Teaching is a profession you can study and plan for, but is something you can’t fully prepare for except by just diving right in. An anonymous teacher gave us these insightful reflections on what surprised them and what they found to be unexpected in their classroom:

  1. “In the first few years I couldn’t envision it ever being easier. I was surprised when I really hit my stride around year four how I could just whip ideas out of nowhere.”
  2. “How much I would have to deal with student mental health issues/crises. I’m at a high-pressure school and it’s exceedingly common. There was little to no prep for it in college, and it’s one of the most challenging and heartbreaking things I see. So many amazing kids struggling with mental illness, seeing these kids wandering into my room as shells from what I first knew them as honestly keeps me up at night.”
  3. “Students surprise you, in good and bad ways sometimes. I knew in theory to not judge a book by its cover, but it’s different in practice. That kid who I was sure thought my class was lame? He’s gone on to the advanced class and is working harder than ever. That kid who I thought hated me? She wrote the nicest note at the end of the year. On the flip side, I’ve got kids that got caught with drugs on school property that I NEVER would’ve imagined would. I know neither side should surprise me because people are complicated beings, but still I get blindsided sometimes when I think I know a kid and find out I couldn’t be more wrong.”
  4. “How much work planning is. Even with experience, I still spend longer planning than grading.”
  5. “How difficult grading can be. Time-consuming obviously. But it’s really tricky when kids are throwing answers you didn’t prepare for and aren’t sure how to grade. When you see a pattern of every kid misunderstanding a question except a few and have to decide just how many is enough to give back the point. When the work is so bad you are struggling to find a kid pity points. It’s a lot of seemingly small decisions that can set big precedents.”
  6. “Grading is also weird because I give assignments, grade them, slap them online, it plops a number out for me and then a letter goes on a transcript. It’s a weird amount of power to have.”
  7. “How proud I would be of stupid things, like a nicely organized assignment plan. Or a filing system. Or a sweet rubric. I sent a grammar sheet I made to my fiancé once just to brag about the diagrams I made.”
  8. “Overall the surprises are what keep me in teaching so far. It’s never boring, there’s always a new challenge waiting.”

We thank you for sharing your insights with us, and to our readers!