A colleague told me that several of her 8th grade boys wouldn’t stop whispering and laughing. When she asked them what was up, they told her, “We found Ms. Wagner on Tinder during lunch.” I AM MS. WAGNER. One of them must have made an account using a fake birthday to appear in my age preferences. I know this is their mistake and not mine, but I’m so embarrassed and keep cringing thinking of them seeing me on a platform I never intended them to find me on. What should I do? Will telling an AP just bring more attention I don’t want? —Put “My Student Found My Tinder Profile” On My Tombstone
On behalf of the entire teaching profession, this emoji: 😳 We cringe and mourn with you.
First, I want to reiterate that you’ve done nothing wrong. Despite a long history of people thinking teachers should be silent, asexual, single robots, most modern thinkers—including me—agree that teachers are human. Part of being human is having desires that extend beyond teaching, grading, and emailing parents. Thank you for coming to my revolutionary TED Talk.
Let’s move on to what to do practically.
- Let your AP know as soon as possible. Despite how mortified you feel, it’s always better if they hear news from you first rather than from someone else later on. Be sure to say that you had your age preferences set to people your age, and that the only way the students had access to your profile was via information they falsified.
- Ask for your AP’s help in getting the students to delete and/or stop circulating your information, regardless of whether or not any of it is risqué. If they continue to bring it up in your class or in others’, suggest that your AP talk to them and maybe their families about potential legal repercussions of sharing photos of others without their consent. (I’m not suggesting taking legal action, but they should be aware of the severity of what happened.)
- It will feel like The Worst Thing for a while. Lean into that feeling—the more you acknowledge it, the less power it’ll have. Tell the story out loud to yourself when you’re alone and outside of school. Get your coworkers to take you to happy hour and laugh about it. Ask other teachers you know for their most embarrassing stories. The more you engage with the notion that this situation was mortifying, the easier it’ll be to let it go.
Finally, take comfort that teenagers move quickly. They’ll be on to another, more exciting, dramatic, salacious piece of news in a week or less.
I just returned from maternity leave to a complete disaster in my 4th grade classroom. I expected some things to look different, but when I walked in, I honestly did a double-take. My sub rearranged all the desks—including mine, which is now on the opposite side of the room. She took down a lot of my decorations and materials, and though she left them in a neat pile, she didn’t bother taking down any of her posters or quotes she printed out and stapled to the walls. The drawers that I cleared out for her in my desk are full of trash, receipts, and other random odds and ends. I honestly wanted to cry looking at all the work I had to do. Do I just take the “L” on this, or should I reach out? —Breathing Into a Paper Bag While Pumping
Ugh. I’m so sorry this happened. The first day back from maternity leave is hard enough. Returning to a room that’s been trashed is downright insulting.
The student desks I understand, and it makes sense after two to three months for there to be some student work displays and decorations that weren’t there when you left. But to leave actual work for you beyond the instructional catch-up you’ll have to do—trash to throw away, drawers to clean, and all your old stuff to re-hang—is inexcusable.
If you have the sub’s contact info, I would text or email and say, “Hey! Excited to debrief with you about your time in room 207 : ) I see a lot of your stuff still here. Were you planning on coming back?” Hopefully, she’ll say, “OMG, I’m so sorry! I thought you were returning tomorrow! I had planned to stay late today and put everything back. I’ll be there ASAP.” (Honestly, I think this is a possibility. My district had real weird wording on the whole “last day of parental leave” vs. “return to work day” vs. “day contract resumes.”)
If she doesn’t say that, doesn’t answer, or says, “Oh, no, I’m not coming back,” ask a supportive administrator or principal to handle it. I have no doubt that the AP, counselor, principal, and administrative assistant at my former school would call that sub back into the classroom to make things right so fast, her head would spin. (Plus, an administrator has more sway with the people who oversee the sub department).
If you don’t have a supportive administrator and are averse to conflict, tell the scariest, most experienced teacher in your building about what you returned to (bonus points if they’re a mom who’s had to come back from maternity leave before). They’ll make things right, maybe even faster than an administrator.
Normally I encourage teachers to pick their battles, but I’m defensive of new mama teachers. The only trash wrappers in your desk drawers should be the Snickers ones you put there every day while pumping.
Teachers at our school draw names at the beginning of the year to determine our duty spots. This year, I’ve been placed in a very low-traffic area of the school near a teacher who is constantly bringing up her religious beliefs, even though I’ve told her gently several times I don’t share them. It’s like when there’s a lull in conversation, she defaults to her church, pastor, or God. I don’t understand how she doesn’t see how awkward it is for me to not contribute. She’s a nice person and I don’t want to upset her, but I genuinely dread our duty (more than the average teacher, I think). Help! —Hallway Duty, or Alter Call-Way Duty?
I laughed out loud in solidarity at the “I don’t understand how she doesn’t see how awkward it is for me to not contribute” part. I, too, seem to be a magnet for people who want to talk at me on airplanes, in libraries, and on public transit. If I had a nickel for every minute I’ve spent nodding my way through a one-sided conversation, I could buy a house with a pool in Malibu.
There are a few approaches here depending on which angle you want to take. However, I think it’s best to start with an honest talk about what you want from her. For people who love to talk about their passion, it might not be enough of a deterrent to say, “I don’t share that passion.” You might need to set a boundary, like, “I’m so glad that your religion is so dear to you and that you feel comfortable sharing it with me. I want to be honest that the topic of religion is not something I feel comfortable hearing about at work. Let’s find something else to talk about.”
If she continues, or if you notice that she’s responded with any kind of retaliation, it’s time to talk to an AP about religious harassment at work. No matter how nice she is, it’s pretty anti-religion to force your beliefs on anyone.
Do you have a burning question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s my first year teaching high school biology and IPC. I have one student who is resistant to all my efforts to help him learn. He’s not a behavior problem, but he just won’t do anything. He hasn’t turned anything in—homework, classwork, tests, nothing—all year. When I met with my AP about it, she told me to try external motivators. “Think of something he really wants. You know, like a gift card.” I genuinely thought I had misheard her. A gift card? For doing the bare minimum? When I expressed my hesitation to her about this plan, she simply said, “We have to do whatever it takes.” I really, really don’t want to do this. Will I get in trouble if I don’t? —Not Daddy Warbucks