Questions Set Expectations:

Questions Set Expectations: Have you ever wondered why there is such a big difference between the educational performance of various ethnic groups? The outcomes of various students seem to defy concrete measurements of things like IQ. Even for children with similar IQ scores, students in particular ethnic groups still outperform their peers of other groups.

Scores for Jewish and Asian students are usually higher. When studies have been done on other aspects besides intelligence or aptitude, parental expectations play a big part in the difference. These expectations are often expressed through something as little as the questions asked at the end of the school day.

What is the first thing you ask when the kids get in the car at pick up or they get dropped off by the carpool? Many Anglo families ask, “Did you have fun today?” or “Did you have a good day?”

In Asian and Jewish families, the first question is usually different — “What did you learn today?” “Did you learn anything new?” or “Did you do good work today?”

These questions set a child’s expectation. What is the purpose of a school day and school itself? Internally, these questions teach: School is to make me feel good; School is supposed to be fun; OR School should be a place to learn new things each day; School is a place to work hard.

Questions set expectations. So too the final words as we send the student into school. What is the last thing you say when your student is dropped off? “Have fun!” OR “Do great work today!” “Learn something new today!” This is why on Tuesday afternoons I send your students off with the salutation — “Do great work tomorrow!”

It’s not that we don’t want students to have fun or to feel good about their day. But these things should be a byproduct of good work and an inquisitive mind eager for the next lesson. Reshaping expectations can also change how a student feels. When they accomplish good work and when they learn something, then they can be satisfied regardless of the fun-quotient for the day.

I know many of you are already doing this, but it is something for the rest of us to consider. What subliminal messages do I send to my children?

God’s best,


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