High Expectations…

The following is the third of 11 posts dedicated to providing an overview of the No-Nonsense Nurturer leader behaviors in anticipation of CT3’s summer leadership workshops. We hope to support all leaders with behaviors essential for every organization.

The No-Nonsense Nurturer® Leader:

    1. Models humility
    2. Sets high expectations
    3. Creates a culture of coaching
    4. Builds collective efficacy
    5. Recognizes and develops growth mindsets, always striving to be asset based
    6. Solicits voice and perspective
    7. Innovates
    8. Generates culture (and systems) of accountability
    9. Builds trusting relationships
    10. Commits to being an anti-racist

What do we really mean as educators when we say that we’re setting high expectations? Is it what Gholdy Muhammad refers to as “Cultivating Genius” or even what Bettina Love explains about abolitionist teaching when she states, “We must demand the impossible and employ radical imagination”? My simple answer is yes, and our next step is to discuss the “how.” 

If nothing else, 2020 has taught us that high expectations are not color-blind. Students of color were not just suffering from the impact of COVID-19 and racial tensions; they were trapped in the binary of Maslow before Bloom. How could we require students to complete assignments if they didn’t have a computer or internet access? The stark and grim reality was … we couldn’t. Inequities long ignored for children of color or placed on the back burner quickly became hot topics for school districts everywhere. But what will we do when all the computers are purchased, and internet connectivity is no longer a challenge? We are faced with the same dilemma of setting high expectations. 

As I listened to one of Gholdy Muhammad’s recent webinars, I was struck by her statement, “How do we make it impossible for teachers to fail?” And I kept thinking, how do we make it impossible for students to fail? I landed at the intersection of high expectations and critical care: We can’t have one without the other, and we can’t favor one over the other. 

When I worked with one of my principals in Charlotte, NC, I stumbled onto what care over high expectations looks like in practice. During a 30-minute feedback session in which the principal shared what went well from her observation and areas for growth for the teacher, she did something you may recognize at times in your own feedback. To make the feedback more palatable and doable for the teacher, she stated, “I know this is not possible to do every day.” I immediately wondered, “Why not?” The principal had just discussed with the teacher how to adjust her lesson so it would yield stronger results for students, and the teacher agreed. Why, then, was the principal lowering her expectations? 

I prompted the principal “in the moment,” which is a flagship tenet for CT3’s Real Time Leadership Coaching. The principal was able to exhibit her true No-Nonsense Nurturer self as she held the bar high, providing the teacher with the tools and support to meet the bar, and the teacher understood the principal was not backing away from her high expectations. 

Once the teacher session was over, the principal and I debriefed. I still remember her smile as she reflected on what happened. As if I had awakened a giant, she cited similar times she had done the same things, shaking her head in disbelief. We started crafting her actionable next steps, which included the AIC Feedback Protocol so she could begin developing the habit of marrying high expectations with care.

As anti-racists, we set high expectations enveloped with care as we unapologetically focus on students of color achieving success.

As No-Nonsense Nurturers, we set high expectations enveloped with care as we unapologetically focus on students of color achieving success.


Love, B. L. (2019). We Want To Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. Beacon Press.

Muhammad, G. (2020). Cultivating Genius: An equity framework for culturally and historically responsive literacy. Scholastic.

By Eyka Stephens, Senior Director of Learning and Development
Check out CT3 Education programs such as No-Nonsense Nurturer, Real Time Teacher Coaching, and Real Time Leadership Coaching to find out more about Professional Development for Teachers and Leaders, classroom management strategies, and building relationships with students and their families.
Category: Anti-Racism, Leadership, Education, Real Time Leadership Coaching