Expectations for the New School Year

The following is a rough draft of my expectations.  During 23 years of teaching, I never asked for feedback from parents or students or other teachers.  Please let me know if I need to address some questions.  I appreciate all feedback.

The Winner’s Manual


  • Progress always involves taking a risk; you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.     – Frederick Wilcox
  • Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. – Abraham Lincoln
  • Paradise is where I am.  – Voltaire

Your attitude is your choice.

      No matter what grade you get in this class, you control how you think.  Don’t think that ONE bad grade on ONE assignment means the teacher hates you.  Everybody has trouble once in a while. Take a few of Colin Powell’s rules to heart:

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think.  It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, then get over it.
  3. It can be done.

Have a grateful attitude.  Think outside of your little world:

The Global Village

If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely one hundred people, with all the existing human rations remaining the same, the village would include…

Of those 100 people …

60 Asians,

12 Europeans,

15 from the Western Hemisphere (9 Latin Americans, 5 North Americans, and 1 Oceanian,) and

13 Africans.

50 would be female,

50 would be male,

80 would be nonwhite,

20 would be white,

67 would be non-Christian,

33 would be Christian,

20 would earn 89% of the wealth,

25 would live in substandard housing,

17 would be illiterate,

13 would suffer from malnutrition,

1 would die within the year,

2 would give birth within the year,

2 would have a college education,

and 4 would own a computer.

Yes, I was surprised with the fact that only 4 own a computer.  I am grateful that we have so much in this country and community.


What is discipline?  It is not a spanking, grounding, cell phone taken away, or detention.  It is from a Latin root that means “instruction or learning.  It is also like Bobby Knight says:

  1. “Do what has to be done
  2. When it has to be done
  3. As well as it can be done,
  4. And do it that way all of the time.”

Discipline is what you do when no one else is looking!  It’s being considerate of others, respectful to classmates and teachers, being on time, and completing your assignments with pride.  We need a few rules to help one another learn at his/her best.

Rule #1 – Respect

  1. During discussions, respect other students’ comments, opinions, and ideas.  Do not be mean.  When possible, make statements like, “I agree with John, and I also feel that …” or “I disagree with Sara.  She made a good point, but I feel that … or “I think Victor made an excellent observation, and it made me realize…”
  2. Occasionally we may grade each other’s papers as a group.  You are to write your name at the bottom of the paper.  When grading other students’ papers, if you give someone an incorrect grade, whether it is higher or lower than they deserve, the amount the grade differs from the actual grade will be deducted from your paper.  Pay attention!
  3. When we read aloud together in class, you must follow along.  If I call on you to read, you must be prepared to read.  This is active participation in class.
  4. Answer all written questions with a complete sentence.  For example, if the question asks, “Who wrote Romeo and Juliet?” you should respond by writing, William Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet.

Individuals who have trouble conforming to the norms of our classroom society will be given detentions and I will call home.  In situations requiring immediate attention, like throwing a desk at me, I will send the student to the office.  (True story.  My Ninja-like reflexes made him miss and he was then out of ammunition.)

Absences and Tardies

“Be Here Now” In other words, Focus on English class while in English class or in simpler terms, keep your rear end and your mind in the same place. With this in mind, I have these rules:

  1. No credit can be earned for work or tests given if you were unexcused absent.  Make sure your parent or guardian calls the school to report your absence.
  2. Work and tests can be made up if you are excused absent and will be scheduled upon your return to school.  Failure to make up your work results in a grade of zero.
  3. Tardies are tracked for the semester. I
    1. 1-3 – warning given to student.  (If you worked for my wife at Cold Stone Creamery you would be fired.)
    2. 4th one – 1/2 hour detention with me after school
    3. 5th one – one hour detention with detention supervisor (me) after school
    4. #6 and up – referred to your Dean.  (Usually results in Quiet Study Time or QST which is 90 minutes with me.)


As Master Yoda says, “Always two there are, no more, no less.”  (You only get 2 passes.  Use them wisely.)  If you hold on to them, you can turn them in for extra credit.

Homework and Essays

Homework is relevant to that day’s lesson; therefore, late homework is not accepted for a grade unless you are excused absent.  Reread Bobby Knight’s quote.  Plan on filling out an excuse log each time you do not have your homework.  These excuses will be discussed with your parent/guardian. The American writer and poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said it best, “It takes less time to do the right thing than to explain why you did it wrong.”

Essays take time to write and may be turned in early for extra credit.  You can earn 1% point per school day.  I will accept late essays; however, the penalty is a 10% deduction per school day.  After five days, I will not accept the essay and the grade is a zero.  Your grade is not affected if you are excused absent.

Yes, Punctuation Matters!  Read the following samples and see what happens when the punctuation is changed.  Correctly writing something does matter!

Dear John:

I want a man who knows what love is all about.  You are generous, kind, thoughtful.  People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.  You have ruined me for other men.  I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart.  I can be forever happy –will you let me be yours?


Dear John:

I want a man who knows what love is.  All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me.  For other men, I yearn.  For you, I have no feelings whatsoever.  When we’re apart, I can be forever happy.  Will you let me be?  Yours,


The only thing changed is the punctuation!

Another Example:

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman; without her, man is nothing.


What is excellence?  Aristotle said, “Excellence is not an act … but a habit.”  At the U.S. Military Academy, the Cadet Maxim is “Risk more than others think safe.  Care more than others think is wise.  Dream more than others think is practical.  Expect more than others think is possible.”

This is why I offer enrichment activities for extra credit.  I offer you this opportunity because I like what Thomas Edison said about opportunity, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  Consider this, you are competing with the kids around you for scholarships and later, a job.

Handling Adversity

Don’t worry if you don’t do well on one assignment. Confucius said, ‘Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.”   Pick yourself up and try again!  This philosophy will have us writing, writing, and writing even more.

What can you do if your printer runs out of ink, or your computer crashes at midnight on the day before your essay is due?





Adapt … Improvise … Overcome


Do not make excuses! 


I know you have many responsibilities.  You have five, six, or even seven classes; extracurricular activities like sports, band, or school clubs; chores at home; helping take care of siblings or ill family members; or jobs.  I too have many responsibilities.  I think we can agree to make our work in English class the biggest responsibility during the 45 minutes we are together.  During class, “hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone expects of you.  Never excuse yourself.”  – Henry Ward Beecher

Yes, grades matter.  And in today’s world it seems that many people think cheating is ok as long as you don’t get caught.  I disagree.  I believe in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “Honor is better than honors.”  I believe in the words of John Wooden, the UCLA basketball coach whose teams dominated in the early 70s:

There is a choice you have to make

In everything you do.

So keep in mind that in the end,

The choice you make, makes you.

If you are suppose to be reading or writing in class, then you should not be writing notes to friends, trying to text, or copying homework from another class.  When you are the boss, will you want your employees surfing the Internet or playing solitaire when they should be making sales or writing reports?

Stay focused in class.


Prior preparation prevents poor performance!

  1. Do not procrastinate! Use the class time to do work.  If you are finished with your assigned work, you can complete extra credit work or read a novel silently.
  2. Prioritize your work.  Do most important things first, which is English in English class.  Do not count on using what little free time we have to do another classes’ homework.
  3. Be a participant in class, not a spectator.  Come to class with your homework, book, paper, pen/pencil, and two inch binder.  You will achieve your goals more quickly and be happier!
  4. Look at the agenda on the board to know what we will be doing today.  Opportunity waits for no one.
  5. I post my lesson plans at Thefreshmanexpereince.wordpress.com.  Make it a habit to look ahead.

Participation Grade


Each day you have the opportunity to earn points for participating in class.  Participation may be during class discussion, small group work, individual reading, or individual writing.  To earn points, you have to provide correct answers in a respectful manner.  Sleeping, being disrespectful to others or yourself, not working in class, and / or providing incorrect answers will result in few, if any, points earned.   Every nine weeks I will use the participation rubric to determine your grade.

Love and commitment

In this class I joke around, and I make fun of myself. Nevertheless, do not ever think that I do not love my job. I come to school each day because I truly have the best job in the world.  I am committed to being the best teacher that I can be.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?”  How can you help your classmates achieve success?  How can you help others in school?

I have a nephew who graduated from Bowling Green State University in special education.  In high school he gave up his study hall to be a student aid in the special education classroom.  You don’t have to wait to help someone.  There are opportunities every day.  What will you do for someone else?


During the next four years you will feel like there is no hope.  You will feel frustrated because you cannot study for a test, write a good essay, or read very well.  I never did well on math tests, but I can read well and I am not a bad writer.  Yeah me!  However, there are many things I cannot do well.  I have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, I can not run fast, let alone slowly, I can’t bake, and I can’t fold laundry correctly.  (The latter got me out of that chore at home.)  J  We all have a strength.  If you do not know yours yet, you will soon enough.  Keep exploring and take some risks with your education.  We all have a purpose.

Follow My Voice

 In the smoke and confusion that followed the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, dazed employees looked for any way out.  For many, all they heard was a booming voice, calling, “Listen to me.  Listen to me.  Follow my voice.”

         That voice belonged to Army Lt. Col. Victor Correa, who disappeared into a wall of smoke to look for his colleagues.

         “Yours was the voice I heard,” several people told him afterward.

         “All of us had a different function,” Correa said, “and I knew what mine was.”



Filed under Education

10 responses to “Expectations for the New School Year

  1. Linda Kelly

    Hi Dave:
    I love these expectations! They are awesome. I hope that everyone of your students and parents not only reads these expectations but lives by them. Thanks for having high expectations and standards.

    See you very soon!
    Linda Kelly

  2. Diane Ouimet

    Wishing you and your family a wonderful school year! Keep up the good work.

  3. Love it! Well thought out and these are great life lessons for students to learn.

  4. I am very impressed. You are going to be off to a great start with these expectations.

  5. WOW. I wish I had such an inspirational teacher when I was at school. I was going to make comments on a couple of the good points when I first started reading but as I got further into the article I realized that it was pointless to single out any in particular. The whole piece is so inspiring.
    I have read that the American education system is in tatters. If you are an example of the teachers over there then the students are in good hands. You obviously recognize that it isn’t just about letters, numbers and facts but also about becoming all that we are born to be. Since a student is in the presence of school teachers for so much of their lives, it makes sense to me that the teachers take on the role of inspiring, proselyting good morals and ethics and generally assisting them to be excellent people as well as graduated students.
    Good on you!

    • Thank you so much. The negative part of the American Education system is because we insist on educating all students. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but to compare us to a country that only educates the “smart” kids is not fair. We require kids to be in school until they are 18. (Not every one does this.) I have to admit, though, that it would be easier to teach kids who want to be in school, then trying to convince kids they should be there.)

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