Before we deal with the achievement gap, however, we need to deal with the expectations gap. In short, teachers and students need to agree on what’s possible and what’s essential.
A few anecdotes from today:
- A student is not silent during a warm-up activity. In our private conversation afterward, the student says she understands my expectation. But she also says (1) she wasn’t speaking loudly, (2) she wasn’t hurting anyone, (3) she didn’t agree with my expectation.
- A student tells my colleague that it’s “impossible” to write three short paragraphs in 15 minutes.
- A student, in serious danger of not graduating in June, doesn’t believe me when I tell her she must attend an activity that would offer her credit. “It won’t hurt me,” she says. “I can make it up.”
In all these stories, the student disagreed with the teacher on expectations, about what’s necessary to achieve — and about what’s good enough.
Before learning can happen, everybody has to be on the same page.
In my experience, a huge part of teaching is about building trust and relationship so that students believe me. After all, too many students — especially students of color — have had too many negative experiences with teachers — especially white teachers.
One of my biggest challenges is convincing students that I’m on their side. I might believe I’m on their side, and I might say it, and I might act on it. But my students must feel it.