If you recognized that quote then you’re a pretty cool person.
But yeah. I realized I was missing one more post from my field observation journal… and I wanted to tell you all the third truth I confirmed during my time in practicum. So here you go. There’s just one more thing:
Students will respond to your expectations of them.
This is, I think, a rather dangerous and overarching statement for me to make because I have such little experience in the public school setting. I do, however, have quite a number of years working with youth in the same age group; I served for a while as a youth counselor and volunteered with many high-schoolers outside of a structured youth group setting. From these past experiences I have observed that when you let students know how highly you think of them, they will often perform to an even greater extent, surpassing all your expectations. For me, I know age says very little about how well a person can perform academically, athletically, creatively or even interpersonally.
Despite my lack of experience as a public school teacher I was happy to find evidence for this hypothesis as I walked into the robotics classroom just this past week. I’ve already mentioned it once but seriously, the ability of the students to sit down with a box of materials, sans blueprint, and come up with a functional robot that could transport balls of varying sizes, traverse under different height restrictions and hang off bars is amazing. The other reason I mention this again (and not the student meeting I attended on that same day) is because many of the students in the robotics class were classified and still their teacher believed in them with such confidence that he refrained from showering any student, regardless of his or her learning ability, with too much attention. The robotics teacher trusted that each student would figure things out and practically all of them were succeeding beyond what was expected of them, especially according to their classification.
Part of embodying this truth in my teaching also goes hand-in-hand with wait time. As teachers, when we wait, we are silently placing our faith in the students’ abilities to think and process and reason. Rather than relying on our efforts to enable and prod students into the mind-spaces we think they should inhabit, using silence and wait time speaks to our belief in student ability and not teacher ability. To what extent do you place faith in a student’s ability to meet and exceed your expectations? I know for myself the next lesson is going to involve a lot more pausing and a lot more waiting simply because I am now resolved to be anticipatory of the good unimaginable that can happen in a classroom.