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Monday, 24 February 2014

No one rises to low expectations

 No one rises to low expectations

I have for 15 of my 16 teaching years worked in KS2, for at least 11 of these years I have taught in upper key stage 2. I know I have always had high expectations firstly of myself and also of my pupils. These high expectations are just natural to me but perhaps part if it comes from my mother. I am from a family of 8 children and my mother taught us that if we wanted something we had to work for it. We would not she would say be handed life on a plate, it would be what we made it.

Looking back on it now I can see that these were very wise words indeed. At the time I was probably annoyed because this meant tidying my own bedroom, doing lots of chores around the house from as young as I can remember and generally being responsible for my own actions. I left school with the basic CSEs and O'levels as there was absolutely no possibility of my parents being able to afford for me to go to college or university, in fact it was never even mentioned.

So when I left school at the grand age of 16 I immediately went to work and have worked non stop ever since. I only completed my education when my own children were in high school and even then worked whilst also raising my family to fund my education. I consider myself to be very fortunate in lots of ways, I am resilient and hard working and do not take anything that I achieve for granted. I set high expectations and achieved them at each stage. I have and will always work hard to achieve my best so it is only natural I suppose that I set the same high expectations for my own children and the children that I teach.

This academic year though, my first in KS1 has been they year that these high expectations seem to be magnified. I never have problems stretching the more able as I know what is expected of them the following year and beyond. Also because I was, as a primary pupil, always in the middle group I know how they often like to hide safely plodding along so I push them to their limit and beyond. As for the lower end of the class I probably push them the most as I genuinely believe for the majority of them they are only at the lower end due to missing out on a key area of learning for a variety of reasons and have to work hard to 'catch up' and this will not be achieved without that high expectation from me and from themselves.

Our class mantra is: Be Nice, Work Hard and Never Give Up. This pretty much sums up my tips for my pupils succeeding. Nothing can be achieved without working hard and if you give up you will never achieve your goals, as for being nice that is hugely important because charisma is the key to open lots of doors. Charismatic people.

So is it wrong to have high expectations? Yes, sometimes. Expectations like everything in education need to be matched to the child. If a child is overly anxious and the expectation is too high this anxiety could in turn lead to lower achievement but that is not to say that the expectation should not be there just choose carefully how and when you share that expectation. 

When parents and teachers don't expect enough, children rarely complain. However, they under perform and lose confidence in their abilities to achieve. They show symptoms of anger, anxiety, and depression. The new Federal Title I program is spearheading an attempt to raise expectations for disadvantaged students by accelerating and enriching curriculum. Much of what educators have learned about acceleration and enrolment from gifted education will be applied to educating children of all abilities. Although differing abilities and learning styles in children cannot be ignored, children may achieve more and fulfil adults' expectations if more is expected of them. High standards can be effective motivators. (Dr Sylvia Rimm)