An Open Response to the Mystery Teacher


A fascinating and poignant post came across my desk this evening, and I couldn’t resist commenting on it. Please read the post from Connected Principals and then read my response. Here is a link to the anonymously written “When Adults are the Bullies.”

And now, please consider my open response to this Mystery Teacher, which also appears in the comments section of the above link.

I have about a million thoughts on the content of this post, but only enough space to share a few:

First of all, I have no idea who you are, where you work, or who your colleagues or principal are, but one thing is very clear about you, Mystery Teacher. You obviously recognize that your most pressing concern as a teacher – or a school employee, better said – is the students. I started my job a few years ago with the mindset that I was going into a school to work for my students, not make friends. Any relationships that developed, either friendships or otherwise, would be incidental to why I was there. They would not be my focus. They would be nice perks, but they would not define me as a school employee. Your colleagues could do well from adopting the same philosophy.

Second, I also came to learn the hard way that, from a social perspective, it’s best to keep administration-teacher relationships on as professional a level as possible. I too wanted to bring administrators into my room to see the things my kids were doing, and I did so often. But by doing so, word began to filter through the school that the new kid in town was either a) doing some really awesome stuff or b) a snotty, know-it-all who has been teaching for five minutes and thinks it’s good to make others look bad. The majority of my colleagues seemed to go with option A, and the ones who went with option B got a mouthful from me. I always put it in the context of my kids. In my mind, though, I know the people who feel threatened by me only feel that way because they’re insecure and in many cases incapable.

I also know what it’s like to have colleagues turn on you overnight, for seemingly no reason at all. However, I have to say when that happened to me, it led to one of my closest friendships in school. (Things DO happen for a reason, Mystery Teacher).

Third, I feel that it is incumbent upon the administration to make sure this kind of crap doesn’t happen in our schools. It accomplishes nothing and promotes an unhealthy staff dynamic. Why shouldn’t teachers be sharing best practices? All teachers need to believe they have room for improvement. If they don’t, and they feel there’s nothing more to learn, then it’s time for them to hit the road. A veteran colleague who I’ve since fallen out of touch with for a few reasons told me my first year how much she loves talking to the new teachers because of their fresh perspective and ideas. This is the kind of attitude all teachers should embrace. We can all learn from each other.

I don’t feel you should think you’re a coward. A coward would sit by him/herself eating lunch alone, being proverbially shoved into the locker, and not standing up for him/herself. Okay, so you may eat lunch alone, but you are standing up for yourself. By applying for other jobs, you’re saying you won’t tolerate abuse at the expense of your own self-worth or at the expense of your student’s well-being. Unfortunately, we are often too small a cog to bring a whole machine to a grinding halt, and you’re not going to change people like the ones you describe. But by bringing your passion to another place, you’ll inspire more students, with the confidence and experience to make wiser choices along your paths (I have learned that there are some colleagues I just can’t associate with past “Hello, how are you?”, be it for their loose lips, negative attitudes, or jealousy). But like I said at the beginning, you see the big picture: you work for your students.

Keep doing that and you’ll be just fine. Your new school will be glad to have you. If they’re not, then they clearly don’t realize what they’ve got.

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4 responses to “An Open Response to the Mystery Teacher

  1. While I didn’t come to make friends but to teach students, I can do that best when I am collaborating with colleagues. Perhaps you feel similarly, but it came across as, “I will shut the door and teach and not worry about the rest of the school”.

    • Thanks for your comment Brendan. On the contrary, though, I am actually very collaborative and seek out teachers in different grades to bring our classes together. I also organize many of the extracurricular staff collaborations and am seen as a highly effective motivator of my peers. My point was more that I choose not to waste time with those who are looking to bring me down with their negativity. I have some colleagues who I absolutely adore as people and teachers, and I definitely try to work together with them.

  2. Pingback: Remainders: ‘Strategic hiring’ a new focus for urban schools | GothamSchools

  3. Pingback: Online Education in America » Blog Archive » Remainders: ‘Strategic hiring’ a new focus for urban schools

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