Managing expectations is key to completing any endeavor. CEOs understand the strengths of their team when delegating responsibilities. Parents try to be realistic when raising children. And, as per best practices, educators try to meet students where they are. Managing our own teacher expectations can be difficult, though, because we work with an unpredictable bunch: kids.
Further Reading: 5 Tricks to Save a Derailed Lesson Plan
Working in education means the landscape changes regularly—and not always for the better. Here are a few things new teachers expect when the school year comes around—and the realities that hit them smack in the face.
Students Will Always Behave
That classroom management course that every education major takes overstuffs us with hubris. When we first hit the classroom as new teachers, we just assume that proximity interference will solve all behavioral issues completely and quickly.
But our professors left out one minor detail: students don't always respond to us the way we think they will. In fact, some of them actually completely ignore us. Some will roll their eyes, and some will hurl curses at us. Some sleep or text through the lesson, or daydream during class. Some just flat out refuse to do the work. We didn't learn about these lovely students in college, did we?
There Will Be Ample Instructional Time
When I started teaching, my classes were 42 minutes long. I planned lessons that were right around 35 minutes long; that left plenty of time for questions, clarification, and comprehension checks, I thought.
Oh, how wrong I was.
You see, kids sometimes don't listen, so you end up repeating yourself until the class is over. I also didn't factor in the interruptions—so many interruptions!—that can throw an instructional period wildly off course.
Nothing Will Interrupt Our Instruction
We presume that our lessons deserve the undivided attention of and steadfast concentration from our students. But that's just not how things work. Testing, clubs, sports, field trips, assemblies—these things are year-round distractions. The entire month of May is of constant chaos.
On the bright side, some things are planned in advance, meaning we can prepare for them. But excessive student absences, weather-related delays and closings, fire drills, and those never-ending school-wide announcements interfere so much with our schedules that it feels as though we lose one day out of every five.
Everyone Will Love Our Lessons
Teachers can be naive enough to earnestly believe that students will appreciate the effort we pour into our lesson planning. We ache over the perfect icebreaker or bell-ringer and bend over backward to find the best closing activity. We go to the ends of the earth to create interactive guided practice opportunities, and we take painstaking care to keep our lessons grounded in real-world experiences. We follow the seven steps of effective lesson planning that Institute for Teaching Associate Dean Peps Mccrea outlined on Medium—we build our lessons with the end result in mind and collaborate with fellow teachers. We practice and time the lesson over and over and over, until it's perfect.
Then we unveil it to our students—and watch their eyes glaze over. Code red. Back to the drawing board.
Everything Will Work Like It's Supposed To
In a perfect school setting, the coffee always percolates, the copy machine collates and staples, and there are enough desks and materials for every student. In reality, the coffee machine breaks all the time, the copy machine is constantly jammed, and we run out of materials before winter break. Veteran teachers have come to accept this as the nature of the beast—but when the new school year rolls around, we can't help but have a little hope.
Further Reading: The 5 Best Teaching Methods I Used This Year
The silver lining in these teacher expectations gone awry is that the good still far outweighs the bad. Students and parents are largely behaved and helpful, and as teachers earn their sea legs, we become more confident in dealing with things when they don't go as planned.
Except for the copy machines. Those things just break on the regular.