Skip to content

High Expectations

November 9, 2012

Teacher Musings:

My husband is a stay-at-home dad who has spent the last two years raising our son.  Since he is the primary caregiver I have tried hard to follow his lead when it comes to structure and discipline for our budding toddler (now, almost a pre-schooler).  As our son has grown up to be more and more responsible for his own actions I have watched my husband expect things from my son that I thought were out of my son’s capability.  Things like eating without making a mess, picking up his toys (with minimal prompting) and following multi-step directions.  Occasionally I would hear my husband tell my son to do something and I would think “No way that is going to happen.”  And then it did, without a hitch.

My husbands high expectations of my son’s behavior have translated into a two-and-a-half year old that behaves really, really well.  He is rarely defiant or disobedient.  When my son does not follow directions it is usually a result of distraction or the fact that he is trying to tell us something that we do not understand.  After being home full-time with him and my husband for almost six months, I am finally starting to have the same high expectations for him as my husband does.  I’ve seen what he can do, what he can figure out and how he can control his impulses, and, as a result, I expect the best from him.

As a teacher I’ve always struggled with the concept of high expectations.  The mantra of “high expectations” was a huge part of my TFA experience, both before I joined, in my training, and in my subsequent years of teaching.  I believed that, if I somehow had high expectations of my students, they would rise to meet those expectations and excel.

This belief is not wrong.  However, I seriously lack the skills to bridge the gap between the expectations I have of my students and the work and behavior they often exhibit.  What I am realizing is that I believe that all my students are capable of writing a two-page literary analysis independently, or getting through a week of class without cussing, but I am still making excuses for them when they don’t, because I don’t know how to get them to where they should be.  And that is a problem – and my problem.

More and more with my son my assumptions about what he can do have moved from hopes to true expectations.  I don’t just hope he will be gentle with our new baby, I expect it.  If he isn’t gentle, then I am shocked, upset and respond with discipline immediately.  I need to adapt this same thing with my students.  It is not enough to hope, I must truly expect things from them and then respond accordingly.  Of course, the “respond accordingly” is the hard part since I don’t control the entire school environment and each child needs a different response to help them grow.  However, I think that spending time with my son and his dad have helped me learn a bit more about the distinction between hopes and true expectations –  just one more part of my parenting journey that I will carry back to the classroom.

Yummy Stuff:

This is one of our favorite fall meals – soup.  Specifically, Creamy Potato Leek Soup.  Paired with salad and bread it makes a perfect weeknight meal!

Creamy Potato Leek Soup


3 TB Earth Balance butter
2 large yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
3 leeks, washed and thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 cups of water and 1 vegetable bouillon cube OR 3 cups of veggie broth
1 cup of soymilk
3 TB minced scallions
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Melt butter in a large saucepan, add potatoes, leeks and onion and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
2) Add water and stock base.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender
3) Puree in a blender, probably in batches.  Return to the saucepan and stir in the coconut milk and heat through gently.
4) Stir in the scallions and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve it up with some flaky biscuits, if you are adventurous!

  1. It is interesting that the term ‘high expectations’ gets used so regularly but I haven’t actually thought about why it sometimes doesn’t translate into the results that we expect. You are right, it isn’t just about the expectations that we hold of our students, but also what we do about it. I think another aspect is that we don’t just hold them but communicate them with our students as well. Students need to be aware of our expectations of them and why we believe that they can achieve/behave in the way we expect and are fully aware of the consequences if they do not meet those ‘high expectations’. I enjoyed reading this post, because while I feel that I maintain high expectations, I do not always follow through with consequences because I too make excuses.
    Interesting reflection 🙂

    • Thanks for the great and thought-provoking comment! I hadn’t thought about it that way, but you are totally right – the way we communicate these high expectations is a huge factor in how we “enact” these high expectations. And, as you said, it is this “enacting” step this is so often the most difficult.

      Thanks for keeping the dialogue alive 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: