Every reason to have great expectations

28th September 2007 at 01:00
Penny Ward teaches at Carnoustie High.

Queuing for lunch in an Edinburgh art gallery, I waited nearly 20 frustrating minutes while two people ahead of me were served with painstaking care.

In contrast, Arbroath harbour boasts a chippy and an ice-cream shop and gosh, the girls serving there were speedy, bawling out orders while expertly packaging the chips. I hadn't tasted peanut butter flavoured ice-cream before, but mixed with blackcurrant and ginger...

These two experiences led me to challenge a few assumptions and, from there, a few expectations. We are right to expect better service than we often get. And, actually, we are right to expect better work from our pupils.

Why shouldn't we expect the date and a title on each bit of work? How did it happen that we accept jotters with illegible scrawls that look as if a spider fell in the inkwell after a drunken night out?

Why don't we expect children to wear ties instead of expecting and accepting their excuse that they couldn't be bothered to put one on that day?

Is it so wrong to expect fifth-year pupils only to return if they are willing to work, and if they have the intellectual capacity to cope at that level? Lazy bums on seats are not worth the hassle.

We know that in a mixed-ability first- year class there could be pupils who have barely scraped level A and those who have already achieved level F. They have the right to expect differentiated work, whether they are the least or the most able pupils.

I hold doors open for colleagues and pupils, and I should expect the same back but our fire doors have the capacity to break noses if they bash into you, so I never take anything for granted.

I think if we expect hard work and politeness, we are more likely to get it than if we don't. If pupils can expect work to be marked, they will do more of it. If we expect every pupil to work to their age, ability and aptitude, and if pupils expect to have work suited to their age, ability and aptitude, then we can't go very far wrong.

If pupils expect teachers to smile and greet them when they come into a classroom, then we probably have pupils and staff with good self-esteem.

Let's have higher expectations of life and see what happens.

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