“Nobody Rises to Low Expectations”

Who expects you to be “somebody”?

“Teachers affect eternity, no one can tell where their influence stops.”

As we look towards the end of this school, it is amazing to think that the craziest school year anyone could ever imagine is almost over. It may feel like it just started, but in truth we have learned a lot about ourselves and our students they year. No matter if you have been teaching in-person or virtually, or a little bit of both, teachers always learn alot about their students and that may remain one of the rare constants of the 2020–2021 school year. Of course our students have learned a lot about us too! They know what we will and will not accept, both in behaviors and with assignments (even in kindergarten!). They have a pretty good idea of who the teachers’ pets are and where the popular kids sit at lunch (or in what virtual chatroom they are in).

And above all, they have decided if their teachers care about them or not.

I am not questioning if teachers care about their students. I can honestly say I have never met a teacher that didn’t. But I do believe there are students that come to school every day that aren’t sure if their teacher cares about them and their success. I believe that feeling could be exaggerated even more by a virtual setting where it has been easy to overlook a kid that doesn’t show up to a zoom meeting. You might not notice, but they do. The point is, it doesn’t matter how you feel about someone, if THEY don’t know how you feel, they are left to their own perceptions and sometimes, with some of our students, they may not perceive the best.

How do your students know you care about them?

A recent “Student Voice” survey of over 65,000 students conducted by the Quaglia Institute (https://qisa.org/) showed that only 34% of students believed that their teachers knew “their hopes, dreams, and aspirations”! What a discouraging number!! A lot of research has also been conducted about the value of high expectations as a vital tool for success. They have shown it will push us to do things we were not sure we were capable. How and Why do we do this? Often we do it because someone else is counting on us. The question I have posed to kids as I have traveled to schools the last couple of years is one I read about in a story of highly successful people that came from less than stellar backgrounds. It is a simple question:

Who Expects You to Be Somebody?

As you can imagine, many students pick their family members when I ask that question. However, often it is one of their teachers that students tell me about as the person that expects the most out of them. I had one student tell me that they try to do their best because they don’t want to let their teacher down. That is a huge impact. Recently, I saw a short video clip of a brain surgeon who credits his middle school science teacher with “inspiring” him to be a doctor just by telling him he had “the hands for it”. It was one comment to one child, but it had an enormous impact on him and his future. Watch the video here:

A Teacher Appreciation Story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFs8P_TrAVQ

So as we near the end of the school year, stop and reflect about the students you see every day. Some of them are behind the class academically. Some are struggling to fit in and belong. Some you have identified as those that need extra attention. No matter what you think you know about your students, ask yourself: Who expects them to be somebody? Is it you? Do they know it?



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Dr. Robert Thornell

Dr. Robert Thornell


As a husband, father of five in a blended family, and an educator for 25+ years, I have seen, heard, and experienced a great life. I just love sharing ideas!