Learning to Expect the Unexpected as a New Teacher

No one said that teaching was going to be easy. Every day brings new challenges. A lot will not go to plan. These words were easy for me to write, but for new teachers like you, they can be awfully frustrating to experience EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. These constant surprises can grind down a new teacher’s morale, leading to a quick burn out.

In this article we’ll explore some tools new teachers can use to expect the unexpected. With an improved mindset, you can take the ‘un’ out of unexpected, and take a proactive view of every challenge that comes your way.

Classify the Unexpected

In your first few months of teaching, pay close attention to the things that throw you for a loop. Make a list or journal. You’ll very likely discover some patterns. Perhaps classroom management is causing you trouble. Maybe you’re having friction with coworkers or your principal.

After a month or two on the job, you should have a comprehensive list of your problem areas. At this point, choose the problem area that is causing you the most trouble. Reflect on why this area is giving you difficulty. Below are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is it the problem what happens at work or the way you react to it?
  • How might this problem occur in the future?
  • Is there a way you can address this problem by yourself? With the help of others?    

Once you’ve answered these questions (and a few others you may have thought up on your own), it’s time to move on to the next step.

Accepting the Unexpected

New teachers can learn some useful wisdom from the serenity prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

As a new teacher, there will be annoying things, frustrating things, and maddening things that you will be able to do nothing about. You can set a good example and enforce discipline, but you should come to peace with some facts of life prevalent in the teaching world. You (probably) can’t fix your students’ underlying problems, especially if those problems stem from their lives outside of school. This applies to your co-workers, as well. You can only work on yourself.

Working on yourself, specifically how you react to the unexpected at your school, will help you become a more effective teacher and better coworker.

Next Steps

The realizations described in the previous section will not solve all your problems overnight. Experience is the toolbox teachers need to face their ever-evolving work environment. Until you gain enough experience, focus on improving one key skill: flexibility.

With this new mindset, facing the unexpected should become a manageable part of your daily routine. And since all teachers have been where you are now, it never hurts to ask for advice from a more experienced teacher at your school. Some of them will be great resources.

 As a high school English and social studies teacher, Thomas Broderick developed a test prep course that helped his students earn over $500,000 in college scholarships. Now a freelance writer and consultant in the education field, he is happy to share his wisdom with students and teachers. You can contact Thomas through his website.