Living up to expectations is much less work but much more productive than living down to them. If you don’t subscribe to that premise, I suggest that you stay out of the classroom.

It works like this: I walk into a class and the classroom teacher introduces me. Most of the time, I smile and assure the teacher that everything will be great and that the students will be perfect. He or she issues final instructions and leaves the room.

From there, I walk around, say hi to individual students and find something positive to say. Great coloring sheet! I really like your jacket. Does your lunch box match your backpack?

Then we just get to know each other. Magically, when students have a slightly personal connection, they want to make you happy and proud. Very often, they ask me to have lunch with them, hug me in the hallways or tell me that they have missed me.

The alternative is to enter the class and announce that you are a substitute teacher who is always in charge of everything. There will be no talking, no raising hands and no trips to the bathroom until lunch. If this seems unlikely, you’re dead wrong.

Most classes that I visit liberally disclose information about Mr. or Ms. Grumpy Substitute who fits the description I’ve just delivered. If you believe that your class will be unruly, disrespectful and disruptive, you manage the class accordingly. My preference is to anticipate greatness – in academics, behavior and classroom interactions. It’s very rare that I experience anything less.

Yes, this is a model for life. A new job, a promising relationship, an exciting journey and life in general can all be spectacular. Expecting or predicting disasters will likely produce corresponding results. Live up, not down. Shalom.

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