Who is your Warm Demander role model?

Our foundational strategy for creating a safe classroom at June Jordan School for Equity, and indeed for most everything that we do at JJSE, is a “warm demander pedagogy .” In her inspiring book Multiplication is for White People , Lisa Delpit describes this type of teacher: “Warm demanders expect a great deal of their students, convince them of their own brilliance, and help them to reach their potential in a disciplined and structured environment.”

Being a warm demander teacher starts with being your authentic self, which can be challenging as a new educator faced with so many stressful situations and unpredictable interpersonal interactions each day. We have found that one of the best ways to help a new teacher find their inner “warm demander” is to encourage them to find a warm demander role model in film or television. When faced with a tough conversation with the class or an individual student, the teacher can remember the role model character in a particular scene, in order to create clear boundaries and demand high performance with warmth and encouragement.

For example, there is a classic warm demander scene in the 2005 film Coach Carter:

Samuel L. Jackson plays the coach who locks the gym when several of his players’ grades slip, and makes it a team problem not an individual issue, saying “we have failed.”

Sometimes when I am having a tough disciplinary conversation with a student who is defensive and resistant, I think about this famous scene from The Godfather Part 2:

Al Pacino plays Michael Corleone, who has just learned that his brother Fredo has betrayed the family. While obviously educators should not act like mafia bosses, I like to channel Pacino’s calm, understated authority.

Recently my fellow Co-Director Jessica Huang shared this powerful scene from the new TV drama Empire:

Taraji Henson plays Cookie Lyon, who in this scene is telling singer Elle Dallas (Courtney Love) that her attempt at a comeback performance is not working, and she needs to take an entirely different approach. These are just three of many possible examples.

Who is your warm demander role model?