Assumptions that aren’t always bad

I subscribe to Responsive Classroom’s newsletters and blogs. They usually help to ground me, help me to see and understand my students better.  This week’s entry was about Questioning Assumptions. And as a teacher, I know there are too many times when I’ve jumped to a conclusion about a student’s behavior or motivation. And then been surprised by the wrongness of my assumptions.

But I’m here to say that making assumptions in an educational setting is not always a bad thing.

I assume my students are smart – brilliant mostly. And given the chance, I know they can achieve everything in life that any other student can achieve. I assume they want to do this. Of course, my third graders come with lots less baggage than middle- or high-schoolers and a fraction of the peer pressure to not look too nerdy. That makes this assumption a lot more easy to keep.

I assume that when I believe in my students, the expectation that they can and will succeed becomes a cornerstone for learning – one that both of us are responsible for.

Angela Maiers tells us that two words – you matter – make a world of difference. I believe that. Through my thoughts and actions toward my students I believe that they will also believe it and come to find their inner strength, their core.

And I assume that when students believe they matter, they can achieve whatever they want in spite of or because of things that happen outside of school.

I assume, that given a chance to become involved in their child’s learning life, a parent will do just that. Each September, I ask parents to tell me what their goals are for their child. Those goals are not that different from more affluent families. Just sometimes there are unique challenges that need a little work.

I agree that stereotypical assumptions block us from helping our students to be all that they are destined to become. But the next time someone tells you to re-examine your assumptions about students, don’t throw it all away. Keep on assuming those things that make expectations high.