Wednesday, February 22, 2012

what I needed

Yesterday, I was doing my weekly school staff e-mail purge.  As I was mass deleting, I came across something that stopped me up short.

One of the teachers had e-mailed an apology for a previous e-mail, which I then had to dig for.  The original e-mail was a note having to do with a change in scheduling.  It was laced with phrases like "even though no one will read this.." and "not that anybody cares...", etc.

In her follow up e-mail, she apologized for being unprofessional, but didn't apologize for her reasons.  She brought up the apathy, the lack of teamwork, the cliqueishness, the back stabbing, the gossip...

I used to be a teacher's aid at the school and I know exactly what she was talking about.

*background time* 
About 4 years ago, I began teaching for a test preparation company.   I had great mentors and coworkers, and the morale was high.  In addition, I found that I really enjoyed being a teacher.

The downside (why is there always a downside?) was that the nature of our classes was such that I was working a lot of evenings and weekends.  I knew I needed to change things when my TEENAGED kids were complaining that I wasn't around enough to do stuff with.  Plus, I didn't like missing their extracurriculars. 
Early last year, I put my feelers out for something more accomodating and that's how I became an X-treme crossing guard.  Shortly after that, the vice principal told me of a part-time opening for a teacher's aid, would I like that job too?  Yes, sure, great!  Problem solved.

Last year at this time, I was doing that job.  And hating it. 

I couldn't quite figure it out.  I liked all of the people at the school.  I enjoyed the kids I worked with.  The hours were perfect.  The commute was practically nonexistent.  But...

I never really felt that it made any difference whether I showed up or not.

That job shattered my visions of becoming a licensed teacher.  At the time, I was seriously looking into a  program at a local university to get my teaching license, but I stopped the whole process.

When the principal told me they wanted me to return for this school year, I was surprised.  I honestly thought the position would go away amid budget cuts.  I contemplated for a few weeks and then resigned over the summer.  That was the first job I'd ever left simply because I just didn't like it, and it was difficult for me to "quit".  But I just felt that the position was redundant while being funded by taxpayer dollars.  I couldn't continue.

Now I'm an independent tutor for a tutor matching service.  I'm still an X-treme crossing guard, and I've had a couple months of insightful coaching.  Aaah,  life is better.

I don't think I've revealed this on the blog before now, but it was THAT whole experience that pushed me off the edge and lead me to a life coach.  What I thought was a logical and good plan was totally foiled by that 4-months-and-3-days (but who was counting) part-time job!

Reading that e-mail yesterday helped me out a lot.  It validated my frustrations and let me know that I wasn't the only one who was dissatisfied.    I am still confused about how the sum of so many good individuals could add up to such a lesser whole, but it did. 

I sent that teacher a short reply, thanking her for putting herself out there like that.  She e-mailed me back and said that others had thanked her too.

What are you dealing with, and thinking you're the only one?  I'd bet a 4-months-and-3-days part-time salary that you're not.


  1. Interesting post. I think it's really important for people to communicate how they are feeling, especially with other co workers, as this teacher had done.

    I have a tendency to get bullied at every single job I go to. I'm not sure why this is, maybe it's because people think I look weak and vulnerable, I don't know. I actually spoke to a friend about this who at the time, was in tears over the same exact thing I was going through!

    She was a nurse and none of the other nurses she worked around seemed to like her very much. She then went on to say that this was the case at pretty much every job she worked at! For once in my life, I didn't feel alone anymore.

    1. Wow, that sucks. What's with bullies anyway? I'm glad you expressed yourself and found out you weren't alone. I really think that's true in a lot of cases.

  2. Being part of a group/team is important to people's self esteem. If you don't feel appreciated or put down or you don't feel like you are making a difference, it really sucks the life out of the job and the person. I don't blame you for leaving. The one person you have to answer to is you. No amount of money is worth it if you don't enjoy what you are doing.

    1. You are SO right. In the end, it was a really good learning experience for me.

  3. So much of what makes me feel valuable and important and productive is tied up in my job. If I felt the way you felt about your part-time position, I'm quite sure I couldn't feel valuable, important or productive. What a frustrating experience, to say the least.

    What am I dealing with and thinking I'm the only one? A particular coworker who I utterly distrust. She has this habit of trying to "lord over" me and even when she's conversing casually with me, I get the distinct impression she's completely insincere - a big phony. It doesn't feel like she's trying to be part of the team. It feels like she's always trying to keep the upper hand. She sits directly on the other side of my cubicle wall and chatters non-stop. I finally got the guts today to say, "I CAN'T focus on my work and I can't listen to your story right now."

    She spends hour after hour doing personal things on work time, and somehow the boss is oblivious to this. Oh, I could go on and on about this person. The bottom line is, I have never felt so leery of anyone in my life and I have to work in close proximity every single day. I don't know whether anyone else feels this freaked out, disgusted, or distrustful of her.

    1. I bet there are others that are leery of her too, but no one want to make waves. Trust your gut if you don't feel right about her, there's probably something not right.
      I had to deal with someone like that once, and wondered if I was the only one. Turned out she was "eliminated" by someone else at work. Hopefully you have a similar turn of events!

  4. Never having been in the teaching profession, I don't know if this applies or not, but at my past jobs the boss made all the difference in the attitudes, the unity, the striving to do the best work, and the pride in doing well. Some people are promoted to the top position just because they put in the time, but it does not make them motivators.

    Good for you for listening to what you had a glimpse of and for not being sucked into a job that on the surface was being a help to students but was actually not letting you live up to your potential. The school missed a great helper when they did not make the job on your level.

    Another good on you for finding the tutor matching service.

  5. I totally understand what it's like to not feel appreciated for the work you do, either by co-workers or bosses or students or guests. I have an experience that I could probably write for days about... so I'll save it for another time.
    I'm curious, though, if the other teachers feel the same way you do? Do they feel like they are making a difference? As an ex-teacher myself, I have a lot of thoughts on the topic, but I don't want to risk putting my foot in my mouth, so I'll probably just keep it shut.... for now. :)

    1. I'd be really interested to know your take since this was my sole experience with public school employment.

      The main issues here were with those kids in intervention programs - SPED/ESL/Title 1. Some of them were in more than one of these programs, and I felt there were a lot of redundancies in the system. Those of us that worked with these kids - including me and the teacher that sent the e-mails - ended up doing a lot of busy work.

      Some classroom teachers really appreciated the help and communicated well, others not so much. And there was/is a definite hierarchy between certified teachers and non-certifieds.

      I could probably write for days too :)

  6. I'm realizing that I'm happy at my little outside job because I like the kids but, despite adminstration folks who aren't the greatest about supporting us/our ideas, my immeditate co-workers are AWESOME and we are so supportive & helpful to each other. That makes it so do-able.

    1. That does make a difference doesn't it! I'm better as just an "outsider" too.

  7. I've just been asked recently (again) to consider working at our local elementary school. The secretary is retiring and they are going to be advertising for teachers aide positions. I've been down this road before, and like you, considered going back to school to become a teacher - good hours, summers off, all the external 'good' reasons. But, I just can't seem to be able to talk myself into working there. I like what I do, my little 'on call' position, by volunteer work, etc. Money pressures may force my hand, but I just know that the school system isn't the place for me.