This question was posed to me by a very smart girl in my biology class, who had missed a couple of classes and was nervous heading into a quiz. She was concerned that I would judge her if she performed poorly.
This, as a teacher, is a difficult question to answer. I think that internally, the answer is usually yes, but not in the exact way that the student meant it. We can usually figure out very early in the year what students are capable of doing. That impression is usually largely controlled by the student-how they present themselves in class-showing up on time, with work completed, paying attention, how organized they are, etc. There are of course, preconceived notions/stereotypes.
So…who cares? The question ties to a bigger issue with education-that students get caught at a certain level, and don’t break out of it, due to this impression that is given to teachers. That they will not be able to advance beyond a certain level. And for the students that are at a high level, the constant expectation and pressure that they perform highly. This idea can be expanded upon hugely-talking about issues with tracking students into lower level classes, issues with self identification for students-thinking that they can only perform at a certain level, access to classes, resources, etc.
Assuming that the judgment occurs, and there are some (potentially very large) consequences of the judging, what can be done about it? That is a heavier question. As a teacher, I need to make sure that I am pushing students regardless of their current ability-but I need to be mindful of their current ability so that they can succeed. While grading, it has to be blind/follow a rubric. For a student, he/she must push to show that he/she is capable of more than the expectation. One refrain that I repeat to my students is that no one should have higher expectations for yourself than you. Set the bar high and meet it.