Rethinking Learning Podcast Episode #5
Adam Welcome is currently the Director of Innovation and Technology for Mount Diablo Unified School District in California, and former Elementary Principal for six years. He is the co-founder of Kids Deserve It with Todd Nesloney where their book is a bestseller on Amazon and they co-host the podcast series “Kids Deserve It.” As part of the Rethinking Learning Podcast series, Adam shares personal stories with me that I know will touch your heart.
I met Adam Welcome eight years ago and worked with him when he was Assistant Principal at an elementary school in San Ramon, CA. I knew then big things were on the horizon for Adam. I am excited about the movement of “Kids Deserve It” that he and Todd Nesloney started. So Adam is my 5th conversation for the Rethinking Learning Podcast series. Please listen to the podcast, read the post below, and go to the bottom of this page for Adam’s bio, contact information, and how to access his book and resources he mentioned. Below are a few excerpts from my “Conversation on Learning” with Adam Welcome.
Can you share a little about yourself, your background, and your current role?
I’m a former elementary school teacher and principal and currently am the Director of Innovation and Technology at Mt. Diablo Unified School District in Concord, CA. I am an author of “Kids Deserve It” with Todd Nesloney. I have a beautiful wife (Stacy) who I met at my first half marathon. We have two amazing children (Greta and Tilden). I am a big runner. This year I’m running 13 marathons and also a 24-hour marathon on New Year’s Eve. In fact, I plan to run one marathon backward to help me reach my goal which is to raise $100,000 for homeless students. I thought of this when I realized there are over 2.1 million homeless students in the US. So look for my GoFundMe page later this year. I’m eating vegan which is new for me, and also writing a new book called “Run Like a Pirate.”
How did you and Todd Nesloney (@techninjatodd) meet?
We met on Twitter. Todd used to have a podcast called @EduAllstars where I was on his show a number of years ago. Two years ago we were at the National Principals Conference in Long Beach. We both consult for Remind that is a text messaging app and we were at a dinner with them at the conference. It was then that I ranted “Schools don’t exist so we can have jobs. They exist to be awesome for kids and our kids deserve it.” Todd tweeted that out. The tweet blew up and we knew we had something there. Next morning, we wrote a blog post together about relationships. That led to about two dozen blog posts, a domain name, Twitter handle, and Instagram. Our goal was to have 1000 followers on Twitter and now we have about 25 thousand. That was in only a year and a half.
So why did you and Todd write Kids Deserve It?
Dave Burgess approached us to write our book, Kids Deserve It. It was so quick. We wrote it in about 3 months. It was our manifesto kind of like Jerry Macguire who wrote his manifesto in one night. We just had to write. It’s what Todd and I have been doing our whole careers. It’s more than just a book. We have a website, podcast, Twitter chat #kidsdeserveit, and sell Kids Deserve It T-shirts. We decided to donate $25,000 of the proceeds to DonorsChoose projects. It is more than a book. It is an ecosystem that is bigger than us. There are people in India, South Africa, and even South Korea who are part of Kids Deserve It. I guess it is a global movement. I get so excited when I see kids or teachers wearing our t-shirts. I even went over to some kids in an airport recently and took a selfie with them.
“Ride the bus with your students, read books to them, ride tricycles with Kindergarten students – stop making excuses and make it happen for your community!”
Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney, authors of Kids Deserve It
The first chapter is Go Big, Be Creative! I love the idea of trying something new. Can you explain this and share an example?
This came to me one night: “No kid ever complained that their teacher messed up a lesson. But if you try something new, they’ll brag about you at recess.” Teachers need to get over themselves as educators. The kids need us in different ways more than ever. Kids have so many things in their world. They multitask, so are they really listening? Give them a little bit and then let them go. Show them what’s possible. Going big is like running 13 marathons in a year. It is the same in a classroom. At my school where I was a principal, we had 30 iPads. In a year and a half, we were one-to-one with 550 students. I’ve been asked how I paid for it. There is money. It’s all about how you spend your money and reallocate your budget. My 6-year-old daughter uses Alexa to find out how to spell a word. We’re now putting Alexas in the classrooms for students to do a voice search instead of asking the teacher. They are only $139. That’s doable. I don’t know everything. No one does. It’s about harnessing the power in the room. Instead of saying “NO” first, let’s try to figure out another way. I wrote a blog post: “I’m so tired of NO.” We need more YES. When we say YES, that’s going big.
You mentioned “Edupressure” – can you explain why people need it?
I encourage educators to get on Twitter, Voxer or something else to connect to other educators. I checked in two minutes later and asked them if they are on yet. I’m here to nudge people. Do it right now! I’ll track people down a week later and call their school to talk to them about not getting a message back from them on Voxer because I want to make sure everything’s okay. Some may be taken aback about this, but I hope my personality is just about pushing you with EduPressure to broaden your PLN (Personal Learning Network). Years later, many have thanked me for pushing, poking and prodding them to connect online. You’re going to get out of it what you put into it. If you don’t put anything into it, you get nothing out of it. If I can apply some pressure, it’s going to blow your mind. You see, you are in charge of your learning, but sometimes it takes another person to push and continue to prod you so you take that chance. I can. You can. No excuses.
In Chapter 4, you talk about listening and empathy. Why is it important for educators to let kids know they care?
Some kids spend more time in school than they do with their family. It all starts with the relationships. As a first time principal, I had just had my first child. I heard a young child crying in the nurse’s office across the hall so. I went into to check on him. I had to go back to my office, but I could hear him still crying and thought of my daughter. Becoming a parent changes you. What if that was my child crying all alone? I went back and sat with that child until his parents showed up. They thanked me, but I got it that those 10 minutes were important for that child. Everything else could wait. Kids know if you are fake, not real or are there not really paying attention. If you take the time to sit on the floor, play kickball, or even go down the slide, they know you care. They’ll tell their parents and the child and their parents will work harder for you. Your school can be the shining star of the community.
You listed practices that will make better leaders. And you wrote, whatever your role in your school, you can commit to being a leader worth following. So what you are saying is that everyone can be a leader. Is that correct?
Everybody is a leader. I was talking yesterday to a principal mentioning that they were working too hard. You need to distribute the leadership. When I was a principal, my goal was to play kickball and tweet. I had different people do different things for the school. I told them, you are not doing it for me. You are doing it for the school. The school is a community. The teacher is not in charge of their classroom only. You can help another teacher with ideas or help with a student that you had last year. Just be a leader worth following. You never know when you are going to be needed. I’ve read a lot of military books on leadership including Leadership Lessons of the Navy Seals. They had an amazing leadership structure. If something happens to one person, another person takes over. They distribute the leadership where all have a role. I used to have fire drills when I was off campus. We needed to make sure everyone knew what to do without me and the office manager. We tend to be the ones that run the school. So what if we’re not available or on campus? What happens? Do a fire drill without the leaders so everyone can be a leader. You never know the hidden nuggets in your classrooms who can take over. We have to create opportunities for kids to show what they really have inside of them because you are going to uncover some really awesome things.
Your book is chock full of ideas for the whole school community including parents. Can you share one more idea or suggestion for our audience?
Todd and I wrote the book that we wanted to read. We read or tried to read so many educational books that you read a chapter and you don’t know what you just read. If you haven’t read our book, it’s an easy book to read. If I was still a principal, give it to the PTA president or some parents. Have some available in the office. One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 8, Leave it in the Car. That morning time is such a pivotal time. Everybody has something going on in their life. You have a choice in the morning. You can leave all your problems in your car or you can bring them with you in your classroom. This goes for any job, but we work with kids. Kids deserve your best every day. Do it for your kids, your colleagues, and leadership. All those problems will be there waiting for you, but leave them in the car until you get back to go home later. You won’t know what one little comment or kudos can do for a kid. Everybody can do that every day because kids deserve it.
Adam Welcome is currently the Director of Innovation and Technology for Mount Diablo Unified School District in California, and former Elementary Principal for six years. He is the co-founder of Kids Deserve It with Todd Nesloney where their book is a bestseller on Amazon and they co-host the podcast series “Kids Deserve It.” It is a simple yet profound message and Adam and Todd encourage everyone to join the conversation.
Adam taught elementary school for seven years and set up one of the first GAFE domains in his county. Adam was Principal of the Year for his ACSA region, a 20 To Watch for the National School Board Association, guest blogger for EdWeek, NAESP magazine, ACSA and also writes his own blog. Adam also consults and works with many education technology companies as a way to improve their product for others! Additionally, Adam travels the country giving keynotes for education groups!
Adam is passionate about technology integration with all educators. As a huge advocate of social media, he connects with other educators across the country. Adam makes it clear that kids come first and has preached the message of “Team Kid” for many years. Adam believes leaders should stand on the tables, ride tricycles and do whatever it takes to connect with kids!