Monday, November 11, 2013

Our Students and the Self Fulfilling Prophecy: Avoiding Gloom and Doom!

I remember when I was in college a LONG time ago, we learned about the self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't recall the professor who taught it, but somehow it has managed to stay in my head after all these years.  If you believe it, it could happen, good or bad, positive or negative, our expectations influence those around us. When the professor introduced this concept, he wanted to emphasize the damage we could do to our students if we had preconceived notions about them and what they were capable of.
In the education field this is particularly true.  We have a huge impact on what happens to the hundreds of lives who sit in our classrooms, year after year.  How many times have we heard successful people credit a teacher who believed in them? Teachers who refused to believe that  a particular student would amount to nothing?
Too many times I have heard comments about what "the population" of a school is,or is not, capable of.  I have witnessed students who were judged by the behavior that they exhibited in prior years. Trying to get teachers to incorporate technology in their classrooms, and  being told that the students "can't" do it. Determining the intelligence of  a child based on the behavior of a parent or sibling.
I have always had high expectations for my students, I refuse to lower my standards to fit a mold others think they fit in.  I hold them responsible for their education and believe that they are capable of so much. And I have found, repeatedly, that most of my students rise to my expectations. 
  If we continue to teach students according to our expectations of them, and our expectations are low, what will the results be? If the Robins are challenged every day, and the Sparrows aren't, when do the Sparrows get a chance to spread their wings, to fly beyond our enforced limits?
I had a student who was truant the previous school year.  When he arrived in my class, the pattern began again.   He would show up for school twice a week, if that.  According to statistics, the general consensus wass that he would eventually drop out of school, and his life would be pretty bleak. It might be, particularly because he was 13 in the 5th grade, but, I was not deterred by that "prophecy." I chose to believe that he would succeed.   
He missed one day in the weeks that followed. His grades improved, and he was willing to share his thoughts and work. He participated in discussions. He High-fived me every morning and afternoon. (The afternoon High 5 was always accompanied by the word, "tomorrow.") He was so much more than a statistic to me.
I know, it's pretty idealistic. "I believe, and if I believe , it can happen." I realize that this is not always the case. But wouldn't it be great if our prophecies were positive, and most of them were fulfilled?
Originally posted on "Diary of a Public School Teacher"(Wordpress)

1 comment:

  1. During my career as a high school English teacher, I saw many students who rose above what other people expected of them. I also saw those who never rose at all. I think it is far better to expect more and offer lots of encouragement and mentoring than the opposite. At least you know you did all that you could do.