Few Tips that Will Make any Teacher Happier and More Relaxed

The web is flooded with pages of teachers who keep on complaining about how badly our category of workers is considered. We have lost our prestige, wages are low, we have become the favourite targets of scorn of both parents and their children, in a word: losers – with a university degree – . Let me tell you my dear friends and colleagues, that this is what we are, because this is the way we behave. In the desperate effort of gaining back the consideration we imagine to deserve, we have accepted to condescend to any form of compromise and customization of our profession. We try to be what they want us to be, with the only result of becoming all a sort of Monsieur Malaussène, that is, the scapegoat of any situation. Look at the above picture well; we don’t have to please them and beg for their approbation, we don’t need their compliments and gratitude, it’s our job, and once you have no expectations of this kind, you will be free to do as you please, according to the plans and targets the school and yourselves have decided at the beginning of the school year, of course. So, first of all, let’s close all those pages where we picture ourselves (we do it, pure masochism), as a bunch of beggars always on the verge of a nervous breakdown. We are teachers. We are Gods.

Hence, as I promised, I am going to give you, some tips which have made my life as a teacher happy and relaxed so far. First of all, knock on the door of your principal’s door as little as possible. Whatever your reasons might be for asking personal admittance, unless it is strictly necessary, refrain from doing so. Very likely you would like to make the principal acquainted with your problems and this is exactly what school managers don’t want to hear about: problems and in particular your problems. Theirs are enough. They want solutions. It would be a very good thing, for example, if your principal forgot about you existence. Think how many things you could do, if you were an unseen presence in the school.

Excuse me, you are?”
“Mrs Tink!”
“Oh, yes! Of course.”

Another moment of great frustration in a teacher’s life is the P/T conference. We expect this day to inform in particular those parents whose children have manifested some difficulties and find solutions together. It seems all for the good, but it is not. The point is that,once again, we come with a load of problems they, actually, don’t want to hear about. First of all, because they already know them, even if they pretend not to and also because, in way, we judge them through their children’s effort and behaviour. They feel uneasy about it and I can understand it. So, every time a parent like Mrs Mother of Riccardo comes to talk to me, her attitude will be like the one who is just preparing herself for an ultimate duel. The air of someone who has just a little time to dedicate me and that inevitable scowl on her face. Now, if I attack her, making the list of my complains, she will defend herself and her son, thus the meeting will turn into something useless and disappointing for both. But if I start with some positive remarks, and if there aren’t any, conceive one, trust me, a harmless, sweet lie, just like this one:

“Well, you know, Mrs Mother of Riccardo, your son is……..very nice and…….I like him very much”.

You’ll see soon her face brightening and that scowl disappear in a second. In the following minutes you’ll be able to tell her whatever you like about her son. She will accept it with a smile.

One paragraph cannot but be dedicated to our relationship with students. Please stop to befriend them on Facebook, Instagram or text them on Whatsapp. They are not  your friends, you may have a friendly attitude with them, of course, but they can’t be your friends and you know why? You grade them. They see that invisible line between you and them and whenever you feel like ignoring it, encouraged by their seeming cordial attitude, and decide to cross that line, you will become their object of scorn in their secret pages, where the access is denied to you. You may befriend them one day, if you do wish it, when they leave school.

As philosopher Umberto Galimberti says:

“If a student  becomes are a friend of yours, you no longer have any authority on him. And what about the teachers who go to have a pizza with their students: are you kidding? I have taught for 51 years, I have never gone out for a pizza with students. Because if you are God and eat pizza, you are no longer God! God is famous because no one has ever seen him!If you are there at the table with them you are one of them! That’s enough! It’s over, your authority is dead! How can you go the following day to your class, after having spent the night talking nonsense at a table with a piece of pizza in your mouth. You cannot anymore!”

I want to be God, what about you?







17 thoughts on “Few Tips that Will Make any Teacher Happier and More Relaxed

  1. I now feel eventually worse, but the reason why I have deliberately CHOSEN and AIMED at becoming a godlike English teacher like few of those who taught me in the past and inspired me so much to let me join the magic team. As far as I play in a magic team my job is the best of all.

    • Dear Flo, this is my idea of a godlike teacher:
      “His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
      Weave a circle round him thrice,
      And close your eyes with holy dread
      For he on honey-dew hath fed,
      And drunk the milk of Paradise.” 😀

  2. It’s a fine line to balance. I was a business owner for 20 years (a slightly different relationship but with similar pitfalls).

    On the one hand, you want them to know you’re not their adversary and that you want to help them as much as possible and that you’re in their corner. On the other hand, they have to know your role is to make the tough decisions; they have to know there is a difference in roles and boundaries. And, they have to know their responsibilities and what’s expected for the relationship to work.

    The trick (I think) is to treat everyone the same; never play favorites and always be fair both in praise and criticism. Also, I was never a boss outside of work and never a “pal” at work. That line was never crossed.

    Most of the employees we hired were fresh out of college and so we also played the roles of mentors. Of the close to 200 employees that flowed through my company, all but a few were and are still considered friends. But while we were boss-employee, there were limits.

    In part, we were lucky because 99% of the people we hired were smart and responsible and generally great people.

  3. As a parent of an elementary school kid, I actually kind of like P/T conferences. And interactions with his teachers. I also like his teachers to be honest with me, mostly because a) I know he’s different at school v. home and b) as an educator I want to know what areas his teachers see v. what I see.

    As a college/university instructor, I hate parental contact (one reason I can’t teach K-12), mostly because my students are supposed to be adults.

    • If P/T conferences were, let’s say, “honest” meetings, they could be and often are a kind of fun. This happens when you talk to parents whose children have no particular problems, so the meeting becomes a friendly chat. I cannot say the same with the other cases. Parents mostly come to protect them, giving any sort of excuse whatever I say. This attitude is getting worse year after year as far as I can see.

      • True.

        Fortunately, our kid’s one of the “no major problems” ones.

        Sadly, I’ve had phone conversations with helicopter parents of my own (adult, college level) students. At least in some of those cases I’ve been able to fall back on “Due to FERPA, I can’t discuss that with you” (even if I technically could). It was better/more diplomatic to say that than “You’re ‘kid’ is a bleeping adult and you shouldn’t be calling me.”

  4. You make parents’ evenings much more effective by having the student present, with their parent(s). Then you can start the ball rolling by asking the student how they think they are doing. I always found it surprising how accurate, truthful and honest students were, in the presence of a parent. Then it was a lot easier to fine-tune my message.

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