Positive Expectations: The Key To Teacher Success

Positive Expectations: The Key to Teacher Success


Once where a prophet in the palm shade basked,
A traveler chanced at noon to rest his mules.
“What sort of people may they be,” he asked,
“In this proud city on the plains o’erspread?”
“Well, friend, what sort of people whence you came?”
“What sort?” the packman scowled; “why, knaves and fools!”
“You’ll find the people here the same,” the wise man said.
            Another stranger in the dusk drew near,
And pausing, cried, “What sort of people here
In your bright city where yon towers arise?”
“Well, friend, what sort of people whence you came?”
“What sort?” the pilgrim smiled, “Good, true, and wise.”
“You’ll find the people here the same,” the wise man said.
            –Edwin Markham

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right!”
            –Henry Ford

Whether you expect the best or the worst, you’ll rarely be disappointed. Unless you want to make mediocrity and unhappiness your career goals, you’re well advised to practice looking for the positive and to associate with others who think the same way.


One word of warning: “positive expectations” does not mean assuming all problems will disappear quickly if you apply a little love. Hard work and periodic disappointment come with the territory, and being unprepared for that part will only cause your great dreams to flip-flop into chronic negative expectations.

Here’s what positive expectations really mean:

Expecting the Best from Your Kids

It happens to most new teachers: early on, someone will whisper in your ear, “You’ve got that kid in your class? Better put on your combat boots.” Or, “Don’t expect anyone to learn much in that group.”

That’s when you have a decision: do you accept warnings at face value, go in expecting the worst—and help to bring the worst about? Or do you refuse to listen to gossip, and determine to picture every student as having good intentions and great potential—and to bring out the best in them by treating them as such?

Expecting the Best from Yourself

Of course, you won’t become 100 percent immune to negative thinking or other regrettable actions. When you catch yourself in a slip, do you believe in yourself enough to pick yourself up and return the next day in confidence of handling things better?

Also, are you willing to make any apologies owed—with dignity and without groveling? People who do this actually have better expectations of themselves, because they know they’re imperfect and it’s not an inexcusable fault.

Expecting the Best from Your Colleagues

They’re also part of your professional life: how are your attitudes toward administrators and fellow teachers? Think at least ten times before deciding anyone is out to get you (even if they are, often you can leave it as their problem), and stay friendly and respectful toward everyone. Most people will respond positively if you treat them positively.

That’s a principle worth applying to the world in general. Smile at the universe and trust it will smile back on you!