Everyone wants to have a smooth school year, with minimal disruptions and lots of learning and fun. This is possible! But in order to achieve it, you must have clear expectations.

Expectations are the first step in any sort of classroom management plan. Think about it. If you went to someone’s house and they opened the door, greeted you, ushered you in, guided you to a seat, offered you a drink and then got mad at you for keeping your shoes on… how would that feel? If someone expects you to remove your shoes at the door, they need to make that clear, either by respectfully asking guests to remove their shoes or having a little sign and a space for shoes. Likewise, if someone hires a painter to paint a wall, they need to know which wall and what color before they can get started. Clear expectations are how we function best in everyday situations.

As Brené Brown says, “Clear is kind.” Sometimes people think of creating expectations as a system of rules and consequences, and this doesn’t exactly feel like a helping hand to kids. But when we’re clear, we’re actually being kind to kids, because we’re outlining what we expect of them (and ourselves)!

Children need very clearly articulated expectations, what met expectations look and sound like. One great way to develop classroom expectations is to co-create expectations, where you can share what you expect from students, and they can share what they expect from you, the teacher.

Here’s how that can look.

Say something like, “My job is to be your teacher and help you learn. It’s also my job to keep or classroom safe and healthy so we can all learn, work together and have fun. I would like to know what you expect from me so that I can be the best teacher for you.”

Ask students questions such as:

What kind of teacher would you like me to be?

How do you expect me to act – funny, serious, a little bit of both?

When you’re upset, how would you like me to respond?

When there is a problem in the classroom, what would you like me to do?

What words or phrases would you like me to use to encourage you?


Then move on to peer-to-peer expectations. Say something like, “Your job as classmates is to work together, support each other and treat each other with kindness. I would like to know what you expect of each other.” Ask questions such as:

How would you like your friends/classmates to act in the classroom?

What do you expect from your friends/classmates when you are hurt or having a hard time?

What will it look like when you are working together well?

Lastly, move on to students as learners. Say something like, “Your job as students is to learn, try your best and work hard. I would like to know what I can expect from you as a learner in this classroom.” Ask questions such as:

What can I expect from you as a learner?

What will you do when something is hard, and you want to give up?

What will it look like, sound like and feel like when you’re doing your best work?


Compile student responses and make a display. Hang it where students can see it and refer to it as needed throughout the year.


Download “We all Have Expectations: A Free Safe Relationships Lesson Plan”.

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