The start of a new school year for me has always been a time of great expectations. As a teacher I had lots of positive energy and enthusiasm for building a community in my class that supported and encouraged one another, that was responsive to the needs of every student, that would, simply, be the best year ever. As a principal that feeling has never left me. The only difference is one of scale.
This autumn I am experiencing this wonderful energy at a new school, and I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations. Teachers are used to defining and clarifying their expectations for students at the beginning of a school year, and asking students to do the same with their expectations for their teachers. It creates a sense of safety and confidence to know what is expected of you in a new situation. We know that education is not a game of “guess what the teacher wants”, but rather a shared journey from where each student is in their learning towards a goal. Shared expectations define the rules of the road.
I know that between the staff and myself this process is also necessary and, hopefully, valued as a big part of building effective and supportive relationships. In his blog, Brian Reynolds, author of “What Do You Expect?” writes “The root of so many conflicts is the simple lack of understanding one another’s expectations. So easy to assume they know what I expect, or I know what they expect.” If there is a gap between two parties’ understanding of what is expected, confusion and conflict easily result. As a school staff, we are all professionals working towards the common goal of moving learning forward. It is important that we all know that there is no hidden agenda, that what we do is based on what we believe, and on what is best for students. And just as each teacher may have slightly different expectations for their students, so each administrator may have for the staff. By taking the time at the start to discuss what they are and why, we can build that safe, open, and encouraging climate for all of us to thrive as professionals.
I came across this powerful statement from Mike Myatt, CEO of N2Growth, a leadership development group. Unequivocally, he says that “those… who fail to clearly communicate their expectations have no right to them.”