Saturday, December 22, 2012

When Expectations Clash

In a connected society, if you choose to engage, you are responsible to a variety of people.  For students, this list includes their teachers and parents.

However, once a student decides to engage and commits to a minimum standard of satisfaction, there needs to be some recognition that the student's personal standard may not line up exactly with those to whom they are also responsible.  Parents and teachers may have different expectations.  Therefore, having a strategy to address this "clash of expectations" is helpful.

Here are a few tips:

1.  Try to use differences in expectations as points from which to strengthen your support team.

Differences in expectations are a problem if you allow them to strain your relationship with your support network.  Use the differences to enter into a conversation about expectations.  Recognize and accept that the expectations of others matter.

2.  Meeting others' expectations doesn't mean giving up on yours.

Having different expectations does not mean you cannot meet yours.  If the difference is not too vast, then it is very likely that in the process of meeting your standards, yo will also meet theirs.  It is not a "mine vs. yours" situation.  The situation is more closely one of degrees of success rather than a totally different definition.

3.  Ask for examples from your past work to clarify the other expectations.

As mentioned in #2, the difference is often a matter of varying degrees of success.  Different standards may also be the result of unclear methods of measurement.  In other words, what others see as examples of meet the standard may differ from person to person, even if the actual standard is similar.

For example, both student and parent may have a shared and stated goal of getting better in science class.  The student, however, has a standard of success for that goal of answering two questions and asking one good question in class correctly each day.  The parent, on the other hand, has a standard of no less than an 85% on any graded assignment.  In this case, it is important to come to an agreement about both what actions to take in class and what results on assignments satisfy the standard of getting better in science.

In all of these conversations, students need to ask for specific examples to help clarify what exactly meeting the standard looks like.

4.  Recognize when you came up short and be proactive.

Meeting a standard of satisfaction for a worthwhile goal is not easy.  There should be some degree of difficulty involved.  Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that students may fall a little short from time to time.  My suggestion to students is to create an if/then plan for falling short.  For example, "If I do not meet my standards, then I will ______."

This proactive plan to address falling short will help the student get back thinking from a growth mindset (get better) than having a fixed mindset reaction (I'm not good).  In addition, having a proactive response ready to go demonstrates a great deal of maturity in the face of difficulty.  This quality ( also referred to as resilience, grit, fortitude, etc.) is among the most important ones for long term success.  Finally, taking action when things do not work out and being able to report that progress to parents (or other standard bearers) is a much better for the partnership between your support team members than simply reporting that you fell short.  Showing you have taken some action focuses the conversation more on the reaction (now what?) than the results themselves.

You can read more about establishing your own expectations here and here.

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