“When people are placed in positions slightly above what they expect, they are apt to excel.”

~Richard Branson

I saw the following student work displayed in a 9th grade science class:

I waited for the teacher to turn around before I snapped the pic.  I didn’t want her to know that seeing this caused me have an ulcer for the day.  This is exactly what I taught my first graders when we were learning about the same topic.  Something is horribly wrong here!

Lately, a running theme in my work has been observing urban educators with low expectations of their students.  Many times, I don’t even think they realize they are doing it.  I have been a part of multiple conversations recently where people use the label “SPED kids” or Special Ed kids”.  This terminology makes my skin crawl.  We have to look at the child first.  People can say it’s all the same thing, but is it?  I would rather hear “student with special needs” or a “student with a disability”.  I heard a school administrator call a student: “the downs kid” – REALLY???  How about calling a student by name?  Or saying the child with Down’s Syndrome? We must stop using these identifiers in this manner.

How can we better model and teach the language and practice of inclusion and tolerance? How do we change the discourse?

Comments welcome


7 thoughts on “Expectations

  1. I think you raised some very good points in this post. As a non educator this really helps give context to the complexity of your work.

  2. Thanks for this powerful post. I think we can forget that what we tell students they can become. Words are powerful. Calling a student scholar, achiever, scientist, mathematician, and author will have a powerful impact on how they see themselves.

    • @Jones and @KDSL – words can help to stretch a person just as much as they can limit a person…one book that I always refer teachers too is “The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language that Helps Children Learn” by Paula Denton. I have read it multiple times and it’s always a good reminder that what you say is as important as how you say it.

  3. Thank you for this post. My 6 year old daughter is in a NYC public school. In her Kindergarten class there are children with diverse learning needs and diverse abilities. Some of these differences are visible and some are not. But it is an integrated class. For me this has been a learning experience. My daughter comes home and talks about each child. She describes each child as funny, or mean, or nice or smart. She doesn’t see the wheel chair that the child uses she sees the entire child. She uses their name to identify her classmates not whether or not they have a speech delay or are in a wheel chair.
    I was really impressed by this because I am guilty of using incorrect identifiers and i realize that if I am not careful or well informed I could ruin how my child views other children and their different abilities or their learning needs. She is on a good path and i am learning alongside her.

    • Thank you for your comments Silvia. I appreciate you saying how you are learning alongside your daughter. That is so important that we continue to learn and evolve with our children/students. I am inspired by your child. Her teachers must be doing some wonderful modeling in the classroom!

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