So often the discussion revolves around “teacher expectations,” and that is important. But since it is all about the student, then why aren’t we focusing more on “student” expectations first? Here are a few that should top any list. These are intended for middle and high school students, but could also apply to levels up and down of there are well.
- Age Appropriate Behavior – We know that all students mature (as well as learn) at different rates, but by eliminating the “outlier” behavior, we can arrive a a mutually agreeable range of behaviors consistent with each grade level.
- Student Participation – If a student does not understand, they should raise their hand and ask. Teaching students how to become better questioners far outweighs the current belief dictating teachers sharpen their “questioning the student” skills. The current belief that teachers need to become better questioners rather than introduce content in a manner that will elicit better student questions is an unusual pedagogical tactic at best.
- Discuss any problems regarding this class with me as soon as they come up – Students are forever at the ready to point out grading errors, seating problems, obnoxious neighbor, and the like to a teacher’s attention, but questions from them regarding how, when, where, and how much to study do not usually reach the teacher’s desk, yet they should. How to broach these questions to a teacher needs to be explained and encouraged from students. Spoken or not, they are seeking our guidance.
- Students must take notes – Another outlier is the student who never has to take a single note and earns 100%’s all day long. Students must have not only their notebooks open, but their weekly planner/agenda calendar open as well to jot down any upcoming deadline made both on the board or in passing. Awareness of those passing comments may have greater impact in the overall outcome of a class than jotting them down as they are added to daily homework on the board. We are also obliged to show students how to take notes clearly, concisely and with as much brevity as the note itself will allow. In other words, they just cannot copy everything.
- Homework and Reading is expected to be done on time – If you’ve ever seen the movie “Stand and Deliver” about the teaching of Jaime Escalante, then you have seen my classroom. My student expectations are the same. Homework done when assigned, daily quizzes and weekly (if it works out that way) tests are the route we take. If work is not completed on time, parents must be notified. I repeat, IF ANY ONE HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT IS NOT COMPLETED ON TIME, THE PARENT MUST BE NOTIFIED. this is non-negotiable and the significance of the assignment is irrelevant. If it was assigned with a due date and it was not completed, the parent must be notified. This is very easily accomplished with any reasonably adequate electronic grade book (EGB). No phone calling home for this – an EGB worth it’s salt can accomplish this easily with a text. If your EGB cannot do this, buy one that can. If you don’t, the issue of receiving late homework will no longer be the primary problem of the student. The teacher will now be complicit in late homework being submitted.
- Students must make an active attempt to learn the information given to them – I have often used the three expressions: “You cannot read just to read. You must read to learn”, “What is the point of reading if you are not going to remember?” and my favorite “Repetition is the mother of retention.” They must also be told that since this is usually new material, reading it once may not do the trick. Reading it twice, or thrice, may not do it either. They need to understand that reading until they understand and remember what they have read is how it is done.
- Students must do work outside of the class (and this does not mean just homework) – With the volume of free learning materials out there today – Kahn Academy, YouTube videos, etc… – there is not reason why a student cannot take an additional 10-15 minutes to watch a video that will help “cement” an idea within a student’s thinking.
- Some additional dos and don’ts… – Don’t ask questions about the material if you haven’t done the reading. Don’t ask general questions such as, “Could you explain Chapter 10?” Don’t ask personal questions in class such as, “When can I take my make-up test?” Don’t offend your teacher: falling asleep in class, reading – or texting- under the desk, being late repeatedly or chatting socially in class. Do plan short and long term for upcoming tests and projects. Do get notes from another student if you were absent. Do read the chapter and ask questions you still don’t understand after a few readings. Do act respectfully and courteously to both the teacher and classmates. These “Do’s” go a long way in earning the respect and appreciation of both the teacher and your fellow students.
These expectations are pretty clear in both meaning and intent. There are a few more, but these are the foundation. All students should easily be able to follow them on a daily basis. I understand there are exceptions to any set of expectations, especially in middle school, but the word “exception” says it all. These cases are meant to be dealt with exceptionally and are not meant to morph into the rule. Which brings up another pet peeve of mine when speaking with colleagues. I often hear how rules are not enforced or the exception has now become the rule. Students expect the expectations you have set for them to be adhered to, and the vast majority are none too pleased when the exception for a few who are not doing what they should suddenly becomes the rule. It is not fair to those who are doing what it is you asked of them and it is equally unfair to the the others as well as sending these “crossed signals” will not help them grow and improve as we (and their parents!) expect from them attending our school.
By following a clear set of expectations, we help elementary, middle and high school students understand what their next year’s teachers are going to be requiring of them. If they are in college, we are demonstrating what will be expected of them from their future employers. Either way, we are doing what we are supposed to be doing – preparing them to be positive, productive citizens in their communities.