Confession #49: We Expect A lot

Level System GradingIt’s Saturday morning and I roll into Emmaus House. It’s time to grade the Level System. The Emmaus Youth anxiously gather around me as I sit down with Jonathan’s notebook, a pen, and a calculator to tally up the scores.

What level am I on?  They all start asking.

They watch as I take the average of their daily scores for the week in areas of character development, relationship with authority, relationship with peers in the house, school, and work responsibilities.

Did I score better than last week? Did I score better than my friend? Did I at least not score a level 2? They rarely stop talking long enough for me to concentrate. They all want to know their scores for the week.

Level 4 means they get a weekly allowance of $5 and get special privileges of a later bedtime and various other things. They all strive for level 4 although only a few have achieved the goal. (Jonathan is a tough grader.) Level 4 means they were wonderful throughout the week- always helpful, always respectful, always trying their best. Level 4 means they went above and beyond average. Level 4 is what we expect all of our youth to attain, although we realize that it will take and practice.

Level 3 means that they will get a weekly allowance of $4. Level 3 is where most of our youth settle. It means that they are doing really well in the house, but still not the best. They are working hard- being respectful, and doing what they are told, but they are not going above the norm like the Level 4s. They are not going the second mile to do their best. Like I said, most of our youth settle at this level. Although they aren’t in trouble at this level, we want to see them doing better. We want to see them strive for Level 4.

Level 2 means they do not get a weekly allowance and they lose a majority of their privileges such as their phone and their ability to leave the house. Our youth HATE being on Level 2. To end up here means you have been pretty disrespectful, have not followed the house rules, have not been helpful, and have not been nice to your peers. Many of our youth have mistakenly ended up here. Typically after being here once, they learned their lesson and never returned. Level 2 is no fun.

Level 1, well, I don’t really know what happens at Level 1. Nobody has ended up there before…

We have had many people tell us that we expect too much from our Emmaus Youth with this Level System. Haitians, mainly, have told us that this system is to harsh on our kids, that we are crazy for thinking that they can abide by our rules, and that our youth will never be able to meet our standards. We have taken their criticisms into consideration, but with confidence in our youth, have still pressed forward with our system.

And you know what? Our Emmaus Youth have become better young adults because of it. Turns out, when you expect more from young people, they can become actually become better people. And that is what is happening at Emmaus House. That is what is happening with the Level System.

We are expecting great things with our youth.

We are expecting them to grow up.

We are expecting them to be helpful around the house.

We are expecting them to be mature young adults.

We are expecting them to be useful citizens of Haiti.

We are expecting them to be the best students they can be.

We are expecting them to be disciplined in the Word.

We are expecting them to be the best of the best.

Despite their sad stories, despite their backgrounds, despite their circumstances, we are expecting our Emmaus Youth to be the future generation of Haiti. And we expect GREATNESS from them.

So we are starting with the Level System. Small it may be. But it is working…

~ Jillian

3 Comments on “Confession #49: We Expect A lot

  1. Good for you! We often get from others exactly what we expect, so why settle for so-so when you can get amazing?!

    I used to teach the following poem to teens in my Literature classes, and I think the first stanza especially applies to your Level System:

    (By Emily Dickinson)

    We never know how high we are
    Till we are asked to rise
    And then if we are true to plan
    Our statures touch the skies —

    The Heroism we recite
    Would be a normal thing
    Did not ourselves the Cubits warp
    For fear to be a King —


  2. I absolutely love this! I would love to talk with you about the details of this some time. Wouldn’t work for us now, but down the road I’d love to do something similar with our oldest kids.


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