Today has surprised me in many ways. Some parts have been good, some bad. What all parts have emphasised is what I referred to in my last post as the insidious nature of expectations.
Expect the best from people, particularly children, and they inevitably rise to the challenge and almost always surpass them. After only a few weeks of practice, the unadulterated sense of joy and achievement which the students felt as they performed as choristers to the staff was tangible. An afternoon of nagging, frustration, and downright fear about what we had attempted to undertake was forgotten in moments, and I was reminded of the transformational power that music and being part of a musical ensemble can have.
At the same time I have been reminded about the danger of expectations and what they can do. Noone is a winner in this game. Those with the unrealistic but forever hopeful expectations are almost always let down – the reality of the grecian urn is too often left wanting, and those who have experienced the self-belief that expectations can promote are left floundering when they are taken away. Equally there are those who surprise you. Those who you underestimate but who, at the most unexpected moment, show you an insight so sharp that you see them in a new light. And finally there are those who get forgotten. Those who are so good at never falling short of expectations that they get pushed to one side. There is no sense of fragility – just a steadfast belief in what they do and how they do it.
And so we are back to that sense of self. How as teachers do we make sure that the children we support know both who they are and how they can be authentic to that? It’s not easy and it’s different for every child we encounter. But it is the case that for every child, expectations play a critical part in this. It’s a very fine line between giving a child the belief that they are able to undertake a task, and giving them the space to explore what this looks like to them. And it is this space, with the accompanying time, which is essential if a child is ever going to discover what it is that they expect of themselves. I am convinced though that this is the point of what we do. It is from expectations of ourselves that we truly achieve success and if we can help our children to discover this, then we can confidently stake claim to part of their journey.