Dear WeAreTeachers: One of my students nominated me for an inspiring teacher award last week. I was not expecting it at all. We were at an assembly, and I had to give an acceptance speech on the spot and couldn’t stop crying. Through my tears, I said kind words about the student and her character. The student then gave a short speech about how my class made her a better math student and fall in love with STEM. Later, l felt awkward because no one else cried during their speeches. I feel like everyone was judging me, and I just know they’re gossiping about me being too emotional for a teacher. What should I do? —All The Feels
It sounds like you’re a sensitive person who reacts strongly. There’s nothing wrong with that. I happen to think that it’s a plus for a teacher to be a feeler. I full-on ugly cried while reading aloud Where the Red Fern Grows, and I think, in a way, it gave my students permission to cry, too. They’re adults now, and we still talk about it.
I talked to Richard Kennedy, who won Teacher of the Year at his school this year, and I love his approach: “Embrace the moment! We all express our joy in different ways. It also helps students to see that we are human when we cry. Your tears are tears of joy and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a testament to your bond with the student and how phenomenal a teacher you are!”
Please don’t assume other people are judging you. I can just about guarantee they’re not talking about you. So try to let that part go.
Dear WeAreTeachers: Earlier in the year, I turned in my notice for my current teaching job because of my toxic principal. Last month, I received a verbal offer from a principal at a new school. He even gave me his personal cell phone number if I had questions, and I had a great conversation with their superintendent. I then received a form letter email rejection from the district. No one on the hiring team would give me any feedback about why I went from a verbal offer to no job at all. The only thing I know is that they spoke to my current school at some point. I’m concerned that my current principal was responsible for this. What can I do to keep this from happening in the future? —Thrown Under the Bus
Yikes! I’m so sorry that happened. I can see how you would feel railroaded by your principal. I asked Kela Small for her thoughts on this as a principal, and she offered this perspective: “A good leader wouldn’t take one supervisor’s word and make a decision—they’d follow up with you to address any concerns. So you may have avoided another toxic situation.”
As far as avoiding this in the future, Kela shared the following: “Principals almost always want to talk to each other about new teachers, so the best thing you can do is talk to your principal first. Even if you were a stellar teacher, some supervisors will be bitter about you leaving their school if they feel blindsided. Next time you’re thinking about leaving, let your principal know it’s on your mind and ask if you can use them for a reference.
“If your principal obliges, you can let the new school know they’re good to contact. If the principal doesn’t agree, let the new school know they may still contact you, but you’d like to follow up with them after to clarify any concerns they may have. You can also ask if there is another person they could talk to instead of the principal.”
Dear WeAreTeachers: I’m friends with a lot of my colleagues on social media, including our school office manager. Recently, she posted the following: “What a year! Educators have worked so hard, and we deserve a break. Enjoy your summer. I know I will!” My issue is that she seems to be referring to herself as an educator. I was under the impression that support staff were not considered educators. I’ve been a classroom teacher for more than a decade, and I just feel like it takes away from what I do. I mean, just because you’re a receptionist at a hospital doesn’t make you a medical professional. Should I say something? —Proud Educator
I know it’s been a tough year and one in which you probably didn’t feel very appreciated. And yeah, I got annoyed when people like SoulCycle instructor Stacey Griffith said they were educators to jump the COVID-19 vaccine line. But this is entirely different to me.
I talked to middle school teacher Caleb Timothy, and he had this to say: “I wonder how many times you’ve walked into the front office and seen kids talking with the receptionist. How often do parents speak with this person? I can tell you it is often and enough to make this person feel as if they’re a part of the school culture and that they do have an impact on the lives of your school community.
“You’re better off just saying ‘We made it through the year!’ instead of making them feel bad. Technically, the definition of educator is ‘an administrator of education’—is that not what this person is?” Even if you don’t agree, what do you have to gain by saying something?
Dear WeAreTeachers: I just finished my eighth year of teaching fourth grade, and today my principal came by to check me out of my classroom (I’m moving to another room). The checkout instructions said to label all items with their destination, which I did. I have a tiny room with no counters, and we can’t leave boxes on the floor, so I had to put stuff on the student desks. My principal declared that my room was “unacceptable” because I had my labeled boxes to be moved on the student desktops. I have been at this school site for eight years in three rooms. Each and every time I’ve moved into a new room, I’ve had to clear out junk, and I’ve done it without complaint. I’m trying not to take it personally, but that was a soul-crushing moment. Am I overreacting? —Checked Out
Hmm… this seems like a “straw that broke the camel’s back” situation to me. Are you really upset about not passing inspection for your checkout? After the year teachers have had, it wouldn’t surprise me if this just put you over the edge. Totally OK to be upset (it’s annoying), but I think you need to take a deep breath and put it into some context.
I talked to second grade teacher Tanya Jackson, and she advised, “Try not to take it personally. You labeled the boxes to be moved where there was available space. The boxes will still be moved.” And she’s right. They’re not NOT going to move you.
Find out what exactly your principal would like you to do, do it, and then go enjoy your summer. You may decide you want to give some feedback around clarity of expectations for next year, and that’s fine.
Do you have a burning question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a first year teacher who is already feeling on rocky ground, and now I just cursed in front of a few of my 8th grade students. I was irritable, and it had been a long week. Towards the end of the class, I went to say “freaking” (which is acceptable at my school) and accidentally said “f*cking.” I immediately apologized and corrected myself. One of my students said, “Too late. I can’t wait to tell my mom and she’ll send an email to the principal.” He said it in a jokey way, but I swear he could smell my fear. Is this a big deal? Should I confess or just let it go?