Monday, September 24, 2012
How did a year go by without a post? While the 2011-2012 school was great on so many levels, it was wildly hectic and stressful. But what a gift summer and a new school year can be! And this school year has started us off with so much to discuss. Thank you, Chicago, a few new movies and a political campaign for stirring the journalists’ pens. And thank you to the gift of time as I finally feel like I am settling into my current school setting. You can now look forward to at least a post per week. So let’s talk.
National Public radio has had in recent weeks a number of great stories about education, teaching and learning. On September 17 they featured an item, “Teachers’ Expectations Can Influence How Students Perform” (listen to or read it here – but hearing it will be more instructive - http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/09/18/161159263/teachers-expectations-can-influence-how-students-perform).
My first reaction to the title was a bit ho-hum. Don’t all classroom teachers know this already? On the other hand, I have been doing this long enough that I know better than to blow this off. Many, many teachers know that their expectations have an impact, but they are unconscious of their underlying beliefs. Furthermore, changing those beliefs is extremely difficult. Finally, even if progress is made on our expectations and beliefs, it is in our actions that we make the difference. How do we change our behaviors?
Here are my take-aways from the article. First, we behave differently when we expect more from our students. We are more patient, quicker with positive feedback, and quicker with a smile. Can we send a different message by being aware of smiling at all our students, offering plentiful, positive feedback to all, and being more patient with all students? Of course, but how will we know we are doing it. As the article says, it is very hard to police our own actions. Take away two – video tape ourselves and look at the recording with a coach or master teacher. This might sound terrifying, but there is ample research to indicate that this is wonderfully effective. I have known many young, fearless teachers who made great strides using video of themselves. My final take-way comes from the audio more than the print version. Listen to the possible reactions of a teacher speaking to a lively young boy. The suggested changes are simple, indicative of ones beliefs and huge for the atmosphere in the classroom. The possible impact on the willingness to learn for the boy involved? Immeasurable.