A Reflection on High Expectations

Hey everybody 🙂 It’s been a little while.

So, I’m back this week to talk about what it means to have high expectations for students, which includes using goal-setting (to help them succeed) and helping them achieve pride in their work.

According to our required study for this unit, high expectations are essential for the mental and emotional health of students. Why is this? Well, according to some studies mentioned in Teach NOW’s The Art and Science of Teaching, students who have high expectations placed upon them by teachers typically do better than students from whom not as much is expected (Marzano, 2007, p. 163-165). This doesn’t surprise me, and to me, is almost self-evident. I would call this phenomena in layman’s terms a self-fulfilling prophesy. The self-fulfillment part, in this case, applies to both the student and the teacher. If the teacher expects much out of the student and the student is aware of that, then the student will naturally do as the teacher expects. I use myself as an example. Not to brag, but, as my teachers determined my capabilities, they made known to me that I could go far in life, should I choose to do so. Other students, typically branded as “gifted” or “special,” also received similar remarks. This put the thought in my heart that I shouldn’t let my teachers down; they wanted me to do well, so I should. On the other hand, if my teachers had passed me by as “unremarkable” or as “normal,” I might not have felt so driven to do as much as I did. Labels are powerful things. They can stick with you for the rest of your life. In this case, for this module, I needed to learn how to powerfully label ALL students as “gifted” and “special,” as someone from whom much is expected and nothing less than the best will be accepted. Now THAT is a label I want to stick to someone and stay stuck to them forever 🙂

So how does one pull it off? Again, The Art and Science of Teaching nails the ever present problem of teacher bias on the head. Teachers are, after all, human (right? Mrs. Frizzle?), and are therefore highly emotional creatures. Nothing we do as humans, no “logical” thought in our head, can ever be devoid of emotion on some level (Marzano, 2007, p.162-165). This aspect of humanity was made clear through a study on the Affective Domain for the group project in which I participated this week. According to the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (an odd place to find what I was looking for, to be sure), the Affective Domain comprises of several layers of emotional attachment and understanding one attaches to any piece of knowledge acquired. NAGT states this about how it hopes students will use the Affective Domain:

“If we are striving to apply the continuum of Krathwohl et al. to our teaching, then we are encouraging students to not just receive information at the bottom of the affective hierarchy. We’d like for them to respond to what they learn, to value it, to organize it and maybe even to characterize themselves as science students, science majors or scientists” (Kirk).

This valuing, characterizing, and organizing are things teachers do to students, often times inadvertently and innocently (Marzano, 2007, p. 162). A student might have an annoying voice (in the teacher’s mind), so the teacher doesn’t ask the student to speak up much in class. A student reminds a teacher of a hated relative, so the teacher avoids interaction with this student whenever possible (Marzano, 2007, p. 162-163). There are infinite reasons why a teacher might have an emotional dislike for a student; never the less, as this module has taught me, it is our job as teachers to rise above our feelings and to make the conscious decision to treat every student the same.

By giving every student our full attention, by overcoming our own fears and insecurities (and private dislikes), and by setting the bar at the same level for all students, we as teachers can ensure that our classrooms are hotbeds of high expectations (Marzano, 2007, p. 162). Don’t get me wrong; I know this is no easy task. I’m an idealist, so it’s easy for me to just gloss over everything and make it sound like a walk in the park. One of the ways to attain such self-awareness mentioned by the Teach NOW book was to review your own performance after every school day, noting in particular whether or not certain students were treated equally and what could be done next time to bolster their spirits. For me, as a Christian, this isn’t enough. I’m a very self-aware person; it’s just part of my personality. As an introvert, I do a lot of self-reflection, which typically ends up like this:

cat self reflection


(come on guys, you know me! I don’t like doing a post without a picture 🙂 sorry, I know that was random 🙂 oki’mnotsorry

So, anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t get much anywhere just reflecting by myself. As a Christian, I try to give my problems to God (however difficult it may be) so that He can work it out in the way that is best. I want to be the best teacher that I can be and a good example for my students; I can’t do it without Him, and I certainly can’t overcome my own biases and dislikes without divine intervention (trust me, I’ve tried). So, to summarize that part, high expectations are self-fulfilling, and a teacher cannot put high expectations on every student unless they make a conscious effort to treat every student the same.

Next up is goal setting! Man, I learned a LOT about goal setting this week. For our first activity, we had to create a behavioral checklist that we could use in our own classroom if we so choose. At first, I had no idea what a checklist was. I looked at Pinterest, and what I saw there looked totally opposite of what I thought I was supposed to be seeing. Imagine my surprise when I visited a guidance counselor at Birch Elementary and was handed copies of checklists and charts very similar to what I had seen online XD Goodness, what a learning experience! That was one of the best interviews I’ve ever conducted during my Teach NOW experience. The counselor was so kind and helpful, and I left with a huge grin on my face. She not only helped me with this project, but also with my tutoring job at Huntington Learning Center! Basically, I learned that one needs to set realistic and achievable goals for students when one wants to encourage correct behavior, whether socially or academically or both. That’s where the checklists come in. They function as a reminder to students of what model behavior looks like as well as an incentive to do the very best that they can. Each checklist is filled with personalized goals that focus on the problem areas for each student. Checked boxes can be turned into prizes for students, so they have an extra incentive for wanting to perform well. Only a small number of boxes are required to be checked each day at first, but as the student grows, the checklist grows as well. More and more is required of the student, but since the student has grown so much already, the new goals are always attainable, as long as the student puts forth consistent effort. For me, this not only helps the students understand the high expectations placed upon them, but also tells them explicitly what is expected of them. This part is all about classroom management, and boy, do I need to learn that!

I’ve already had a taste of classroom management during my tutoring stint at Huntington Learning Center. Though i only tutor one student at a time, my students can be quite a handful. There is one particular student who I tutor who just doesn’t want to work. They get frustrated easily, and though they are too young to understand perfectionism, it is clear to me that they are afflicted with the disease. I ache for the student, for I can see how bright they are and how much they like to learn (albeit, on their own time and in their own way). That’s why the behavioral checklist appeared to me as a gift from God. I’m going to speak to my supervisor about possibly implementing one for this particular student in the hopes that we can help them make some more progress in their studies. Thank you so much, Teach NOW! That activity was literally a life saver!

This leads us into helping students achieve pride in their work. I’ll be honest, I didn’t do that much research about this aspect of helping students during the week. My part of activity 3 concerned a different topic, but I did some research for this blog and found a few interesting tidbits to chew on. First, in my own opinion, unless a student has pride in their work, then they lack motivation entirely. This, I realize, is one of the problems facing my young pupil at Huntington: they lack pride in their work. Within a regular school environment, student pride can be fostered by prominently displaying student work around the classroom and in the hallways. Students can be recognized for their achievements in different areas, and those achievements should be given equal weight to every other achievement (Rourke, Boone). By that, I mean that being the fastest typist during the typing lesson should weigh the same as having the highest grade on the math test. Students have differing skill sets, and those differences should be recognized and celebrated. Further, teachers can couple their high expectations with student achievement by telling students how those high expectations have been achieved AND how the bar has now been set higher. This, in essence, is a combination of all three topics, as now goal-setting has been introduced as well. Basically, all students need is positive and encouraging recognition. This goes so far; honestly, until you try it for yourself, you have no idea how much it can bolster a struggling student. Here’s another story for you:

One of my first pupils at Huntington was always telling me about video games. They talked about how they had beat such and such a game, and how they were now moving onto the next one. They appreciated the fact that I knew what they were talking about, too, so I tried to engage them on this topic in the hopes that I could connect some aspect of gaming to their study material. I was told during a teacher’s meeting that this student spoke about video games so much because they craved recognition. They might not be achieving much in school, but they were making giant leaps in the gaming world. That really touched me. It dawned on me that this means that, no matter how mundane, weird, or uninteresting something is to me, if it makes a kid excited enough to tell me about it with joy on their face, then I need to be excited too. That recognition will make that child’s day, and those early recognized achievements can blossom into greater and greater things to come. In short, never put down something a child shows to you with pride. Recognize their effort, and you’ve recognized their heart, their very soul.

Well, I think I’ve said enough for today. Honestly, this week taught me that I basically have a lot to learn. It whet my whistle to do more research, and left me with more questions than answers. That’s a good thing, really 🙂

Because I tend to be brutally honest when I’m giving a review, I would prefer to email someone about my review for project 3. Please expect an email soon 🙂

Works Cited:

Kirk, K. (n.d.). Student Motivations and Attitudes: The Role of the Affective Domain in Geoscience Learning. Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/affective/intro.html

Marzano, R. (2007, January 1). The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction.         Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://www.teachnowprogram.com/get_help_resources/activity_resources/module4/The_Art_and_Science_of_Teaching.pdf

Rourke, J., & Boone, E. (n.d.). Pride is the First Step. Retrieved January 11, 2015, from http://www.nassp.org/Content.aspx?topic=57645


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