Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Value of Clearly Communicating Expectations

Frequent readers of this blog may notice that I have referenced some New Orleans items in recent posts.  The reason for this is that I have been spending my annual holiday vacation with family in the “Big Easy.”  I look forward to these days each year for many reason, but among the best reasons is an annual visit with a few former colleagues whom I have stayed in touch with over the years.

Our conversations often go back on schools and education.  It is always an interesting topic because we are all facing much different circumstances and cultures in our various schools, and it is good to hear such a diverse opinion on a number of items.

Of course, because we are so comfortable with each other, there is some venting of general frustrations, but for the most part, it is obvious that we all have one common element among us.

We are all committed educators who care deeply for our students.

This year, though, I heard a statement in the course of our conversation about which I am compelled to write.  It occurred during a portion of the discourse in which we all were sharing our opinions on the general “health” of schools we have worked.  During that time, one of my friends mentioned that there were only two schools (he has worked at 4 different schools in 20+ years), that he believed were the most “healthy” and the common element between the two was that each of them clearly communicated to him what their expectations were for his classes.  The other two, according to him, assumed he knew what the institutional expectations were.  Ultimately, this institutional assumption led him to a greater sense of dissatisfaction.

I was not completely stunned by this statement.  After all, one of the leadership qualities I present as an option in the recent poll question I posed was:

HOLDS HIGH PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS: “behavior that demonstrates expectations for excellence, quality, and high performance on the part of the school leadership team.”

In schools, there are any number of expectations we have of our students, faculty, administration, parents, etc.  Often when one or more of these pieces are not operating at expected levels, it may be due to poorly communicated expectations or, in some cases, a total lack of communication based on assumptions.  I frequently remind teachers, and myself, to review how we communicate our expectations to the students and their families.  As school leaders, the same reflection is necessary in helping teachers achieve job satisfaction and professional growth.

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