As I have stated in the past, one of my goals as a teacher is to help other teachers as they make the transition into the profession. I have found, in my experience, that many veteran teachers are not comfortable with new teachers. I don’t ever want that to happen to me. I don’t like to focus on the negative aspects of teaching, but sometimes these things happen. Veteran teachers will questions where you came from, accuse you of being “in it for the money,” of being lazy, or of “not caring about the kids.” It’s a sad truth, and I’ve seen it in many different places in my career and in other teacher’s careers. Today, I received an e-mail that I feel illustrates this point perfectly, and I want to share it—not because I want to call this woman out, but because I believe that anyone who’s interested in teaching should know that these people are out there. They will make you question yourself and your abilities, and will make you consider quitting, and going to get a job at the mall. This particular e-mail made me cry for about an hour. I’ve included it, and my response.
Just a couple of thoughts on your week’s blog.
I’ve got 19 years in Special Education, some as a pull out teacher, some as an inclusion teacher, and now I’m a Special Services Director. 🙂 We make progress! LOL
Seriously though….your job is totally what you put in it and what you get out of it. Who are you truly there to help? Just Special Ed kids? Or has God given you a passion to help kids in general? When I walk in a classroom (and I’m in them daily, no sitting behind a desk all day for me!) I don’t help just the identified kids. I help whomever has a hand up. They all have questions, they all have needs. Make yourself useful. I know that sounds trite, but it works.
Here’s the second thought….beware of your attitude about whom you make mad. Yes, you are going to make people mad sometimes. Resolve it as quickly as possible. The people that stay mad at you could be the people who supervise you at another school, and that can make your life a miserable wreck. I’ve seen it chase people out of education. Don’t talk behind others’ backs or create gossip. Confront things head on, deal with it and move to the next issue. I’ve worked in buildings where I was the outsider, not part of the clique. Not a nice thing. At the same time, you don’t need to compromise your beliefs. But you came across in your entry as "oh well, I made her mad, I’m not changing, she’ll get over it." Pretty callous. She’s new, and probably a little scared. Compassion goes a long way.
You can take this all for what it’s worth….or you can pitch it in the trash. God doesn’t usually tell me to do something without a reason…so I’m assuming there was a reason for me reading your blog. It’s the first one I’ve read on here in a year.
I hope the rest of the year is successful for you, and that God shows you where your purpose is. He’s opened up new doors for me this year that included a move 230 miles away from what was my home, a 4 month separation from my husband who was already enrolled in college, and lots of challenges. I bless Him every day. I LOVE my work.
May God Bless you and yours.
Since you mentioned approaching things head-on, I will let you know that I found your e-mail condescending. I find your attitude all-too-common in the profession, and it scares me that you feel comfortable dashing off an e-mail to a complete stranger that is filled with trite (your word) advice and presumption.
You tell me that my job is “totally what you put into it.” The implication is that I am not putting forth my best effort. You assume you know what is going on in my classroom without the benefit of ever being there. You imply that I am somehow not doing enough.
You ask me who I am there to help–just special education kids or all kids? Once again, the implication is clear: you feel that I am not available to all children. That somehow, I walk into the classroom and ignore the needs of some because they don’t come with a specific label. Nothing could be further from the truth, but once again, you wrote based on assumption–not fact. I would like to add that your comment that you don’t sit behind a desk all day sounds like the day-to-day one-upmanship often seen in our profession: praising yourself while questioning the motives and actions of others.
You tell me to make myself useful. This is the kind of advice that sounds good on the surface, but is meaningless. If I were a new teacher, I wouldn’t know what that meant. Do you have any specific examples? Any precise ways that I could "make myself useful?" I complete the basics of my job such as modifying and instructing, and also help my core teachers with grading and lesson planning, take minutes at team meetings, hold tutorial sessions during my planning period, help a new teacher on my team when she’s overwhelmed or confused, substitute teach when the school doesn’t have enough subs (not a great thing, but a hazard of the job), teach regular lessons designed to meet diverse learning needs, teach a reading basics class in my school’s afternoon program, and tutor a local high school student in Geometry. I feel pretty "useful."
You tell me to beware about who I make mad. I have no doubt that I will make people mad in my profession–you yourself acknowledge this. You tell me that I need to resolve it as quickly as possible. I think I did just that. I think that a good special ed teacher will inevitably make people mad: my supervisor jokes that I’ll question you on everything. You described my reaction as callous. You tell me to show a little compassion–I would ask you to do the same. You insisted on e-mailing a complete stranger, and not only insulted them, but also questioned their dedication to the profession. I think it’s a shame that not only did you feel this was acceptable, but also claimed that God directed you to do so. God never directs us to pass judgment on others. That’s his job–not yours.
I will finish by saying that there are educators who push newcomers out of the profession on a regular basis. I have met many of them in the course of my work, and in all honesty, have never seen any good come from their thoughts or actions. All they seek to prove is that they are better at the job than others–too bad they won’t live forever, and someone will eventually have to take their place. You come off as one of these people in your e-mail.
Questioning the motives of a young person, their dedication, and their ability seems, unfortunately, to be par for the course in teaching. I would challenge you (we all need challenges) to approach those new to the profession with a different attitude: accept them, help them find their place, and encourage, not condemn, them. That entry caused many other educators to reach out to me and share job options, and ideas for self-improvement. Helpful advice as I strive to be the person God wants me to be.
May you think before you speak, evaluate your words carefully for superficial judgments, and get to know the young teachers in your building: you can either save this profession or stamp it out with your pride and condescension. And like you said to me. . .take this advice or pitch it.