Back to School: Great Leaders Set Expectations for Success

A Two-Part Blog

Part 1: Establish a Culture of Encouragement to Launch Expectations of Excellence

I work in an exceptional district.  High academic performance is the norm. Presently, our school has clinched two back to back Academic State Championships as one of the smallest schools in our 5A classification. Our students outperform larger, more prestigious districts. We are a rural community with average demographics. So how does a good ol’ small town school accomplish such high academic status?

Excellence is an expectation!

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As instructional leaders in our buildings, we are responsible to communicate and foster expectations of excellence. As you plan your “back to school agenda”, understand that this is not just a one time PowerPoint in August.  Designate a special time just for expectations.

How do you communicate expectations? What tone do you want to establish to kick off a new school year? Do you communicate a stance of “I’m watching you!” or a message of “We’ve got this!”? Do you direct  teachers to follow your orders or motivate them embrace your expectations?

Will teachers walk away from this time worrying about your directives, demands, and a list of “DON’Ts”? Or will they walk away pumped and ready to rise to the occasion?

Great leaders know how to sincerely communicate expectations as an avenue of betterment for all.  The key is to express expectations as encouragement and not dictated micromanagement. Our expectations are how we mold our school culture and will be embedded in the fabric of our school. On my campus, we aim to promote a culture of “WE” with a supportive administrative team. Our experience has shown that teachers operate more effectively on expectations built with confidence of encouragement not directives and fear.

The foundations of our expectations for campus culture are:

1. This is our team, and our school family.  We take care of each other and we support each other. 


2. We expect the best of our students and even better from ourselves.

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3.  We are going to help all learners progress and celebrate along the way. Each student’s best is at a different starting place and so is all of ours.

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4.  Take care of yourself and take care of your family.

Setting appropriate boundaries between work and personal responsibilities is essential to occupational well being. – Adam Saenz

5.  Have fun!




When sharing expectations, avoid the inclination to harp on the past issues and the disappointments of last year. There is a time and place to address needs and directives. Beware, handing those directives out to your whole staff comes across impersonal and usually does not apply to everyone in the room.  We take time to address specific areas of need with individual instructional teams. This system takes much more time.  However, this mode allows the opportunity to connect big picture goals and individual team expectations in a more personal, relevant setting.

Though time consuming, this investment will reap a reward in establishing trust and respect with teachers.

Communicating individual team expectations is important as well. Part 2 of this blog will further expound upon instructional expectations and academic excellence.  By first fostering confidence and respect within our culture, we elevate our schools function to better collaborate.  This is the rocket to launch our journey towards specific academic goals and targets..  Start this new school year off establishing a culture of trust and support with your staff to build confidence in your teachers.  Expectations of excellence aren’t going to go far unless you’ve fined tuned a culture of excellence.

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Please comment and add your advice for establishing a culture of EXCELLENCE!  We hope to connect and learn from other outstanding administrators!

By Candace Widemon Assistant Principal 4-6