Setting clear expectations

Previous post: The first class

Each child is unique and enters a class with different mindsets and experiences related to mathematics (specifically) and the teaching-learning process (generally). Considering the grades that I cover (6 to 12), subject teaching at school is the norm; consequently, children are exposed to a spectrum of teachers and pedagogies and adapt depending on who is at the blackboard (or projector in a technology enabled classroom!). When I think back to my own school days, there were teachers who instantly commanded respect and attention while there were others who seemed to bring out our most raucous sides! 😆

Thus, setting expectations was one of my priorities for the class following the trial session. As I was building our relationship from scratch without the benefit of face-to-face interaction, this assumed even more importance!

I kept these expectations few in number, to the point and communicated them with a sound 'why'.

~ o ~ x ~ o ~

"You drive these sessions."

I am a strong advocate of children having agency and a voice in how the classroom is run. Some examples from the past:
My online sessions were no different. I encouraged my students to identify the topics they wanted to learn and to provide as much information as they could to help me plan a session best suited to their needs. Note that this was also a point of emphasis during the first conversation about the trial session. I reiterated that the time we got together was precious (more on this later) and, unlike their classes in school, they had to provide the impetus here. If passive participation was what they wanted, they had come to the wrong teacher!

~ o ~ x ~ o ~

"Mistakes are good!"

In the concluding post of the ASSET Day Scholar Programme series, I explained why I believe mistakes to be key stepping stones to deeper understanding of any topic.

In my online classes, I tell students that these sessions are low-stakes - I am not here to give them marks and declare whether they have passed/failed. My goal is to help them improve their understanding of math and mistakes are going to be part and parcel of our journey together. I tell them that mistakes help me gauge where/why they are having a tough time with the concept and this allows me to effectively address the root of the problem.

Highlighting this expectation gives children freedom to speak up and explain their doubts/thoughts without fear. As it is, they give enough high-stakes tests/exams at school and are continuously being compared to and judged by their peers. They don't sign up for classes with me for more of the same!

~ o ~ x ~ o ~

"Be punctual."


Assuming 56 hours for sleep and one 1-hour session a week, 0.89% of a child's waking hours is spent in class with me.

That is a really small number!

Once I show this fact to my students, the importance of each minute of class is amplified in their minds. Out of the 19 children that I have taught online, I encountered a lack of punctuality only in the case of 1 child. Hence, my insistence on the value of time probably has some impact! 😀

~ o ~ x ~ o ~

"Complete homework for your own good."

I conclude each session by sharing some homework questions. As I stand by quality over quantity, know that mathematics isn't everything and am aware that my students will be receiving homework from school too, I choose questions carefully to reinforce what was learned in class and/or prepare them for the next class. I explicitly mention these points to my students so that they understand why I am giving homework; else, it could be perceived as a burden.

At the start of the following session, I spend 10-15 minutes going over the homework to see if there are any doubts or gaps in understanding. I focus on the approach taken to solve the questions instead of seeing whether they arrived at the correct answer or not.

~ o ~ x ~ o ~

These expectations form the bedrock of all successful partnerships that I have had with my students and their parents to date. Along with open channels of communication (which I write about more in a later postlet), it sets a clear structure within which both my students and I can be the best versions of ourselves during the teaching-learning process. 😃


  1. This is beautiful.

    "You drive these sessions."
    I am a strong advocate of children having agency and a voice in how the classroom is run.

    Why weren't you my math teacher growing up?!

    In the past, I haven't been able to contextualise your posts so much because I've never taught children. But this one resonated a lot, and seems really applicable to any group of learners. Thank you for sharing it!

    1. Such comments are heart-warming - thanks a ton for posting it! :-)


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