Friday, February 8, 2013

Year 3: Week 20 – The Wrong Kind Of Expectations

One of the pieces of advice that I received as a young teacher was to have high expectation for my students and to hold them to the expectations that you expressed.

If you actually do this, you will become a frustrated and angry teacher, because students consistently will fail to meet the most basic expectations. So you spend your teaching time getting annoyed at your students.

There’s so much more nuance to this idea of expectations then many people want to consider and want to admit.

There’s two kinds of expectations that great teachers learn to balance.

1. Expressed expectations – the standard of behavior and work that you express to your students: “When you want to share an idea or questions, please raise your hand?”

2. Operational expectations – the behavior and work that you realistically expect out of your students: “A couple times a week, one of my third graders will talk out of turn.”

Students need to hear the expressed expectations and have consequences for not living up to them . However, teachers need maintain operational expectations so that teachers aren’t personally frustrated when your students don’t meet the expressed expectations.

If you know that a students will interrupt at some point in the class, you can be prepared with a response that may seem surprised and offended, but it will not be something that catches you off guard. Part of being a teacher is being an actor and having your operational expectations set to the right level really helps you be prepared for the part that you need to play.

Expressed expectations are established in the beginning of the year and need to be consistently reinforced. Operational expectations on the other hand are constantly in flux as you get to know your students and adjust lessons and approaches to get the operational expectations as close as possible to the expressed expectations.

The thing about teachers is that for the most part we are optimists so our operational expectations are on the high side. We build ourselves up for disappointment but every so often students reach the level of our expressed expectations. When that happens a lot, then you got to raise both kinds of your expectations a little bit higher and you’ll be surprised at how high your students can reach.

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