Listing for Fun (+ a few Notes-to-Self)

by tjbeitelman

I spent most of the day making a syllabus for one of my classes this semester.

(I teach writing at a specialty high school. But I’ve talked about that before.)

I devoted a lot of the day to making a simple, bulleted list of expectations.

As a teacher, I know it’s really important for me to articulate what I expect from my students, and I spent some time doing that.

But a really smart man once told me that you can make an even bigger impression by articulating what people can expect from you.

I spent most of my time today doing that. Honestly, I’d never done it before. Not in this context, maybe not ever. Certainly not in such simple, direct terms. Not in writing.

One cool thing was that, after listing what these people can expect from me, it was way, way easier for me to identify my expectations of them. That second list just sort of wrote itself.

And, in the process, it was easier to see where and why the two lists of expectations should mirror each other. (“If I expect this from them, they have a right to expect the  very same thing from me.”)

It was also easier to see how the lists should complement each other. (“If I promise them X, then they should feel free/encouraged/safe/obliged to do Z.”)

Maybe most important, it was easy to see the boundaries. How, because I am who I am and they are who they are, completely different expectations and responsibilities apply. How and why those fault lines are necessary. How most good relationships — of any kind — can’t exist without them.

So. Yeah. Things just got, I don’t know, a little clearer for me.

I know a little bit more about why I do what I do. And how to do it well.

Which is huge.

And it all started with me staking a claim to a list of promises to these people I care about: This is who I am, this is what I will do, and you can hold me to it.

(So. What can people hold you to? I don’t expect [!] you to put it in the comments section here [though you can if you want to, of course]. I do encourage you to make the list though.)