Sunday, November 08, 2009

Teachers, including me, often talk about having high expectations for students’ work, but there might also be some benefit in having absolutely no expectations. The word comes from the Latin word for “look”, and when we have expectations of any kind, we are looking for some particular kind of result. We have one specific goal for the students to aim for, and we look for that precise goal and no other. It’s a commendable and often necessary approach to teaching, but we have to realize there’s a certain amount of blindness associated with it. When I’m expecting a specific result from the students, I’m unavoidably blind to the countless other possible results that might arise from their work on an assignment. In an essay, a student’s ideas might parade by me on beautiful sentences, but I might not notice them because of my fixated focus on some other expected result. When I’m looking for a certain flower on a mountain trail, how many unforeseen and startling sights do I miss?

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