Responsible Decision-Making

Family Resources on Exceeding Expectations

Project and Purpose

Higher expectations lead to success, students will answer questions about the value of expectations.

Video Overview:

Some kids have families who expect them to do well in school, while other kids live with families who don’t expect much at all. Students living in a family or community that “doesn’t care” about their school success have a choice to make. Will they believe those who say, “You can’t succeed,” or surprise them with hard work and accomplishment?

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Exceeding Expectations

Some students, like 15-year-old Rodrigo, want to show their families and friends that they are capable of doing something really good in life. And that means working hard, doing homework, studying and staying in school. Students’ futures can literally depend on their choices about school – choices that are often influenced by who they listen to. Will it be the voices saying, “You will fail,” or their own voice that yells out, “I will succeed!”Michael J. Bowman, a police officer who sees dropouts and truants on the street everyday asks, “Can you believe you’d ever be sad you completed high school? I’ve never heard anyone say that in my life. And you won’t either. You have nothing to lose from going to school. You have everything to lose from hanging out in the street. You have everything to gain by going to school and getting that education.”

If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students learned how having a support system of caring adults with high expectations encourages achievement. In class students discussed how adults encourage motivation and provide support.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

The video for this module features several students who achieve at school in academic and non-academic activities. When caring adults encourage youth to hold high expectations for themselves these students achieve at high levels.

Note for adult mentors: There is a great deal of research into expectations for children and youth. It is recommended that expectations be worded in ways that encourage effort, not outcomes. For example, some students can earn a high grade (an “A”) in a class without putting forth much effort while other students doing their best with maximum effort may only be able to earn a lower grade (like a “B”). Use terms like “try your best” and then define what you would see, saying things like “spend 30 minutes practicing without distraction every evening” rather than stating an expectation like “get an ‘A’”.

Conversation Starters and Practice at Home

The first item is for follow-up after viewing the lesson video and participating in class activities.

What were some interesting comments from your class discussion? Why do you think these comments were interesting?

Make a list of the general expectations this family has for you at home, at school and in the community. Are these expectations reasonable and achievable? Why or why not? Do these expectations help you do well? Why or why not?

Discuss doing something new that is achievable or set a goal. Write down a set of expectations for how to achieve this. Revisit and assess as necessary.

Schools to Home Resources on Exceeding Expectations

Discussion Questions

  • What choice do kids feel they have when their parents don’t think they can succeed?
  • How does Geneva challenge the people who say she can’t succeed?
  • What does Officer Bowman mean when he says, “You have nothing to lose from going to school?” Do you agree or disagree?

Student Self-Reflection Questions

  • How do you think you’ll feel when you graduate high school?
  • What does your inner voice say to help motivate you?


Experts say there are two types of motivators: intrinsic and extrinsic. Ask students to complete an assignment to define intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and apply each to their own life. Ask them to identify what motivates you more – intrinsic or extrinsic factors? What are you motivated to do… be a high scoring sports team member? Attain a personal best? What are your academic and career goals?

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