Monday, September 1, 2014

Let's Talk About Expectations

When you've taught a while (15 years) in the same building (8 years) sometimes it's easy to get a little lax with explaining your expectations.  'So many of the students know me' you (I) think and 'it's not really necessary' and 'everything's going so well.' And then you're thrown into a different situation (covering someone else's class, traveling to a different building, whatever) and you skip over the unnecessary step of thoroughly explaining what expectations you have.  This, friends, is where the students hand you your experience card with a little smile and a wink.  It means nothing, because you have forgotten a vital fact: they're kids.  They're at school, doing kid things, having kid thoughts. Daydreaming, thinking about recess or lunch or how tight their new shoes are, and they'll do what they've always done.  If art class has always = chaos, a different adult it the room isn't going to change that.  They are living the only reality they've ever known.  This is where I sometimes lose my mind.  I drove away from a morning where things slid the slippery slope down to mayhem so quickly, and I thought of all the times I've heard another teacher say "oh, I don't paint/use clay/cut with them, they can't handle it." Seven and half years in an urban elementary school taught me lots every single day, and the biggest lesson was this: it's all about your expectations, and how carefully you lay them out for the students.  Sure, it's more work for the adult, and not work I'm particularly good at (see aforementioned mayhem morning) but so worth it in the end to clearly lay out your expectations.  And we all know about difficult classes, ones that seem to thrive on the chaos and drama, but you know what? They deserve the good stuff too. This is the only time they'll be in second grade or fourth grade or fifth grade and I want art to be the thing they remember fondly.  I don't want to be remembered as the angry, cranky art teacher that the students say "why did she become a teacher anyway???"  Most of the time (probably not all of the time) they're just being kids, they're not trying to rile you up or make you quit or anything so sinister.  They're wandering the room, talking into the fan to hear the robot voice, messing around with their friends, because this was all that was expected of them before.  This is just clarification for you (or me) as the adult in charge that you need to slow it down and lay it all out for them.  And probably over and over and over.  Because they deserve the best you, the best art experience and the best education you can give them.
So the next time I see my students who slid so quickly to chaos, I'll be explaining the expectations to them.  And the time after that and the time after that and the time after that.  

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