Educational Editorial: Our expectations drive our students' success

By Dr. William Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - As Virginia was creating an accountability system with standards and tests, policy makers frequently heard, "our students can't do that."

Perhaps one of our greatest errors is in looking at young people from challenging backgrounds and saying, "They have so much pressure, I don't want to cause any more."

In reality, we - due to the "milk of human kindness" - hold them captive to what they have always been. We do not want to teach young people to feel good about living in the projects; we want to teach them the skills to get out.

What about the impact of expectations?

In the past, I have had an early coffee in an old country store close to home. While I am the only one there with a bowtie or a suit, I am indigenous so I get to participate in the local conversation.

The topics vary from politics and athletics to the latest local gossip.  If I were to say, following animated discussion, "You just don't understand the epistemological implications of this issue," it would probably be followed with, "Bill, we know that you paid to learn to talk like that, but when you are drinking coffee with us, get the fodder down where the donkey can eat it." This would be followed by dialect, colloquialism, and slang.

We do not have to give up who and what we are to acquire tools - such as a functional capacity in the English language - that enable us to be successful in the workplace. No one should walk across the stages of our schools without these skills.

Young people will live up or down to our expectations. There are countless stories about teachers in the most challenging situations refusing to allow students to be relegated to failure.

And as for "self esteem" advocates, young people are not taught to feel that they can do anything and then succeed. They are taught to do things and then feel good about their success.

Learning to ride a bike comes with bruises and skinned knees, but exhilaration comes with the day that the wheels roll freely.

While it is damaging to expect young people to do things that they have not been taught, it is equally condemning to teach them to expect that they cannot do it.

Perhaps we need to adjust our expectations and remember it is your attitude - not your aptitude - that eventually determines your altitude.

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