literacy skills

Dr. Adam Browning – Director of Learning Palliser School Division

Dr. Adam Browning – Director of Learning Palliser School Division
About Dr. Adam Browning

Dr. Adam Browning (@AdamLBrowning) has been an educator for 17 years. As a system-level leader, he is primarily responsible for curriculum and diversity supports for a school division of over 40 schools and approximately 9000 students.  

He is a researcher in applied linguistics and an instructor at the University of Lethbridge. Much of his research focused on early literacy and language skills and how students transition to more academic uses of literacy.  He is especially interested in motivation and how we can better engage students with literacy.  

Connect with Adam: Email | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

Palliser Regional Schools

University of Victoria – BA in History

University of Calgary – Doctorate of Education in Applied Linguistics

Malcolm X Autobiography

The Power of Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today, I have the distinct honor of interviewing Adam Browning; Dr. Adam Browning. He’s been an educator for 17 years and as a systems leader, his primary responsibility is for curriculum and diversity supports for a school division for over 40 schools and approximately 9,000 students. He is a researcher in implied linguistics, and an instructor at the University of Lethbridge. Much of his research focused on early literacy and language skills, and how students transition to more academic uses of literacy.

Sam Demma (01:13):
He’s especially interested in motivation and how we can better engage students through and using literacy. I hope you enjoy this interview. It was very interesting and intriguing, and I will see you on the other side of the episode. Adam, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on this show. We had a great chat last week, and I’m glad that we, we made some time to make this happen. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit behind how you got into the role and education you’re in today.

Dr. Adam Browning (01:42):
Awesome. Thanks for having me and connecting me. I’m glad to be, this is my first podcast. That’s new for me, so just excited for the opportunity. So I guess the question is kind of what brought me into education. It’s a long story and I know that it’s probably longer than what I could cover in your podcast, but I’ll admit this you know, at the expense of some of my colleagues hearing it. I don’t think I was a great student. I wasn’t an engaged student, you know, I struggled throughout K-12, and I remember in grade one, you know, my mom will tell me now that maybe they thought I had a learning disability that I just I wasn’t really clueing in areas of literacy and other pieces of language that they thought I should be at that time. And looking back, you know, out of all the time that I was in school and that I struggled, I can think about a few times where I was successful. And I think a lot of that success came from connection with a great teacher and, and that’s what brought me here is being a struggling student, and then to somebody who’s become a teacher, principal, and a director of education and a, I guess, a, an instructor at the university, I just see such an opportunity for what an awesome role model adult and a teacher can do to make a profound difference in the lives of kids. Yeah, that’s kind of what brought me here.

Sam Demma (03:07):
Well, tell me more about your own experience as a student. You know, you mentioned struggling a little as well. Did you have any educators in your, in your journey as a student that showed you the importance of having a caring adult in your life?

Dr. Adam Browning (03:25):
Totally. And I think back to, you know, who those educators were and just how impactful they were. I had a principal in elementary school named Dr. Farran and I guess I became a doctor around vocabulary and I remember Dr. Fe always being in the library and he’d looking at a dictionary and pulling up words and just kinda showing me the power of language. I remember in grade six and this is a student, you know, who I wasn’t really engaged was always struggling being compared to my older siblings, that there was time for us to memorize or to about a poem and be able to, to say that poem and speak the poem. And I memorized the poem. This offered Lord tenons, the charge of light brigade, probably can’t fully recite now, but no, still lot that, but just felt empowered by him, not through wrote memorization, but just the power of learning about words, learning about literacy, about poetry and being proud that I could do something and he really celebrated it.

Dr. Adam Browning (04:23):
And I was that student who probably didn’t have as much confidence. I didn’t have as much confidence and just having that opportunity to, to do something and do it well. And, and have it be known in the school, made a huge difference for me. And I think about, you know, in junior high, as it got tougher, as it does is for many students just running into that one teacher, Mr. Whitmore, social studies, grade 11, who just made content accessible for me, showed me that I could have a passion about it. I would probably say that history. And then land-based learning outdoor education are some of my most favorite subjects to teach and he just made it cool. I could talk about contemporary topics. I could really look at it critically. I could access it. It wasn’t learning from a worksheet. It wasn’t learning from a textbook.

Dr. Adam Browning (05:11):
And I found success as this student in those classes. And I just thought that that’s something that if I was to become a teacher, I could bring and I hope that’s what I brought to education. I, I, you know, I think that kindergarten to 12, that system probably university too, it’s like a race. Mm. And any given year, I’ve heard this before a student can fall behind and then they have like cumulative disadvantage cuz you fall behind and you going to learn the next thing and it just gets harder and harder. And so I think that a obviously there’s changes that people can make at the system to be more inclusive of students. But at any given year student can meet that one teacher who will have such an impact on them that their, their growth, you know, either as people or as students is gonna grow more than a year and you can have that type of impact on a student so that they don’t become disadvantaged.

Dr. Adam Browning (06:03):
I know that researchers and other people are gonna talk about just how important education is. And there’s always exceptions to that role where some people don’t have education. They do great things. I think largely education is super important and not just on a, about how we form as people and being able to be part of that, I think is fundamental to who I am. You know, I’ve always been into social justice and wanting to create meaningful change as a student university. And I thought about ways to do that. And I’ve had these pivotal moments in my life where I’ve thought about my career choices. Was I gonna go on to be a lawyer or was I gonna, you know, stay in school and be a teacher? And I chose the education path. I don’t regret it. It’s been awesome.

Sam Demma (06:46):
You know, people sometimes say, I can’t hear you because your actions are speaking so loud. Right. I can’t hear what you’re saying because your actions are speaking so loud and you’re somebody who has been in school practically your entire life. Is that correct?

Dr. Adam Browning (07:00):
yeah, I think so. Yeah. Yeah. It’s probably probably like a few months at a time where I’ve had some reprieve for it. But up until about January of this year, I’ve been a student my entire life.

Sam Demma (07:12):
that’s awesome. So you, you know, you’ve lived that philosophy of the importance of education in your own actions, which I think is so important, but bridge the gap for me, you know, how did you go from not the best student struggling in school to getting into teaching, you know, understanding that having a, an adult figure in your life who believes in you is really important, could have taken you in many different paths. You could have become a coach. You could have worked with young people in, into different capacities. Why teaching? Like when did you know that you were gonna get into teaching and what did that journey look like?

Dr. Adam Browning (07:46):
It’s a funny one. I was in a Tim Hortons, probably in like the early two thousands and I was studying for an exam and I just found myself working there late night. And I had a conversation with this guy who was a teacher who I had never met. I didn’t know. And I’ve never seen since I wish I could thank them. Wow. And I had written my LSATs at the time, my law school entrance exam. And I’d done well well enough to go to law school. And I thought about it at that time of what I was gonna do. And I was either gonna go to this teachering education program where I’d been offered acceptance into or into law school. And we just ended up having this generic conversation where he talked about his life as an educator and what learned and what he was able to do.

Dr. Adam Browning (08:30):
And, and I mean, the biggest piece was, he said, you’re gonna give up some income, there’ll be some challenges, but the impact that you’re gonna make on lives of kids and what you’re gonna be able to do like in society is gonna be something that is so awesome for you. So I really took that away and I thought about it and I had turned around and I had these three choices of either going to do a master’s degree going into teaching or going into law school. So at that point, I said, well, I’m gonna take a little bit of the best of both. I’m gonna do a master’s degree, but I’m also gonna go into teaching. And I started teaching in the middle school and the tougher school in the city where I, you know, I started teaching it was a community school and a really diverse school.

Dr. Adam Browning (09:16):
And it had that reputation with some of the kids of being the place where maybe they had had some trouble kids to learn. And I just found it to be an awesome experience. Like day one, just the connections that I was able to start making with students. I started my practicum there and then I was able to work there shortly. But the connections I was able to make with students about things that matter to them and be friendly with them. And, you know, I still have students who reach out to me today near 20 years later. And it’s reminding me that I’m getting older, but it’s just awesome to see what they’re doing in their journey, because they were able to find something that they were passionate about. And I feel like as a teacher I was able to do that, find something that a kid is passionate, find something that a kid does well and work from there, and anyone can grow. I have that firm belief that anyone can do better. And anyone can be successful. It’s not just a catchphrase. It I’ve seen it. And so I’ve lived my my work life around that.

Sam Demma (10:10):
I love it. And when you first started, you were teaching, I assumed then you moved into a pre position and now you’re, you know, you’re working at a, a little bit of a higher level and you might be responsible for different tasks. What do the differences look like? And what did you enjoy working, you know, in the classrooms versus what you’re doing now and vice versa, what do you enjoy what you do now versus working in the classrooms?

Dr. Adam Browning (10:33):
I missed the classroom and this was the first year where I’ve really been and able to kind of get back into the classroom as a teacher. But classroom was awesome. You know, that direct connection with kids and you’re involved in their learning. It’s exciting. You learning can be fun. I remember, you know, teaching grade eight science and we were building bios and it was messy and it was loud and there was lots of tables. And my principal would walk in the room and kids were bios, or they were doing these Ru Goldberg experiments to learn about motion and science. And I felt like a topic that I learned from a textbook at times was a topic that I could teach through experience and kids would enjoy it. And so I really missed that part of education. But I moved up into administration fairly quickly was, and two years after teaching, I was an administrator and did that for about 10 years.

Dr. Adam Browning (11:22):
What I liked about that is that I could really take what I was doing in a classroom and build support for that at a school level. I could see as an administrator, tangible areas where I could build relationships with all kids throughout the school. And I remember being that student who was in the hallway, who would be sitting as flush against the wall as you could, so that the principal didn’t see you, cuz you’d be in trouble. You know, I always enjoyed dealing with those students because I could find out what was going on with them at home. You know, I had probably not the easiest family life or the easiest life growing up. And so I know that behavior’s really communicative of what a student has going on. So finding that way to be that support, to be that listening ear. That was really cool.

Dr. Adam Browning (12:07):
And I could see that as tangible differences that I could make for a student every day, you know, and I wasn’t always coming to teach a class. Sometimes it was like, this is how you tie a tie. I remember some great six kids who were celebrating, I guess, a mini graduation and they were fascinated with it. And just being that first person to teach them that I felt I felt honored. And so that was really cool. Those were the positives, I think in this role that I have now, I have a greater opportunity to make system change things that I’m passionate about with literacy or with language. I have an opportunity to advocate for that and do that at the system level. Like I didn’t during a school, the challenges, I don’t always see the tangible impact it takes. Sometimes when you’re looking at dealing with 40 something schools and, you know, over a thousand staff and 9,000 students seeing that tangible difference in that individual student’s life take time at a system level and something I’m adjusting to,

Sam Demma (13:10):
You mentioned me able to make system ch system change at this level at that sometimes you can’t see the change that’s happening or the impact that’s having on the direct student, or maybe even the direct staff member. But I had one educator to tell me, and you meant, you actually alluded to it earlier that sometimes your job as an educator is to plant this seed and water it. And sometimes that doesn’t grow or you don’t see it grow for 15, 20 years. Like you mentioned, now, you’re having students email you and tell you, you know, how great it was to learn X, Y, or Z, or that they’re working in a specific field or industry. And that probably lights you up. So I would, I would encourage you to just keep doing it with a, with a open heart, knowing that it’s still making a change, whether you’re here, it or not. Tell me more about the, the initial years in administration, if there’s someone else listening who would love to also make that jump, like what do you think helped you, you know, make the jump as well,

Dr. Adam Browning (14:12):
Make the jump to teaching to administrator.

Sam Demma (14:16):

Dr. Adam Browning (14:19):
I think when you work on as a staff, as a teacher and you see what a great principal can do, it really makes you enthusiastic about the potential now unquestionably. And I’ll say, I think that being a principal is probably the toughest job in education. Certainly I think it’s tougher than my, a job and you deal with a lot and you support a big staff of teachers, but the benefits of it and the positives of it are unparalleled. You know, I look at the time that I was a teacher and I, I started as a principal at the age of 26. So I was somewhat younger and I had some teachers on my staff, some of whom were in their fifties, they were closer to retirement. And I just had such a supportive group of teachers to help me learn along as a principal. You know, there’s no class that prepares a principal.

Dr. Adam Browning (15:05):
People will say that masters programs prepare principal or leadership quality programs. I think they help, but a lot of it is just lessons that you learn as you go and that you learn working with others from teachers. And I feel like a good piece of being a principal and a good piece of advice I would give to principals is to listen to your teachers. Mm. You always looked at books and their slogans like feed the teachers or to lead the kids or, or ways to distribute your leadership so that you’re empowering teachers to lead a school with you. Not just being led by you, but leading with you. And I feel like, you know, doing those things and seeing those things, every, just like every student had a positive teacher, teachers who have had a positive principle and they see what a difference it can make for a school community for them and for, or students, you know, maybe enthusiastic about taking that step.

Dr. Adam Browning (15:56):
It is a big jump. It’s not one that you get paid substantially for. And you have a tougher job, but you can make a difference for people. Yeah. And I feel like, you know, one of those, those things that I’ve taken away and I, I, I don’t usually push or market catch for raises or slow group slogans or programs, but this has been something big for me is like servant leadership. The idea that you can lead by helping others just finding ways to give a teacher that release time so they can go get a coffee. And then you’re spending that time reading with their kids, things like that are really cool. As a principal, you get a lot of flexibility in your, your schedule that you didn’t have when you were a teacher, but it’s an opportunity for you not to sit in your office. I’ve always heard, you know, people say, you know, you have an open door policy. I don’t have an open door policy. I mean, my policy is I gonna be out there or I won’t let my door hit me in the ass on the way out. You know, I think that we’re gonna out in classrooms and talking to parents and talking to students and just being really visible. Favorite part of being a principal, playing Dodge ball with the kids.

Sam Demma (17:00):
Mm love that. That’s awesome. And being that you’re a, someone who loves literacy, I’m sure you also read books. And I would love to know if, if any of the reads you’ve come across over the years as an educator have been really foundational or impactful for you, maybe in some of your own philosophies or principles as a leader.

Dr. Adam Browning (17:22):
That’s a great question.

Sam Demma (17:24):
I’m putting you on the spot here.

Dr. Adam Browning (17:26):
No, that’s great. Because then you, I think about, you know, what I’m endorsing or really what made that difference for me in terms of what I read, you know, I’ve read a ton of things about research, about literacy. And it’s not a book per se, but I’ve had some, some fundamental things that have changed my, my thoughts. So I’ll share two things, I’ll share a book and then I’ll share a thought changing experience if that’s okay. Yeah, that’s perfect. I think one of the more recent things that I’ve been looking at and I’ve been reading, that’s been impactful on my work is this book called making, thinking visible by Ron Richards. So he’s written a series of books, making, thinking visible and creating cultures of thinking. And it’s very focused on, I would say almost the relationships that we have and the dialogue behind learning.

Dr. Adam Browning (18:17):
I look at the challenges that we faced with the pandemic and learning, moving online. And I think that a lot of what we experienced in education before is challenges like student engagement. It’s just been exacerbated. It’s basically all of those challenge, but it’s created this sense of urgency and made it really apparent. And, you know, Ron Richard takes this approach to learning and these learning routines about having these, you know, not question and answer, but more of this rich dialogue with students and this rich learning routine that makes you know, learning transfer results in deep, deeper thinking and more critical thinking from students. And I’ve been big about that lately and reading it and then seeing the opportunities for it. And so that’s something that I feel like has helped definitely shift my, my thinking, think some other things that I’ve looked at that have really shifted the way that I felt on vocabulary and language learning my dissertation, my doctorates around vocabulary acquisition.

Dr. Adam Browning (19:18):
Cool. One of the biggest areas that I look at with language that really impacts the student is your vocabulary and part of what really delves the student to read. So, you know, to kind of put it into, I hope no linguists or list to this, cuz they’ll say he just did a really rough job with it from K to 12, by the time a kid gets to university, they gotta have around 80,000 words, 15 to 18,000 word families, 10,000 of these words are gonna be these heavier academic words. And these words that we get taught directly the next 20,000 are gonna be words that we hear in context through good conversation. And this last 40,040 to 50,000 are gonna be words that you have through your experiences and deeper and wider reading. Hmm. So the more you read, the more you experience, the better it’s gonna make your vocabulary and linguists won’t always agree on a lot.

Dr. Adam Browning (20:12):
I think most to them would agree that a kid’s early vocabulary is probably gonna be the best predictor of their academic success. And so, you know, I was speaking to a mentor of mine and saying, well, if only 10,000 are these first ones, the words that were taught explicitly, but the rest are reading. Why do we focus on that, that vocabulary acquisition so much that explicit, direct vocabulary acquisition. And so I’ve spent a lot of time researching that and looking at that of just how do we get kids engaged in language? And I used to take this approach as a researcher of being more on the cognitive side of language, where you count on the amount of vocabulary, you profile students language, to look at it. So much of what I’m seeing now can easily be measured. Mm it’s like the engagement factor for a student to wanna learn about something that they’re engaged in.

Dr. Adam Browning (21:02):
So they show their own agency and their own interest to get into a subject. Doesn’t always have to be through reading. Sometimes it’s through video or other media forms. It’s powerful and it’s something that’s tougher to measure and it’s really changing the way I’m thinking. So here’s the experience part. I was in a, a session with a a friend of mine and I would almost say an informal mentor, but David Bouchard, the very well known Metty author and David, you know, has had a profound impact on because I’m met, you know, his area’s literacy. That’s my area. He is much more well known than I am, but you know, someone that I aspire to be like, and he said something to the audience and I felt like it was almost calling me out. And he said not, everyone’s gonna be a doctor and drive Mercedes.

Dr. Adam Browning (21:50):
And we all found that funny, but then he said it needs three things. They need a hero in literacy like that positive adult role model who makes them like learning. They need a, they need time and they need a good book. Not everything is easily measured. And remember when he was saying that I was in the midst of writing my doctorate dissertation and I’m thinking about counting words, and I still believe in that aspect, but he just really opened some doors for me to, to think about literacy differently. And so not everything’s that that’s shaping who I’m becoming as an educator is books I read, but it’s also experiences called conversations. They have a big impact.

Sam Demma (22:31):
And what experiences did you have as a student that also built the beliefs about servant leadership and social justice? Like where did that passion or where did that? Yeah. Where did that passion come from to also focus on that aspect of education? Not only as a teacher, but also maybe when you were a student,

Dr. Adam Browning (22:54):
It probably didn’t come in until high school, but it came in that one social studies class where, you know, the teacher was teaching us in a way about contemporary history where I didn’t have to read a textbook that I didn’t see myself reflected in. You know, I grew up you know, my mother’s met and my family’s met my met individual. And I remember learning about history and it being so far removed from what I knew of my mother’s background, you know, we used to learn about the met resistance and we would hear it be called insurrection and that Lou re was a trait. And it was just such a difficult learning path. And so to make history accessible and take ownership over it was that really tough part. And this one teacher where I felt so alienated as a student learning, especially from that cultural aspect, he had just made it open where I didn’t have to read from a textbook.

Dr. Adam Browning (23:47):
I could go and find other things. And he’d challenge you. He’d tell you go to the public library and pick up sources that you wanted read on a topic. I mean, he, let me read Malcolm X. It changed my life, reading that book. That’s awesome. And you know, very much, even though Malcolm X was in teacher, brought me into education, I felt really empowered to learn about different topics and just to see the power of the pen and what learning can do to advance a social cause. And that’s really, I’d probably say the fundamental moment where I saw that difference I could make in education, but just the power of information and the access to information. Mm

Sam Demma (24:28):
That’s a great book. I love Malcolm X’s autobiography. There’s a part where talks about one of his first jobs being shoe shining along with hustling, but that, yeah, this that’s so cool. When you’re talking about this teacher, it instantly makes me think of my own world issues teacher. Like the teacher hand is down that had the biggest impact on me was my, his class was called world issues, but I guess it was social studies and he also didn’t have a textbook. In fact, he just had this white binder that had probably close to three or 4,000 sheets of paper in it. And he started the semester by walking in front of the class and saying, I wanna introduce myself, but I also wanna say, don’t listen or take word by word anything that I’m gonna tell you as the truth. If something makes you interested or curious, I want you to go and verify all the facts yourself.

Sam Demma (25:20):
And I remember being a student thinking this guy’s crazy. Like he’s the teacher, you know? But then it started to make so much sense and it became my most enjoyable class. You know, you talked about earlier, the idea of your student or your teacher making lessons accessible as well and making you feel culturally, and also just overall included in the, in the class. He was someone who would get to know us on, on such a, a level that he would teach a lesson and then say, oh, Sam, by the way, to you, this means X and oh, Adam to you, this lesson means X and oh, Koon to you because you’re interested in X, Y, and Z. This means X. And he would take the lesson and paint it with our interests so that we become interested in it. And I’ll never, yeah, I’ll never forget his class.

Sam Demma (26:10):
And he was someone who led by example, but without telling you, you know, I didn’t know that while I was in school, Mike for the past 24 years, ran the food drive and helped you know, bring a million pounds of food and goods to local shelters or that he collected enough pop, can tabs to build a eight wheelchairs and no one, he didn’t talk about it, but he would just, you know, he would teach his lessons, was super passionate about the content and then would be doing all this great work and living out what he thought was a, was a great life. And he’s retired now. And I’m curious to know well actually wanna wrap this up, but on two final notes, when you, when you retire know and you’re not that old, so hopefully got some years left , but, but when you step away from, you know, teaching, what is the legacy that you wanna leave or the, the impact you wanna leave behind. And then I’ll ask you one follow up question before we wrap up.

Dr. Adam Browning (27:07):
I got a ton of thoughts I wanna leave behind. I think the biggest thing that I’ve tried to leave behind right now, and no I’m not ready to retire, and it’s not even an age until I see that. I mean, I’ve wanted a number of students to just go on and come back and share their success and see enough of it that they’re making that change in the world, either becoming educators or just being passionate about something. And I don’t, I, I feel it and I see it, but I haven’t coming off. And that’s really the Testament to the work that you do is that kid in kindergarten, grade one who come back and they see you and you see that they’re just doing something wonderful. And they let you know, the more I see of that I might get there. And I haven’t been in education long enough to see enough of that.

Dr. Adam Browning (27:47):
Nice. I’m starting to see students of mine who become teachers, and I’m starting to see teachers of mine who are becoming administrators. And I’m proud of it. Think on one of my last schools, you know, the staff, at least three of those people have become administrators. And I just feel like that’s something that I want to continue to see. So now I’m focused really on building leadership opportunities for people to become leaders in various capacities. That’s something that I want to see behind that I’ve created this ongoing system of sincere leaders and learners who are giving back to the, to the community. And I think that I hope I lead behind a Testament of literacy where so much of what we do is just having students engage in positive literacy experiences. And I remember as a student going to the library and picking up things that I wasn’t necessarily connected in class, but I was connected to ideas and to have someone who can value that, and then just encouraged that, that literacy learning or students creating things and those natural opportunities for it. I would like to leave that behind on a system where we celebrate literacy, we don’t just measure it. That’s something I’m looking forward to leaving behind

Sam Demma (28:59):
You. You made me think about what, what informal path I took to start liking literacy or just books and reading as well. I’ll share really quickly. I hated reading. growing up. You couldn’t get me to read a book. I just, I was too focused on soccer and sports. And it was when I was 16 years old and got diagnosed with a condition in my hip known as FAI. It stands for ephemeral acid, tabular impingement, essentially the head of my femur wasn’t round. Then it was tearing up the cartilage in my right hip. And I just got diagnosed with it. I was taking six months off soccer. And while I was taking the time off, I told my dad, I wanted to build a gym in my basement. And he said, great, I’ll help you pick up the equipment, but you have to find a way to pay for it.

Sam Demma (29:44):
And so I started a Salvato grass, cutting service, and started cutting my neighbors lawns and awesome. I started flipping gym equipment on Kijiji. I’d buy rusted plates, you know, scratch them with an iron brush to get the rust off spray, paint them, sell them for full price. I was pretty excited about it. And you know, after a couple, once I had enough money to blast some equipment and I found a gym that was closing down in Toronto, and I connected with the person, we agreed on a price. I got my dad to deliver on his promise and drive me to downtown Toronto. And, you know, I spent 45 minutes going up and down these flights of stairs, grabbing these dumbbells. And I was just having a conversation with the guy who sold it to me and asking him, oh, why are you was in your gym?

Sam Demma (30:22):
And he was like, you know, I have this dream and vision to coach people. And I’m writing this book right now. And he, you know, went down this long explanation of how he’s changing his life. And he’s super inspired by different work. And he’s like, oh, do you like reading? And I was like, no, you know, I, I, I actually, he hate reading. I don’t read too much. And he was like, oh, you should read a couple books. In fact, you know, maybe start with these. And he gave me a short little list and I remember being inspired because I kind of looked up to this guy. He seemed like a very cool individual. He was selling me Jim equipment. So I thought, you know what, I’m gonna give this a shot. And I remember going to indigo and buying, you know, two or three of the books on the list and reading them, not understanding too much of the books because they were not, they were self-help books and they weren’t really related to anything I was experiencing or going through in my life.

Sam Demma (31:13):
So it was a little out of context, but I remember reading them and thinking, wow, this is pretty cool. And I ended up making value village, a thrift store, my biggest bookstore. And, you know, if you buy I four books to get the fifth one free and I would go there every couple months and buy some new books anyways, I’m going on a long path to say that I think sometimes students get inspired to read and to get more involved with literacy when it’s coming from someone outside of the actual educational system or walls, because when their teacher tells ’em to do it, maybe it’s not so cool. But when someone you look up to does, it’s a different story, you know? But yeah, that was my experience. Anyways. I think what you mentioned about leaving behind is, is awesome. And now, if, if I could ask you the reverse question and take you back to your first year of teaching, knowing what you know now, you know, based on the experiences you’ve had and the learnings you had, what advice would you give your younger self when you were just starting? If you could give yourself a handful of pointers,

Dr. Adam Browning (32:16):
I would tell myself to take the time to walk around and see what’s working. Right. I moved into administration really quick, and I felt this to challenge right off the bat to help every student and to help every teacher in education. And so rarely in the day, you know, when you’re dealing with, especially my current role, I end up dealing with lots of issues. But that’s always been that case throughout education. I think I would go back and I remind myself to find opportunities to see what is working, right. So that you’re not just, you know, immersed in issues because there’s so many success stories that are out there in schools, whether it’s a student, that’s doing something excellent or a passion that they have. And if you’re focused too much on the on challenges, sometimes you miss those, those opportunities. Mm.

Dr. Adam Browning (33:01):
And so I’d tell a younger, less patient version of myself. I give ’em the grasshopper speak and speech and say, this is something that, you know, you’re gonna come to learn. And, and I would’ve tried, I probably wouldn’t have been ready to hear it at the time, but I would’ve learned, I would’ve stated that. And just to your point, I think that, you know, we all need to do that. I think back in myself as a student, I can’t remember how many books I read that were part of a course that were something that I remember fundamentally, as you know, this was that book that really made me love literacy. And so we talked about things that I’m reading that have influenced me. I read a ton of stuff in my field. Some of it’s great. I, I don’t know if it’s always that book that really influenced me, but I can think back to grade nine to a book that I read, that wasn’t part of the course or any class.

Dr. Adam Browning (33:49):
And I was a struggling learner, but I was reading things. And I think if we find opportunities for students about things that they’re reading or things that they’re passionate about, that they can connect with literacy multimedia literacy, if we can find that and bring it into school so that it’s not the other way around, we can just push those opportunities even sooner so that when you’re out there shopping for something and you’re looking, and you’ve gone and purchased these books at indigo, like your experience, because it was something that you were interested in, let’s bring that into school. Yeah. And then find a way for you to connect that to a subject that you’re working. I find that too often, we’re too regimented on what kids should learn, read, and not giving enough flexibility. And if we don’t do that, students may not have those opportunities to have like a sincere learning experience and a celebration. And it’s just a missed opportunity. So we need to bring more of that in. I appreciate you sharing that. That’s awesome.

Sam Demma (34:42):
Yeah, of course. Well, one more thing to share before we wrap up, I’ve started thinking a lot about what influences and inspires young people recently. And when I get to the heart of it, a lot of it comes down to music and art. I think like every student, no matter if they listen to different genres, all love and listen to some form of music. And, and I’m speaking on behalf of myself, which is a little biased, but I think in high school, we all have certain rappers or musicians or pop stars or rock bands that we like listening to and are inspired by. So I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could try and inspire students to deepen their learnings or think about new things through a different art. And so I’ve been, and speaking, you know since I was 17 and just recently decided, let me try a different form of art. And so I’m writing a spoken word album and it’ll come out in the middle of 20, 22, it’s gonna be called dear high school me, and it’ll be all about conversations and challenges. I went through as a, as a high school student in the hopes that this different form of literacy might inspire other conversations or, you know, learnings. So we should connect again, closer to that. I would love to share with you and see what your thoughts are.

Dr. Adam Browning (35:51):
I’d love to take a look at it. That sounds, that sounds great. See lots of students doing that. I mean, I wish I had that opportunity in school, and I’m glad that you have that and hopefully more students do, but I’m looking forward to seeing that. Cool.

Sam Demma (36:03):
Cool. Well, Adam, thank you so much for taking the time outta your day to come on the show. I really appreciate it. If anyone’s listening, people are listening for those who are listening what would be the best way for them to reach out if they, if, if they wanna engage in a conversation with you?

Dr. Adam Browning (36:19):
I’m on Twitter, @AdamLBrowning on Twitter, easy to find and says educator. And that’s probably the best way or just Palliser Schools division; that’s where I work.

Sam Demma (36:30):
Okay, perfect. All right, Adam, thank you so much. Stay in touch and keep up with the great work.

Dr. Adam Browning (36:34):
Thanks Sam.

Sam Demma (36:35):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; if you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.

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The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.