During the first decade of my career, I was your classic wimpy teacher. I wanted so desperately (so pathetically) for my students to like school. To like literature and writing. Truth be told, I really wanted them to like me.
So, I let them get away with “little things.” Talking in class. Leaving trash on the floor. Copping attitudes. Turning in work late. Wasting time.
I became so disappointed (mostly with myself) that I was tempted quit. Fortunately, a colleague recommended Fred Jones‘ ultra-practical book and workshop, Tools for Teachers. As I applied new skills in my classroom, I learned that it really is “easier to have high expectations than low ones.”
My wimpy teacher days are history. This school year, my principal wrote a stellar teacher evaluation after observing me in action: My students are attentive. The room is clean. Kids are respectful. Assignments are turned in on time. Class begins promptly, and students stay on task.
I should be thrilled, right? Yet I’ve had a nagging disappointment with this school year ever since, oh, September. I’ve not been able to put a finger on it. Has it been me? The students?
So, this year I’ve been a wistful teacher, longing for things to go back to being the way they should be (but without a clue about how or who!)
Last weekend, the light bulb finally went on. I was driving home from a women’s retreat, totally energized from the synergy I’d experienced with the women. I’d learned so much from them. Although I’d been the speaker, the weekend’s blessings were richly reciprocal.
This is what I’m missing at school this year, I realized. I’m missing the synergy, reciprocity, collaboration.
In my classroom, I expect to do more than disseminate data. I expect a lively give-and-take. I expect to be a different person each time the end-of-class bell rings. I expect to still be thinking about our class discussions as I’m shopping at Target later that evening. I expect to wrestle with a kid’s tough October question in the middle of July.
Ten years ago, I learned how to have high expectations in my classroom. And here’s one thing I just learned: my highest expectation is that I will learn right alongside my students. And when it doesn’t happen, I’m disappointed (mostly with myself.)
I’m not tempted to quit (sorry kids!) or even give up ’til next year. We may only have eight weeks left, and they’re gonna be eight weeks of learning. Learning together with my students. And learning how to always reach my highest expectation.