This is truly a sticky situation! Your colleagues want to help…or do they? You may be finding, if you are a novice teacher, that there is an abundance of advice out there that’s yours for the taking–whether you want it or not. Advice from your colleagues can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s great to have a heads up before that first fire drill, or before your first teacher evaluation. It’s not so great to be told that your room is a mess or your students need more fun activities.
It’s especially upsetting when you are already self-critical. Some of these well-meaning colleagues are only adding to the stress you are already experiencing. Even though you may welcome suggestions, there is often a blurred line between helping and hindering.
Helpful comments are those which spare you angst in the long run. They save you from disaster or pull you back from the edge of the precipice. The ones you would like to avoid are those that demoralize or make you feel inadequate. In either case, what should you do with all the advice you are certain to receive?
1. Thank the person who is giving you the advice. At the very least, they have taken time from their day to deliver it.
2. Immediately categorize it under one of these headings: “Helpful”, “Hurtful”, or
3. Ask yourself this question–Will acting on this advice alleviate or add to my stress?
4. Once you’ve answered #3, either act on the advice or dismiss it. If you cannot decide whether the suggestion will help you in the future, make note of it on paper and save it for later reference.
5. Go on about the business of teaching. You have the credentials and training. You have the right to make your own decisions about your classroom, unless of course the “advice” is coming from an administrator.
6. If “Betty” from next door continues to bedevil you with not-so-subtle hints that you are not doing things properly, decide upon a mantra that you will stick with whenever she comes to you with yet another critique of your work. For example:
Betty: Mrs. Barnes, did you know that you have three posters hanging crooked on your wall? Mrs. Barnes: Thank you very much!
Betty: Mrs. Barnes, you need to know that three of your students have been consistently playing on the teeter-totter every recess for the past three days. Mrs. Barnes: Thank you very much!
Betty: Mrs. Barnes, the previous 6th grade teacher used to send out a note every week to every parent detailing the progress the students were making in math. She included five samples of math homework and even sent out extra credit work on Fridays so that her students could practice math problems over the weekend. Mrs. Barnes: Thank you very much!
If the helpful teacher is the least bit discerning, she may get the idea that you are not going to engage in these conversations. You have thanked her, and you have made note of it. Now you can go back to your work. If you think the idea is a good one, record it. If not, or if you know there is no way you can act on the suggestion, dismiss it. It can wait until next year.
Be sure to smile and then let it roll off your back. YOU DON’T HAVE TIME FOR ACTIVITIES/PROJECTS/DECORATING/BUSY WORK THAT STRESSES YOU OUT AND TAKES AWAY FROM WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH. Believe me, you will have approximately 35 more years to perfect your skills!
Some day you will look back on these days and smile. And hopefully, you will be able to bite your tongue when you see a novice teacher’s posters all hanging crooked! Twenty years from now, it won’t even matter…