I was asked to prepare a workshop for building principals that focused on increasing rigor in classroom instruction and learning. In my research I found this statement on a National Association of Secondary School Principal’s (NASSP)blog.
“Rigor is more than a specific lesson or instructional strategy. It is deeper than what a student says or does in response to a lesson. Real rigor is the result of weaving together all elements of schooling to improve the achievement and learning of every student.”
The blog continues to identify elements of rigor beginning with expectations:
…. rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels. Having high expectations starts with the decision that every student possesses the potential to be his or her best, no matter what.
The importance of relationships along with expectations is identified in an article by Raymond J. McNulty and Russell J. Quaglia (American Association of School Administrators) Tips for Using Rigor, Relevance and Relationships to Improve Student Achievement.
“Schools across the country are realizing that rigor and relevance develop most naturally when they are cultivated on firm grounding in relationships. Creating an appropriate environment for learning begins with establishing ground rules that include many of the aspects of quality teaching, such as respect, responsibility, honesty, civility and tolerance. Only after these values are established with students in the classroom can real learning based on the other two essential R’s, rigor and relevance, begin to accelerate…..If there is not a high level of positive relationships, students will not respond to higher expectations.”
Bryan Goodwin in Simply Better writes about the work of Judith Kleinfeld (1969) who as a Harvard doctoral student researched ways to help improve the success of Native Alaskan students. She spent a year observing classroom interactions between teachers and students in two boarding schools, examining teaching styles and connections to student learning. Kleinfeld identified four types of teachers:
Traditionalists— teachers who set high expectations for students but viewed developing personal relationships with them as outside their professional purview, offering little academic or emotional support to help students meet expectations.
Sophisticates — aloof and undemanding
Sentimentalists — warm but undemanding
Supportive Gadflies (Warm Demanders) — combined “high personal warmth with high active demandingness”. “In the classrooms of these teachers, students actively participated in discussions and were willing to work hard for their teachers, with whom they had developed a positive, mutually respectful rapport. In short, this group of teachers demonstrated the power of the old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Identifying teachers sense of expectations as low to high (vertical axis) and their relationships with students as low to high (horizontal axis) creates this picture:
Sophisticates- Low expectations and low relationships
Traditionalist- High expectations and low relationships
Sentimentalist- Low expectations and high relationships
Warm Demanders- High Expectations and high relationships
See a clip about Jamie Escalante, a warm demander teacher.
As I consider “warm demander” as a term for describing the role of a teacher in setting students up for the highest possible success (rigor), I ponder if the same might not apply to describing instructional coaches and administrators. How do school leaders set ever increasing expectations for teachers’ success, along with positive, mutually respectful rapport?
Katrina Schwartz writing in a blog, Beyond Working Hard: What Growth Mindset Teaches Us About Our Brains, states:
“Many schools quickly realized that growth mindsets are not only important to students, they are crucial for educators trying to make change. And helping educators to develop their own growth mindsets hinges on positive working environments and trust at school. Educators have a hard time taking risks in their teaching practice if they believe the outcome must be perfect the first time. And yet, one of the most important ways to instill a growth mindset in students is to model the disposition as teachers, making it even more crucial that district and school leaders create a climate conducive to growth mindsets in adults. “
What are the instructional leadership behaviors you use to build teachers’ growth mindsets? In what ways would you describe your coaching as warm and demanding? Are teachers’ expectations of themselves continually expanding? Do teachers know that you support their learning and believe in their potential?