The valuable lesson learned from having wrong expectations

January 25, 2021


Last week I was surprised by a group of teachers I coach: instead of thinking of excuses or blaming others they were really critical of their own work and made me realize an important lesson I had forgotten myself.

Estimated time to read this article: 4 minutes


The nightmare of students and many teachers alike.

Don’t worry, this is not going to be a rant against using homework in your lessons.

But I do want to share my experiences concerning this, sometimes challenging and often frustrating, part of education.

And share an important lesson I learned along the way on having wrong expectations altogether.. 😊

Not a teacher, but still giving homework

As you are probably aware, I am no longer a teacher.

Or, to phrase that more correctly: I no longer teacher teenagers.

As a teacher trainer, I still experience what it is like to ‘teach’ something to a group (although it is now called ‘training’ for some reason).

Strangely I still often have a feeling of déjà-vu during these workshops or training sessions.

For example last week:

A group of teachers I coach had had almost one and a halve month of time to complete a task.

I had reminded them twice about this

The day before the deadline I had received nothing yet.

I sent an email to their superior, updating her of the current status of the homework.

She pro-actively sent out an email to everyone, stating she expected people to do their work (although it was phrased slightly kinder than that)

I promptly received homework on the day itself from some participants still.

My wrong expectations for the actual session..

You can imagine I was a little wary starting this coaching session. I was not sure what to expect.

  • Were the teachers going to complain they did not have enough time to do it?
  • Maybe the argument was going to be the lockdown (which I have to say would make sense in a way!)
  • Could the maybe have started questioning the reason they were doing this course?

I had actually gone over this discussion a couple of times in my head already.

Thinking about all of the arguments the teachers might use to explain why they had not done their work.

Basically: the usual excuses I might have heard when I was still teaching teenagers.

Maybe apart from: “the dog ate it”.

I could not have been more wrong.

..what actually happened

Not only did the teachers immediately mention they had made a mistake in the planning and were quite sorry (not blaming me or the course in any way)..

..fellow teachers actually remarked the coaching sessions really were a lot more useful when the homework was actually handed in in time.

In the end, every single teacher said they appreciated my helping them and those who had not done their homework said they were going to catch up soon.

No one even wanted to use the option I proposed for more time for the next task!

My lesson:

do not overthink things that might possibly go wrong, but only start thinking about challenges when they actually happen.

I once read a quote:

“Worrying is fantasizing the wrong way around”

This certainly applied to this situation.

Worrying about my wrong expectations of the session cost me a lot of energy I could have spent on more positive things.

I know I have learned my lesson: I will not underestimate my colleagues anymore from this time on!

Has this ever happened to you?

Expecting students to not have done something, only for them to surprise you and having done a great job?

Or maybe not expecting anything at all, and students showing off their skills and knowledge in an unexpected way?

Share below or in the CLIL Community!

In times like these, little optimistic and positive stories like this can really make a difference in my opinion!

Key Take Away

Thinking about things that might go wrong costs a lot of energy.
Energy that is better used to solve actual challenges.

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