Educator changes classroom culture, introduces others to the power of Great Expectations

Seeing the Need
As a high school teacher in the Sapulpa School District located near Tulsa, Oklahoma, Molly Bruzewski found herself addressing the same struggles with the same students on a daily basis. Despite efforts to correct the behavior, Bruzewski did not see the results she wanted. So she took the recommendation from her principal to attend an educator training session from Great Expectations.

Making Changes
Bruzewski attended her first Great Expectations session in the summer of 1997. There, she learned a deeper appreciation for teaching mutual respect and maintaining classroom procedures. Upon returning to school that fall, Bruzewski developed procedures for everything from how to start class each day, to handing out papers. She worked with her students to develop a class creed, which they recited together at the beginning of every class period. Bruzewski emphasized respect and doing right by others. The seemingly small tweaks and a shift in mindset led to big changes. 

Experiencing Improvement
“The adjustments totally changed the culture and climate in my classroom,” says Bruzewski. “The message for my students was: ‘This isn’t my classroom; it’s your classroom, and you have the power to make it great.’”

The new sense of ownership among Bruzewski’s students translated to reduced behavior problems, increased respect for one another, and a proud teacher.

The tips and techniques gleaned from the original session stuck with Bruzewski for the following eight years as an educator, which included a move to Michigan where she implemented the skills at a completely new school district, Bay-Arenac.

Bringing Great Expectations to Michigan
After many years in the classroom, Bruzewski took a new position as a curriculum coordinator at an education service center that focuses on professional development for educators in the Great Lakes Bay area of Michigan. She crafted and administered a survey to determine what teachers wanted and needed from their district in terms of classroom support and professional development. When categorizing the responses, 92 percent of the requests could be addressed by Great Expectations training.

From those responses, Bruzewski contacted Great Expectations to facilitate a summer training session that addressed the primary concerns expressed from the survey. Summer 2009 marked the inaugural event for the Michigan educators, with 32 participating. From 2009 to 2012, 862 educators from 26 Great Lakes Bay area school districts have attended training sessions, making Great Expectations a professional development staple.

Seeing the Impact
In one of Bruzewski’s favorite anecdotes demonstrating the effect of Great Expectations, an elementary school student donated his birthday money to the Giving Tree at his school. The boy, while not from an affluent background himself, told his teacher: “I have lots of things. If there’s someone who needs this more than me, they should have it.”  It’s this type of generosity and thoughtfulness that Great Expectations instills in educators and their students.

“The change I see in educators after attending a session from Great Expectations is remarkable—their love of teaching is reignited,” says Bruzewski. “The training teaches a process that can work with any student, in any school. The tenants of Great Expectations transcend the classroom—they’re fundamental truths about how people should treat each other.”

 About Great Expectations
Great Expectations is a school transformation model that emphasizes a climate of mutual respect and academic excellence. Founded in 1991, the non-profit foundation provides intensive professional training to teachers and administrators that promotes improved student self-esteem, attendance, discipline and parent participation – all of which result in improved student achievement. Great Expectations has a presence throughout Oklahoma and seven other states.