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What if teachers were like the coaches of the Steelers?

What if the coaches on the Pittsburgh Steelers each had different expectations for the players on the team?

What if the offensive line coach expected all of his players to arrive to a game 2 hours before it started so that the offense had time to run through plays, but the coach of the receivers tells his position players that they don’t need to arrive until 15 minutes before the game started? It would be pretty hard for the offense to practice. What if the linebackers’ coach encouraged players to always put the team first, but the defensive line coach talked bad about the rest of the defensive when they messed up? I don’t think the team would have much of a chance of really being a team. What if the quarterbacks’ coach believed that the only way to win was to first and foremost have a dynamic passing game, but the running backs’ coach believed that passing should be secondary to running the ball? The offense would be in disarray.

No coaching staff – or no good coaching staff – would ever function this way. The reason is because each coach is focused on the same goal – winning.

Now let’s move the conversation to schools. Why don’t more schools work like coaching staffs? Why is it so hard to get teachers to standardize their expectations? Students go from classroom to classroom. In some, they better be on time. Other teachers don’t really mind if you’re tardy as long as it’s not by much. Some teachers require students to get started on a Do Now assignment as soon as the bell rings. Others take 5 minutes to take attendance. Some teachers use one note-taking system. Others use a different system. Others don’t have any system at all for taking notes. Some teachers have seating charts that they create. Other teachers allow students to pick their own seats.

The main reason that teachers have a hard time standardizing expectations might be that they have never thought about it. But for others the reason might be that they don’t realize that, like coaches, they need to be focused on the same goal. Our goal must be bigger than our own classrooms. Our goal must be to meet the needs of all students and to create an environment in which they can learn and grow. But when expectations vary greatly from classroom to classroom we can’t reach that goal as effectively as we can when we are all on the same page.

The reality is that standardized expectations can be higher expectations. If the teachers in our schools can find common ground, then they can support each other in holding students to high expectations. To do that, each teacher must be willing to give a little. However, the higher levels of student behavior we can get in return should be worth it.

Imagine the best thing you do in your classroom - what if everyone was doing it as well? Standardized expectations can be higher expectations because we are all supporting each other.

Let’s be like a strong coaching staff. Let’s all focus on the same goal, standardize our expectations where possible, and help our students accomplish more than ever before.

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Comment by Chris Blackburn on February 16, 2009 at 10:40pm
Scott, this is a great thought. Many of the schools I work with and in-service struggle with the same things. My biggest frustration is seeing an educational staff without a strong leader who pulls the team together with one purpose . . . one focus.

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