Dear WeAreTeachers,
At Thanksgiving, I told my family that I was leaving teaching at the end of the semester to work in HR. I thought they would be sensitive to what a terrible time I’ve had, but they were shocked and critical that I would give up my “cushy” job to work a 9-5 for less pay. I’m still so mad about it. What do I say when they inevitably bring it up again during the holidays? —Hush With the “Cush” Already

Dear H.W.T.C.A.,

Hmm. As much as I feel like your family needs a lecture on the reality of what it’s like being a teacher in 2022, something tells me that people who think teaching is a “cushy” job have already made up their minds. I often think of @FranchescaRamsey’s words when I’m frustrated that someone won’t understand my or others’ experiences:

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stand up for yourself or correct them, though. If your family pushes you on why you quit, say, “My experience was demeaning and miserable, and I definitely don’t want to relive it during the holidays. Let’s play Yahtzee!”

You deserve a stress-free break more than anyone. Don’t jump into a conversation like this any earlier than you need to.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I ran into the parent of one of my students at an AA meeting. She looked mortified and avoided me the entire meeting and now barely makes eye contact at pickup. I didn’t approach her, but now I wonder if I should. I want to let her know that I will, of course, completely respect her confidentiality. Do I say something to her? —Mother May I Approach?

Dear M.M.I.A.,

I think you’ve handled it the right way. There’s a lot of vulnerability in even attending AA meetings, and it’s clear that it was uncomfortable seeing someone she knows. I think the best thing you can do is continue to be kind and friendly to her both in meetings and in real life, showing that you’re receptive and supportive knowing this information about her. The ball can be in her court for if/when she wants to respond. Additionally, you can contact your group’s chairperson for more advice on this topic.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I’m on a teacher team of four and just found out our team lead has been trashing me in meetings when I’m not there. She’s never mentioned anything negative to me about my teaching or about me as a team member! How do I approach her about this? —Grouchy Gossippee

Dear G.G.,

Yikes—that’s not what we would call great leadership behavior. But as an outsider to the situation, there’s only so much I can advise with limited information. Ask yourself these questions, in this order, before proceeding:

  • Has your team lead broken the law? If she’s saying things about your race, color, religion, sex or sexuality, national origin, a disability, or genetic information, this is employment discrimination in the form of harassment. You can probably talk to an employment lawyer for a free consultation. Plan on some fallout for doing this, but don’t brush it under the rug. I can forgive a lot when it comes to teachers, but not when they have attitudes that could harm kids (or do).
  • Is there any truth to what she’s saying? If she’s complaining that you’re late to every department meeting or that you’re always rudely shutting down new ideas, maybe there’s a kernel of truth there. Is it unprofessional for her to gossip about you to the group instead of telling you directly? Yes. But you may find that working to improve those areas would create less additional drama than confronting her.
  • How high are the stakes? It never feels good to find out someone has said something unkind about you. But take a few days before acting. In that time, you can weigh your emotions about the situation against the situation itself. Is confronting your leader worth jeopardizing the trust of the team member who told you? Does knowing your team leader spoke ill about you prevent you from being able to work with your team or do your job well?

You may discover you want to take action, or you may decide to roll past it and move on. But either way, you’ve taken the time to make an informed decision.

Do you have a burning question? Email us at askweareteachers@weareteachers.com.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
One of my second grade students told their mom that I tore up their homework in front of the class. Not only did nothing remotely close to this happen, but I haven’t given them any homework in almost a month. The parent emailed me demanding a conference. What am I supposed to say to this parent if they want to meet about an “issue” that’s a bold-faced lie?  —Professor to a Perjurer

This week on Ask WeAreTeachers, we cover criticism and cluelessness about changing jobs, an awkward AA encounter, and trash talking.