C.M. Corner: Great Expectations

Travis Chapman

Whether in school, at work or in general interactions, there is a list of expectations in regard to behavior.  One consideration we can make more often on our end is how well we are setting up our students for success.  We are most often a new influence in our students’ lives and are trying, on our end, to learn what is expected of us that day.  What are we supposed to accomplish?  What are we supposed to teach?  Who are we supposed to help?  A lot of times we go into these positions and don’t consider the student’s perspective.  They have a brand new person to interact with and no idea how you would like them to do so.  If we don’t tell them, then they cannot meet that expectation and often “misbehave” simply due to lack of preparation.  This is where setting expectations for your class can go a long way to prevent that misbehavior.  We have listed some things to consider when setting expectations below.
First, are there expectations already laid out for the class?  Is there a list of class rules posted on the wall?  Are there other classroom staff members that you can touch base with?  Utilizing these resources can really help you maintain consistency in the classroom.  Simply go over the already established rules for behavior.  This lets the students know that you understand their normal process and they can continue to act accordingly.  If there aren’t expectations that you can utilize and/or other classroom staff for you to confer with, then establish your own set of classroom rules.  This discussion acts as an agreement between you and the student(s) as to what is appropriate classroom behavior.
Second, establish expectations for activities.  In this, be more specific and as clear as possible.  If you are working on a project or assignment, let them know what to work on, where to do it, how they are to work on the assignment and how long they have to complete it.  Now, you won’t always have all of the information to give them and we don’t want to take the entire time explaining the information, however the more we lay the framework around how we want them to accomplish it, the easier it is for the students to do so appropriately.  Do you want them to work silently?  Are they to discuss their answers with their neighbor?  Do they need to turn in their work at the end of the time or does the unfinished work become homework?  Do they need to focus on a particular topic or do they get to choose?  What are they to do if they complete the assignment early?  Perhaps you address some of these factors with a visual list of supplies or materials or having a visible timer set.
Lastly, refer to your expectations throughout the day.  Whether it is reviewing the expectations, discussing their meaning, enforcing or praising appropriate behavior, bring them back up throughout your time with the students.  Most of us have heard the statement that “repetition is the key to learning”.  The more often we are able to refer to the expectations in a variety of ways, the better our students will understand and adopt those expectations.  Students who push boundaries know that you are still looking for those expectations to be followed.  Students who simply need a gentle reminder don’t become as startled when it does happen and students who strive for the appropriate behavior understand that they are following your expectations. 
We can’t expect students to behave a certain way if we don’t inform them.  By utilizing and referring to expectations for behavior, we give our students the ability to succeed.