the weight of expectations

Expectations affect every aspect of our lives. There are plenty of quotes floating around the internet about lowering expectations and ones life becomes easier.

I’m not quite sure how to respond to those quotes floating in the ether. My gut response is to say that it’s a foolish perspective. No one gets very far if they expect little of themselves or others.

I’ve spent quite a while wondering about expectations recently. What good are they? Perhaps more importantly, how do our expectations affect our feelings and responses to ourselves and others in life.

Recently I adopted a dog. He’s a smart loving animal that learns quickly. I have read up on the latest dog training techniques. I have had a dog training friend of mine give me some tips. I have greatly enjoyed bonding with the young pup and teaching him. However, recently I became frustrated. That frustration in turn caused more problems with his behaviour and made me ever more annoyed.The pup was not performing as well as I had seen him do in weeks previous. I hadn’t changed anything I have been doing. So what gives?

I did change though. My voice tone, body language and patience all changed. It took some time for me to realise that my expectations for progress and behaviour did not correspond with realistic expectations for training.

This struck me quite profoundly. It, as many things do upon reflection, seems so simple. Why did I not properly align my expectations to what is possible for him to achieve rather than what I wanted? I didn’t properly understand him or his needs. I didn’t have a schedule of demands matched to a realistic training schedule. Since this light bulb has gone off in my head I have been more relaxed, forgiving, and calm throughout training. In turn he has been more responsive to training and for longer periods of time.

i find myself most frustrated in the classroom when students don’t perform (to my expectations). “I don’t demand much, why aren’t they improving (as I expected)? I never asked myself the end to that question.

I learned a lot following an intensive summer camp with highly dedicated students . Not specifically about that group of students, but more generally about Korean students and the roadblocks they hit in their learning. Perhaps most importantly, I have a much better idea of what their honest expectations are.

If we expect nothing we are likely to get little in return. If we expect too much, we are quite likely to get as much as if we expected nothing. Properly aligned expectations save a lot of stress. More importantly they help us better teach our students, and in turn, they will learn more and be happier whilst doing it.


4 thoughts on “the weight of expectations

  1. The question still remains. How to find that nice middle road between not enough and too much? isn’t the “How to Allign our expectations?” the question that needs answering?

    • Hello! and thank you for your comment.

      You are certainly correct that the question of how to align our expectations still needs answering.

      In this post I was not quite arguing for a certain method to do so, but more for the need to acknowledge the role expectations play in the way we react to the events of life. I would argue that there is not a single method or answer that can satisfactorily fit in any and all circumstances. No one size fits all solution if you will. I believe each person must take each day and event as they come and reflect on how their expectations affect themselves.

      Thanks again for the comment and carrying on the discussion!

      • But as a teacher, don’t you have an obligation to “get the best” out of a student? What I do for myself is not the question. In a classroom, we do need a framework, some kind of reference, standard if you like, to be able to show students that they can and should do better.
        In South Korea, this has been done into such an extreme that the standard has turned every student into an insecure mess. How to both satisfy the obligation of the teacher and the demands of the parents.
        Your attitude would be perceived as unprofessional.

      • I am afraid you have misunderstood the intent and meaning of this post. I am talking about everyone, as humans first, and teachers second, and how reflecting on how our expectations affect our responses to outside stimuli is beneficial. In doing so, we can better control our responses to such stimuli, a great advantage when teaching in a language classroom.

        There is no one answer for people, in or out of the classroom. Each person and situation presents a new and unique challenge that requires a reappraisal of our expectations.

        I run a monthly reflective practice meeting for the teachers of my university department. Far from being considered unprofessional, these meeting lead to great discoveries and are highly motivational to all involved. It’s always important to take a step back and reflect on ourselves and our actions. In this post I only meant to highlight the need to do so whilst considering our expectations in life.



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