High Teacher Expectations – What Does it Actually Mean?

(Last Updated On: February 3, 2023)

It is important to have high expectations of all your students. You want them all to grow and succeed…but do you expect all your students to succeed equally?

Low teacher expectations are one of the key problems for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Australia. Making sure you’re aware of what this means and how easy it can be to fall into this trap can help you support these students

What does it mean to have high expectations?

To have high expectations of your students, you need to expect all of your students to not only exceed but excel. 

No buts.

So many times I have heard teachers say that a certain student isn’t capable of this, or they will never pass that subject, so they shouldn’t choose it for next year. This is lowering your expectations of this student. 

What about differentiation?

Some students do need additional support to succeed. Every student has a different entry point, but we should avoid the idea of multiple exit points – that our students will get off the train at different points. 

A lot of this is about mindset. 

See more: The #1 Obstacle Teachers Face with Aboriginal Perspectives

Students have the right to fail. 

So many schools need to let students try something they might not succeed in. They can’t choose this subject, or they should drop out when they start struggling. 

Yes, much of this comes from pressure from parents and school administrators. Schools don’t want their data to show that their students are failing, but it teaches some important lessons:

  1. You can try something, even if you’re not good at it. 
  2. You can commit to finishing something, even if you’re struggling 
  3. Your actions will influence your success.
  4. No one is going to drag you across the line, but there will be support if you seek it out. 
  5. Failure is not the end of the world. 

If we want to talk about “skills for the jobs of the future”, there they are.  Don’t pretend that it’s coding or design thinking, students will learn that at university once they’ve decided what field they want to enter. What helps students as they leave school is resilience.

Living in two worlds.

If we’re talking again about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students again, you’ll sometimes hear about the concept of living in two worlds. 

It is hard to be an Aboriginal person in Australia today. There is pressure from all sides to act and behave a certain way to achieve certain things. They need to balance all of this. 

It can be tempting to say look, don’t worry about academics. You’re a proud Aboriginal person whose value is supporting your community and caring for country. This is essential but sets low expectations. 

Students don’t need excuses to set the bar low. They don’t need their teachers to put them in a box. They need the skills and trust to try to grow into the people they want to be, free of any limitations perceived by anyone else.

Elise is an enthusiastic and passionate Australian teacher who is on a mission to inspire and support fellow educators. With over a decade of experience in the classroom, Elise leverages her expertise and creativity to provide valuable insights and resources through her blog. Whether you're looking for innovative lesson ideas, effective teaching strategies, or just a dose of inspiration, Elise has got you covered.

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