Q: What did I encounter in my teaching career that I did not expect?
A: I was the most surprised during my first year of teaching and what still occasionally surprises me is how strongly two people can disagree about what is best in a child's learning. This aspect of my career probably had to do with my background and personality. I grew up in a family that for the most part didn't have huge, loud disagreements. We were by no means perfect, but strong, passionate arguments just weren't in my experience. As a child and young adult, I also hated conflict and would avoid it as much as possible.
When I entered my first year of teaching, I encountered some of the strongest and most frequent criticism of my entire 12 years of teaching. My lack of comfort with conflict as well as communication mistakes contributed to this situation. I would still attribute most of my serious conflicts with students or parents with a lack of communication. When I didn't consider and communicate all aspects of a situation or I didn't ask for frequent feedback, these small problems or annoyances gradually grew into large, sometimes irreparable, conflicts within my relationship with a parent or student.
Thankfully, I have learned the lesson, a few times the hard way, that dealing with a problem immediately often helps a relationship grow stronger not weaker. While not all conflicts have a positive resolution, my experience shows that the majority of conflicts are resolved with helpful results when I clearly explain the situation to the involved parties and collaborate on a solution. This plan is by no means the fastest or seemingly "easiest", but often produces the greatest long-term gains in the relationship.