document-sharing app that I can get instant access to a team of professionals. It is really not the app that is amazing; it is about finding a way to connect with others in your profession that you can bounce ideas off of and share information with in a way that you are able to get quick feedback.
WDP: If you could recommend a great book for other school leaders, what would it be?
Adam: I have numerous ones you can see on my website.
This year we are studying “Grit” and how it applies to our individual growth. I recommend any on the list. We believe that wherever we will be in the future is the direct result of two things: The books you read and the people you meet. (Choose both wisely.)
WDP: Thanks so much for sharing all this wisdom from your experience! Do you have any final thoughts for fellow-school leaders?
Adam: We would love for everyone to come and do a site visit here in Enid, OK! We love showcasing what we do, and always learn something when others some for a visit. Let us know ahead of time and we will have our amazing cafeteria staff bake some of their world famous cinnamon rolls!!!
As this year’s Digital Principal of the Year, Adam also highlights student activities through weekly YouTube newsletters or slideshows to showcase great events from their school. In addition to the embedded practices at his school, students recently hosted their first TED-X talk. If you want to connect with Adam, you can find him via Twitter @ or through his school’s website.
Now It’s Your Turn
What ways are you encouraging a culture where students provide feedback, direction, and input for the leadership decisions of your school? Share those ideas with the rest of us or think about how to embed those practices more into your environment today.
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