A Practical Lion

As a master’s candidate in Antioch University New England’s Department of Organization & Management, Adam Houghton, MEd ’09 is honing the skills he needs to become a school principal, but that’s a long way from where he began his first career. As a fifteen-year-old in St. Catherines, Ontario, he made a bold bid at a charity auction to join a Toronto Blue Jays’ farm club as an equipment manager for one road trip. He bid 250 dollars he didn’t have. His father hit the roof. But when the bid was accepted, his father quietly paid up and gave the winning ticket to Adam as a Christmas gift.

The Road Trip

The single road trip turned into a full-time summer job that took the teenager to stadiums throughout the northeastern U.S. They played eighty-one games, and traveling with the team forced me to grow up, he said. He met his wife at the stadium, where she worked in concessions. After several summers, he was hired by the Hamilton Tigercats of the Canadian Football League, but elected to stay only one season so he could return to college.

At Sheridan College, his curiosity drew him toward computers and technology, but his experience landed him an internship in athletic training. He immediately went to work as a trainer for college sports teams. Adam’s technical knowledge, diverse skills, and quiet demeanor make him too valuable to leave behind, and when his boss was making a move to a school in Quebec, he asked Adam to come along as technology director.

He made the transition from athletics to technology and embraced the change, which eventually led him and his spouse to Littleton, New Hampshire. Today, Adam is the director of technology for a school district in the northern reaches of the state. The position piqued his interest in educational administration, for which he knew he would need a master’s degree. In seeking advice, he learned about Antioch.

Becoming the Person He Was Meant to Be

“I’ve been around a lot of schools, but when I looked at Antioch, I saw small classes that encourage students to challenge themselves. And that’s exactly what I’ve done: challenged myself to do something different, to shake off some preconceived notions I had about myself, in essence, to become the person I was supposed to become,” Adam says. “I’m pretty quiet but I started to come out of that shell. Now, people are saying ‘Wow, you’ve really changed, this has been a really good experience for you.”

Adam attributes some of the change to going beyond my natural practicality to learn the theory behind applications and how things work.

“I understand more of what’s going on, giving me more confidence. And because I’m relating to people better, people are trusting me and pulling me into the leadership loop at school.”

In his role in the schools, he compiles, examines, and analyzes data derived from student assessments. Lately, though, he’s doing much more. Last year one of the principals said he felt challenged by looking at the data. He wanted to use it but didn’t feel comfortable leading the charge. And I thought, ‘that’s my major practicum project – data-driven decision-making in schools.’

Data-Driven Decision Making

Now well into his practicum, Adam sees how feedback from assessments can help teachers personalize instruction but can also make them uncomfortable with what the data might say about their effectiveness. And, as a budding administrator, he sees how efforts to differentiate and tailor curriculum can overtax already burdened teachers. Adam tries to put the teachers at ease by arriving at attainable standards than trying to find a professional development activity that will address that standard. Teachers also find data frustrating, because, according to Adam, “It comes in too late in the semester to make adjustments! so I’m working on getting them feedback in real-time.”

A professional who has learned to value adjustments, Adam looks toward his future as a school principal with a sense of openness. He may continue the work he’s doing.

“You see, I love what I do. But now I’m giving myself a lot of different options and opportunities.”  He describes himself as a highly practical beast, fascinated by how things work and prowling for ways to bring about improvement.

“I really do believe that, when we look at our careers, we need to have a sense of what the next step is, try to improve ourselves and look at the bigger picture for our lives,” he says.

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