I can’t seem to stop thinking about the NPR article I posted earlier this week about high expectations. I just think it’s so important to expect the world of our kids! But I have more to say on this. I’d like to start a discussion relaying examples and non-examples of productively high expectations for students. Here are my ideas. I’d really love to read yours.
Non-Examples of Productive High Expectations
– Planning lessons or assignments that are developmentally inappropriate … beyond the measure of what a student’s brain is capable of at a given age
– Being rigid
– Holding students to high expectations without appropriate scaffolding
– Being negative
– Limiting your high expectations to your gradebook but having a negative attitude about how successful your students might be
– Limiting your high expectations to your students’ academics and not just their behavior and motivation levels
Examples of Productive High Expectations
– Believing all students want to succeed … even when their actions say the opposite.
– Behaving at all times as if your students’ education is one of your highest priorities.
– Scaffolding and encouraging. Tell kids they are worth hard work. Tell them they are worth YOUR hard work. Model it. Prove it so they have no doubts. Believe in them. They’ll respond … in ways that just might make you cry. And I’m a firm believer in “There’s no crying in teaching”, but sometimes, those young men and women just move you.
– NEVER NEVER NEVER saying “My students can’t . . . ” Maybe my students are not rocket scientists, but they CAN do rocket science. They just don’t know how yet. They could, though. This might seem like a word game, but it makes such a difference! I believe that with every ounce of my being!
I’m going to be honest to a fault here. Sometimes, I want to punch people in the face when they say “My students can’t handle xyz” or “That’s too hard for my kids” or “So and so is just a behavior” … I’m sure it’s just me being super sensitive and super picky, but if you’ve had a conversation with me before trying to vent about a student, and I’ve given you a weird response or a strange look, I’m sorry. I really am! I am not really going to punch you in the face. And I’m really far from ideal or perfect … I’m far from ALWAYS treating my students with the respect and honor they deserve. I know teaching is hard, and I know our school isn’t the easiest school to work in. I never mean to judge, but it hurts my heart so much to hear any adult write off a kid. Or to hear any adult say their students can’t x,y,z.
High expectations, to me, amounts to MY STUDENTS CAN … everything! And I’m pretty sure that after 6 weeks of school, they know I’d do just about anything to help them REACH and PURSUE success.
Two students today made me so proud that I cried. Now, I don’t cry too much. I did when I was young, but those feelings are long gone. I promise. But I co-hosted a Readathon today (more about that soon), and the biggest idea I’m walking away with is the fact that all kids are readers and all want to succeed.
One of my former 8th graders visited and shared his high school success. In 8th grade, he failed nearly all of his classes and was in trouble at least once weekly. After 6 weeks of high school, he loves school, has all As and Bs, and he hasn’t been in trouble once. Not once! And if all my work amounts to is the look in his eyes when I shared how proud I felt, then who could be luckier than I?
Another current student put his hand on my shoulder and told me how meaningful the day’s Readathon was to him. He said thank you. He was excited about reading. He made a comment to another teacher (shout out Ms. Gold!) that he used to hate reading and now he likes it. And he used to get bad grades, but getting good grades is awesome.
This student is awesome! He has a super supportive family! But look how he’s responded to the idea that people believe in him. Look how he’s responded to having all sorts of teachers checking in on him, complimenting him, and telling him he matters.
High expectations are essential. Sure, they can change our practices, but that’s totally shadowed by the very real fact that they can change lives.