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Classroom Expectations Refresher - For your students and yourself

I’ve noticed as both a teacher and a career and well-being coach, that as teachers approach the halfway mark of the school year, it can be helpful to review and reset clear rules and boundaries to help create structure and provide support, both in and out of the classroom. This will help your students become more focused, independent, and motivated, whilst protecting your energy, creativity, and time. 

 Benefits of Clear Expectations 

In terms of the classroom context, let’s work with the understanding that expectations are guidelines and limits of what is deemed as acceptable and appropriate behaviour, both for the students and the teachers. Now, of course there are a plethora of reasons why a class can be successful or not. But if we look at the basics, it’s essential for every class to have a set of clear, well-communicated and consistently reinforced expectations. 

  • Expectations can…increase focus and efficiency. 

Like the rules of a football match, expectations help keep players/students focused on the game/class. When students are familiar with the rules/expectations, they can more easily be successful in class and you as the teacher can focus your time and energy more on teaching and engaging with the students, rather than simply managing their behaviour.

  • Expectations can…reduce stress and provide both teacher and student with a greater sense of control. 

When expectations are clear, there is a greater sense of control as limitations of behaviour are known. This can help the teacher have more confidence and less stress when deciding what is and what isn’t acceptable. This can also demonstrate a sense of fairness and respect, as students see rules being applied consistently. 

  • Expectations can…create a safe learning environment. 

Communicating expectations helps students know what is expected of them and understand the consequences of their behaviour. Maintaining a safe environment in the classroom can promote creativity, curiosity and communication, all of which are essential for an effective learning setting. 

Evaluating Expectations 

I’m sure you already have rules in your classes. However, could these be strengthened or added to? 

  • Are you consistently communicating all of your expectations with all of your classes?
  • Are the students clear on the expectations that you have in terms of punctuality, quality of 

    work, behaviour, etc? 

  • Are they aware of the consequences for breaking the rules?
  • Are you also respecting your students and the class rules in general?
  • Do you and the students know the benefits and “rewardsfor meeting expectations?

 Would you and your students benefit from reviewing and clarifying classroom expectations? If yes, then please read on. 

How to set out rules and expectations 

  • Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day

When starting with a new class, I accept that it is going to take me some time to set the rules and communicate my expectations, and I start with the basics. Then, class by class, week by week, or even month by month, I introduce another rule, and then another. Each time I implement a new rule, I clearly communicate what it is and the reason for it, as well as the consequences if the rule is broken. Building step by step really helps the class to have strong foundations and continuously develop as the course progresses. 

  • Show, don’t just tell; lead by example.

If you truly want the implementation of these rules to be upheld, you need to be a role model for them. I understand that no matter how strict I am about punctuality, this rule will never be successful if I turn up just before class looking unprepared. As teachers, we should be role models for the behaviour and effort we want from our students. Embodying the values and following through with consequences that have been set out sends a powerful message to the students. It’s not you versus them, the rules are there for the good of the entire class. 

  • More carrot and less stick, positively reinforce the rules

In the long run, positively reinforcing rules and expectations is a much more effective strategy than punishment as it is more motivating for the students. For example, my students know if they work well and follow the rules consistently for two classes in a row, they get to choose the songs that are played the next day in class. When I recognize their effort with a reward, they feel more motivated to keep up the hard work 

  • Don’t forget your personal boundaries!

Life during term time can be very stressful and require a lot of your energy. It is therefore essential that just as you have expectations and rules for your students, you also have boundaries to support yourself. Perhaps it’s making sure that you have some fresh air or have a coffee break every day during the school day. Having quality breaks even if you feel you don’t need them can really help you from burning out. Youll feel less stressed and increase your creativity and your ability to be patient.  

 Maybe you decide to do all your preparation and marking at school, and literally and metaphorically don’t take work home. This will help ensure you have free time to get enough rest, see that friend, do exercise or enjoy that hobby.  

I hope that these ideas have helped you to recognize what you are already doing well and identify some areas where you could refresh expectations and set boundaries, both in and out of the classroom.  

Good luck! 

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