Treat a man as he is and you make him worse than he is. Treat a man as he has the potential to become and you make him better than he is. —Goethe
After many discussions with teachers all over the world regarding moving schools forward, I often keep coming back to the thought that if we really want to further education, we need to increase the expectations of our students. The idea that if we look deeply at our students, we will be able to find some amazing qualities and that our students can be leaders in areas that they love. I love the “Cracker Jack” analogy that if we look at each student enough, we will always be able to find the “prize” inside of each one.
This does not mean that all students are going to be the “boss” or own their own companies, but that their passions, strengths, and love for what they do can shine through and inspire others. It is essential that as we push education to get better, we need to expect more from our students:
“Simply put, when teachers expect students to do well and show intellectual growth, they do; when teachers do not have such expectations, performance and growth are not so encouraged and may in fact be discouraged in a variety of ways. In the famous Oak School experiment, teachers were led to believe that certain students selected at random were likely to be showing signs of a spurt in intellectual growth and development. At the end of the year, the students of whom the teachers had these expectations showed significantly greater. ” Jason Rhem
Reading Peter Senge’s “FifthDiscipline”, he discusses the pygmalion effect which discusses the self-fulfilling prophecies and how often, whether they are positive or negative, can really create a cycle of success or failure. One statement that I heard this year that has really stuck out with me is the belief that you give people trust before they earn it, and they ultimately will. My experience has shown me that when we explicitly trust those that we serve, that most go above and beyond to do some amazing things.
Now does this mean that if I simply believe a student can be a leader and be successful that they simply will? Absolutely not as they still will need to put in the effort to achieve those qualities. I do however believe that if we don’t put this belief in our students in the first place, their chances of attaining these qualities lessen. You often hear those stories of students that dld amazing things in their lives in spite of their teachers, not because of them. I do not want to be one of those stories.
Yes it may be a little idealistic, but I would rather put that strong belief in our students and push them to do better. Like I said earlier, the expectation needs to be much higher for our students. Believing that they can reach this expectation is only the first step, but I think a necessary one.