Teachers sometimes joke, "I had a great class last year, so I guess this is my year to have the class from you know where." Everyone laughs, but how might those subconscious beliefs affect a teacher's actions . . . and maybe their entire school year?
Think about the yearly "roster ritual" - that defining moment when an administrator hands us our new rosters and we quickly scan them to see who's in our class. We see names that we recognize, and we frantically try to remember what we've heard about these students. "Oh no . . . Johnny's the one who was always clowning around in Mr. C's class" or "Tameka is that nice quiet girl who helps Mrs. D after school." We've already begun to make judgments about students we haven't even met!
What if statements like these are no more than self-fulfilling prophecies? It that's true, then perhaps we have far more impact on the type of class we get than we ever imagined!
Every year I say the same thing on the first day, "Class, I have to tell you that I had a really awesome group last year, and I'll miss them. But the amazing thing is that every year, my new class is even better than the one before! I don't know how it's possible, but it's true. I can't even begin to imagine how amazing this class is going to be! I know we are going to have a great year together!" I say this with absolute sincerity because it's true! Maybe I just keep getting more effective as a teacher, or maybe this statement makes them want to be the best class ever, but it works!
My friend and colleague Pat Calfee used to say something similar to her students every year. Her statement was something to the effect that she's not sure how it happens, but every year the principal seems to put the smartest and best students in her class. Of course they sit a little taller when they hear this . . . and they act like the smartest and best kids in the school!
What do you think about your new students when you see their names on your roster? What do you tell your class on the first day of school? What subtle messages do you convey about their worth and their future success in your classroom?
When you scan your roster, be encouraged by the thought that another teacher's "problem child" may turn out to be one whom you cherish the most! That quirky sense of humor or that restless, inquisitive spirit is finally appreciated and the student just blossoms under your attention.
If the self-fulfilling prophecy is really at work in the universe, let's make sure it's working in our favor! Tell your students that you know they are going to be the most amazing class ever, and that's exactly what they'll become!