Student-Centered and Staff Focused?

I had a very interesting conversation today about whether or not one can be too student-centered. The main point of the conversation boiled down to staff support or a lack thereof; listening to students (not agreeing with them, but just listening to them) versus staff support.

I struggle with this because I like to believe I’m supportive of my staff in regards to them taking calculated risks in the classroom, by helping to provide a safe environment so they can teach and students can learn, and allowing freedom to choose the type of professional development they need. In terms of discipline issues, the administrative team is working hard at being more consistent across the board. I use the phrase, “working hard” because with over 2300 students and six administrators, it can be a challenge. With that said, we are doing okay.

Now, I feel as if I have a fairly good rapport with my students and staff. I will take the time to talk with any student about any thing they want to discuss. Therein lies the problem. Based on today’s conversation, apparently feel that because I listen to a student’s concerns about an incident that may have occurred, etc., I am demonstrating a lack of support for my staff. I hear the student out, ask questions, and help them see things from the adult’s perspective and will then assign the necessary consequences. It takes more time, but at least the student feels understand and heard. The person I spoke with today disagreed with my approach and felt as I my actions are undermining the staff. Hmmm…

I’ve always been a student-centered educator so I struggle with the conversation I had today. If my staff feels like they are being undermined, then there is a serious lack of trust that will quickly erode our foundation. So, I ask you. Am I undermining the staff in any way by taking the time to listen to a student’s concerns? If this is a blind spot, then I definitely need to take care of this. I look forward to your responses. Thanks!

Be Great,


6 thoughts on “Student-Centered and Staff Focused?

  1. Hi Dwight, your post is reflective of the dilemma of many leaders across the globe. I believe that you can never be too student-centred, they are who we are here to serve after all. A restorative approach to behaviour requires a conversation with the student and if the process involves restoring relationships through agreed consequences then it should be viewed as a win-win. If however you are renegotiating (lessening) a consequence already imposed by a staff member, who has all of the information first-hand, without discussing it with them first, then I can understand how it could be viewed as undermining. The issue arises when not everyone has all of the same information about students. This would be difficult in your site of 2300. Reminding everyone of the processes for behaviour management (and the exceptions), why they are there, and for whom, may be a worthwhile investment in time.

  2. Mr Carter, thank you for your blog post. I can see the issue that you are referring to and can see it from time to time in my building as well. I do not have the answer, other than I firmly believe that the time to listen to students, help them see how the adults and other students are seeing their decisions, and equipping them with skills for the future is essential. It pains me to think that while this is going out a teacher or adult in your building is feeling unsupported because you are taking the time to help the student.

  3. Hi. Thanks for this blog! I have a question: after you have had the opportunity to meet with the teacher and the student separately, do you have a culminating meeting with both the teacher, student and you to enable the teacher and the student to share perspectives and establish clear expectations in the future?

  4. Here’s the thing, Dwight: We ALL have blind spots when it comes to student discipline.

    Sometimes it’s the kid that WE believe in — and want to give another chance to — but that a colleague is at the end of their rope with.

    Sometimes it’s our preconceived notions about peers — believing automatically that a teacher or a principal is going to make the wrong choice in MOST situations.

    But speaking as a teacher, I’d guess that the pushback you got today was evidence of a frustrated teacher — someone who has tried everything with a particular child and isn’t getting anywhere.

    Instead of taking that personally — instead of thinking that the teacher is trying to create a confrontation cycle with you — maybe you can find a way to help him/her brainstorm a few potential solutions for working with a challenging kid.

    You’ve got to understand that we KNOW that student is coming back to us no matter WHAT choices you make — and if we’re not convinced that the choices you make are going to change the child’s behavior, we KNOW we’re going to have another discipline problem on our hands somewhere down the line.

    Breaking that pattern is the best way for you to fix the relationship with the teacher — and that might just mean helping them to find a way forward with the student.

    Any of this make sense?

  5. Mr. Carter,
    I am not an educator…except for my own kids…
    You obviously care enough about the young adults to value their opinions and place in development. They DO make mistakes but when treated as apprentices to adults they most likely will learn instead of shutting down. Adults (ie. Teachers) should, by now understand this and should not feel you are undermining their authority. This is, afterall not the 18th century.
    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

  6. Dwight,
    I do not want to speculate the specifics of the situation; however, these are the questions I would ask if this situation surrounds a discipline issue.

    1. Did the staff member appropriately follow the school’s disciplinary code, by providing documentation for the appropriate disciplinary action?

    2. Did the conversation with the student result in a less severe consequence (disciplinary action) than what is stated in the handbook? If so, this could be undermining to the staff member AND the code.

    I am a firm believer in the power of conversation, to discuss with the students the rationale for a particular choice, its result, and their reflection on the situation. The important goal in such a situation is to build rapport and guide the student toward better strategies for appropriately dealing or working around a problem. This being said, to do this, and reduce a consequence (if this is even what occurred) could result in teacher frustration.

    On another angle, maybe the staff member is feeling threatened (professionally or personally) due to stress – or something else. This individual may have taken out on you the frustration they feel that “no one” is seeking their input on situations occurring around them. I do not know the staff member that you reference, but maybe they just need someone to be their sounding-board. Perhaps they are feeling that you have a better relationship with a student than you do them.

    Kind of rambled there, but hope it provided some other perspectives ….


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