Guest post by Barbara Blackburn:

In my prior post, High Expectations in the Classroom, we discussed the importance of believing each student can and will achieve at high levels.  In some ways, an attitude of low expectations sneaks up on us. I call it the yes (but) mentality. When I talk to teachers and principals about change and make a recommendation based on something I’ve seen in schools, many times I get the enthusiastic yes, we should hold all students to high expectations, then the cautious, “but that wouldn’t work here because….”

What I know is this: If there’s a but at the end of your comment about students, your expectations are lowered. Finding the buts is easy: “We can’t….” “Someone won’t let me….” “He or she doesn’t have whatever….” “I’ve tried that….” Recognize that but is just another word for failure. I’m recommending you monitor your own language, and every time there’s a but, replace it with the here’s how.

So, “Yes, we should have high expectations, and here’s how I’m going to try that today. Yes, we need to do more individualization with our students, and here’s how I think we could make that work given our circumstances. Yes, our kids don’t see many positive role models, and here’s how we might increase that.”

What do you see in your classrooms?  Do teachers enthusiastically support changes that will benefit students, or do they start with reasons those changes won’t work?  Moving from a “yes, but…” to a “yes, and…” mentality takes change, and it takes leadership.  The first step is to model the attitude, then encourage others to move forward with you.  Only then, will an attitude of high expectations prevail in your school.

Barbara Blackburn (@BarbBlackburn) is speaking at Ignite 2013 on Saturday, March 2, at a session entitled Motivation + Engagement + Higher Expectation = Student Success. For more on high expectations in the classroom, check out Barbara’s blog at RigorInEducation.Blogspot.com.