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Terry Freedman

Thanks for this. Sounds like a really interesting read, a cornucopia of ideas


This is a great resource. I've seen this book, but have never really looked at it through the eyes of a (future) school administrator.

And I love this DUCKS acronym. In my state, you either follow the University of Oregon (Ducks), or Oregon State University (Beavers). There is no middle ground. Both of my degrees are orange. It cracks me up to see the DUCKS acronym in such a negative light.

Stephanie Sandifer

Rick -- I'm glad you enjoy the DUCKS acronym which, while pointing towards negative behavior, actually ends up being very positive when put into use. I've had lots of fun with it when working with teams on my campus. After you explain it to people, they get the humor and actually appreciate a humorous approach to redirection.

We used it not only during meetings -- or during informal discussions -- but also in email. If one team member sends an email to the entire team and they are complaining about something or someone, it never failed that one of us would send a "reply to all" that just said "quack, quack, quack, quack!!!!!". it instantly lightens the mood and gives everyone a reminder that, yes, there are obstacles and there is stress in our work, but we must continue on and not let those things slow our progress.


Mike Waiksnis

I just finished this book as well. I think it offered insight on somethng that needs to be present-authentic pats on the back for our teachers.

Dan Winters

I read this book a year before taking over as Principal and the ideas are golden. Another book that helped provide some impetus for positive school culture is Kenneth Blanchard's Whale Done. I believe teachers are starved for recognition and although I make a concerted effort to recognize their work as often as possible, I simply don't do it enough!

Kelly Christopherson

I'll definitely get a copy of this book. I know that I'm always looking for ways to improve the health of our school culture. I started giving out "Thank you" notes last year and they were appreciated by most staff. I've also brought in treats every once in a while for the staff just to thank them for their great work.
Thanks for the tip!

Kristian Still

Like many, I like the DUCKS acronym - light hearted yet very real.
Similar to the "Have parents write positive notes to the staff" tool... I asked graduating students to write their staff short notes of recognition on a comment slip. These were then keep until the following (and gloomy months) of October when they reappeared their our pigeon holes (drop boxes). I was very surprised by the stir they caused.


While I'm sure your intentions in this post are good, reading it I couldn't help but feel there is something quite condescending and essentially manipulative in the suggestions you list. As a retired teacher, I can tell you that those measures would only work if they came from the heart, not as a strategy to win over the staff. Teachers have a tremendousw capacity for detecting b.s., and you can be certain that if administrative gestures are forced or insincere, they will be seen through by the majority of staff. Teacher goodwill can only be achieved by genuine respect.

If you are so inclined, take a look at the June 27 posting on my blog, "Some Heartfelt Advice to Administrators" to see what educators really want and deserve.

Stephanie Sandifer


I believe that if you look carefully at all of the posts on this blog you will see that all of us promote true leadership that is transformative, facilitative, inclusive and shared – and leadership that is based on a philosophy of teachers as leaders and partners in leading our schools. Additionally, some of the writers on this blog still have some classroom responsibilities and are very in touch with the issues our teachers are dealing with.

The first half of this book focuses on the development of such leadership, and in no way is it meant to be condescending or manipulative towards the teachers. I will venture to say that the strategies and activities described in this book would be unsuccessful if attempted by a school administrator who is a mediocre or poor leader. In fact, if an administrator is not a good leader, then there are usually other, more important issues, that must be address first before the issue of teacher morale (through recognition and support as described in this book) can be improved.

I have first hand experience using the strategies and suggestions in this book – and that experience first occurred when I was still a full-time classroom teacher involved in a teacher-leadership role on my campus. These are effective techniques, and in my experience are all very appreciated by all faculty members.

I have also experienced very poor leadership that believed all of the problems of the campus could be solved by giving teachers an “ice-cream social” once each semester – and their actions were resented by teachers who felt abused, overworked, and very underappreciated by the normal daily actions of these administrators. This book won’t solve the problem of poor leadership.

I agree with you that any efforts of the school leadership must be heartfelt – but this goes back to the nature of effective leadership. Simply holding the title of administrator does not make one a leader, and not all leaders have to hold formal administrative titles. Our schools need administrators who are strong leaders, not just strong managers.




Thank you for your thoughtful response and clarification. I am pleased to see the idea of teachers as leaders and partners in leading the schools. I have, unfortunately, worked for those who tended to see teachers as impediments, not partners, and all they really accomplished was alienation of staff and a poisoned school climate. I sincerely hope that the people who are assuming administrative positions today have the proper motivation to be effectve leaders, and never forget that the responsibility of their position entails adherence to educational principles, not self-aggrandizing career advancement.


Stephanie Sandifer


I too have worked for administrators with poor leadership skills -- and this is one of my motivations for promoting a different leadership style. I have also had a handful of very strong, effective adminstrators who had effective and respectful leadership skills, and it is these administrators that I look to for my "leadership role models".

Thanks for your comments -- hopefully you will share more of your insights and experience on other posts at LeaderTalk.org



This was well written. In the NYC system, that's completely forgotten in many schools. It's almost as if we're getting crapped on for their own problems. The system is in need of major repair, and the first way to fix it is to address the main soldiers in the battlefield (I'm not fond of the war comparison, but that's what it is.)

Good entry again, and peace ...

Vivek Khemka

Thanks for the post. I found myself smiling at some entries and making notes on some others for reflection and possible implementation.

I'd like to add to the "desserts" list:

At our weekly staff meetings (more formal- different from our daily, more informal get-togethers) we started a practice where any teacher (by choice) could publicly thank another teacher who endeared herself to her (by helping/assisting her during the week, going above duty, for example)

This helped build teacher satisfaction, community and re-enforced positive behavior. Initially we were circumspect about its application, but soon we had teachers welling up with emotion as little, random acts of kindness were recognised.

Stephanie Sandifer

Vivek -- thanks for sharing another great idea! I like the fact that your public "thank you's" are generated by other teachers. What a great way to generate a team-oriented spirit within your school culture!

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