The one thing that works really well for me in the classroom is that I hold high expectations of my students each and every lesson.

My Year 7 and 8 students come to class each day knowing what the general tone of the lesson will be and they come prepared and willing to apply their best effort. They know that I’m not interested in telling stories, gossiping, playing games, watching videos or just generally wasting time. They know that I always have a lesson I want them to engage in and something I want them to learn.

Along with this I keep them accountable. I clearly let them know my expectations, I follow through from the previous lesson and I give them feedback on their work. They know I can spot when their work is less than their best and they’re keen to demonstrate their knowledge and progress.

On top of all of this I’m very consistent. I bore myself sometimes with just how consistent and predictable I can be, but it’s worth it to establish the right environment for learning.

How about you? What is the expectation of learning and education in your household?

1)    Has learning been a part of your kids’ lives since the beginning?

If kids are used to engaging in educational and play based activities from a young age, then they realise that life is about learning. Kids love to spend time with their parents being taught how to do something new or discussing the questions they have on their minds. From an early age they’ll expect that learning is natural and that your involvement is important.

2)    Is learning a chore or a central, engaging activity?

When it comes to homework time, what is the general vibe in your household? Does it come with arguments and procrastination or is it done willingly and with understanding of its importance? In the beginning kids need their parents to show support and encouragement of homework. This is easily done by helping kids with their spelling, asking them what you will read together and giving them some sums to try. When the parents in the household demonstrate that homework is valued, is interesting and is worthwhile, kids willingly settle down to the task.

3)    Do your conversations and actions indicate that you value education?

Do you ask your kids about what they’ve learned today? Asking inquisitive questions helps kids feel that their day was important, interesting and relevant and they’ll be motivated to recall some key moments from their day.

Do they have space to learn or are they trying to concentrate amid noise and chaos? If kids can see that you are keen on establishing an environment suitable for learning, they’ll more likely settle into a learning routine.

Do you encourage their questions and offer your support in their progress? When kids feel supported they find the tenacity required to overcome learning challenges.

Do you talk to them about real world events and situations? Your kids want to know what you think and understand about the world. Engaging them in conversation over topical events helps them see that critical analysis and knowledge is valued by you.

 

When expectations and boundaries are clear and well understood, kids are better able to relax and fall comfortably into their role in the equation.

It’s also important to help your kids be accountable for their learning by regularly talking to them about their education, their progress and their effort.

And finally, consistency is key. There’s no point nagging them one day and leaving them to their own devices the next. We’ve all seen at least one episode of The Super Nanny, and the only thing to truly learn is the importance of consistency and “following through” with expectations. It’s not about being strict (which often backfires), it’s about being reasonable, transparent and sincere.

Kids can always smell a rat. They know whether you truly care and are interested, or whether you’d rather be elsewhere.

So what is the vibe your kids are getting from you? Do they know that you have high expectations of their engagement in learning or do they feel there is no expectation at all?

Photo credit: United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)