Oh, no, wait. There was a tear or two from a seventh grade boy in the principal’s office for an altercation with another student. He seemed to think his presence in the principal’s office was entirely unfair which brought him to tears as he (justly, I think) asked the school counselor how he would feel if (direct quote) “another dude grabbed your hair and shoved his nuts in your face at the same time,” a move that, apparently, is called “nutchecking.”
Nutchecking. You learn something every day.
But aside from the unfortunate nutchecked seventh grader, all tears shed have been from colleagues.
Nothing, I’m sure, to do with the fact that most of these conversations were the week before spring break or that I work with mostly first year teachers. Hell, if you’re in your first year and you haven’t had a meltdown by now, it’s about friggin’ time you burst into my “office” (loosely defined as the custodial closet or any other nook, cranny, or hallway in which I set up shop since school is short on space and what used to be offices are now classrooms seating 30 kids) to rant, rave, or inexplicably burst into tears because you just can’t handle public school toilet paper. I get it. I don’t care how bad the budget is. Nobody wants to grab a wad of tissue-thin single-ply and put it to use only to discover it has completely disintegrated and you are now, awkwardly, using your fingers.
But if you’re crying about it, you might be a little on edge.
So, since I’ve fielded almost all the standard and a few non-standard reasons for spontaneous spring tears, I thought I’d save us all some time and let you run through the following advice on crying in the educational workplace and take any related tips or tricks that may (or may not) serve you.*
- (All tips/tricks are based on personal experience and the overwhelming pleasure I derive from running my mouth. They are not data-driven or research based and they do not possess a cool educational acronym. Sorry.)
At least this way, you might solve your own problem and we don’t have to squeeze in the same custodial closet together while you sob.
Bursting into Tears Reason #1: “I hate education!” (Related variations: “Education is all bureaucratic B.S.” “Admin lives to make my life difficult,” “How the bleep am I supposed to do my job with no resources,” and/or “WTF have I gotten myself into?”)
It’s April. You’re fried. If you’re a new teacher, you’re beyond fried. You’re toast. Actually, you’re those little rock-hard, overly burnt crumbs in the bottom of the toaster looking enviously at the veteran teachers who, while charred, seem to slather on a layer of butter and make it work.
Exaggerated metaphor aside, education is bureaucratic, day to day functioning is frustrating, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. It only seems worse because you’re exhausted. Suck it up, and power through the last eight weeks. In June you’ll suddenly discover that education isn’t nearly as bad as it seems. In fact, in June, education will be the greatest profession ever.
If, however, in all your exhaustion, you reach the end of May and do not feel even the tiniest pang of sadness, not a moment of “Aw, those kids are never going to be my students again,” not even a tiny tinge of pride in seeing those annoying little goobers move on…
Then it is as bad as it seems. You’re in the wrong profession, which is totally ok, because it means that some other profession desperately needs you. So get the hell out of teaching and run. Run as fast as you can to that happy place where you belong. We won’t judge you. We’ll applaud you enviously as you take on things like company lunches and private offices uncoated in children’s germs.
Bursting into Tears Reason #2: “I don’t make enough money.” (Related variations: “I’ll never be able to buy a house,” “My ‘raise’ was insulting,” “How will I ever retire?”)
Seriously? You’re a teacher. You’re never going to be rich. Honestly, you don’t even really have a shot at upper middle class. Deal with it. If you want to stay in education but absolutely must make a couple more bucks:
- Get your master’s/advanced degree
- Get national board certification
- Bartend (booze plus extra cash…score!)
- Choose your significant other based on financial considerations. (Marry rich.)
Generally, however, the money sobbing is just another symptom of feeling fried rather than the actual cause. In reality, as a teacher you should be so swamped with grading and planning that you don’t have time to actually go out and spend money. Too much work = no socialization = not spending money = financial WIN.
Bursting into Tears Reason #3: “My contract hasn’t been renewed.” (Related variations: “I’m on an improvement plan,” “My admin hates me,” “I got fired mid-year,” “I generally suck.”)
Oooh. That’s a sticky one.
Possibility #1: It’s not a good fit.
There are eight billion schools out there. I’m sure you’re a rock star, but you probably aren’t the ideal candidate for all of them. I mean really…traditional district schools with tenure and unions, district schools without tenure and unions, charter schools, private schools, college prep, Montessori, Waldorf, alternative learning, classical academies, expeditionary learning, project-based learning, online schools, blended schools, international schools…
Just because you don’t fit at one school doesn’t mean you don’t fit at all schools. Chin up, do your research, talk to other teachers and schools and find your dream gig.
Then tell your previous employer to shove it.
(Kidding. Don’t actually do that.)
Possibility #2: You really do suck.
This is an even stickier one. Because chances are, if you do suck you don’t realize (or believe) you suck, sooo…
Which will be a fairly painful process unless you’re an insanely blunt and direct person with an affinity for masochism. Right now, a full 80% of you saying, “Oh, yeah. I’m tough as nails. I can totally take feedback,” are full it. Most teachers I know who don’t get asked back play the “Yeah, but” blame game. As in, “Yeah, but my team is dysfunctional…Yeah, but my school didn’t give me the training I needed…Yeah, but…”
At some point, you’re going to have to shove the “Yeah, but” up your butt.
Swallow your pride, ask your admin, then – even just for five minutes – assume the feedback they give you is true. However, to make this even more difficult, 80% of admin (all numbers and percentages in this post pulled out of my butt) is going to try and soften the message by giving you the “you’re not a good fit” talk when really they mean “your classroom management sucks/you can’t get along with your colleagues/you shirk professional duties.” So you’ll have to pester them a bit.
“Give me three concrete things I need to do to get better with supporting examples from what you saw in my classroom.” They should have done this anyway as part of your eval, but shockingly, sometimes education isn’t all it’s made out to be, admin included.
However, if all else fails and you still find yourself in tears on a rainy day in April, sit down in a calm, quiet place. Close your eyes and think about that student, parent, colleague you’re struggling with. Visualize yourself carefully, intentionally approaching that person.
And nutchecking the shit out of them.
Good for giggle every time.