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20 Things Only Teachers Would Understand

20 Things Only Teachers Would Understand

When I became a teacher a long time ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into! But I loved teaching, I really did. Of course, I escaped into teacher training, then management and administration but ran screaming back to the classroom. The management job nearly killed me, so thanks to teaching, I am alive and well to-day. Here are some of the things teachers and myself go through on a daily basis. Are you sure you want to become a teacher? Read about these 20 things that only teachers would understand. Then, decide if you still want to be a teacher.

1. Keep calm – you’re a teacher

If you are a trifle impatient or bad-tempered, then forget it. You will have to put up with noisy individuals, who have no interest in learning, and stupid bureaucracy at every turn, so you just have to keep calm. Of course, there are wonderful students who are a joy to teach, but they are few and far between.

2. It’s hard not to have a favorite

Watch the video below. The teacher thinks the guy’s joke is really funny – he goes on to get an award! But what about the poor guy who actually made the joke and got no credit? Sometimes, it is just impossible not to have favorites.

3. You have to be tough to stay the course

Did you know that in the USA and the UK, about 40% to 50% of teachers leave in the first 5 years. That figure is up by 30% compared to 20 years ago. Instead of concentrating on reducing teachers’ paperwork and giving them more support, the debate has centred on a minority who happen to be bad teachers.

4. Violent behavior is scary

Recently, a 16 year old was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment because he stabbed his teacher to death at a school in Leeds in the UK. That boy was a model student but changed once he had been diagnosed with diabetes.

A friend of mine does supply (substitute) teaching and she told me how scary it was when a fight broke out between two students. She suffered from PTSD for a time after this event. She is always wary when the agency offers her work and ask about her ‘behavior management skills.’ That is a clue that she might be facing violent and aggressive behavior if she agrees to teach at that school.

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5. Giving low grades can be tough

I had a Math teacher who always gave me 2 out of 10 for my Algebra homework. “I’ll be generous, I’ll give you 2,” she would shriek. I can’t believe she was finding it tough to give me what I deserved, but I did when I became a teacher. This reminds me of the corny joke where the pupil says,

Pupil: I don’t think I deserved zero on this test!
Teacher: I agree, but that’s the lowest mark I could give you!

6. Questions and answers are your bread and butter

Questions, tests, grades, answers. It seems teachers have to be like the chief prosecutor in the courtroom. Then there are nasty consequences if somebody cannot answer all your questions.

Teacher: Why can’t you ever answer any of my questions?
Pupil: Well if I could there wouldn’t be much point in me being here!

7. Nobody is listening

That is what you think when you have explained something for the umpteenth time. You count to three, then try again. Water on stone, water on stone.

8. Of course you hate cell phones

Yes, you banned these but there is always someone sneaking one in and texting his friends. You know that all these devices just add to the chaos surrounding cheating in exams and also cyberbullying.

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You wish that there were an actual law banning these infernal devices from the classroom. You think fondly of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain where the regional government has actually made it illegal to have these phones in the classroom.

9. Get ready to be stared at

You have to be on stage all the time. The worst thing is that once you spill some coffee on your clothes, you are going to suffer a 100 times more than any other person would. Everybody is staring at you. When things go well though, it is not so bad being center stage!

10. Student howlers will make you laugh

One of the great things about teaching is the laughs you get from student errors in tests and in the classroom too. Here are some of my favourite ones on the video below with the ‘The Funny Teacher’, Mark Schumacher.

11. Teaching is rewarding

“The one exclusive sign of thorough knowledge is the power of teaching.”- Aristotle

Let’s face it. There is a great reward in passing on knowledge and helping children and teens develop into balanced and responsible citizens (hopefully!).

12. Paperwork will probably drive you crazy

Teachers in Scotland have complained about the ‘Amazonian forest’ worth of paperwork linked to their report writing, grading homework and recording. There seems to be an inordinate time spent on entering data and then sifting through it. Teachers complain that there is not nearly enough input on how to create engaging lessons. That would be much more beneficial for both teachers and students, according to a report in The Washington Post.

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13. Teachers get stressed out

It is true that teachers are under enormous pressure from the school authorities, from parents and the students themselves. Many teachers get stressed out, but there are many ways that they can devote more time for relaxing activities outside the classroom.

14. Teachers are more likely to get ill

Working with so many people in an enclosed space is likely to lead to more viral and bacterial infections. Just a case of numbers really. Health studies show that, not surprisingly, teachers are more liable to suffer from laryngitis and bronchitis than those in other professions. Teaching students about basic health hygiene can help everybody and keeping a hand sanitizer within easy reach is always a great idea.

15. Teachers and parents have to get along

In the past it was just PTA meetings, report cards and a few conferences annually. Now both parties expect closer collaboration and that can be really helpful for the students. Parents want to know more about what is going on in the classroom and teachers are really happy that somebody is taking a real interest in their children’s progress. It’s a win- win situation and that should always be kept in mind.

16. Changes in the curriculum loom like dark clouds

Just when a teacher has got used to the new syllabus, a note from the school authorities reveals that further changes are on the way. The teacher sighs. So do the students! High school students often protest as well. Colorado high schoolers protested about the changes to the history syllabus which, they felt, would downplay the role of civil disobedience in US history.

“It’s our history; don’t make it mystery.”- Colorado students’ slogan

17. Parents who think their kids are being bullied

Of course bullying can be a serious problem. Parents and teachers can work together to solve it. But when a parent arrives and tells you that a certain pupil is picking on her daughter and must be punished, then the teacher thinks that maybe this is just one side of the story! A much better approach would be for the parent to flag up the bullying issue and ask how they can solve the problem together.

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18. Parents who complain about too much homework

When this happens, the teacher wonders how their kids will react to this. Maybe they will start to take it easy, knowing that their wonderful parents are going to solve the problem. A much better approach would be for the parents to help the kids manage their homework time better, instead of complaining and whining about it.

19. Teachers are supposed to be perfect

Every teacher has to be perfect but the reality is very different from that ridiculous expectation. Teachers get a hard time from the press and yet they are the lowest paid of most of the professions. How many perfect doctors or lawyers can you name? Now you understand why so few graduates want to go in for teaching. Why not pay them more and give them better working conditions?

20. Help! I’m sinking

When a new teacher walks into the classroom, he or she faces enormous challenges. Just think of the behavior issues and how to manage a large class. Also, they are crying out for support in making really great lessons plans and how to deal with a few brats in the class who can ruin everything. Next time you meet a new teacher, smile at her!

So, you still want to be a teacher? Great! Let us know in the comments how an inspiring teacher at school helped you make that choice.

Featured photo credit: Olympic Week – Teacher for a day/ Chicago 2016 via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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