When a school is not a school: Linda Cliatt-Wayman at TEDWomen 2015

Oneliners often can be limited. They sound great and as if they were sharing some deep truth, but they often aren’t. Still, the 3 slogans Linda Cliatt-Wayman shares are different. They are important take-aways and at the same time huge tasks. My favorite? “If someone asks me my real secret, it’s that I love my students, and I believe in their possibilities unconditionally. I see only what they can become.”

TED Blog

Linda Cliatt-Wayman speaks at TEDWomen2015 - Momentum, Session 5, May 28, 2015, Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California, USA. Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED Strawberry Mansion High School was “persistently dangerous,” until Linda Cliatt-Wayman became the principal. She shares how she turned it around. Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

On her first day as a principal in a North Philadelphia school, Linda Cliatt-Wayman was determined to lay down the law and set clear expectations. She called her students into the auditorium and told them how things would go at that school. But one voice interrupted her. “Miss,” called out a girl named Ashley, “why do you keep calling this a school? This is not a school.” The question resonated with her, says Cliatt-Wayman. After 20 years of teaching in the same impoverished North Philly schools where she’d gotten her own education, Ashley had gotten straight to the heart of what she’d never quite been able to articulate.

A decade later, Cliatt-Wayman came to Strawberry Mansion High School — a low-performing school classified as “persistently dangerous,” where she was the fourth principal…

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