School leaders everywhere claim to hold high expectations of their students. Obviously, it would be ridiculous to claim otherwise. So, we see and hear the mantra in campus mission statements, superintendents' initiatives, and school board campaigns. Of course, this is how it should be! The debate is not whether we should declare to have high expectations of all students. My concern, quite frankly, is that we simply don't mean it.
To create an evnironment that truly nurtures high expectations, one must clearly define what expectations are in the first place. Being explicit about what an expectation is and is not, I believe, is one of the most concrete tasks that school leaders can perform to lay the foundation for successful student learning. Furthermore, this work at the "front end" will also support professional development and adult learning.
The key criterion of an expectation is that it is worth arranging one's life (or work or play, or in our case, class or school) around. In other words, to expect is to fully believe to the point of acting. On Monday morning, for example, I expect to still have my job. As a result of this expectation, I plan to wake up early, dress a certain way, leave an adequate time for the commute (another aspect dependent on real expectations of traffic flow, street lights functioning, etc.) and so on in order to arrive at my job.
This, in turn, becomes the litmus test to determine if I truly hold an expectation of my students. If I think I expect something of them, then I can ask myself, "What changes in my plans does it create if they do not meet it?"
(to be continued...)
To read this blog post in its entirety, go to http://rbmsexpectations.blogspot.com/