Maybe I’m Too Hard On Them…

The expectations I have of my students are high. Really high. My current and former students would confirm that. Some may argue they are too high. I respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree.

My expectations are high, yet they are realistic. Honestly though, sometimes I think to myself, “maybe I’m being too hard on them.” But as more and more of my students graduate and keep me updated on how they are doing, I dismiss those thoughts. I know what I am doing in the classroom is right. And let me clarify that I’m not talking about content per se.

Yes, I want my students to leave my classroom with content knowledge, but what is more important to me is that they walk away from my classroom with experience; experience working in diverse groups, delivering formal presentations, planning and organizing events, making decisions, and an understanding of how to effectively manage their time.  I want them to leave me with an “I’m ready to take on the world” attitude and confidence in themselves. I want my students to never settle, to go after their dreams, and have the drive and ambition to make those “crazy dreams” a reality. Maybe this idealism is silly to some, but in a world filled with so much cynicism, our students should have the luxury of being in a classroom with an “anything is possible” kind of teacher. And as our society continues to advance, why shouldn’t our students believe anything is possible? Often times however, we never know if what we are trying to instill in our students is going to “stick.” And then we are reminded every so often that we must stay true to our idealism and maintain our high expectations.

Earlier this morning, I received an unexpected e-mail from a former student. She’s currently a freshman at the University of  New Hampshire. Her message illustrates perfectly the power of setting high expectations.

Dear Mrs. Scheffer,
 
I wanted to email you and let you know how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me in the past years! I feel as though I have an advantage over my classmates because of you and what I’ve learned from being in your class for so many years. We had our first presentation in my business class today and my professor told me that I knocked it out of the park compared to the rest of the class. I wouldn’t be where I am if you had never challenged us to be better students and young business professionals. I just wanted to touch base with you and let you know how thankful I am for having you as my teacher. I hope everything is going well with you and hope you are continuing to educate people on the importance of a 21st century classroom! 
 
Sincerely Your Former Student,
Michaela Polk

IMG_3892WHY I RAISE THE BAR:

I know what future challenges await my students, both in their personal and professional lives. If I am to prepare my students to overcome these challenges and be successful in a fiercely competitive global economy, and in life in general, my expectations must be high.

The challenge is to get students to set high expectations for themselves.

For some students, setting high expectations is intrinsic, or has been ingrained in them through their upbringing. But for most students, they need someone in their corner who supports them, won’t give up on them, and believes in their ability to not only meet high expectations, but to eventually exceed them. I strive to be that person.

In this video , Dr. Sugata Mitra, visiting professor at MIT, along with a team of other “eduvators,” states that the curriculum of the future should focus on three things: (my brief commentary follows)

1. Reading comprehension – further supports the power of students reading and writing blogs
2. Effective search – provide students with their own mobile learning device so they have access to the internet all the time
3. Belief – personalized, flexible learning opportunities which allow students to explore, experiment, and create what matters to them most

What struck me most about this “curriculum of the future” was belief. I don’t necessarily think teaching students to believe in themselves and their abilities constitutes being an “eduvator” but I do think we sometimes get so caught up in the “latest and greatest” especially when it comes to educational technology, that we forget the basics. And I think most “21st century educators” know that technology alone cannot motivate kids. I would argue that a passionate, caring, and sincere teacher, who genuinely believes in his or her students is a much more powerful motivator than any app or web tool that’s available (free or paid) on the market today. And let’s face it, our “digital natives” innately share the same characteristics as learners, and as people, as we all did. They want their teachers to believe in them and care about them. Once this happens, I think our students will believe in their ability to contribute innovative and creative ideas, products, and services to the world.

We need to help our students become confident. We need to help them identify their unique skills and abilities. We need to give them some sort of direction in terms of a possible career path. We need to believe in them, if they are to believe in themselves.

And like Michaela said in her e-mail, simply believing in our students can help them move onto the next phase of their lives and “knock it out of the park!”

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5 comments

  • I love this Jenn! Really enjoy the term “eduvator”- when you are talking about people raising the bar in education…..pushing kids to do more than they believe possible….I think that’s what I as a parent (& principal) want for all of my kids! ;0) Great Stuff!

  • Daisy, thank you for taking the time to read and comment! I must give Dr. Mitra attribution and his team attribution for “eduvator.” Inspiring theories on the future of education and what all stakeholders can do to help prepare our students for the future!

  • This is a stellar post, Jenn. I can attest that when instructors, professors and managers outside of the educational realm challenge me to work to my fullest potential and when they consistently raise the bar, the results are always favorable. You have high expectations for your students, but, most importantly, you’re right there behind them supporting them with ongoing vs. episodic feedback, your believing in them as you’re their greatest cheerleader, and your valuing them! Keep up the wonderful achievements!

  • This is a stellar post, Jenn. I can attest that when instructors, professors and managers outside of the educational realm challenge me to work to my fullest potential and when they consistently raise the bar, the results are always favorable. You have high expectations for your students, but, most importantly, you’re right there behind them supporting them with ongoing vs. episodic feedback, you’re believing in them as you’re their greatest cheerleader, and you’re valuing them! Keep up the wonderful achievements!

    Reply

  • Reblogged this on HarrisonHints and commented:
    Reflection is the best way to know yourself. This is why all the principals and admin talk about “reflection”. Not always easy, but always worth it.

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