Teaching Classroom Expectations: How to Make it Happen

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Back to School is a phrase that brings both delight and frustration. There is a certain level of excitement at making a fresh start, but there is also a nagging twinge of sadness at the prospect of another summer gone.

There is also the dread of the beginning of the year chaos. You know what I’m talking about…the paperwork, the procedures, and teaching classroom expectations. Every year, it’s the same emotional roller coaster.

Until now.

This year, start your school year strong by following three steps…

  1. Define and refine your expectations,
  2. Communicate those expectations by teaching procedures,
  3. Reap the benefits of met expectations.

If it sounds simple, it’s because it is! However, simple doesn’t mean easy. There is a definite commitment on your part to make sure these expectations are communicated and consistent. So, if you’re up for the challenge of creating an amazing school year, let’s do it!

Teaching Classroom Expectations

Define and Refine Your Expectations

Whether you teach in a classroom environment or a homeschool environment, knowing expectations is absolutely critical. But before you can express your expectations, YOU need to define them. In other words, what do you want your kiddos to do each and every time they set foot in the classroom?

If you don’t really know, then you aren’t going to have a successful start. Take some time now and define what you want.

  • Will you grade work daily?
  • Will you send home papers on Friday?
  • Is sharpening pencils allowed whenever?
  • Do kiddos have assigned seats?
  • Are they expected to stay in their seats or can they move around the classroom?
  • What is expected when…

The list of questions could go on forever, but the point is to simply DEFINE what you expect from yourself and your kids.

Then you can REFINE your expectations. In other words, you can start with a general list, and then make things more specific as you go.

For example, you may decide that pencils are only to be sharpened by the teacher. When you refine this expectation, you might specify that you will sharpen pencils after school.

If a student needs a new pencil, he can get one before class begins. The only exception would be a broken pencil during work time simply requiring the hand signal for a broken pencil.

This is a defined and refined expectation. Therefore, if a student gets up during class to sharpen a pencil, he will receive consequences for not following directions because your expectations were clear.

Teaching Classroom Expectations with Procedures

Teaching Classroom Expectations

That is, of course, if you did actually teach the appropriate procedure for broken pencils. Many times we assume our kiddos know what we expect. We think, “Anyone knows that you don’t get up while someone else is speaking and go sharpen a pencil!”

Unfortunately, a child is thinking, “I need my pencil sharpened now so I can continue writing notes.” Was this child intentionally being rude or disrespectful to the teacher? No!

Did the teacher communicate the expectation for sharpening pencils? No!

Then why do we get so frustrated? Well, if we’re honest, we want the kiddos we teach to be mind readers with impeccable manners. And let’s face it. They aren’t.

Our kiddos aren’t always doing things simply to make us crazier than we already are…even though it feels that way. It usually boils down to a lack of communication on our part in regards to “pencil sharpening etiquette” and other randomly assorted issues.

My Favorite Way to Teach Procedures

So, the only question is what procedures do you need to teach for your expectations to be communicated? Well, this question’s a little tricky because in reality, you need to teach all of the procedures. How on earth are you going to do that?

Well, I happen to have found the perfect resource created by the amazing Rachel Lynette of Minds in Bloom. It is a set of procedure task cards.  You can print them and then select the procedures that you need to teach!

Obviously, there will be some that you don’t have to explicitly teach as much as review with your kiddos. But there will be some that need to be strategically introduced and taught.

These task cards will also be a good reminder for you. If you’re like me, I inevitably forget a super-important procedure just because I am trying to teach ALL THE THINGS at the beginning of the year!! Trust me, these will be a great help to you.

The Secret to Effort is Teaching Expectations

Here is the truth, a child is never going to be able to focus on giving her best effort when she doesn’t know what she is expected to do!

The only way we can expect 100% effort from anyone is through clearly defined expectations. Anything else will simply invite confusion and half-hearted effort.

So, what are the benefits of specifically stated expectations that leave no room for confusion? Well, let’s see…

  1. You and your kiddos understand what is expected, so there are no surprises!
  2. Your kiddos will usually strive to meet your expectations.
  3. Because everyone is aware of what they need to do, disciplinary issues will decrease.
  4. When disciplinary action is needed, it will be swift and appropriate.
  5. Your kiddos will encourage each other in meeting your expectations.

In the words of Zig Ziglar, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”  Similarly, Les Brown stated, “No one rises to low expectations.”

Having high expectations of your kiddos is not unreasonable…as long as you are teaching classroom expectations. Defining and refining your expectations is the first step. Then once you are clear on those, you need to effectively communicate them to your kiddos through teaching procedures. The benefits you reap will far outweigh the time you spent teaching them.