Monthly Article Archives: October 2002

You Get What You ExpectRobert Brooks, Ph.D.

Parents of a high school freshman, whom I will call John, asked me to serve as a consultant for his school program. John was struggling academically. I met with his teachers and asked each to describe him. One teacher immediately responded, “”John is one of the most defiant, oppositional, unmotivated, irresponsible students we have at this school!”” Another teacher looked surprised. In a manner that was respectful of her colleague’s opinion she said, ““I have a different view. I think he is really struggling with learning and we should figure out the best ways to teach him.”” In a brief moment I heard two markedly contrasting descriptions of the same student from two adults who interact with him on a daily basis. It seemed as if they were talking about two different students. After this meeting I interviewed John. I asked him to describe his teachers. I did not reveal what any had said about him. In describing the teacher who had portrayed him so negatively, John said, “”She hates me, but that’’s okay because I hate her. And I won’’t do any work in her class.”” Before I could even ask John to elaborate about their obviously strained relationship

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