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Lead from the Start: Warm Demanders

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Warm Demanders

"You will sit down and you will pay attention and do your best in THIS class. Why? Because, we are superior to mediocrity. Do I make myself clear?" -- a paraphrase of the warm demander approach.

On TLN we have been discussing Marva Collins and Jackie Jordan Irvine. The idea of teachers as "Warm Demanders" came up because of recently hired Director of Teacher Leadership for the Center for Teaching Quality, Nikki Barnes. Nikki is one of my education heroes. She was the first African American to become National Board Certified in Virginia and was my mentor as I went through the process. One of the great things about Nikki is she "keeps it real" while still being professional.

We discussed warm demanders but seemed to expand the term to encompass all good teaching. Nancy Flanagan called our attention to this and here is my response.

I think we have a difference in cultures being played out here. As a "warm demander" of my students I have to frame this in terms of caring.
To my students families, I show I care when I visit their homes, when I call if their child is misbehaving, when their children's learning sky rockets.
I think we have to ask, "By whose definition of caring?" Do we define caring according to parents background, students background, our personal background, or Jonathon Kozol's background?
Nel Noddings' relational ethics might help us figure out how we view what a "warm demander" is.

A personal story...
Our school recently received a student who had been put out of three other schools this year for behavior. The principal met with the parent as she was enrolling her son. the parent was in tears The principal was able to communicate that this school would not allow her son to fail. When the parent left, the principal heard her say, "All them other schools ain't nobody care. I know if he act-up here she gonna kick his ***!" Would our principal actually do that? No.
But that is the type and level of caring that she was able communicate. The parent felt safe bringing her son to school.
I am not sure when or how care becomes control. Maybe it is both simultaneously.

In my school we are expected to correct a child that is out of order. If we don't it is considered a lack of care for the students or a lack of professional commitment. We aren't necessarily expected to be able to control every kid all the time but we are expected to care enough to try.
I see the relational or reciprocal aspect of this warm demander relationship on the part of students as the rising to meet high expectations that we have discussed. This is expressed by defining how the relationship will be played out (because the teacher is the most powerful force in the relationship) "I will show my care by treating you warmly and expecting you to do your best, you will show your care by doing your best." The teacher creates the feedback loop that enables the most effective scenario for learning. Many students from any background may have different relationships that have been defined by their parents and it is up to the teacher to create a paradigm shift in the student. This could have been defined as "I will feed and clothe you, and you will ___>be cute, entertaining, not a burden." This is oversimplifying but I have seen this type of relationship between some of my younger mothers and their children and between rich parents with nannies raising their children.

How is care defined in your school? Who defines it and how is it expressed? How much does the home culture affect the school's definition?


At 7:53 AM, Blogger Nancy Flanagan said...

Great post, John--I love the way you worked Nel Noddings' work on relational ethics, a sophisticated and data-based justification of the old saw "They won't care what you know until they know that you care."

So--is a warm demander someone who can be very tough on an under-performing or misbehaving kid, and has the right and responsibility to do so, because the relationship between teacher and child is built on genuine love (a word we seldom feel comfortable using in schools, these days)?

There are lots of charter schools these days built on rigid control and high demands--they're franchising them left and right, and the talking ed-heads are spilling a lot of virtual ink in praising them. But I don't think you can fake real caring. Is that the difference?

At 1:09 PM, Blogger loonyhiker said...

Great post! I totally agree. For over 20 years I contacted parents every 2 weeks either by phone or in person to brag about their children. I had some parents at first think I had the wrong family because "their child hadn't done anything right in years..." which is so sad. Since I took so much personal time to show them that I cared, when I called about problems, I usually had full parental support. In 27 years I only had 2 parents not support me fully which I think made it all worth it.


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