Monday, April 16, 2012

Expectations vs. Wishes (part 2)

(...continued from part 1)

"Close Your Eyes and Make a Wish"

A wish is what someone does when blowing out candles on a birthday cake, buying a lottery ticket, or bringing in the New Year. A wish is almost the opposite of an expectation because it precisely deals with wanting things to be different than they really are. Wishes do not lead to action because there is no serious belief that they will happen. To make the point, let's return to my analogy of going to work on Monday morning. I may wish I didn't have to go to work the entire weekend leading up to Monday, but come Monday morning I will find myself carrying out all the necessary plans to meet my expectations and arrive to work on time.

Expectations guide our plans because we are so sure they will happen. Wishes do not guide anything, but only offer distractions to the reality we face. Therefore, I submit that spending more professional time on wishes in our schools is a waste of time, at best, and more often worse, a hindrance to student learning.

Do Our Actions Betray Our Words?
Now, we may hone in on the implications of this discussion in our school settings. Consider these two examples. Reflect on whether you believe the teacher in each case is expressing a wish or an expectation.

  • A teacher encourages her students while passing out the unit test in math class, "I have faith in all of you. Remember, you have learned all the material on this test. Have confidence. I know you will all do well. I expect everyone to pass with flying colors!" Behind the teacher, on the front board, is a note including the date, time, and policy for test re-takes.
  • Students enter the classroom after greeting their teacher at the door. A starter, or warm-up activity, is projected on the screen. Most students quickly take their seats and begin working on the starter. When the bell rings, the teacher enters the room and closes the door behind her. She notices a couple boys standing near their desks with no supplies out, conversing about their favorite parts of a movie they saw over the weekend. She calmly says to them, "You know the routine for how we start class everyday. Now, instead of being able to take attendance right away, I am taking time to address you about what you should be doing." Then, she asks, "What is your assigned task right now?" One boy answers with an eyeroll, "Do the starter." The teacher responds, "Good. Then, please do so now. Thank you."
Let's approach it from a broader perspective. Read the following statements and decide if each item constitutes a wish or an expectation in your mind.

  • Students should have clean, organized lockers.
  • Students should be in class before the tardy bell rings.
  • Students need to show respect to adults by addressing them with words like "sir" and "ma'am."
  • Students are responsible for their own learning.
  • If students don't turn their work in on time, then they should fail.
Well, how did you label them? Was it difficult to fit any of them in one category or the other? What were your thoughts as you analyzed these beliefs?

(to be continued...)

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