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A lesson for parents and teachers

“Positive expectations influence performance positively, and negative expectations influence performance negatively.”

If you grew up in small town Saskatchewan chances are you knew an immigrant kid who worked long hours in the family business, was a good student and went on to a successful career.

My friend Jim told me of guy he knew who fit the mould. The family who came to Canada from Hong Kong, started a little store on Ninth Avenue West in Moose Jaw. Their children all did well in school – all grew up in difficult circumstances and reached a level of success their parent only dreamed of. (Yes, it’s a dangling participle)

That’s the story of many immigrant children growing up in Canada. New Immigrant families have high expectations of their children. It doesn’t matter the culture or place of origin – the family has high expectations and the children live up to those expectations. Who you become is often the result of the expectations of other people – your parents – Grandparents – guardians – friends and school teachers.

If you drive a motorcycle you know you drive toward where you are looking. That’s the same as life expectations. Expectations are ‘looking where you are going’.

The Rosenthal or Pygmalion Effect

The process of high expectations is called the Rosenthal or Pygmalion Effect. “Higher expectations lead to increased performance.”

‘Pygmalion’ comes from the 1913 George Bernard Shaw play of the same name, later made into the movie ‘My Fair Lady’ (Lerner and Loewe 1964). It describes how Professor Higgins transforms Eliza Doolittle (a play on words) a ‘Cockney Speaking’ street vendor into a charming socialite who is accepted by elegant British society. And all that really changed was Eliza’s accent. But the change elicited different expectations from the rich and powerful.

The Rosenthal Experiment – Teacher Expectations

In 1968 Rosenthal and Jacobson presented their experimental study on Teacher Expectations. The authors “… proposed that teacher expectations act as self-fulfilling prophecies because student achievement reflects expectations.”

The researchers manipulated expectations by telling teachers stories about certain students – this student was very good and, this student is average and so on. The stories were made up.

The 1968 Study found; “Positive expectations influence performance positively, and negative expectations influence performance negatively.”

In 1985 Rosenthal and Babad concluded, “When we expect certain behaviors of others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur.”

Immigrant parents expected certain behaviors – success in school was one.

Grandparents Are Important

Everyone struggles with the challenges of daily life. How they react to the struggle often depends on the expectations of people in their ‘path of life’. The more positive the expectation the greater the chance of success.

Grandparents always have high expectations of their grandchildren. Involve them in their grandchildren’s life. They can help grandchildren look where they are going.