Help! Social Media Has Turned the End of the School Year Into a Nightmare



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Dear We Are Teachers,

I’m in my 10th year of teaching 3rd grade. I used to love the end of the year, but now I find myself dreading it. Not only are there more celebrations—whole-class graduations, individual graduations, in-school parties, out-of-school parties—but every event is just so exhausting and excessive. I find myself having to deal with vendors, clear space so the DJ can set up his station in our classroom, and become the de facto Slide Monitor for the bounce house. Not to mention having to pose in what seems like a thousand pictures instead of being present and actually enjoying my time with students. I love my students and want to celebrate a fabulous year with them. How can I set boundaries around all the crap next year?

—How do i unsubscribe?

Dear H.D.I.U.,

This time of year is hard for every teacher, but with a little extra sparkle for elementary teachers. Often, parents get so excited about the “fun” part that they forget you’re there for the “safety” part, both in the real world and the digital one.

I don’t think the “let’s cut back on the celebrations” battle is one you want to fight, nor do I necessarily think that’s what you’re saying. What I hear is that you (rightfully!) no longer want to be the party coordinator.

I think this is a job to pass off completely to your classroom parents. Run this email (or a version of it) by your principal, which you can send at the beginning of the year as well as again in April as a reminder:

“Hi ____,

One of my favorite parts of the school year is when it’s time to CELEBRATE! I love all the creative, fun ideas our parents come up with to recognize our students’ growth and achievements throughout the year.

While I’m happy to attend events and share in the fun, it’s important that I’m able to focus on my job: keeping students safe and learning. For this reason, I’m asking that parents share among themselves the workload of:

  • Polling of interests, preferences, dates, etc.
  • Planning activities, food, treats, etc.
  • Coordinating volunteers and shifts
  • Supervising or facilitating anything that takes my focus away from the safety of the group
  • Setting up and taking down

Additionally, I want to reiterate our school’s social media policy: [insert policy here]. Please take care during any celebratory events to make sure you’re following these guidelines.”

Then, the first time you’re asked to blow up 200 balloons (nope), check on your school’s clown policy (nope), or drag a parent’s giant thousand-dollar cooler to the kitchen to fill with ice (nope), you can politely remind parents of these guidelines.

Also, just don’t be around while they’re setting up. Say you’re in a meeting and go get a Diet Coke or something.

Dear We Are Teachers,

Yesterday while walking to dismissal, a teammate (one I really don’t get along with) grabbed a 4th grade student’s wrist and was pulling him toward the back of the line. I tried to intervene as she kept pulling, and finally the student shoved her to get away. My teammate yelled at the student for “assaulting” her, so I stepped in and yelled back,”If you hadn’t put your hands on him, he wouldn’t have hurt you.” Not my finest moment, but I was definitely at my boiling point with her.

I talked to my principal, who thanked me for letting him know, and I was honest that I didn’t respond professionally. Nevertheless, he sent me a meeting invite to talk about what happened. I’m worried that I’ll be reprimanded for yelling at her in front of students. Was I in the wrong?

—I’m Just here for the safe schools

Dear I.J.H.F.T.S.S.,

I don’t think you’re in trouble. As a teacher, I would also be mad enough to yell if I saw a student being hurt. As a principal, I would be furious if one of my teachers put their hands on a student (outside of the need for self-defense). And as a parent, if a teacher grabbed my child out of anger? Suffice it to say there would be a verbal dressing-down unlike the world has ever heard.

My spidey senses are telling me that you’re probably being called into that meeting to write a statement that will be used against the wrist-grabbing teacher. She sounds like a very serious liability for your principal, and it’s lucky you intervened.

But on the off-chance that you’re somehow in trouble here, don’t panic. Smile, nod, and head directly to your school’s union rep after the meeting. An administrator who doesn’t swiftly intervene with a teacher for putting their hands on a student is not an administrator that should have children in their charge.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I used to be in a heavy metal band in my teens and early 20s (25 years ago), and the pictures are impossible to scrub from the Internet. Trust me—I’ve tried. It’s my 8th year teaching middle school math, which means that for the past 7.8 years, my students have been Googling my name and then broadly disseminating this information.

I know this isn’t a big deal, but it’s just kind of embarrassing. I feel like the punchline, both among my classes and every time it’s brought up (by someone else) on a faculty get-to-know-you activity. Should I just get over it, or is there something I can do that doesn’t make me seem like a total fun-sucker?

—wASHED-UP ROCK STAR, POSSIBLE FUN-SUCKER

Dear W.U.R.S.,

“Embarrassing” is reason enough to put an end to it! That’s a valid feeling (and can feel super distracting and uncomfortable at work). Here are several ideas for you to consider:

  1. Try hiring a professional to scrub the Internet for you. They’ll have the muscle and experience of telling companies or individuals, “Hey—take this down or we’ll sue.” If that doesn’t work:
  2. Send a friendly but clear email to your coworkers that you’re not OK with your old band photos being used as a punchline. They probably bring it up because they think you think it’s funny too. But setting this boundary will help a lot in setting the tone for students. Acknowledging that you don’t think anyone brings this up mean-spiritedly will go a long way in helping the email feel less awkward.
  3. Consider leaning in. OK, this is my wild card idea, so feel free to reject it if you want. But I wonder if this situation will feel less embarrassing and awkward if you take ownership of it. Explore the idea of bringing in your guitar to play for students or crash the talent show. Maybe blow up one of the photos of you as a rock star. Add text that says, “Yes, this is me. Yes, I know I rule.” Hang it in your classroom so when students think they’re uncovering a dark secret, you already beat them to it.

Ultimately, this is about your comfort level, though. If an issue comes up over and over that makes it difficult to do your job or just makes you feel awkward, you have every right to ask for help from your coworkers to make it stop.

Do you have a burning question? Email us at askweareteachers@weareteachers.com.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I’ve put off getting a dog throughout college and my first few years of teaching because I wanted to wait until I could provide it with a happy life. I do live alone and have a 30-minute commute to school. But now that I’m financially stable, have summers off, have a more manageable schedule, and live in an apartment with a dog run, I think I could be a great dog owner. I paid a deposit to get an English springer spaniel puppy just as school is letting out so I’ll have time to train her. My parents are furious, saying that with a teaching schedule, it’s cruel to get a dog. What are your thoughts? 

—PAWSITIVELY PREPARED



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