One aspect of rigor is high expectations. A key part of high expectations is communicating that learning is not optional. Many students think it’s okay to “take a zero”, and in a rigorous classroom, that is not acceptable. I used two specific strategies to communicate high expectations with teachers, and with students.
I took several teachers and the principal from a local school to visit a high-poverty school in a neighboring state. The school had a strong reputation for closing achievement gaps, despite the challenging student population. Bob Heath, the principal of a local middle school, described his experience.
The option to not do work was not there. If as adults, we accept that students cannot do work, we are not doing the kids any service at all. This comes out in several ways, starting with our vocabulary. If we say “students just won’t do the work,” we are part of the problem. We have to get those words out of our vocabulary. They won’t do because we don’t make them do
When I was teaching, my students’ default response to assignments was, “I can’t do that.” It became so automatic to them, that they would answer “I can’t” before I asked them to do something. Finally, I added it to our classroom rules: You are not allowed to use the word can’t. It took about six weeks, but students stopped using the word. I was in an elementary school in Cleveland, Ohio, and a teacher shared her response to the same issue. Each student took a can, and filled it with sheets of paper noting all the things they couldn’t do. Then, they buried their “can’ts” and started fresh.
Do you use the words can't and won't? Do your students? How can you remove those from your vocabulary?