High expectations lead to great things

Before this week I was not so acutely aware of the effect of a teacher’s expectations on her students. Peering back into my history as a student, I remember most of my teachers expecting more of me than I sometimes gave, but I certainly wasn’t able to recognize changes in my behavior as a result.

The power of self-fulfilling prophecies is clear, though. If you are made to believe you are a great dancer, you will dance more often and improve with more practice and less inhibition. If you are made to believe you are a poor soccer player, you may quit the team and never improve. The phenomenon is the same in the classroom, but with more significant consequences. Teachers project their expectations of students, verbally and non-verbally, consciously or not, and students can tell. If their teacher doesn’t expect much of them, there is little incentive for students to set higher goals for themselves. It is not a direct route, but higher expectations lead to better performance, which leads to greater pride in one’s work, and then there is also the cyclical effect of greater pride in one’s work leading to still more improved performance.

I look forward to working with great students. I am moving into a world of international private schools with resources and involved parents. I know that those things do not equalize student’s ability, but I know that I will not be facing all of the challenges that some of my present colleagues may have to face. I hope to slip into a system that already has high expectations of its students, where it will be easier for me to hold all of my students to high standards. In very concrete terms, I am glad to add classroom techniques to my toolbag, like giving students time to think, using fairness sticks to call randomly on students, moving constantly among all of my students, asking for more developed answers, finding and explaining the right and wrong in everyone’s answers, and more.

In terms of the group assignment we completed this week, I will not hesitate to say that I was the weakest link. Carolyne started us off early, creating the glog and doling out assignments, knowing that this was a busy week for everyone. Daniel contributed probably half of all of the content on our glog. I did some work, later became indignant when it disappeared, realized I hadn’t saved it, and had to hurriedly do it again in what space remained. This group project simply was not my priority this week.

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