High Expectations

Games can be hard. And that is alright.images

I once ran a simple one-shot (isolated, episodic) session of Dungeons & Dragons with my friends. I established a hook for them to go and investigate the woods and eventually run into a goblin raiding party and a goblin war camp for some experience. When I was designing the war camp, I realized part way through that the difficulty of the area was beyond a simple group of level 1 adventurers, so in the margins of my notes about the quest, I included some places where a non-player character (NPC) could swoop in and help my friends out.

imagesImagine my surprise when the adventurers, through their cunning alone, decided to set fire to the surrounding forested area, smoke the goblins out, and defeat the war camp boss with no problems and several trophies to bring home and sell for gold. I imagine how bored my players would have been if I had placed their “savior” in the main text instead of the margins-the players would have been put in the margins instead and would not have felt the same sense of accomplishment upon completing the quest. What I did by keeping that NPC in the margins where he belonged was hold high expectations for my players.

Many teachers fall into a very simple trap when they are asked about whether or not they have “high expectations” for their students. I am referring to “high expectations” here as opposed to “high standards,” which is an all-too-common misunderstanding among teachers new and old. So, let’s turn to the dictionary for some help with the difference:

1. Standard: The fourth definition, the one which most closely aligns with education, is “the average or normal requirement, quality, quantity, level, grade, etc.”

2. Expectation: Coming from the word “expect.” The first definition listed for “expect” is “to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or coming of.”

While these two definitions may be similar, there’s a very valuable difference in expectation. Expectation is the anticipation that students will meet a standard. Therefore, high expectations implies that the teacher believes that their high standards can be met by their students. Belief is absolutely key, and if a teacher doesn’t believe that his or her students will rise to the challenge and accomplish that standard, those students are being set up to not meet those high standards.


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