A Difficult Subject

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.

 

On 12/3/06

Hey Katy,

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.

XXXX


 

Mrs. XXXXX:

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.

 

Katy 

 

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About takedeux

In one summer I had a baby who was hospitalized for five weeks, quit my job, and moved back to my hometown. This blog is about starting over.
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30 Responses to A Difficult Subject

  1. Leah says:

    RAWR go for it! I found your blog on the MSN Spaces homepage. I substitute teach which is toooootally not even remotely close to what you\’re doing, but I get so sick of people condescending to me because I looked younger than I am (in their minds, not to anyone who knows me…is it MY problem they imagine 26 to look worn out and ancient?) and because I don\’t have a credential. Whoever teaches for the money?? What money?? In my experience on the perimeter of the profession, it\’s more demanding than any other job I\’ve ever had SO take your patronizing tone and stuff it, naysayers!

  2. Nadine says:

     Oh Girlfriend!! You saw the CheetahGirls??!!! O! M! G!
     And what was that the other beotch said…..what ever!! She He or It can move on….. Let it Roll off like water on a ducks back!
     

  3. ncjenn2nd says:

    I don\’t blame you for feeling upset over that email.  Just remember that like you said, she does not know what your classroom behavior really is, as most anyone does not because we are not always there with you.  And thank you for saying something about how it is not our place to judge but God\’s and His only.  I get very frustrated with people who constantly judge – it\’s just not right! 
    I also do what I can to help newer teachers, and older ones too, we all need to talk to oneanother and share ideas and make each other better.  That is why teaching is full of many compassionate and loving people, although I have seen what you have, and it is sad when there are teachers who are unwilling to share or give help to others, especially those who are younger and need more help.

  4. g says:

    Good for you.  I am also an educator and the person who wrote that email to you was way out of line.  I\’m glad you you put that person in his/her place!

  5. Cheryl says:

    These people drive me crazy.  Blaming it on God.  God has a reason for my commenting.  Hiding behind God\’s skirts like that.  My daughter went through this when she started at the school she is at 3 years ago.  Thi is the first year (so far) that the older teachers did not criticize her.  Did not demean her or try to humilliate her.  I find schoool systems to be like big dysfunctional families.  Hanf in there and you handled it very well.

  6. Sheryl-Ann says:

    I have never heard of the Cheetah Girls………I guess I have no kids and I can\’t even tell you what channel Disney is on.  That must have been cool, though.
     
    Okay KM, you might kill me for this but I read the email the lady wrote a few times and in as much as some of the things she said came across as being wrong, I think she was genuinely trying to be helpful……..one teacher to another.  Truthfully, it did come across as being judgmental, but after reading it again and again, I think she really thought she was giving good advice, no malice intended.  I may be playing devil\’s advocate (as I am apt to do) and looking for the positive side of things. The good thing, however, is that you dealt with it head on and let her know how you felt about her email.  Have a good week at school!
     
     

  7. Hollie says:

    Too many of us tend to judge one another with only a snapshot of the reality and what a bad thing to do…
     
    Im glad you let her know what you thought at least, sometimes when I get judged I dont do that…I run and hide and judge myself.

  8. barnyardmama says:

    Sherry-
       I have no doubt that the women intended to be helpful.  I believe that she is a symptom of a very corrupt culture.  A culture where certain phrases and innuendos are deemed acceptable.  When someone asks you if you are there to help ALL the kids, it comes across as if someone had asked you after reading your thesis, "did you proofread this?"  Of course you freakin\’ proofread the thing–it\’s your thesis.  And in turn, of course I want to help ALL the kids–implying otherwise suggests that I\’m lazy or just in it for the paycheck.    Teaching is filled with this type of attitude and these types of questions, and the ones who pose them have no idea how hurtful they are.  Since posting this blog this afternoon, I have received several e-mails from other young teachers who have experienced the same thing.  I am here to shine the light on this type of behavior, and to let others know the harm it can do. 

  9. Mimi says:

    Interesting reading. I came back into teaching at age 50 after being in the business field for 25+ years. Did my MEd thesis on New Teacher Induction programs. I found that the teaching profession is one of the very few that is guilty of \’eating their young\’, i.e. making it so difficult for young/new teachers that at least 40% of them quit before 5 years are up. In business we mentor side by side with someone; in education it\’s \’throw them in a classroom and they\’ll sink or swim\’. How sad that veteran teachers are so demeaning. Teaching is the toughest job I\’ve ever had and shame on those who criticize and/or condemn the efforts of any classroom teacher!

  10. Dawn says:

    first let me say that my 7 year old daughter Addy would have flipped had she been with you…she thinks she is a cheetah girl.
     
    ok…as for the last entry, I have nothing wise, witty or enlightening to say.  Sometimes people come into our blogs and think by reading a few entries they know everything about us….not so….in our blogs we can make light of something that may have really upset us in our "REAL WRORLDS" or we can make a whole entry about something absolutely ridiculous (is your betty ready) a fun and interesting thing to read….this person came into you blog read a few of your entries and then assumed she had you pegged….you already know that, that is so far from the truth….I loved the way you handled it and I hope this doesn\’t cause you to censor any future entries you might decide to write.

  11. Christi says:

    It is always interesting to me how people feel they can make assumptions about a person by reading a few entries online!  I can understand how you would take offense to that letter and how you got the implications you did from what she said.  I admire you for your work ~ teachers are so valuable (not to mention so grossly underpaid for what they do, and their importance in this world).  Please don\’t let what a stranger says make you cry for an hour.  That is not fair.  Chin up, sister, you are doing great things!

  12. CJ says:

    Wow!  Everybody seems to be spouting off in the name of "God".  In fact, "From God\’s Lips" came and visited me personally.  What a shocker!  Jaysey has written alot about a lack of accountability….You have touched on the same issue.  Why don\’t these people speak FOR THEMSELVES rather than shirking accountability and claiming it was God\’s will?  I\’m obnoxious, but I don\’t claim to be that way because God directed me to.  No sirree…..I do that all on my own.  And now I need to get back to all the cheerleaders waiting for me.  Have a great day!

  13. Becca says:

    I really like your response. I think that people feel the need to give their 2 cents on everything in life, even if it isn\’t their business. Keep your chin up. I think that you are doing a great job!
     
    Becca

  14. Ami says:

    People like that are one of the major reasons I decided not to go in the Special Ed (or any other Ed for that matter) direction. What makes it worse, as you pointed out, is that she insists on throwing God into the mix, as if that makes her insulting assumptions more acceptable. I hope you posting this lets others know that they\’re not alone in your field. Maybe you should start a new teacher support group!

  15. Kathleen says:

    Well as you know I am in the second year of teaching.  The first year was HELL.  Three seasoned teachers made my life so miserable that I considered quitting.  If someone had written that e-mail to me during my first year I would have cried and not replied.  I hope that this year I would have responded the same way you did.  I KNOW that when you are in collaborative classroom you help ALL children, not just the ones with IEP\’s.   I cannot imagine that God told her to tell you to "make yourself useful."  God knows you, your heart, and your actions – she doesn\’t.  If she was a regular reader of your blog, she would have known that she has you pegged all wrong.  You are a teacher who CARES.
    Kathleen

  16. THOMAS says:

    I think your feelings about that e-mail are justified. The attitude comments and the way she dropped the "God-Card" would have rubbed me the wrong way.
     
    I\’m not that old, but I usually don\’t offer up opinions to younger associates (or anyone for that matter), unless they ask for it. I am also a Christian, and I never pull the "God-Card" at work.
     
    Tom

  17. Lizzie-Beth4Him says:

    KM,
     
    The CheetahGirls?  Thank you for catching me up with the current culture…lol.  =)   It grieves me that the letter caused you to cry, and likewise, that the woman didn\’t take time to read your other blogs, before coming to the wrong conclusions.   (We know what happens when people ASSUME things…think of that Odd Couple episode when Felix was in court…ok…you may not know about that.  It has something to do with if you think someone else is being a donkey\’s behind and then you find out that you are being the donkey\’s behind…when you Ass-U-Me.  If she had taken the time, she would have soon found out how much you truly care about not only the students, (yours and other teacher\’s students), but also about the other teachers.  It is because you DO CARE, that it troubled you about that teacher that had an attitude against you, to begin with, when you were trying to help her.  There are times people just have to figure things out for themselves and not expect you to have a personality change to suit their faulty opinions.  Anyway, I think the woman meant well, as there was some good advice in what she said.  I try to take the meat from criticisms and spit out the bones.  Unfortunately, you received a herring, that has so much bone, it looks like my kitties came and feasted on it!   I am going to pray for her…and also for you…knowing you will continue to be the great teacher that you already are, and because of this, eventually be that long time teacher, that doesn\’t act like she did.  Have a great week!

  18. Stacy says:

    It is not just in the teaching field.  Office\’s are great for eating their young also.  One job that I worked at I was a friend of the boss\’s family.  Some were none to happy about that as I was invading their turf.  They were all a very tight-knit group so the payroll dept leaked my salary out and it was more than some of the current employees which made it all the worse.  What they didn\’t know at the time was that I was brought in because the boss was about to clean house.  When I started he put me at the front desk as the receptionist, but I was really going into the acct dept and cleaning up the mess that this little group was making.  I didn\’t even know the initial plan.  So it made for a real uncomfortable situation for a while.
     
    -S.

  19. Tracy says:

    Wow, that email was uncalled for.  I think Mrs XXXX thinks way to highly of herself and just wanted to say how great she is.  very odd.  Your response was good!  I think you are awesome and deal with things great, we can\’t all go around worry about who we may make mad. 

  20. WINDOW LIVE says:

    I wouldn\’t sweat it.  That is just old people talk.  I have put my foot in my mouth many a day since I turned 40.  I myself am always handing out advice hoping some young woman will avoid my own mistakes.  My heart is in the right place.  Usually I explain hey, I am an old woman, ignore me.  Of course she could just be a self righteous A-hole too.  Never know!  Either way you should feel good.  I always say when people are talking about me there giving someone else a rest HA!

  21. K says:

    I guess what is sad is that before she even wrote the email, she didn\’t get to know you first and foremost – because if she had she would have seen just how you ARE doing all those things and then some.  Perhaps it was her choice of words or how she chose to impose on you … without considering just what her words could be implying… and somehow I doubt they were god given words.  Perhaps a bit more on the ego or coming from years of experience – instead of sitting back to see the big picture you live in.
     
    In one hand… I guess she meant to be helpful.  But in the end… it was condencending and unnecessary.  I think you made your point very clear and it was very apropos with who you are and what you do.
     
    It happens in every profession… just too bad this attitude is prevelent in an industry that really doesn\’t need it!  Its about the kids here… not about God and callings… its not about money and attitudes… its about the kids!!!
     
    Good for you Katie for standing up for yourself and your work.  Admirable…
    Ciao bella,
    KC

  22. Cheryl says:

    Hi Katy,
     
    Read your blog and even sent you an email, but don\’t know if it "survived" cause of probably a mountain of responses.  First of all, I would like to say that teachers displaced by Katrina were given a very raw deal by the school systems.  I taught in New Orleans for a number of years before going overseas to work, and I was so shocked when they did not even pay teachers even just for a few months, just swept them out like so much rubbish!  New Orleans is a tough place to work anyway, even with the best of times.  You have to be one tough cookie to survive! So I feel you must have the "goods" to stay.  Arkansas is and never will be as tough as New Orleans!!!!    Sometimes Veteran teachers are very hard on young teachers and it is hard to deal with coming into a new school with an established "culture".  What most people do not realize (except for us educators who work in it) Schools are a hotbed of criticism, backstabbing and intrigue.  NO JOKE!  Some teachers have so many problems that they cannot function as a normal person, or they are just naturally ornery, and mean!
     
    The situation does not get better when you work overseas in an international school.  Teachers discriminate on the basis of national origin, race, and gender too.  Some teachers act so superior and some are not even qualified to teach! (Those are the most difficult to deal with believe me!)  I was blasted when the US bombed Afghanstan, by a British teacher and an Australian.  Later, I took great satisfaction in pointing out to her that all aid dropped to the people said "gift of the American people"  but there were no parcels reading "gift of the Australian people"  LOL!!!!  She just slunk away, shamefaced!  When 911 happened, some even came to me and said that we "deserved" what we got.  I asked them if Parliment and Big Ben had been attacked would they have been as judgemental?  Of course when the Tube got it, They did not say a word, I could have said, oh, you deserved it too, but I try to be a bigger person!
     
    Just blow off the negative people you meet in your career, there will be many and concentrate on the kids.  I taught Special Ed in New Orleans and enjoyed my time, but felt locked in, once they put you in it is tough to get out, and I am certified in lots of areas.  Now I am teaching Art and loving every minute of it……  Keep learning and letting the kids teach you what they know.  It is more valuable than any course you can take!!!!  You are a Survivor!!!!!
     
    Cheryl

  23. Unknown says:

    Hi Katy,
     
    I came out looking for other teachers and wandered into your site.  I think I\’ll be wandering back again, if you don\’t mind.  I\’m bookmarking you so that when you aren\’t famous anymore, I\’ll still be able to find you!
     
    God bless!
     
    Grammy Cath

  24. Gina says:

    You really seem to know who you are, what you do, and I think its great that you can stand up for yourself. 

  25. Sandy says:

    Whew! Please remind me not to ever piss you off.  I would end up feeling an inch tall when you got done.  I respect the way you worded your reply. Well said! Saying,  "God never directs us to pass judgment on others." was perfect!  I will have to remember that the next time someone tryies to tell me the God directed them to… blah blah blah blah.  I really hate it when people try to use God as their cover for their own objectives.
     
    Raven

  26. Jaysey says:

    For college teachers, the sink or swim mentality is very prevalent.  They figure that if you\’re educated enough to teach college, you should just be able to do it–good luck!  But even we provide new teachers with a mentoring program to make the transition into the 2-year-college environment.  As for Ms. XXX, she can take her "friendly" advice and shove it.  First of all, as I was reading your intor,, I was assuming the e-mail would have been from someone at your school–you know, someone who knows you.  Second, I\’ve been reading back through your blog entries recently trying to figure out just where the hell she gets off saying some of this stuff.  For example, where did she ever get the idea, you\’re only out to help select kids?  I\’ve been reading here since you strated this blog (happy late blog-a-versary btw), and I have never gotten that impression…or any of the other impressions she seems to have conjured up out of nowhere.  I\’m convinced she doesn\’t know how to read and sinply wanted a place to rattle of her randomness.  So screw her!

  27. Aimee says:

    *~*WHOOT WHOOT*~* you go gril…feed it to her she deserves it….good for you…
    :o) smiles are contagious…pass one to people that you love and those you don\’t… :o)

  28. PAULETTE says:

    I retired from a career teacher/administrator five years ago, and I can honestly tell you I\’d rather have a good "new" teacher than 10 "old" ones.  It\’s been my experience that a new teacher comes in fired up to teach; they\’re excited; their skills are fresh and they can\’t wait to use them to make a difference in children\’s lives; and a new teacher has an open mind, and is much more likely to accept new ideas than an "old" teacher would be.  New teacher\’s don\’t as a rule think they know everything there is about teaching just because they\’ve been teaching for 35 years. 
     
    On the other hand, while there are many, many good seasoned teachers, there are too many who haven\’t had an original thought in thirty years, have gotten to the point where they don\’t even like children let alone enjoy them, teachers who have been teaching the same things to the same aged children, in the same classrooms and putting up the same "boards" and themes and lesson plans as they did in year one.
    A couple of times when I deemed it necessary to terminate a teacher and seriously suggested she find a new career: one which did not include caring for children, animals or plants!
     
    I had the hardest time getting well seasoned teachers to understand that as far as I was concerned, it was their job as teachers to find a way to reach and to teach each child.  
     
    Well, ciao for now!   
     
     
     
     

  29. Leontyne says:

    Amen… No one who is not in your class can judge what type of teacher you are!

  30. Leontyne says:

    Amen… No one who is not in your class can judge what type of teacher you are!

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