Classroom teachers can start off with the greatest of expectations, whose boundaries over time become tested and contested by the students.
In these situations it can be beneficial to have some idea as to what to do when our personal boundaries become frayed.
It can often feel like an uphill struggle, and that we can easily fall into the valley of latent potential. How can we keep expectations high, and accelerate our breakthrough?
It is around this time in the term that teachers turn their attention back to expectations – what are they? Are they tangible? Reasonable? How well are they known to the students?
Deciding what matters
This process will be different for each teacher. Each one of us must think hard about our methodology and ideology. How can our expectations and routines best integrate and complement both?
This part of the process will also require thought about how to put these routines and expectations across to the students, then tell the students explicitly what these expectations are.
Like most things in education, the information will need to be revisited. We do not expect the students to continue to know taught content which is why we review taught content regularly. In the same way, teacher ought to review the expectations with the students regularly.
It is also the prerogative of the teacher to review the expectations themselves regularly, as well as making routine-inspection a routine inspection.
Circumstances can change, and new behaviours emerge. The learners should be away that the expectations are fluid and reactive to need.
Be explicit about routines. Script them. Use the same language every time. After a while ask students to tell you what the routine is.
Operate within existing framework.
It is beneficial to hang your expectations hat on an existent framework. Most schools have school mottos using acronyms, or a sequence of words that represent the school, so it is easy to use an existing part, or extrapolate and extemporise on a common theme.
One common thread that it is easy to use is the idea of ‘Respect’, with which you cannot do anything. Respect for: self, others and surroundings.
Make it simple. Simpler equals more memorable. Paired with frequent review, learners can easily turn expectations into habits.
With your expectations now existent – the next step is to make them tangible and visible. Expectations can be put at the front of the room or in another visible place.
In the event of the expectations not being met, the teacher can pause teaching, use the expectations as a visual cue, restate the expectations firmly. Then, with buy-in, the lesson can continue. Rinse and repeat.
The Hard Reset
Sometimes it is worth starting the next class with the expectations. In order to strengthen this effect you may also wish to change the seating plan.
From the door, students can be guided into their new seat with the expectations up on the board. The teacher is in a strong position to re-state the expectations clearly and with certainty. Once agreed and bought-in, the books can be distributed and the classroom culture begins anew.
An example of what I’ve decided to use is below: