Living up to a higher situation, or Living higher than the situation?

by Mr. Sheehy

Questions I am asking myself today:

  • Can my students depend on me?
  • Am I a consistently kind leader in my classroom?
  • Are my expectations high, consistently?

I am still reading through Susan Schaeffer MacCaulay’s For the Children’s Sake and will be for a while, since I read it for only about 15 minutes three or four days a week. Today, though, a section called “Faithfulness” raised the above questions. In that same section I ran across an anecdote I read aloud to my freshmen while launching their massive, student-driven project to create a class journal.

In England, when the top 15 percent used to be creamed off and sent to top “academic” schools, one headmaster (principal) conducted a small private experiement. He took a few children, whose test results had actually placed them well below that top group. Without telling his staff he put them into the elite classes.

Of course, the children and teachers assumed that the tests had projected what sort of person they were–clever and capable. And those youngesters lived up to what the situation told them they could achieve.

Of course, this wouldn’t work in every instance. But what a truth it demonstrates! (51)

Inspired by the example, though not surprised at all (and the “of course” suggests MacCaulay didn’t expect me to be surprised) I read it to my students in an attempt to convey to them what I was trying to do with this large-scale project. I wanted them to know I expect them to accomplish great things, that they are capable of doing something hard.

After such inspirational speeches, however, I am slightly wary, asking myself what students are thinking, knowing the talks rarely come off the way I expect them to. I deliver them with inspirational music in the background, but the music exists only in my head, so students cannot catch the effect.

A minute after class I got my answer. One of the top students in the class came up to me privately and shared something with me:

Could you move John? He’s throwing gum at me and it’s getting in my hair.

Yes. I can move John.

And I can hope that somehow, despite the immaturity, I can be depended upon to maintain high expectations.

Thanks for reading.

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