Don’t Settle for Doing ‘Good’
“Dad, I got all A’s!”
“Good, but you can do better.”
These were the words remembered by Lennox Thompson, a West-Indian American whose parents migrated to the U.S. from Jamaica, bringing with them strict cultural values about education and life. Growing up, Mr. Thompson always knew how important school was and would consistently maintain A and B grades.
“I came home with A’s and B’s, but my dad would always say I had to do better. I used to say to myself, ‘What are you talking about?’ because that was better than everyone else I knew. But any time people put a challenge in front of me, I rose to the occasion. So I got all A’s and my dad still said, “Good, but you can still do better.” I still couldn’t understand what he meant. But when I reflected, I understood that he constantly wanted me to do better and not settle.”
Those words are what pushed Mr. Thompson to excel in school and his career. When he moved from Houston to Cleveland, he stepped out of his comfort zone and earned a job as an Assistant Principal at George Washington Carver K-8 STEM School in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Mr. Thompson was not used to working with students under the age of 12, so it was a culture shock when he saw children crying or falling out of their chairs. Mr. Thompson grappled with understanding the importance of building a strong foundation for students before they transitioned to middle and high school.
Mr. Thompson is grateful to one of his mentors, Ms. Bell, who constantly helped shift his lens in understanding the importance of “laying the ground-work in elementary schools because it can foster their growth before they get to high school. It helps them to get out of poverty and be on track to college.” Working with his mentor when he began at Carver reminded him of the core beliefs his parents instilled in him about not settling for good. Although progress was being made at the school, Mr. Thompson knew the bar was still low. Implementing Real Time Teacher Coaching (RTTC) gave Mr. Thompson and the staff at Carver access to the tools they sought to become No-Nonsense Nurturers for their students.
Mr. Thompson says that the “No-Nonsense Nurturer model and Real Time Teacher Coaching have become the backbone of my practice. Out of my three years as a leader, I feel that this year was the year I grew the most.” The impact of consistently using the four-step model and coaching teachers has not only reduced suspensions, but has helped Mr. Thompson see that the staff subconsciously had low expectations and superficial relationships, resulting in negative responses from students whenever they were given consequences. Understanding the importance of positively acknowledging students through the use of narration helped to build effective relationships across the school, especially with students who weren’t used to hearing their name for positive reasons. The George Washington Carver team is no longer looking at relationship building as an “inventory at the beginning of the year” but as an ongoing journey that they are always working on.
Three key takeaways from Lennox Thompson on being a No-Nonsense Nurturer:
- Consistently implement ways for teachers and staff to build positive relationships with students every day, not just the beginning of the school year.
- Be consistent with school-wide expectations by holding students accountable and have school and classwide incentive systems when they demonstrate grit. This is another way of building positive relationships with students, by showing them that you will not only provide consequences when they don’t follow the expectations, but that you also recognize their efforts.
- Every quarter, re-assess how specific, measurable, attainable and realistic your goals are for each student. If these goals aren’t being met, think about what supports are in place so that teachers can help students to meet their goal. If the goals are met, what’s next? Constantly raising your expectations, keep students challenged, engaged and excited about learning.
Mr. Thompson consistently holds high expectations for every student that comes through the doors at Carver. He can be seen in the hallways having restorative conversations with students, reminding teachers to positively narrate, or to incentivize learning through their Bulldog Bucks program. Carrying the words of his father in his practice and personal life every day, he shows students, teachers and staff at Carver that “we don’t settle for doing good!”
By Karen Baptiste, CT3 Associate