“…And you say I only hear what I want to: I don’t listen hard, I don’t pay attention to the distance that you’re running, or to anyone, anywhere. I don’t understand if you really care, I’m only hearing negative: no, no, no (bad)…” Stay, Lisa Loeb
Effective expectations management. Effective. Expectations. Management.
Sounds like something out of a book you might find in the Business section at Barnes & Noble, perhaps a “Management and Leadership” subsection. “Effective expectations management,” a term coined by me and a good friend, who happens to work in the Human Resources field, is probably not a new term at all, but it came up in a conversation about – you guessed it – expectations and how we can better learn to manage our own. We have already acknowledged how “corporate” that sounds, but my good friend is “corporate,” being in HR, and, as for me, I just work with the “Humans” that are being “Resourced.” At any rate, I am reminded of that wine bar conversation as I reflect on my experience here in Cenes de la Vega.
The Language Exchange Homestay (LEH) can be, and has been for me, a very valuable experience. In many ways, it has provided significant insights into another culture as well as insights into my own cultural experience as an American. There are the times when I am extremely self – aware, that is, aware of my beliefs and perceptions, my behaviors and habits, and my capabilities. Being abroad, living abroad no less, can open one’s mind to all those things and compel further examination. Part of the LEH experience is being a teacher or tutor of English for at least a month, and living with a host family who will benefit from the exposure to English. This can be as formal or as informal as is agreed upon by all parties involved, which is where expectations become extremely important. And as the parties progress in the exchange experience, effective expectations management becomes just as critical, especially if one is working within a tight time-frame as I am currently.
Basically, the expectations one may have at the onset may need some adjustment as conditions change or as the parties change. I’m not a teacher by trade, but I imagine this is part of what they do. They have a set curriculum and each year they get a new crop of students who must learn not only what is in that curriculum, but also how to learn period. And teachers cannot pick and choose the students who arrive at their classroom doors; they take what they get and do what they can in approximately nine (9) months to a year. The students have to learn to think critically, asking critical questions about what they’re doing. In essence, students have to engage in some form of meta-cognition.
That is hard work. Period.
Never mind that some of the students may not be at grade level; Sam may have just left the 4th grade and now walks through your 5th grade classroom door, but can only read at a 3rd grade reading level and you have this 5th grade curriculum sitting, just waiting to be taught. Now, imagine having to do all that and deal with parents who have unrealistic expectations, i.e. “Johnny can’t read very well and can’t write a grammatically correct sentence, but, by golly, you had better have him writing the next Great American Novel by the end of the school year!” Or parents who simply don’t know their kids, i.e., “Marcy’s very shy, but she’s kindhearted and a hard worker; I haven’t a clue as to why she keeps picking fights, doesn’t follow directions and isn’t doing her homework.” Obviously, some frank dialogue needs to take place, and part of that dialogue should be a discussion about expectations: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there? Is “there” a feasible destination? It is advisable that both LEH program participants and host families alike recognize their limitations, or in the case of the latter, recognize the capabilities of the potential students. Parent, if your kid is lazy, and you know he or she is lazy, strongly encourage him or her to “get on the good foot,” especially when time is at a premium. That is a must – have conversation. Maybe a month isn’t long enough for what you need or are looking for. Tutor, not sure how far you can push the envelope? Ask. Some parents may be more direct than others, but be prepared to ask.
Anyone interested in teaching full – time or as a break from a first career, in the U.S. or abroad, should consider a number of factors when making such a decision, one of which is dealing with parents. Another is managing expectations, and while a person is really only responsible for his or her own expectations, one must be prepared to have discussions with all stakeholders in the education process to help facilitate the process of effective expectation management.
There it is. Again. Is it time for more wine? I think I’ll call up my HR buddy.