My students are writing complaints about me, and I'm worried

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Kenz501, May 13, 2017.

  1. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Companion

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    Jun 16, 2017

    I can relate to the above post. I'm actually teaching kids who have gotten in trouble with the law, though, so I guess it should not come as a surprise to me that they have trouble with authority. I like routines, though. I was diagnosed with ASD a little while before I got this job. I need to at least feel like I know what I'm doing to operate, and when I'm not sure what to do, I invent rules that I think will work for me. What frustrates me, though, is when the kids won't follow my rules or just decide to complain about me because I'm not doing the job the way they want it done. I feel like asking, "seriously, who put you in charge?" It just adds insult to injury when they think they can file formal complaints against me excessively in a deliberate attempt to get me fired. Shouldn't there be some kind of law against this?
     
  2. GPC0321

    GPC0321 Companion

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    Jun 16, 2017

    The ASD diagnosis does shed some light.

    There is an adage about teaching that I learned long ago, and I believe it is true. "They don't care how much you KNOW until they know how much you CARE."

    There really is an expectation from students that their teachers will at least try to show them that they care about them. And I would think students like these who are very at-risk and need a lot of support are happier with a teacher who has a strong personality and can offer them that emotional support that they might require. And that might be very difficult for you to do, understandably.

    Because one other thing we hear a lot is that it IS all about the students. They ARE the reason we go to work every day. We're there for THEM, not ourselves. And if they catch wind that one of their teachers isn't there for them, they might resent it a lot.

    Just some food for thought.
     
  3. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Companion

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    Jun 16, 2017

    I just can't seem to get over how unfair life is, though. I did pretty well in school, endured horrible bullying; at one point, it was like I couldn't make a friend if my life depended on it, and now I get to put up with more of the same. My older co-workers accuse my generation of being foolish and coddled, and by extension, I feel like they accuse me of being that way. I mean, I fit the description of your stereotypical member of Generation Y. I've got a ridiculous amount of student loan debt due to not working much while I was in college. There were other options, but I was just afraid to take them. I didn't have a good track record with people, and I applied for some on-campus jobs just to be turned down flat. I took the worst jobs for my disorder just to prove to myself that I could do them. I wanted people to stop being mean to me, but I got bullied on every job I took. I thought it was because these jobs were filled with poorly educated people, and I was assured that a job that required a degree would be different. I wanted to learn whatever I was missing (I didn't know I had ASD at the time, so I didn't know what it was), so I thought maybe the colleges would train me.

    Well, fast-forward, here I am. I'm putting up with much of the same treatment I had to endure from kids when I was in high school---rumors, bullying, mean and hateful comments, etc. Only this time I'm the adult. I should "know better" and somehow magically understand how to get these kids to stop agitating me. This makes no sense. The disrespect is painful. They're deliberately trying to make me look incompetent. Didn't I pay enough of that penance when I was a child? I guess not. People tell me "don't take it personally," but how else am I supposed to take it? The best part of teaching--the kids--are trying to frustrate me. I do keep asking myself, "why do they hate me so much? what can I do to stop this?"

    I want to figure out how to fix whatever is wrong in my classroom. I feel so powerless sometimes. It's almost like everyone else is human, but I'm not worthy of it. It's like they regard me somehow as someone less. I guess I need to get out of this emotional well. Sorry.

    People cite lack of "common sense" as something so negative it's almost criminal, but they don't seem to realize the truth about people like me; there are just some things we genuinely don't understand.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  4. vickilyn

    vickilyn Maven

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    Jun 16, 2017

    I am going to suggest the obvious. Before your worst nightmares become a reality, find a teaching job that will get you into a classroom where you will have a fighting chance at being successful. I work with students who are not that much different than the ones you are working with, and I don't struggle with ASD, I'm not from generation Y, and I never struggled with being bullied or feelings of self worth, and still these students are always looking for a chip in the armour that they can exploit. I have a lifetime of being able to work with all types of people, but I know that this is a hard job. It isn't for the faint of heart, or anyone who struggles with self esteem issues. This is an environment as tough as nails, and OP, you are so concerned about why they hate you that you probably are struggling to do your job the way you would like to.

    I have a very close acquaintance who shares many of your traits, and I can not, in a million years, imagine that individual in either of our classrooms. They would have no chance at success. You may have debt, I have no doubt that you are bewildered with how you are perceived and treated by these students, but they are damaged too, and all some of them know how to do is to bring you down into their own misery by making you as miserable as possible. They sense your vulnerability, and for some of them, it is their first chance at being considered more normal than the authority figure. The truth is that both of you are struggling, but your students have learned how to use the rules in their favor.

    I am not sure that this is the right job for you. Do I have any suggestions? Not really. When my son was in college, there was an ASD student in the same program. The university took his money for five years, taught him all the technically correct information, but when it came time to student teach, he failed miserably because he could not connect with the students and was unable to use his years of training to control the class. I was at a workshop on ASD a year ago, and I will always remember the instructor's comments that many of the best surgeons are on the spectrum, but are excellent surgeons. Without having to display bedside manner, they are able to use their superb technical skill to save lives. People accept the lack of interaction because the guy just saved their life. If they were, instead, the family doctor, they would fail in no time at all.

    Only you know what will realistically work for you.
     
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  5. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Companion

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    Jun 16, 2017

    I've been able to stay under the radar for years. I don't know what comes to mind when people talk to me but it certainly isn't, "she has autism." I can play just well enough to get by, and that helps me get jobs, but when I should have "passed the learning curb" or should have "enough experience to know how to do the job better than that," I fail miserably. I'm bad at "thinking on my feet" and learning skills by experience. I have to be walked through every single step! I do not learn a lot from my mistakes sometimes and people blame me for it without mercy. I kind of wish everyone were autistic, then they would know how strange the world they live in really is.

    They're not, though. I often find myself asking the same questions because I never really understand the advice. It's possible for a person like me to stay on the job for years and not know much more than people who recently started.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  6. vickilyn

    vickilyn Maven

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    Jun 16, 2017

    Your problem may be more a matter at staying for years in the wrong job for your needs. I truly believe there is a niche for everyone, but you may have to go down a lot of wrong paths to find the right one. A famous example would be Dr. Temple Grandin. She would not be good with patients every 15 minutes, but she has revolutionized how we construct slaughterhouses, treating the living animal with respect right up to the moment of its death, still fearless. She was not widely understood, but because her observations and modifications work, she is secure in her niche. I have students on the spectrum, and I am always shocked when other teachers don't see what I see. Because I recognize the patterns, I am able to adapt so that these students are successful. There is no magic cure, but you have obviously developed coping mechanisms which must function on some level.

    You either bring others onboard with concrete suggestions about what will help you succeed, or you go silently through life wondering why you can't get it right, tortured by self doubt and fear of failing. If you don't have a therapist to talk to, you should find one. You need help realistically evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, and producing a plan for success. I hope that you will do this for you - you haven't given up, and a helping hand or two could really change your life.
     
  7. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Companion

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    Jun 17, 2017

    I'm seeing a therapist currently. She seems to wonder how I even manage to do teaching, and she has made suggestions on coping with OCD and other ASD related issues, but she hasn't really given me any useful career advice. People here, I'm guessing, tend to write you off as lazy if you don't start to show the kind of progress they want, even though they have a really bad habit of just expecting you to "get" it without really teaching you anything. I find it pretty frustrating, honestly.
     
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  8. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Companion

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    I seem to struggle with social things, big things, not little things like showing emotion, although I may have issues there too, like my students may struggle with math or reading. It's really kind of frustrating to me that we have so much in common, yet they don't really consider me a "success story," so they ignore and ridicule me.

    I'm getting better, but a lot of these things are just common sense, like not allowing the students to be at the computers by themselves while I'm trying to teach a separate lesson on the other side of the classroom. Why did I make routines that work against me? I wasn't considering all of the parts. I have a habit of not considering how all of the parts work together; I usually just consider the parts on which I'm focused. It makes classroom management pretty difficult. Students have done things right under my nose without me catching them until the issue escalated to the point it couldn't be ignored.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2017
  9. GPC0321

    GPC0321 Companion

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    Jun 17, 2017

    I think it's time to really look at whether or not this is the career for you. Admitting that it's not is actually a very brave thing to do, and you shouldn't stick with it just to try and prove something to yourself or anyone else. Teaching is a very stressful job, and I think you'll find that a LOT of people get into it and then realize they are not cut out for it. No shame in that at all.

    And you're not just teaching, you're dealing with some of the most challenging students there are. Anyone would be struggling. Because even the "good" students, if they sense any sort of weakness in a teacher, will go in for the kill. It's just what they do. It's a game to them, and if they think they can get to you, they're all over it!

    So, please don't be so hard on yourself. It's not just you, and it's not BECAUSE of you. You seem very self-aware and honest about your abilities and limitations as a teacher. That's a great achievement in and of itself. Now you must decide whether you want to continue in teaching while working on building your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses, or do you want to find another field that might be more conducive to your personality?

    And truly, with teenagers...don't take it personally. They're irrational blobs of hormones caught somewhere between childhood and adulthood. They don't know if they're coming or going, and as the other poster said, they relish the chance to try to make someone else more miserable than they are. Especially a teacher. They aren't picking on you because of who YOU are...they're picking on you because of who THEY are.
     
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  10. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Companion

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    Jun 17, 2017

    I've offended them somehow. I'm pretty sure that is what this is all about. I don't know how to apologize for it, and I sort of feel justified with most of my decisions. As for getting another job, this one is supposed to be pretty easy. There's an officer in the room with me, but I've been told that they can't intervene without my permission. That's really frustrating, too, because it's like every other adult in the room knows how to get the kids' respect, but they know they can just treat me however they want.
     
  11. GPC0321

    GPC0321 Companion

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    Jun 18, 2017

    What makes you think that? Can you think of anything you've done that would offend them? Because honestly, teenagers don't need logical reasons to act like illogical jerks. A lot of it honestly is due to where they are developmentally, and your crowd is probably even more extreme than the average teen. I had HONORS level sophomores who spent the last week of school in ISS (those who weren't suspended completely) for getting caught skipping school and "vaping" in a friend's truck in the parking lot. And they thought it was hilarious! I'd see them after the dismissal bell high-fiving each other and laughing about it.
    You're giving your students too much credit and power. They're children.

    You need to stop this. You don't have to apologize to them. If anything, they should be apologizing to you. Stop giving them the power. They're children.

    Says who?? That's a completely subjective observation. For some people, dealing with troubled teenagers in an academic setting IS easy. For some people, it's challenging. For some people it's downright horrible. No one can tell anyone else how "easy" their job is. That depends completely on the person. It's like someone saying, "Calculus is easy!" and I nearly have a panic attack just hearing the word 'calculus', LOL!

    I can understand this frustration a little bit. For the first time in my career I had a teacher's aide in my classroom during one of my periods last semester. This individual had a very close bond with the students because they'd been together since kindergarten (I teach high school sophomores). They definitely preferred him over me, and often by-passed me and deferred to him for things like asking to go to the bathroom or use the classroom telephone. They'd completely ignore me when I was teaching just to talk to him while I was teaching. And he is a wonderful person, very nice man, but I got a bit tired of him being so lenient with the students and frankly undermining MY authority in MY class. It was very stressful for me as well. It required me to confront the situation head-on, which I didn't want to do, and the students resented me for it. So, yeah, I totally hear you about that. A good solution might be meeting with you the officer and working with him/her to set the rules and procedures and define clearly what each of your roles is in the classroom.

    You've indicated that socializing and connecting with the students is a challenge for you. If there is another adult in the room who doesn't have this challenge, with whom the kids feel more of a connection and have built a rapport, that's definitely going to make your job harder. And you're the one who has to decide whether that's a challenge you are capable of overcoming, or whether this just isn't the right fit for your personality type. You can't let other people make that decision for you. They aren't you.
     
  12. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Companion

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    Jun 18, 2017

    Yes, they are children, but the officers have more of a rapport with the kids than I do, and they've had sufficient time to establish routines that work for them and the kids but won't necessarily work in a classroom. The kids try to get away with things with me, and this trend about writing these complaint forms when they're mad at me is just anger-inducing (these forms can count against state evaluations, so the detention center, not my principal, could decide they don't want me around anymore. It's potentially serious, so on top of trying to plan lessons on material that is outside of my certification, I now need to start looking for a sufficient side job. It's not impossible, but I just wish someone would acknowledge that I'm indeed under a lot of stress. The others aren't experiencing this, because they have their materials, teaching strategies, and routines down to "common sense." I'm still learning, and yes, I'm very sensitive to praise and criticism.). I get that the kids don't want me and instead want someone who has more experience working with people like them. I feel terrible that I can't do my job well and my attempts to seek solutions have given the older teachers an excuse to look down on me. One who is a retired principal told me that "it didn't make any sense" why I was having so much trouble with classroom management when the other teachers had "given you plenty of advice." Sure they did.... I guess vague suggestions work for people who have been teaching for years and years because they just know what to do by instinct. I've just been feeling my way through and trying to learn from my mistakes. I think my biggest flaw has been inconsistency, though. I'm super lenient with the kids until I've just had enough, and then they are surprised when they actually get sent out of the classroom instead of just given another warning.


    My first instinct has been to just take the blame. I'm the adult, so I'm responsible; that's what everyone tells me.

    My older retired teacher coworkers have that opinion, and I guess it is easy compared to the conditions they're working in, but it doesn't mean I'm lazy or don't care about my job. Then, they start talking about people "trying to do jobs they aren't meant to do" and things like that. It's really easy to judge people if you don't remember where you yourself came from, I guess, but my struggles aren't comparable to theirs anyway because they are from a different time and culture. I've never been an immigrant; my parents weren't migrant workers. I didn't struggle to learn English. I wasn't alive for the Civil Rights Movement. My parents weren't shipped off to camps or segregated because people were afraid of them. Their experiences and mine are worlds apart. I have enthusiasm, and I want to learn from them, but I think mostly they just see me as lazy, entitled, coddled. The truth is I want to work as hard as I can to prove myself to them, but I don't know how.

    I really don't want them to take it the wrong way. When I started at this place, I tried to establish some boundaries for them that would work for me, but I quickly learned that the officers pretty much run the room. They won't acknowledge it, but they have way more authority over the kids than I do. The kids aren't even afraid of being put out of the classroom if the officers aren't going to reinforce it. Yeah, there's a disconnect between them and me, and I'm sure that's hurting me, but I don't know how to fix it, and talking seems to make it worse. Usually, I just wait for the officer to take action when a kid isn't following instructions. When that doesn't happen, they disrespect me without fear. I have given them consequences, but those consequences are not regarded as anything serious.

    It's probably not a good fit for my personality. My original plan was to build a reputation here and then transition to a public school, but I've been stuck here due to my "poor classroom management." I don't know what to do. I can't answer an interview question about classroom management confidently; I've been successful because someone else has been managing behavior for me. Every time I try to take matters into my own hands, the students don't take me seriously, claim I'm "doing too much," or just decide to act out, even more, to "punish" me for taking authority in my own classroom. Those complaint forms are another bit of unwanted power that the kids try to have over me. I may cringe when a student picks one up; I wish those forms could be removed from my classroom. Do I really need students not only refusing to do what I tell them but blatantly lying on me to try to get me fired with all of the stress I'm already under?
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
  13. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Companion

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    Jun 18, 2017

    ....and of course we have to deal with the other issues, like the computers going down. I only have two working computers in my room, and I've been complaining about this problem for weeks with no results.
     
  14. a2z

    a2z Phenom

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    Jun 18, 2017

    You are not alone in problems like this.
     
  15. vickilyn

    vickilyn Maven

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    I'll go you one better than that - because of what the kids might do on the computers, I have NO computers for students to work on. Be honest - of course the officers have the power, because when you are working with incarcerated individuals, that's where the rules come from. Unless you can find something that impacts their lives MORE than being locked up, it really is a losing battle. With this group, rewarding positive behavior with something they want or like is going to be a better way to go. Like I said before, your students and mine are very similar. Setting up some tokens for positive behavior will work much better with students who have basically already lost everything.
     
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  16. GPC0321

    GPC0321 Companion

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    Jun 18, 2017

    Look at this list of statements you've made about yourself. What stands out to you? What things could be easy fixes? What things can be fixed gradually? What things cannot be fixed and might require a different approach altogether?
    • the officers have more of a rapport with the kids than I do
    • The kids try to get away with things with me
    • trying to plan lessons on material that is outside of my certification
    • I just wish someone would acknowledge that I'm indeed under a lot of stress.
    • I'm still learning
    • I'm very sensitive to praise and criticism
    • I get that the kids don't want me and instead want someone who has more experience working with people like them
    • I feel terrible that I can't do my job
    • my attempts to seek solutions have given the older teachers an excuse to look down on me.
    • I've just been feeling my way through and trying to learn from my mistakes.
    • I think my biggest flaw has been inconsistency
    • I'm super lenient with the kids until I've just had enough
    • My first instinct has been to just take the blame.
    • I'm the adult, so I'm responsible
    • that's what everyone tells me
    • it doesn't mean I'm lazy or don't care about my job
    • my struggles aren't comparable to theirs anyway because they are from a different time and culture
    • I have enthusiasm
    • I want to learn from them
    • I think mostly they just see me as lazy, entitled, coddled
    • I want to work as hard as I can to prove myself to them
    • I don't know how
    • I really don't want them to take it the wrong way.
    • I tried to establish some boundaries for them that would work for me
    • I quickly learned that the officers pretty much run the room
    • they have way more authority over the kids than I do
    • there's a disconnect between them and me
    • I'm sure that's hurting me
    • I don't know how to fix it
    • I just wait for the officer to take action when a kid isn't following instructions
    • they disrespect me without fear
    • I have given them consequences
    • those consequences are not regarded as anything serious
    • It's probably not a good fit for my personality
    • I've been stuck here due to my "poor classroom management."
    • I don't know what to do
    • I can't answer an interview question about classroom management confidently
    • I've been successful because someone else has been managing behavior for me
    • Every time I try to take matters into my own hands, the students don't take me seriously
    • I may cringe when a student picks one up
    • I wish those forms could be removed from my classroom
    • Do I really need students not only refusing to do what I tell them but blatantly lying on me to try to get me fired with all of the stress I'm already under?
    Honest reflection is our greatest tool for improving as educators. Own these statements, and own the solutions that can turn some of them around for you.
    And so you know, you're getting all of this attention from me because I used to be very much like you when I started teaching. I cried a LOT back in those days (in the shower before work, in the bathroom at work, on my bed after work). I don't want you to go through this thinking you're somehow a failure because of the things you're experiencing. You're not. But you're clearly not happy with your job, so YOU have to be the one to implement the changes. You're not going to get it from anyone else. It has to come from you.

    ETA: Reading through these statements paints a pretty detailed picture of how you view yourself. I know this is easier said than done, but if you're going to view yourself as a victim, your students are going to treat you like one. If you view yourself as a leader, your students are going to treat you like one. And sometimes you may have to "fake it til you make it" in that assumed leadership role. You might be quaking and shaking on the inside, but you've got to appear large and in charge on the outside! It will get easier and easier, and you'll realize one day that you're not faking it anymore...and, girlfriend, that's a glorious day! But it takes TIME. ;)
     
  17. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Companion

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    Jun 18, 2017

    There are plenty of things that could make the experience better, but I don't know if I will ever benefit from them. For one, I would like to stop feeling like I'm being judged all of the time. I feel inadequate, even though a lot of these things like the computers not working, me not being certified in every subject they need, and the kids being able to write potentially damaging complaints whenever they want, aren't really my fault.

    I kind of wish I could go into a safe space with other teachers and share tips and techniques that work and vent just a little about my struggles without being criticized. The older teachers really don't seem to get it. They're veterans who may be laughing at my struggles, but they're real problems to me. I'm not trying to get them to give me sympathy; I just want solutions I can use. One reason I'm so depressed about this is that I feel inadequate as an educator, and, well, my low ability to cope with stress is making it sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It felt so good when I got to talk to with a teacher from an affiliated alternative school. We shared ideas, and I actually felt like I was capable of doing something other than annoying people. It was a pretty nice feeling.

    I don't understand why my coworkers don't seem to have any enthusiasm. We haven't gotten together and shared any new strategies or teaching techniques in months. They're willing to answer questions, but there's hardly ever anything new. They also act like they have trouble operating the program that teaches the kids.

    Maybe they think I don't have any enthusiasm? That's not true, though!
     
  18. GPC0321

    GPC0321 Companion

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    Jun 19, 2017

    I really don't know what else to say. I can tell you that if your coworkers have been at this for a while, that can explain why they aren't as enthusiastic as you think they should be.
    Is this a year-round school, or do you have summer break? If you have a break, that's a good time to reflect, rethink, and revamp how you do things. When you're in the midst of it, changing tactics is almost always a challenge. But I feel like we always get a chance to reinvent ourselves when we start again in the fall. Well, assuming you have different/new students. It won't work as well with the same kids, but it can still work. Kind of a "that was then and this is now" mindset.

    Out of curiosity, what does this: "They also act like they have trouble operating the program that teaches the kids." mean? Just trying to figure out if you guys are expected to do actual teaching, or are you more facilitators who monitor and offer help to students working in online programs?
     
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  19. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Companion

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    Jun 19, 2017


    We're supposed to be, more or less, facilitators but sometimes to make things work we have to teach. I feel like the ones in charge make things a little more complicated due to their lack of familiarity with the program and how it's supposed to work. I'm not a computer genius, but I'm pretty comfortable with technology at least. I've had to deal with things that should be unacceptable, such as password protection that I did not set, and lack of resources for inevitable downtime and computer failure. It would be nice if this system worked a little better. I'm not certified in all subjects, and I'm not a retired teacher.

    The kids definitely notice when things go wrong. This week, I haven't even been able to put some students on the computer because certain parts of the lesson are password protected.
     
  20. Kenz501

    Kenz501 Companion

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    I'm wondering if I should start looking for something else, quick. Today I was informed that they are sending in a veteran teacher to help me with my classes. This isn't a measure I would expect if they thought I was doing a good job, and, really, I'm not doing a great job, but most of the problems are related to my personality and inability to read the students. That's not an easy thing to change. I can try, but it looks like my budding career as an educator may not survive this latest effort by my boss to resolve the student complaints.

    The students may have a few valid points. I'm disorganized, and it's really apparent when I have to multitask. When my numbers are low, and the computers do most of the work, I do okay, but when I have to complete a lot of little tasks for the kids, things just get out of hand. I feel like this visit from the veteran teacher is going to make me look incompetent. On the surface, it may look like I really don't know what I'm doing. They sent a veteran teacher to me once before when I first started. I'm so unhappy about this; I almost feel like just telling them that I quit so that I can avoid the humiliation.

    Can you just hear the other teachers saying, "she's been here for two years, and she hasn't learned it yet. She's not cut out for teaching. That lazy girl doesn't have a clue what she's doing!"?

    I'm almost sure they are going to fire me, but I wonder if there's a way to leave with my dignity and professional reputation intact. I don't want to be one of those teachers who can't find another job because I was fired for incompetence or something of that nature. I want to leave on a good note at least. These people were nice enough to keep me for almost two years. I feel like I was granted the opportunity to learn a lot, whether I took it or not. It's valuable work experience, even if it isn't going to end the way I want it to.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017

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