Demanding Without Being Demeaning

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This school year has stretched educators in many ways. The result is educators are tired, worn out but they also have grown in many ways too. The challenge is this growth is not consistent across our country, yet alone in the same district and sometimes not even in the same school. Great schools exist because there is a shared understanding that all staff are committed to levels of excellence. This blog post looks at how all educators can help hold each other accountable so we are demanding without being demeaning.

Educational Leaders must identify within their districts and school the Levels of Excellence they desire to aspire to daily. These items should be focused on our purpose: importance of relationships, learning and collective efficacy. The exact words or phrases will vary by district/schools but most likely are linked to:

Effort – each person giving their personal best for every student, every day.

Attitude – each person leads with optimism and assumes positive intent by others.

Behaviors – each person understands the importance of modeling appropriate behaviors. 

It’s important we create an environment that supports helping each educator hold each other accountable.  This shared accountability helps others and allows students to experience growth and success.

How to hold each other accountable 

  • Modeling is a powerful example (We cannot take ourselves too seriously, but we can take our work seriously)
  • We can be demanding without being demeaning by:
    • We must be willing to lean into conversation and speak up 
    • Asking questions that cause the person to think about their actions
    • Sharing an example from your viewpoint that contradicts the other person’s viewpoint

During the moments or experiences when a staff member falls back into a comfortable, easy and ineffective routine and are not willing to give their best is when teacher leaders must be willing to have the hard conversations with the specific colleague. Yes, this should be done by administrators too, but often, administrators are not in every conversation to have that dialogue. It also empowers educators to help set the tone of their building when they take ownership and pride in their work. Hard conversations sound like it should be negative, but it doesn’t have to be. In many ways, these discussions can be approached by simply when a teacher leader asks a question or shares their personal experience. This allows the person to be reminded of the shared expectations for excellence for the school/district and redirects the colleague back to the targeted focus. Here are the types of questions or comments teachers’ leaders can use to help redirect colleagues:

Feedback for people who have failed: 

  • Let’s discuss the process, not the end result, so we can learn from what happened.
  • How did your choices (in your effort, attitude and behaviors) affect the outcome? What might you do differently next time?

Feedback for people who are struggling with something:

  • You’re not alone. I have struggled with this too, but I found success when I…..
  • You’re not feeling successful yet, but I do see how this is helping. Remember that it takes time to make progress.
  • How can I help you with this challenge?

Feedback for people who don’t try:

  • You haven’t gotten started yet – anything I can help with?

Feedback for people who succeed with standards of excellence:

  • You should be proud of the effort you’ve put into this. Remember where you

were when we started? 

  •  I appreciate your time, effort and enthusiasm on this.
  •  Let’s talk so I can learn from your work on this, which will help me with ….

This last year has been unlike no other due to so many external factors and the constant unknowns. Leaders must keep common principles in front of them so they can focus on growth and supporting others. One of these key principles is making sure we are developing teacher leaders who can help hold each other accountable to standards of excellence. The guidance mentioned above will help educators navigate through a busy spring and have a positive impact to help their school have a great year. True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when you work extremely hard to improve your own leadership. This will allow you to focus on spending the right efforts towards the important work of leading others. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve. 








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A Husband, Father and Principal with a focus on learning, leading and connecting with others.

An educator for 25 years with 14 of those being a building administrator. I have found that the more I learn form others and their experiences it helps me grow and learn as well. I hope you join our journey as we create learning environments for students and staff that create future success.

3 thoughts on “Demanding Without Being Demeaning”

  1. Thank you for these reflections! It’s so important to develop these communication skills so having hard conversations isn’t all that hard! I love your point that teacher leaders are the ones who need to speak to colleagues, as they are present more often than an administrator. We are all on this journey together, and the way we treat one another needs to be supportive and uplifting.

    Liked by 1 person

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