What should I expect?!

Ali Hearn

July 18, 2014

As humans we crave expectations, clarity, and common language. It feels good to go into a situation (especially a new situation) knowing what to expect and what is expected of you. People of all ages, from children to adults, feel more confident and capable when they know what to expect in different settings.

Consider being invited to a social gathering such as a dinner party. You might find yourself asking certain questions: “What is the dress attire?” “What kind of dish shall I bring?” “How many people will be in attendance?” Answers to these questions would allow you to be proactive with your behavior and appropriately organize for the upcoming event. Additionally, these answers would give you the confidence to walk through the door of the host’s house knowing that you will be socially, emotionally, and behaviorally appropriate to meet the expectations that have been established for the occasion.

It is critical to have clearly defined expectations in a school setting. Expectations allow a common language to exist and help to ensure appropriate behavior throughout the entire school-site. Students, teachers, administrators, parents, family members, and community members all want to know what is expected when they walk through the doors of a school building. They may not always express this desire, but it would be difficult to find someone who would not want to know what is to be expected. The nature of human behavior is to want to do what is expected in different settings in order to appropriately fit into the established social norm.

Here are a few suggestions I’ve learned over the years:

  • Creating clearly defined expectations for the different settings of your school-site (i.e. bus, front office, hallway, cafeteria, gymnasium, classroom, playground, etc.) can help ensure comfort and security of those entering the building and can help create a safe and supportive learning environment for students.

  • Do not assume that everyone already knows the expectations of a given setting. It is important to establish these expectations with all stakeholders and then teach the behaviors you want to see, just as we teach academics. The truth of the matter is no one wants to show up to a hundred-person black tie affair in ripped jeans and a t-shirt holding a six-layer taco dip that feeds four.

  • Be proactive! Set the stage for this school year and help everyone in your building feel part of a positive school culture.

Would love to hear your ideas on setting expectations in the comments below!

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