The Necessity of Having High Expectations

It is possible to improve equity in education by demonstrating compassion and holding students to high standards.


It’s been a decade since I had the pleasure of teaching Luis in sixth grade. That statement, on the other hand, will stay with me forever. Even though the words were hurriedly spoken, they had deep roots. The goal for Luis was for me to admit that I was wrong and to leave him alone so that he could bury that vile word deep within himself, where no one would be able to see it.

Luis was not a moron. Luis was a second-language learner who also received special education services due to a learning disability. He was a native Spanish speaker. He was able to read and write, even though it was difficult for him.

Luis’s teachers have never referred to him as being stupid. It is important to note that just because we do not use a particular word does not mean that students do not hear it.

Look at Luis’s schooling history for a moment. Consider how many times the teacher asked the class to write a paragraph for him or her. Luis only wrote five words in total. He was not allowed to feel embarrassed, and the teacher complimented him on his efforts by saying, “Good job!” and accepting Luis’s work.

Consider how many times he was presented with a text that was easier to read than the material presented to his classmates. Take into consideration how uncommon it was for him to be required to read it. You might be surprised at how many times his peers wrote stories or took notes while he was doing activities that required him to fill in the blanks. He spent many years silently reading the Captain Underpants book while flipping through the pages of the Captain Underpants book.

His teachers did not disparage him as being stupid. They desired for him to be content. They supported peer collaboration and differentiated his instruction by supplying sentence frames and supporting peer collaboration

Luis was taken aback by how little he was asked and came up with an explanation: he must have been stupid.


Implicit biases are ingrained in the minds of all people. The consequences of these biases, if they are not acknowledged and challenged, can be significant in terms of our expectations of students. Language, disability, race, and culture are all factors that can influence our perceptions of students’ abilities. As explained in Language and Culture: Critical Perspectives, Sonia Nieto explains the harm caused by teachers who refuse to “impose the same rigorous requirements on their students of color as they do on their white students……” These ‘amenities’ are a misnomer “Teachers may send the message to students that they are incapable of learning.

Finding the right balance is difficult to achieve. Accommodations were made for Luis by his teachers. The subtlety lies in the manner in which they were applied. What accommodations do we make in the students’ zone to aid in their proximal or comfort development? Are accommodations enabling students to access higher-level content and thinking or are they preventing students from gaining knowledge? What happens when children gain independence? Do scaffolds become less important, or do they become permanent fixtures that keep them reliant?


It is one of my pet peeves as a teacher to hear students speak highly of their peers and teachers. “You just love her because she allows you to get away with things, right?” says the teacher in response. When a teacher says, “Kids dislike me because I expect them to work hard,” students experience the same nerve-wracking reaction as before.

Teacher compassion and strictness are not mutually exclusive; one cannot be both at the same time. There is also the assumption that children do not want to be pushed to their limits.

As an educator, it is not only possible but also necessary, to be compassionate while also being rigorous. It is exactly what our students want and require. Children can detect when we are lowering the bar. Children aspire to high standards, and compassion is an important ingredient in their quest for success.

Teaching will only be possible if we can increase the success of students who are not considered to be part of the mainstream student population. To do this job well, it is necessary to have high expectations as well as kind hearts. When it comes to education, Zaretta Hammond describes the ideal educator as a “warm inquire”. The teacher must establish strong relationships with students and then rely on that trust to keep students engaged with course content at a high level.

It is not a good idea for teachers to overlook each other’s abilities. Regardless of whether we prefer to be warm or demanding, we should seek out others who are skilled in the opposite field to collaborate with. They may be willing to learn from us, and we may be able to learn from them in return. Students require the best of everything we have to offer in terms of resources and facilities.

Luis claimed that he was stupid and that all of his teachers were aware of this. I replied in hushed tones, doing my best to project the calm energy that I desired to see emanate from him.

“It is a terrible thing that anyone has ever been able to make you feel this way about yourself. Please accept my apologies. I’m not going to lie to you. I’m telling you right now that you’re bright and capable of achieving success in school. You can be confident in this. Starting this assignment together will ensure that you can complete it on your own within a short period.

It’s not clear whether Luis recalls this particular conversation at this point. His proficiency in English was determined that year after years of testing at the intermediate ELL level. He was no longer a part of our program. I have never seen a happier, more proud, and more surprised face. Luis realised that he wasn’t stupid.