The Teacher is Talking
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The Teacher is Talking: Increasing your Expectations

By Leslie Lindsay

Remember, back in the day parents (or grandparents) would send you something they clipped from the newspaper or magazine?  A column, a story, or even the comics.  I got something similar from my own father recently, only it wasn’t a clipping.  Instead a link from his Smartphone.  Ah…don’t you just love how this baby boomer generation is embracing all of the new-fangled technologies (alas, his Smartphone is not the new iPhone5, but well…least he has one). 

“Here ya go, Poco Uno*–maybe you can use this for your blog or to teach those grandkids of mine a little something about school.  You’ll always be life-long learner,” he said in his email.  (*Poco Uno is our poor English-Spanish translation of “Little One,” his nickname for me since I was a little girl.)  And so here it is, straight from my dad’s iPhone to you and the future generations: 

An article in NPR Morning Edition ( September 17th 2012 by Alix Spiegel indicates that if teachers have high expecations of their classroom students, then kids will actually do better academically.  A study conducted by Robert Rosenthal, a Harvard educator/researcher, found this to be true through a series of questionaires he created as a spin-off of an IQ test.   “Teachers interact differently with students expected to succeed. But they can be trained to change those classroom behaviors,” the study found.  In fact, Rosenthal found that teachers who had high expectations of their students actually gave the students they expected to succeed more time to answer questions, more specific feedback, and more approval: “they consistently touch, nod and smile at those kids more.”

Wow.  Did you read that, correctly?  Read it again.  They consistently touch, nod, and smile at those kids more.  They give these kids more time to answer a question and more feedback. 

Does your child’s teacher have expectations of him?    (I hope so!  Gosh, I wonder where mine fall in this line-up).  And how would you get your kids on the “high expectation list?”  Just what qualities do these high-expectation kids emanate? 

I don’t really know.  (Sorry, I know that was kind of cheap).   But let’s think…kids who are eager to learn and voice their opinions…not exactly.  These kids can sometimes be seen as “Brainy Smurfs” or “Disruptive.”  Teachers don’t like that (although this child could be very intelligent).  The quiet one in the corner?  Likely not.  Teachers want someone who will participate in class.  That kid in the back or the corner could really be bright, but sometimes give the wrong impression that they aren’t engaged–or worse–not smart.

Another researcher, Robert Pianta, who teamed up with Rosenthal came up with this list of how teachers can adjust their expectations:Teacher Appreciation Week 2011(image source:

7 Ways Teachers Can Change Their Expectations (toward problem students):

  1. Watch how each student interacts. How do they prefer to engage? What do they seem to like to do? Observe so you can understand all they are capable of.
  2. Listen. Try to understand what motivates them, what their goals are and how they view you, their classmates and the activities you assign them.
  3. Engage. Talk with students about their individual interests. Don’t offer advice or opinions – just listen.
  4. Experiment: Change how you react to challenging behaviors. Rather than responding quickly in the moment, take a breath. Realize that their behavior might just be a way of reaching out to you.
  5. Meet: Each week, spend time with students outside of your role as “teacher.” Let the students choose a game or other nonacademic activity they’d like to do with you. Your job is to NOT teach but watch, listen and narrate what you see, focusing on students’ interests and what they do well. This type of activity is really important for students with whom you often feel in conflict or who you avoid.
  6. Reach out: Know what your students like to do outside of school. Make it a project for them to tell you about it using some medium in which they feel comfortable: music, video, writing, etc. Find both individual and group time for them to share this with you. Watch and listen to how skilled, motivated and interested they can be. Now think about school through their eyes.
  7. Reflect: Think back on your own best and worst teachers, bosses or supervisors. List five words for each that describe how you felt in your interactions with them. How did the best and the worst make you feel? What specifically did they do or say that made you feel that way? Now think about how your students would describe you. Jot down how they might describe you and why. How do your expectations or beliefs shape how they look at you? Are there parallels in your beliefs and their responses to you?

Class dismissed!

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