I was participating in a lesson at church when the instructor was asked about expectations. The instructor is a freshman honors english teacher at the local high school. She talked about how rough the first semester can be for those incoming freshman as they’re trying to figure out the grind of high school courses. By Christmas break, most students find their groove and they know what the expectations are. The teacher doesn’t change her expectations – the kids rise up to meet them.

Throughout COVID, expectations for education dramatically dropped and we have witnessed some long lasting consequences. For example – our high school abolished the late work policy, which meant that a student could turn in every late assignment up until the quarter was over. (An expectation that we maintained in our family as to not fall behind.) This had some serious unintended consequences and it gave kids a false sense of reality that they had time to catch up and it left the teachers grading piles of make up work last minute. The students grades dropped drastically and teachers were unhappy.

The school is now changing their expectations and there is grumbling and complaining. Are the students capable of turning in work on time? Yes! But that hasn’t been the expectation for the last year and a half and they have to be retrained, coached and motivated.

This thought got me thinking and during the rest of the lesson I was somewhat distracted thinking about the expectations (or lack of) we place on kids. I will be the first to admit (and so will every teacher!) getting a kid to meet your expectations can be exhausting.

I remember teaching my young children to empty the dishwasher – it took so many frustrating hours. It wasn’t that they couldn’t do it – they just had never been expected to do it and it was a learning process. It took time. And patience. And more than anything it took every ounce of my will power to not just do it for them and get them out of the kitchen. But then they got it. And it was a beautiful day when I could tell them to empty the dishwasher and it would be done in minimal time without them licking every fork and spoon.

On the other hand I have caught myself being envious of my sister-in-law’s perfectly clean home. Even when she had several young children, her home was immaculate and the kids rooms were clean. They had toys. They changed their clothes every day just like everyone else. But somehow those toys always got put away and the dirty clothes always made it in the hamper. (weird concept, I know!) Because that was the expectation. It’s easy for me to say, “There’s no way my kids would do that.” And I’m partially right. There’s no way they’ll do that if I don’t train them and I don’t expect it of them.

Unfortunately, managing expectations takes time and consistency and frankly sometimes with kids it’s just more convenient to lower your expectations. Its just plain easier to not fight it. And then I’m constantly reminded of how grateful I am for teachers who consistently expect my kid to show up and perform and they rise. Sometimes they stumble in the process, but they always get back up.

One of the best thing about expectations is they build on each other. You don’t have to go from 0-60. Get a kid to 10. And then 20. And eventually they’ll make it to 60. If we expect them to – and I full believe they are capable.