Today we were watching a TED talk with a young girl that proclaimed that students will work to our expectations as teachers. If we set the bar low they will meet us there, and if we set it high they will strive to clear it. We need to have faith in our students and believe it.
Kylene Beers talked at NCTE about the "soft bigotry of low expectations" and "you don't need to be a reader to be a thinker." I feel too often teachers set expectations based on a skill or a measured ability instead of getting to know their students, instead of challenging them despite what the test said.
I think this is one of the reasons I love doing a whole class novel as primarily a read aloud. I love the opportunity to take on a bit of the lifting (the reading) to allow my students a chance to really think about the text, how it makes the feel, what it makes them think and how it might change them.
Reading Refugee I knew some of my students might have been hung up on names, the why of the events and so much more if I had left them to read in isolation. Through reading I opened up so many opportunities for those same students who would have struggled to thrive. The expectation that they could provide meaningful conversation never faltered. I knew all my students could participate at the level I expected, sometimes they needed a little boost a scaffolding of how we approach a deeper dive but once they jumped in they could swim. I trust them and they trust me and they know I expect their best. That won't look the same for everyone but the expectation for them to bring their "A" game is there and I think my students knowing my faith in their awesome brings it out more.
We can look at students that struggle and just let them sink deeper into that quicksand or we can pay attention, walk around the quicksand and find another route to success. Providing our students a chance to show they are amazing in areas that we might miss if we look at learning as a single track is one of the most important parts of our job. Confidence builds success and when kids get a chance to participate in conversations, that in the past they have been only an audience member, the exponential growth is incredible.
It is all about expectations. Our students deserve to be held to the highest and then helped to get there.