What We Misunderstand about Yahoos

This post is part of a series for school leaders working on implementing large-scale, learning-focused school change. Your success depends not just on your technical knowledge about the initiative, but also how well you understand the three kinds of staff in your school (Yahoos, Yes Buts, and NFWs) and how their support needs differ.

The Yahoos are those folks who are always excited about new and interesting practices, programs and resources and are anxious to try them out in their own classroom.

This post focuses on how we misunderstand Yahoos.


Yahoos seem a dream to work with.  We all wish we had more of them on our staff. Not only are they quick to implement any quality learning-focused school change initiative that school leadership brings forward, they are often already working on many of their own.  They are quick to learn new strategies and approaches, invent and design a few of their own, and implement at a high level.

Therefore, we often hold them and their work up to their colleagues as examples of where we’d like to go with the initiative and the kind of work we’d like from each staff member.

The problem is that the Yahoos don’t really have the right kind of “cred” with their colleagues for moving the initiative forward. Their colleagues certainly recognize that Yahoos work hard and do good work and generally respect that work. The problem is that the rest of the staff don’t consider Yahoos to be like them. They think, “Thats just what Yahoos do.” When school leaders hold up the work of the Yahoos, the rest of the staff don’t say, “Oh, I can do that!” They say, “Well, I’d do that, too, if I were a Yahoo.  …but I’m not.”

Frankly, just as we should not judge the “success” of a school by the successes of their high performing students (we really must look at the successes of their hard-to-teach kids!), we should not judge the success or progress of an initiative by the success of our Yahoos. We only have truly moved the needle when there is wide scale, proficient implementation of the initiative by the Yes Buts.


Next in the series: How to best support Yahoos.

3 thoughts on “What We Misunderstand about Yahoos

  1. Ryan

    I would add that often times teachers who fall in this category may not want to be held up as an example, as that can often bring negative attention from the NFWs. The culture of the staff can make a big difference in this sense. Do you feel safe sharing and being shared, or will there be backlash as the “golden child” or worse “brown noser”?

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