27 February 2013

Reflection: Consistent Expectations from Experienced Planning

Quite simply the best chocolate milk of all time: the Milk Chug, may it rest in peace.
When I was in high school, I skipped three—yes, THREE—whole classes. Two of those skips, I admit, were in order to finish physics projects before they was due. (Probably about the nerdiest reason to skip a class.) The third, though, was all about a girl.

It was math class, taught by the girls basketball coach. My brothers said she wasn't bad, but a lot better if you were a jock. I wasn't (see above paragraph). Kids seemed to come and go as they pleased, coming back with snacks from the nearest convenience store. So when this girl I had a crush on said we should go get some chocolate milk and donuts, I thought, "Sure, why not? It doesn't seem to be a problem." (Plus, chocolate milk is the liquid of the gods.)

I apparently forgot that I wasn't a jock. When I got back, she was pretty livid, and angrily told me I was being marked as truant for the class. My crush got off a little easier, probably because she was a girl.

I've often thought about that experience, now from the teacher's perspective, and I wonder: do I ever do the same thing as a teacher? Do I have inconsistent expectations of my students, one day allowing one student to do this thing, yet the next day disallowing it from another? Beyond behavior, do I have clear, consistent, repeated expectations of student work?

I'm afraid to admit that it happens fairly regularly, but I plead innocence due to inexperience. I plan for a project to take a certain amount of time and include a certain criterion, but then when I see students in action, I realize that my plans are far from realistic, and they change. What I wrote on the paper and what I told them initially changes, and therefore becomes inconsistent with how I respond to students when they ask about it later. Suddenly half my students don't know when it's due or what's expected. Sure, I could chalk it up as their own dang fault for not asking me, but when so many kids are confused, can I really blame them, or should I start looking at myself instead?

Anyway, I resented that teacher for her unclear expectations, and hopefully with a little more experience I can avoid the problem myself.

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