Fostering Student Leadership Over Compliance

Meet the Makers

Angie Nastovska, Director of Humanities and Innovation

Where are you from?

I was originally born and raised in Macedonia (Southeast Europe, right above Greece). I am from a small town called Tetovo

What is your favorite guilt-free dessert

I like chocolate, strawberries and whipped cream. I also enjoy chocolate chia seed pudding with almond milk.

This Week’s Why?

We have slowly but exponentially “graduated” into a society with state-of-the-art compliance systems — especially in education. I am genuinely hurt to open any “behavioral” programs and strategies linked with the fear of seeing one more sticker chart, behavioral cards and charts, rewards/punishment posters, and any other systems for compliance. The need for this topic:

  1. The second we allow someone or something else to “deal” with our child or learners, we lose our most prized possession. That is our power. 
  2. Behavioral charts and incentives are a temporary solution for developing long-term negative habits such as inconsistency, insecurity, compliance, silence, weakness, submission, lack of values, beliefs and low self-esteem.

So, how can we create leadership-oriented classrooms?

This Week’s Focus

Driving Question

How can create a leadership-oriented environment where we nurture positive and proactive behavior?

Let’s focus on the aspects that contribute to a solid leadership-oriented education. What does an educational environment that nurtures leadership look like, feel like, and sound like? 

Authentically shifting the behavior of a learner from “challenging” to “consistently proactive” or positive requires a focus on positive engagement and the whole learner. In fact, a growing body of research supports moving away from labeling or ranking behaviors. Even when executed with positive intent, traditional behavior modification plans can be problematic and create unintended negative consequences for learners. They can also be detrimental to a classroom, school, and home culture. 

How can we “get there”?

Let’s try to think of behavior as a skill just like reading and fact fluency in math. If we have a child who is struggling with an academic skill, we offer them guidance, workshop, instruction, small group or individual support, AND we give them a chance to practice. It is the same thing with behavior. We need to give them time to learn, practice and celebrate success or even efforts, just like we would with other skills. We cannot simply punish children for not knowing something yet. 

We also want the focus on the whole person, as well as leadership development. When we send learners out of the room, direct them to someone else, or use any behavioral incentives, we’re putting the focus on the wrong thing and it makes a child one-dimensional. That’s why we really need to move away from systems that send kids away or incentivize them where everyone looks at that incentive and wonders “what happened outside of this space?” It is not a true picture of whole child development.

How can we support educators who still believe that learners need “get it” for negative behaviors?

iLEAD has a whole codified system for nurturing proactive/positive behavior and leadership-driven culture or environment: i-R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Specifically, the sections on “Relationships and Engagement” focus on:


  • Facilitator welcomes learners by name as they enter the classroom
  • Facilitator uses non-verbal communication (body language, gestures and expressions) to convey a message that all learners’ feedback, questions and opinions are important 
  • Facilitator communicates care, warmth and personal regard for all learners
  • Facilitator acknowledges all learners’ comments, responses, questions and contributions.
  • Learners participate in Morning Meeting (K-5) and Advisory (Secondary) daily
  • School leaders and staff use Love and Logic strategies to encourage learners to own and solve the problems they create
  • School leaders and staff use Restorative Practices to develop community and manage conflict and tensions by repairing harm and building relationships.
  • Parents are viewed as essential partners and encouraged to participate in: Parent University; iSUPPORT, volunteering and/or fundraising
  • Mentorship opportunities are encouraged and supported
  • Learners have opportunities for multi-age learning experiences
  • Multi-pronged Stakeholder Communication (emails, social media, phone calls, texts, LMS communication, newsletters, etc.)


  • Learners are immersed in work that has clear meaning and immediate value to them
  • Learners display high energy and are authentically engaged in the learning process
  • Learners take full ownership of their learning activities
  • Learners display a willingness to ask questions, pursue answers, and consider alternatives
  • Learners take risks in pursuit of quality

For more, see iDEAL iRESPECT Look Fors

Also, remember the other pillars for positive, supportive and proactive behavior for which you can find resources below:

  • The 7 Habits
  • Love and Logic
  • Restorative Conversations, Circles and Conferences

As adults we often seek the “perfect consequences.” We need to shift to the “natural consequences” mindset, resting on compassionate relationships resting on the “Seek first to understand then to be understood” habit. Also, remember that consequences without practice and support are ineffective. The other important aspect that we always need to keep in mind is that all behavior is communication. When a child is behaving in a certain way, they are communicating a need. So, once we figure out what that need is, and facilitate a process where they learn how to meet the need in a safe and proactive way, then the negative behavior will likely subside.


60 Seconds Strategy: Discussion Mapping

Being Makers

Being Makers

Being Makers is a team of change-making leaders from Maker Learning Network and iLEAD Schools focused on project-based learning and social-emotional growth.
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