Sometimes we get stuck working with people that we just can’t stand professionally. I have been teaching for about five or six years now – and that’s not counting all the volunteer teaching work I did when I was in school. This is just the teaching work where I have been on payroll.
Last year, we got a student teacher. Let’s call her Kay. She is Japanese, young, and very naive. She thinks that all problems can be solved by talking to the kids in a sugar-sweet voice and hugging them repeatedly. She thinks everything works the way that the textbooks say they do; no exceptions.
Like I said: naive.
The other day, I was at the entrance welcoming kids to school just like any other school day. I have one child that has been absent during the whole pandemic and he just started coming back to school last week. He has trouble saying bye to mom and dad in the mornings and clings to them, crying. He is scared of his new environment but this is normal. He is only four years old, after all. It’s a new classroom, new classmates, new teachers, and an entirely new floor of the building. He has been home with his parents since April and it’s almost June now. Of course he is nervous.
Well, one morning after we peeled this kid off of his dad, his dad told Kay (in Japanese) “He is still scared of coming back so please look out for him.”
Well, this is how Kay understood it: The little boy is terrified of me, his teacher. I am scary and threatening and she needs to protect him from me.
(I’m not exaggerating. She told me these exact words later.)
Anyway, Monday morning, the little boy and his father come in and he is crying and clinging to her like normal. This is his third day back at school. I go to talk to him and his father and I work together to pry him off and sit him down. As his dad walks away, you can tell he is worried about his son. Also normal.
Kay runs up and basically pushed between the little boy and me, ‘comforting’ him and telling me to basically go away because she has the situation handled. She then proceeded to whisper things like, “I know, I know. She’s scary. It’s okay, though. I’m here!”
She is a free teacher and he is my student. I was very annoyed.
Another teacher actually told her “Stop bothering them – it’s not your business.” She ignored him.
All the other teachers looked between us with a look of, “Did she seriously just do that?”
I shared the same look with a leader and she kind of nodded in a way of telling me that we would deal with it later. It isn’t professional to deal with such matters in front of so many people – especially parents.
Kay avoided me all day. She literally ran away whenever I came close. I talked to the leader and explained why Kay should not have done that – it’s the beginning of the year still, in a sense. A lot of these kids haven’t even been here for an accumulative week. Morning time is precious one-on-one time to build a bond of trust. The leader went on to talk to her for me, then came back to me and told me about how Kay had spent 20 minute listing her ‘concerns’ of the way I handle my classroom.
She said that I threaten the kids repeatedly for simple things like forgetting to push in their chair. I don’t threaten my kids! I’m not an evil person! The closest I’ve ever gotten to ‘threatening’ them is something along the lines of, “If you want to play, you can go out in the hall. It’s okay. The rest of us will stay here and study.” Or “If you can’t participate, you can sit by your locker.” Even then it isn’t a threat. My way of even punishing the kids right now is that I put their name on a little white board I have that we call the “No Hugs List”. And even then it just means that they won’t get a hug that day.
(Please note: if they prove themselves good before our Goodbye Time, I do take their names off the No Hugs List.)
She listed a ton of untrue things, going on to say that she hears the other Japanese teachers talking about how bad of a teacher I am. If that were true, though, then why would they request to have new English teachers train in my class? Anyway, you can tell I am peeved.
I went to search for her, then. If someone has an issue with me, we need to talk about it and fix it or at least find a middle ground of “If you don’t like me then just stay away from me; don’t trash talk me behind my back.” I was not looking for a fight. I was looking to fix the situation. I hate workplace drama. I hate drama in general!
When I found her and told her we needed to talk, she literally started shaking. She told me about how she interpreted the little boy’s father’s words and listed her concerns to me. I explained my reasoning behind the things I do and the things I believe, telling her straight up that she is new and doesn’t understand how things actually work. If you catch a kid doing something dangerous like pretending to stab another kid with a pencil, you can’t just tell them sweetly to please not do that, pat them on the head and call them a good kid, then walk away. The kid will do it again five seconds later.
Most importantly, I told her that my students are mine. That little boy may cry in the mornings, but when he gets into the classroom, he plays games and talks to me like normal. She looked very skeptical at that but said okay and rolled her eyes. She wanted to walk home together because I explained to her that professional and personal should be separate; we may not agree professionally but it wouldn’t affect how we are outside of work.
The next morning, I was able to calm the boy down in the morning and we walked upstairs together. He opened up to me a lot (which is what I was planning on working on before she butt in the first time). She watched as I walked upstairs with him hand in hand and gave him a hug at the classroom.
Later that day, she saw as he played and joked with me while he was running late for gym class and we were walking together. He reached out to hug me and we again walked to gym class holding hands.
She pulled me aside and said, “I was very surprised to see he was like that with you!”
I tried to explain that yes, I told her things were like this. She still just kept emphasizing that she was so surprised and couldn’t believe he hugged me. So much to the point that she was being rude.
I can’t stand when people are so rude. She actually asked my leader how she could give me advice on teaching. Then she later asked me how tell other teachers what to do without being rude.
I actually told her that she can’t tell teachers that have years more experience than her what to do. She can share her opinions and offer ideas, but she has not earned the right to tell them. She may offer an idea in the style of, “What if you did it this way?” but maybe that teacher did before and it didn’t work. Someone with only a few months of experience can’t tell people who have been doing things for years how they should change their style.
Now, mind you, I’m not saying that fresh eyes cannot offer good ideas. I’m simply saying that the matter in which they convey those new ideas should not be matter-of-fact.
She offered me an example, saying that so-and-so should do this thing this way instead. I had to tell her that we are actually not allowed to do it that way because of company rules.
For privacy sake, I won’t go too much into detail.
This was all at the start of this week. She has been civil with me every day since. The leader and I did talk to the office and we were given a guarantee that Kay will not be put in my classroom as ‘support’ for the remainder of the school year.
I talked to a few of my Japanese coworkers that I am proud to call friends about Kay saying she heard Japanese teachers talking about how bad of a teacher I was ‘all the time’. I didn’t mention her name, of course, or who told me the information.
When I brought it up, though, they were very taken aback and equally as confused as I was, repeating the same thing I said a moment ago: if I was a bad teacher, why would they request to have me train the new teachers?
I feel that Kay is desperate to fit in and has a terrible fear of being wrong. She acts like she is still in high school in the sense that she loves rumors and gossip, often starting it herself without any actual facts.
At the end of the school year last year, I went into a pantry to return an empty water bottle and get a new one for the class. A coworker we will call Ai was in there with a kid. I apologized for interrupting, quickly grabbed a bottle, and left. Kay was mopping the hallway and pulled me aside, whispering emphatically, “Teacher Tanie, doesn’t that count as abuse? She is abusing that little boy in the closet!”
I told her to calm down, adding, “You don’t know the situation or what is happening. Until you do, stay out of it.”
The next morning, I walked into the pantry to grab the snacks and our leader followed me in, saying, “Teacher Tanie, you really need to not gossip about things that you see around… it can cause a lot of issues.”
I almost dislocated my jaw with how far it dropped. “Excuse me?”
She explained that the little boy had followed Ai into the closet to apologize for talking in the hall after Ai had scolded him as the class was walking back from gym class. When I told her partner “Archie” (which I didn’t), he had gone off on her hard core after hours and yelled at her so intensely that she had broken into tears and was now scared of her own partner as he was already a rather loud, obnoxious, and big fellow. (He took over a few weeks before after another coworker was transferred.)
I was surprised to hear any of this and told her I had nothing to do with it.
“Ai said you were the only one to see her in the closet with the kid, though,” she explained.
As the realization hit, I sighed. “Did Archie tell you that I was the one who told him?”
“No,” she said. “He wouldn’t tell me who told him.”
Now, I’m not a fan of Archie. I do love Ai though. She is a total sweetheart. I told the leader as much and then went on to tell her about Kay in the hallway and what happened. This was not the first time Kay had to have a talking to.
Things like this keep happening with her to the point where I am not sure why they are keeping her on when she just stirs up drama.
Every time something happens, I have to whisper to myself, “She is young and naive. Be forgiving….”