Monday, April 27, 2009

on compromising expectations.

One of my students told me today, "Maybe, you wouldn't get so mad at us or disappointed if you just lowered your expectations." It was a shocking comment to hear and I tried to patiently think out my rational response before speaking to her again. I said, "When someone doesn't perform to the level you want them to perform to, it doesn't help anyone to just expect less of them." She pointed out the people that I was talking to/about and told me that, perhaps given what I knew of them, I should have realized what kind of work it would be. I responded in the affirmative, acknowledging that this was the case, but that, still, it does no one any good to just have the bar lowered.

As I thought about this conversation for the rest of the day after it'd taken place, I realized it was an apt metaphor for my disappointment in my work. Instead of challenging ourselves and our students, teachers have been all too prone to simply settle: Can't get enough kids to a passing rate? Simply lower the passing rate! Problem solved.

Except...that's not the case. That's not what we teach them. That's not good enough.

If we're to teach kids how to survive in the world, how to succeed, how to be a good person, more than just reading, writing and arithmetic, we must hold them (and ourselves!) to a higher standard! This cannot be something that we simply settle on.

If we're going to tell kids that they're going to inherit the world and that it's going to be theirs to take care of someday, why not institute some real consequences when they make that world a worse place? If physical violence is met with a zero tolerance policy, what about mental and emotional violence? If we all know who the bullies are, why not target them with presentations, instead of making everyone sit through them?

If we truly are the people we've been waiting for then let us celebrate our arrival!

But under no circumstances should we accept less. Things are not getting worse! I refuse to believe that! Kids are no worse today than they were ten years ago, much less fifty! If anything, they're better. My faith is in the future. We just need to keep pushing. Keep pushing.

If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it 100%. No matter what.


Courtside said...

What did you think about 'The Class'? Meant to ask you about that earlier.

Michael said...

Court - I liked the Class a lot. I was going to write about it (and still might) but I find every time I think too much about it, I get a little depressed. I'll probably write about it around the time my school year is getting out. Thanks for the comment.