• Jennifer Meliton

Why are they LIKE that?

What can you do if you are a new or student teacher surrounded by miserable old farts?

Many of my friends work in education. Last month when some of us were together, they began discussing (and let me be candid, lamenting) some student teachers at their respective schools. "Why are they like that? We were never that way." It struck me how very much the conversation has shifted for us because I clearly remember similar conversations from the past complaining about the state of the older generation of teachers, and how we swore we would never get THAT WAY. And if we did we would retire immediately. These conversations took place mainly at a bar after a hard week of observing or student teaching, and continued at wedding and baby showers as we began our lives.

Certainly I hope that none of my friends or I would be the crusty targets of those types of convo, but I have to be honest, I know we can get a little salty. How did that happen? Are we actually........ THAT WAY? Is it you? Or is it us?

I'll leave my posse out of it, because I'm totally sure we're not (LOL). But what can you do when you feel like the veterans coaching you are just so__________ (fill in the blank). First, a formula:

Perspective=Time x Personality

Perspective is defined as, "a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view." I have definitely had 5th graders who had saltier-old-man personalities than my dad, who is 85. Personality is personality. People change, yes, but for the most part, they are what they are. Over time, they may situationally soften or get more prickly...but time tends to magnify that which already exists in a person.

PRO-TIP: If you find yourself surrounded by staff who are just miserable, it's important to take a minute to get their perspective. Ask the professionals you are working with what they like the most about teaching. They might start with a flip comment, but then they will get back to what's important, I promise. Next, ask them if their feelings about the classroom have changed over the years. Then....listen. End with a sincere thank-you. "Thank you for sharing, I want to learn everything I can from you guys because you've been there."

The fact that you ask, then listen (with some thoughtful nods of the head and hmmms), then thank them will totally endear you to them. They're going to look at each other like this:

You have the added benefit of actually learning why they feel like they do.

BASIC: Ask to learn from these folks. Talking about what they know will make them happy, whether they outwardly show it or not. They will love feeling like they are making a difference to you.

Do not attempt the "misery loves company" strategy. Mirroring perceived crankiness by complaining alongside them doesn't work and will backfire. Stay positive (not a suggestion, a MUST) and focused on what you love about teaching, kids and school. Don't rub sunshine in their faces, just show your general happiness (which I hope you have, and if you don't you need to take steps to get it) and do an amazing job.

INSIDER SECRET: bring treats. Drop the $10 or $20 on donuts, or even better, bring in some homemade cookies. I swear to you the most abominable snowman will defrost. Even if you're not working with cranky people, do this to anyway. It will make you totally memorable.

Caveat: If there is some kind of unprofessional behavior going on, please immediately speak to your university supervisor or building principal. No baked good will change that, and you certainly should not be subject to abuse.

Share your own story or ask a question here!

Til next time, love those kids!

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