teacher reflections: strong relationships AND high expectations

I have transitioned, now, into four different schools.

The first school, Adams City High School, I like to think I came in as a wrecking ball. Unfamiliar, new, powerful in a naive way. The second and third school, Bruce Randolph and North, respectively, where I first tiptoed around who I knew I was and who I thought my new kiddos needed. And now, I find myself in my fourth school, Graded. And once again, I am walking the wire of tension between strong relationships and high expectations.

They don’t like it.

Daily, I vacillate between “why don’t they like me?” and “why don’t they understand my high expectations?”

I’ve had that question during interviews:

Do you think students need to like a teacher in order to learn?

And my response to such a trick question, assured in a decade of experience, is a resounding “yes!” Not because I want to be popular. But rather, my desire to be liked comes from an ingrained and tried-and-trued belief that if students like the teacher, they learn better from the teacher.

And so, this week, in some of my classes where there was a clear disconnection floating among the auras in the room, I paused curriculum for some circle time.

What’s going well this year? What’s not?

Tell a story about someone who means a lot to you. Who inspires you? Why?

What is the truest thing about yourself? 

Silver strings wove among our hearts, glistening with laughter, weighted with truth, alight with authenticity, lifted with hope.

It was beautiful and magical. Just like circles can be.

Also this week was a survey. Tell me what I’m doing well. Tell me what I can improve on. I was encouraged that so many talked about how they appreciated my daily mindful moments (new this year, after some training through Mindful Schools). I was not surprised that so many said I needed to improve in clarity: of assessments, of alignment, of feedback, of grading.

After all, I myself am new to a new school, a new grading system, a new paradigm. I AM confused. Oh Hattie, if I am going to achieve your effect size of .75, I need to work on this.

And so I reflect. I adjust. I change the lesson plans. Student feedback IS the driving force of any strong classroom.

Except for in one area.

I will take your feedback and implement it to improve. After all, I ask the same of you. However, one thing I can guarantee: I will NOT lower my expectations. I have never and I never will. You deserve my highest expectations. You are worthy and capable. I will not insult you by lowering my expectations.

And so… daily in my classroom, even after a decade of experience, somethings always are changing. Yet somethings never do.

And so goes the dance of expertise with reflection.