Tuesday, 7 February 2012

What did you expect?

Have you ever noticed that what you expect, is usually exactly what you will get?

This is born out in front of me every single day at school. You know there are some of our cherubs who choose behaviour that is less than exemplary? They do so with reason usually. However, putting this aside, teenagers as a rule, are incredibly intuitive as well. By instinct, the act almost completely from intuition. Our children KNOW what we think of them and what we expect from them, and they generally act accordingly. I have seen this happen too many times to doubt the truth of it.

As a fantastic example, there is this one particular student I worked with a few years ago. I had been warned before starting that there was nothing anyone could "do" with this student, that his prospects were dismal and that the chances of "getting anything out of him" were minimal. Therefore, I was instructed, "Don't waste your time."

HOLY COW! I thought to myself, "Is this a child we are talking about or what?"

To me, this situation presents a wonderful challenge, one I am more than happy to take up.

I watched this student for a couple of lessons, making no comment to him and no attempt to correct his behaviours or redirect him in any way. Basically, I watched and worked out his patterns and the way he operated. I know he was doing the same to me especially because I was not acting in the way he expected a teacher to act. I decided (with a little divine assistance...gee it's great having these guys on my side) that I would have to "play" this situation very carefully or risk loosing his attention completely. So for a little while, I did nothing except come to class, teach those willing to learn and discretely watch those who were not. At a certain point not too far into the term, I asked those who were not engaged (in particular this student) to stay behind after class. I spoke to them for the first time then about their choices of language, behaviour and work ethic. I lied to them! Sounds bad huh?

This is what I told them:
I informed them that I was a little disappointed that other teachers in the school had been less than forthcoming about the students at the school. That I had been told by other teachers that the class I had received was one of the best in the school, that the students were dedicated and that they really were willing to give it their best, even though sometimes it was hard. I told them that I was a little saddened to find out that maybe this was not true, and that I hoped and expected that this was just a couple of bad days rather than a habit. I expressed my wish that they were all the young men (they were all boys obviously) I had been told I was teaching, and that we would forget the last week and start fresh next lesson. With that, I dismissed them.

As you can imagine, this was so totally NOT what they expected from me. However, I did not walk into that class with any expectations for their behaviour, I just watched and waited for the right opportunity. I DID let them in on my expectations and what I "KNEW" to be true about them. They instinctively knew I was sincere and that I did not expect them to be "bad boys"...phew, the pressure was off them to perform to the standards expected of them by others, and now they could begin to meet mine. This was not an overnight success, each day I met them with the expectation that they would be delightful and fully engaged students, and after a few months...I got exactly what I expected every time.

Expect the worst and you will get it eventually, expect the best...and yep...you'll get that too.

With love and light

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