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Raise Your Standards

by Professor Joe Martin

The worst advice I’ve ever received when it comes to dealing with people was, “Joe, always expect the worst from people, so you’ll never be disappointed.” The sad thing about that advice was that it came from another teacher (who was older and more experienced).

One of my many teaching philosophies is that “I can’t raise YOUR standards by lowering MY expectations.” I believe that most teachers buy into this philosophy when it comes to our students. We can’t expect our students to perform well by expecting less of them. However, many teachers don’t believe this philosophy when it comes to the teachers they work with and spend time with at school. And this has to change.




My main reason for becoming a “teacher trainer” was to make sure we (America) retained, sustained, and supported the best teachers in our field. That’s also the reason I agreed to write this column.

However, I’ve received a number of questions from colleagues asking how to respond and perform within a negative school environment (i.e., working around toxic teachers).

As difficult as it is to believe, the “Teachers’ Lounge” has now evolved into a “Toxic Lounge” at many schools – a place where frustrated teachers go to dump their emotional and mental waste on unsuspecting, dedicated teachers.

This situation has caused me serious concern. We (as teachers) already face enough negativity from the public and media without having to worry about dissention and tension within our own ranks. Therefore, this month I’m asking you to “raise your standards” when it comes to your colleagues (not just your students).

I want you to do an inventory of the teachers with whom you spend most of your time. Make a list if you have to. Ask yourself, who do I normally eat lunch with? Who do I sit next to during teacher meetings? Who do I spend time talking to at school when I’m NOT teaching? Who do I talk to in the teacher’s lounge? In other words, who’s influencing me?

Regardless of the number of teachers you can think of, I want you to ask yourself the following question concerning EACH teacher you named:

“Would I want this person teaching MY child?”

For any person on your list of teachers who would receive a “No,” I want you to start spending LESS time with them this month and more time with the ones who received a “Yes.” If no teacher on your short list received a “yes,” make it your business to befriend a teacher at your school who would. Remember, you can’t raise your standards by lowering your expectations – that also includes your colleagues. Until next time, remember to teach with passion and to practice what you teach.


Joe Martin is an award-winning national speaker, author, professor, and educational consultant. His mission is to help students, teachers, and administrators learn, lead, and live with purpose and passion. To find out more visit his web site at


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