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Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 125.  Today I’d like to talk about having Less Expectation, More Appreciation.

A few months ago, my husband and I got to travel to Georgia for a baseball coaching conference.  He was attending, I just went along for fun.  There were lots of takeaways from that conference for him, but one that has permeated our lives lately is one I want to share with you and talk about how it relates to education.

One of the presenters was Bryan Madsen (@bryanmadsen23 on Twitter) and during his talk he said the phrase “Less Expectation, More Appreciation.”

One of the things we try to instill in our children is that they aren’t entitled to anything and that they need to be grateful for what they do have and not always expect more and more.  So this short phrase summed that up and gave us a mantra to use when we want to remind our own personal kids of that.

My husband recently used it with the group of 3rd & 4th graders he is coaching for basketball.  Each week he likes to do a motivational/life talk with the kids and he likes to have short phrases that are easy for the kids to remember.  But he also likes to relate it to something in their lives besides just basketball.  He wanted to use “Less Expectation, More Appreciation” with them and he had a talk about how it applies to basketball but he was struggling with a way to connect it to their lives.  It was a few weeks before Christmas, so I instantly thought of that.  But really it could be anytime, like a birthday or something where kids are expecting things.  Kids make their lists of gifts and when their expectations aren’t met it is disappointing.  So he talked with them about how they should have less expectations about their Christmas gifts, or gifts at any holiday, and more appreciation for what they do get.

Well, low and behold, on Christmas morning our youngest child who is on that basketball team told his siblings before they started opening gifts “make sure no matter what you guys get that you have less expectation and more appreciation for what you got.”

I was also recently having a conversation with a friend about the holidays and just life in general and how we have all these expectations around things.  We expect things to be a certain way but when it doesn’t turn out that way we get into a funk.

I think back about all the times when I get upset and it is usually because I have a certain expectation set in my mind.  One that I distinctly remember is taking my whole family to Cracker Barrel.  I LOVE eating breakfast out.  I rarely get to do it, but I would choose to eat out for breakfast over dinner.  We were at a baseball tournament in a town that has a Cracker Barrel which is one of my favorites for breakfast.  I told my family how excited I was to take them there and I had built it up in my mind that it was going to be a great family breakfast.  Let’s just say that it did not go that way.  My kids did not like the breakfast there and then that started my entire day off in a bad mood because I had this expectation of everyone loving it and thinking it was as great as I thought it was but when they didn’t, I had that feeling of things not being the way I wanted it to be.  If I had “less expectation, more appreciation” in mind I would have just been happy that we all got to be together for breakfast and I wouldn’t have gotten mad that my kids didn’t like the wonderful Hashbrown Casserole and I would have been appreciative that they even tried it.

Now these are all personal ways that the mantra “Less Expectation, More Appreciation” has permeated my life.  But it also applies to education….especially right now.  I honestly think that this year is so hard because we were all expecting that the 2021-2022 school year would be back to normal and when our expectations weren’t met it puts us into a funk that is hard to get out of.

The school setting isn’t what we expected to be.  The kids aren’t where we expected them to be.  Well, I shouldn’t say ‘we’… I think teachers know it’s ridiculous to hold kids to the same expectations we have in the past when these kids haven’t had the same school experience they normally would have over the past two years.  Yet, we are still told that we must test kids and hold them to the same expectations as in past years.

I know this podcast most likely won’t reach the people who can make the change in that area, but locally I want to encourage you to share with your admin that we need to have “less expectation, more appreciation” for where these kids are.  We don’t just throw our hands in the air and say, “there isn’t anything we can do about where these kids are!”  Don’t get me wrong about this mantra.  “Less expectation, more appreciation” as it pertains to education is about looking at what your kids DO have instead of what they DON’T have.  I want to encourage you to have your staff at your school use that mantra as a way to frame the rest of this school year.

If we look at students through a lens of “we expected you to have THIS and THAT, but you don’t” it starts us off on the wrong foot with how to help the kids.  If instead we look at students through a lens of appreciating where they currently are, we are starting on solid ground and can work up from there.

I’ve been watching all the sessions for the 2022 Virtual Math Summit and when I was listening to the opening keynote by Ken Williams from Unfold The Soul, a part of his session reminded me of ‘less expectation, more appreciation.’

Ken: “We have to not assume that kids are gonna come back broken, fractured, and injured.  We should respond to that based on evidence and it’s gonna take a lot for us to stay on track with that fundamental purpose.  And so the best way to do it, is together.  So if you’re familiar with my work or have been following my work, for the past month I’ve been really bangin’ the drum for us to not project brokenness onto kids. Like, don’t project it.  And if we do that, then we stay on track with the fundamental purpose.  We treat learning as the through-line,  right, that’s our fundamental purpose.  And everything we do comes down to this simple mantra: ‘We respond to things that advance the learning and we respond to things that impede the learning.’  And so, to find out those things we’ve got to engage in our fundamental purpose.  If we go in with the mindset of assuming nothing and being ready to respond to everything that will help us stay focused on our fundamental purpose.  Let’s not project brokenness onto kids.

Because what we’re talking about is Equity.  It’s Equity and achievement for all, for all kids regardless of background.  Regardless of income.  And I know about that.  The last school I led was 95% free & reduced lunch, 95% poverty, 6 years of cycled failure.  I was the principal at the worst performing elementary school in the worst performing district in the greater Atlanta area.”  

Ken said, “Assume nothing, respond to everything.”  To me this goes hand-in-hand with ‘less expectation, more appreciation.’  We can’t assume things about our kids, we need to appreciate where they are right now and then respond to that.  I know that’s easier said than done, and that’s why I appreciate that Ken gives some ideas on how to do that in his keynote session.  Many of the other presenters in the 2022 Virtual Math Summit also give practical tips to help you respond to where students are right now in their learning, and that’s why I moved the summit to be during the school year: to give you ideas you can take back and use in your classroom right away.

All the sessions for the Virtual Math Summit are pre-recorded and then released on February 26th and 27th with many of the presenters online at the time of their session to interact with you in the chat area.

This episode is brought to you by the Build Math Minds professional development site.  It’s an online site full of PD videos designed specifically for elementary teachers to help you build your math mind so you can build the math minds of your students.  If you are interested in getting in-depth Math PD at Your Fingertips, become a member of Build Math Minds.  Just go to and depending upon when you are listening to this, enrollment might be open or you can join the waitlist and get notified when it opens again.

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.