The Warm Demander: Set High Expectation, Support, and Care

How can you create an engaging classroom? Convince students first that you care—and then that you’ll never let up. Become a Warm Demander.

Kleinfeld (1975) coined the phrase warm demander to describe the type of teacher who was effective in teaching Athabaskan Indian and Eskimo 9th graders in Alaskan schools. Further research over the decades have proven the effectiveness of this approach.

“Warm demander” teachers expect great things from their students, convince them of their own brilliance, and help them reach their potential in a disciplined, structured environment.

Here are the key elements of this approach:

High Expectations: Warm demanders hold all students to high academic and behavioral standards. They believe in the potential of each student to succeed and push them to meet those expectations.

Believe in the Impossible! The brain science is clear according to David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, “Limitations in achievement are not due to inadequate genetic assets, but to our inability, so far, to tap into what we already have.”

Support and Care: While demanding excellence, warm demanders also show genuine care and concern for their students. They build strong, trusting relationships and provide the support necessary for students to meet the high expectations set for them.

To build trust, you must listen to your students, and learn about who they are and what matters to them. You must be vulnerable and share your true self — including smiling and having fun.

Cultural Responsiveness: Warm demanders are culturally responsive educators. They understand and respect the cultural backgrounds of their students and incorporate this understanding into their teaching practices.

You need to understand the cultural strengths and role models of your students’ communities. For example, can you imagine your Latina students being the next Dolores Huerta, Sandra Cisneros, or Ellen Ochoa? If not, you won’t be able to remind your students of their unlimited potential.

Consistency and Fairness: Be consistent and fair in your expectations and interactions. Create a structured and predictable environment where students know what is expected of them and understand the consequences of their actions.

Effective Communication: Warm demanders use clear and direct communication. They provide specific feedback and guidance to help students improve and succeed.

Teach Self-Discipline: Demanding high standards communicate respect. “Normalizing” the hard work and effort that lead to success.

Embrace Failure: Have a Growth Mindset. Real learning comes through trial and error. Create the norm that you love and want mistakes.

The warm demander approach balances the rigor of high expectations with the compassion of understanding and supporting each student’s unique needs. This method helps to build resilience and self-efficacy in students, fostering a positive and productive learning environment.

Alexander, Matt. “The Warm Demander: An Equity Approach”. Edutopia. April 13, 2016. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/warm-demander-equity-approach-matt-alexander

Bondy, Elizabeth. Ross, Dorene D. ASCD. The Teacher as Warm Demander. September 1, 2008. Vol. 66. No. 1

Note: This article was written with the help of ChatGPT 4.0, OpenAI, June 2, 2024, chat.openai.com.