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Student and Classroom Expectations: Five Activities

When asked to explain his skillful ability to raise the level of his game at crucial times in a match, tennis star Pete Sampras said that his fans expect him to do it and he in turn expects it of himself.  Common sense tells us that the same is true for students: When the teacher expects more, the students perform better.  Teachers dedicated to maximizing the potential of all students set high standards in their classrooms.

Keep in mind, however, that standards and expectations are not the same thing. Standards are what you want students to achieve; expectations are what you believe will happen. Your high expectations will only be valid if they are asserted in a setting that is positive and affirming. Ask yourself, is my classroom climate positive?  Is it a place where students can ask for help without discomfort? Is it a place where all students feel accepted?  

When you communicate your expectations you must convey to the students that they can meet them, that they will be rewarded for meeting them, and that you will do everything that you can as their teacher to help all students do the best that they can.

  Objectives

  • To identify positive student expectations

  • To understand the conditions for high positive expectations

  • To identify and eliminate negative expectations

  • To improve the overall climate of the classroom

Activity One: Reflections   Write a short answer or response to the following questions and statements.  Note: You may want to probe these questions with your mentor or a discussion group.

  1. In your classroom do your students know exactly what you expect of them?

  2. Do you maintain an optimistic perspective in your teaching?

  3. Do you truly believe that all children can learn?  What does this mean in practical terms?

  4. Do you have teaching strategies to maintain an environment for success? Explain?

  5. Before you begin teaching a lesson, do you envision success?  How can this help?

Activity Two: Conditions for High Expectations.  Below are six practical recommendations to affirm positive and productive expectations. Write an action that you can take to strengthen each.

1. Outline your expectations clearly.  It is often a good idea to have your expectations written on a handout for students and their parents.  Take the time to explain your expectations but be careful to not overdo it.  If you do, your expectations will sound more like classroom rules rather than classroom outcomes.  When you present an expectation, be positive and upbeat.

An action that I will take in this area:

2. Personalize the importance of expectations.  Outline your personal professional expectations.  Tell your students what you expect of yourself as their teacher.  Convey the notion that you and your students are striving to fulfill high expectations together.

  An action that I will take in this area:

3.  Reward/praise those who are doing what you expect them to do. 

An action that I will take in this area:

4. When your class performs, tell them directly that they met your expectations.  Make this sound like a reward: “Congratulations class, today you exceeded expectations because…”

  An action that I will take in this area:

5. On a regular basis, conduct personal conferences with students.  Simple and brief individualized meetings with students can be used to let students know if they are meeting your expectations or not.  With each conference, praise them for expectations met and suggest one thing that they can do to strengthen their performance.  It is important that the tone of these expectation conferences be positive and caring, not punishing or scolding.

An action that I will take in this area:

  6. Although they are somewhat time-consuming, expectation cards reap very positive benefits.  An expectation card is a simple note mailed to the home or given directly to students in which the teacher recognizes that students have met an expectation. Avoid making these cards general praise; it is much more effective to specify a particular expectation met.

  Sample Card

Congratulations Joel!

You have turned in your last five assignments on time.  After our conversation last month about time management, you have done a great job getting your work done as scheduled. Keep up the good work!

  An action that I will take in this area:

Activity Three: Expectations Poster.

During the first weeks of school it is helpful to have the students do an easy expectations activity.  Working in pairs or small groups, students develop expectations for the class, for the teacher, for their classmates, and for themselves.  Synthesize the results and create a classroom poster that lists their collective expectations.  You may want to update or reaffirm the expectations every month.  

Activity Four: Statements of Negative Expectations.

Successful teachers regularly guard against negative statements or assumptions that creep into their teaching.  The following is an example of a negative statement that works against your expectations:  “I guess with this group we are going to have to start all over.”  Loaded statements like this set up a predisposition for failure, low energy, and/or negativity.

Interview your colleagues and ask them to identify counter-productive statements that sometimes creep into their teaching.  With each, determine how you can reverse it to turn it into a positive.

Activity Five: Developing Rewards: Meet with several other educators and brainstorm numerous methods to reward students for meeting teacher expectations.  Generate a list and give it to other teachers so they can add their own.

 


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