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A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Sonia Manzano speak. You may know her as Maria from Sesame Street; she was on the show for more than 40 years. Ms. Manzano spoke about the importance of a strong early childhood education, sharing the inequities that persist today. She said of her childhood, “I was smart in the Bronx and stupid in Manhattan.”

She was speaking to Montessorians and spoke with her audience in mind. Ms. Manzano understands that children learn through play and that it takes experienced educators to guide them in their choices and explore mistakes with them along the way. As she warmed to her topic, I was profoundly moved by her statement that, “I was good in school because so little was expected of me.”

Expectations matter. It is one thing to guide children through a curriculum. It is another to learn what is needed for each child to stretch themselves, to learn all that is possible at a given moment and to communicate that we know they can reach their goals, offering support as needed. Educators must know their students. They must offer opportunities to learn and expect the best from them. Communicating expectations for success allows children to rise to those expectations and beyond. When educators set goals that require children to stretch and yearn for more, they are proud of their accomplishments. Children count on us to share the world with them and to stand firmly beside them while they explore, question and learn to expect the best of themselves and their educational experiences.