Confession time: I have a major crush on our school’s band director. Let’s call him Mr. Davis. From the time we met at back-to-school orientation two years ago (he traded me his blueberry yogurt after he heard me say it’s my favorite), I’ve had my eye on him. The problem is I’m way too shy to make a move. Plus, I teach English, so there’s not a whole lot of overlap in our courses or planning. How do I approach him without making him feel uncomfortable, doing something unprofessional, or revealing that I’ve had a teen rom-com-esque crush on him for two years? —Pining and Whining
Excuse me while I stifle an “EEEEE!!!!”
First, as exciting as a potential workplace romance can be, make sure you know your school’s policy on dating/relationships and at what point they should be reported. Even if your school gives the green light on non-problematic workplace romances, proceed with caution. Remember that if things go south, Murphy’s Law will ensure that you two will always need copies made at the same time, are in the same PD groupings, and find yourselves walking toward each other from opposite ends of an otherwise empty hallway.
The good news is you don’t have to ambush him in the band shell and declare your love for him as the tuba section is warming up. That would be inadvisable.
There are two approaches to this. There’s the slow-start method of subtly collecting information here and there. Figure out which teachers know him best. Search him up online. (What? Don’t act like you wouldn’t.) Mention him offhandedly in class and see how the kids react (“You don’t know what the prefix fort– means? Should I email Mr. Davis and tell him you don’t know what forte means?!”). You may find out from your digging that he’s not your type, you’re not his type, or that he’s tragically unavailable.
The other approach is cutting right to the chase (OK, maybe cutting chase-adjacent) with an interdisciplinary project that create overlap with your class and his. What if one of the options for your Fahrenheit 451 project is an original composition accompanied by an essay connecting the musical choices to themes, motifs, character arcs, etc., from the book? Hey, Mr. Davis, I could use some help in building a rubric for the music side of this composition literary analysis project I’m creating. Let me know if I can swing by when you have a free moment.” Working together—even in a professional way—can give you insight into whether this crush born (very cutely) out of yogurt-swapping is worth pursuing.
I have a very unique last name. Every once in a while, I Google myself to make sure there’s nothing surprising in the results (once I discovered the link to my high school Xanga had resurfaced, so now I check search engines regularly). This time when I Googled myself, a whole slew of negative comments popped up from current students on Instagram. A student had taken a picture inside my class (without my knowledge) and written ugly things about me in the caption. Other students responded with their own comments, trashing me or my teaching. What should I do? If I report the student, will this damage our relationship? —Feeling Cancelled in Fort Collins
Ugh. We all know the sting of learning the unkind things students say to us. Sometimes it’s overheard, said directly to us, scrawled onto the top of a class dictionary, or written online. No matter how it’s communicated, it’s hard to not take personally.
This is an interesting situation. My first instinct is to simply take the “L” on this one since it’s a student’s Instagram account and they have a right to express how they feel. But because the comments pop up in a search of your very unique name, this could affect your professional reputation and potential career moves. The other potential hang-up is the photo. If you or other students are in it without consent, that starts to violate privacy guidelines.
Here’s what I would do. Ask to talk to the student who owns the Instagram account in private and explain to them that in searching your name online, you found their post and comment section. Clarify that you’re not angry and say something like this:
“I understand you felt frustrated, and we all need ways to vent when we’re frustrated. I realized in reading these comments that I had no idea you and other students were feeling this way, and I should have been more proactive about collecting your feedback. The problem is not only that these comments are attached to my name, but there are pretty serious district rules about taking and posting pictures online without permission. I’ll make you a deal. If you help me out with deleting the post, I’ll work to make my classroom a better place to be, and we won’t have to get parents or administration involved. Does that sound OK?”
This way, you’re offering a solution that preserves your relationship and allows the student to fix their mistake. You’ve also established that if they choose to drop their end of the bargain, they know the consequences (getting parents and administration involved).
I finished my first year of teaching elementary school in May. I carved out big chunks of summer for trips with friends, seeing family in other parts of the country, and just generally catching my breath from the whirlwind of this past year. Teachers return to work the first week of September, but I happened to check my email and saw a registration confirmation for some type of professional development a full week before we report back! There’s no accompanying email from my administration explaining or apologizing for issuing out this surprise PD, and I’ve already searched my emails to make sure this wasn’t in any newsletters or announcements I missed. The icing on the cake? This training is in a city an hour away from our school. What should I do? —In Actual Inbox Agony
Total honesty here: Most veterans I know would just pretend they never saw that email. If the registration didn’t come with communication from your principal explaining why they added this PD halfway through the summer without prior notice, it doesn’t sound like they care about the training, either. But I get it if the email feels impossible to ignore. I remember new-teacher anxiety and feeling like every move (or non-move) is under intense scrutiny.
Alternatively, you can forward the email to your supervisor and say something like, “Hi, I got this email confirming my registration for professional development the week before we report back, but unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend. I’ll see you at our orientation on September 6!” They don’t need to know if you’re unable because you’re having surgery, traveling out of the country, or watching Gordon Ramsay whip stubborn restaurateurs into shape on TV.
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On the last day of school, I had my middle school students fill out anonymous surveys evaluating my class. I decided to wait a few weeks into summer before reading them, and … yikes. I was sure this was my best year of teaching ever, but the feedback shocked me. Mean-spirited comments ranged from my teaching (“This class is a joke—I didn’t learn anything”) to my appearance (“You look disgusting”) to things I thought I did well (“Your jokes suck”). Now I’m not sure I even want to return in the fall. Should I even keep teaching if students are this miserable in my class? —Questioning Everything