Sunday, October 02, 2005


There are certain things that the students at my school do without being instructed.

You don't have to tell them how to write the heading on their papers. It has been so ingrained into them that it just comes naturally. When a first-year teacher tries to present a particular way of writing the heading for her class, they promptly tell her that that isn't the way it's done. She's doing it all wrong.

Last week I gave reading comprehension diagnostics to all of my students. When I collected their tests, all of them had numbered the paragraphs in the reading selections. Someone had taught them that this is what you do when you take a test and they didn't need anyone to remind them.

They knew what was expected.

Wednesday we had a fire drill at my school and I caught a glimpse of how orderly the students could behave if only the expectations were set in place. I fully expected our first fire drill to be utterly chaotic. Based on the madness every day when just a third of the students go to lunch, I could only imagine what it would be like when the entire school poured into the halls to try and exit the building.

I was completely mistaken.

Somewhere along the lines, the students had been taught how they were expected to behave during a fire drill. The consequences for misbehavior during a fire drill must have been pretty clear too because every student was perfect. Students were lined up in perfectly straight rows. No one so much as whispered to another student. And everyone walked out of the building in a calm and orderly fashion. Another TFA teacher at my school commented, she had never seen so many students in the hall at one time. She had also never seen the hall so quiet.

All of us first-years were so amazed at how well behaved they were. This just proved how our school could be if only the expectations were set. Did the administration not see this as well? If the students can behave like this during a fire drill, why can't we expect this of them every day?

I feel like the focus is always on the small insignificant things rather than the imortant issues. Don't even think about writing the heading incorrectly but go ahead and run around the classroom and talk back to the teacher. Where are the priorites?

The same goes for the expectations of the teachers. The administration comes around checking to make sure that all ten memos are posted and that the bulletin boards have student work that is not a day over two weeks old, but does anyone even stop to see how the lesson is being taught and if the students are engaged?

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