Thursday, April 16, 2009

When Teachers Vent

Occasionally, teachers get together with other teachers - after school in an empty classroom, over drinks at a local "happy hour" - and vent. And once this venting gets going, it is hard to put the breaks on. I am guilty of it, and I don't feel bad about this because most of my teacher friends do it too.

What do we vent about? Generally, we vent about students: how difficult it is to teach this one, the latest story about that one, did you know this other one is in a gang, etc. To the outsider, this might appear a bit like pessimists giving voice to their pessimism, or see it as an example of a bunch of lazy teachers complaining about having to teach.

But, as an insider, I think these venting sessions are necessary. I would be the last to say that teaching is one of the hardest professions there is (maybe it would be if there were fewer days off and perks), but will certainly say freely that teaching is like no other profession out there. Not only is it unique in that our "clients" generally are forced to "buy" our "product" by force, but also because for 9/10ths of our day (save for cafeteria duty and transition between classes), teachers do their job in isolation from any peers whatsoever. In most professions, when things go wrong, one can talk to a coworker or peer in the office. With teaching, there is none of that. At the end of the day, I see many tired, stressed, and dragging adult faces when I leave the building, and I am sure my face looks the same as theirs.

So, naturally when teachers get to talking after school, they let it rip. They were not able to vent all day. When the knucklehead in second period told them to f*** off, she just had to keep her cool for 5 more hours (and try not to get angrier when someone in period 4 followed suit). My story today happened during second period, when a student ran out of my room because I refused to write him a pass, only to have an administrator catch him, bring him back to class, and TELL me to write a pass for him so that he might be appeased. Soon after, my class broke loose, and kids began throwing paper balls into the trash can, cursing up a storm, and generally ignoring anything I had to say (as they had just seen a peer get away with running out of the classroom).

But I had to keep my chin up until the end of the day because, as any teacher knows, when one loses their cool in front of the kids, the kids come at you all the harder triggering a nice downward spiral. But all of this stoicism gets to us.

And that is why the after-school venting sessions are so necessary to us. Other teachers are the only ones who understand how we feel, and letting go to them serves as a catharsis. When my colleage tells me her stories about teaching the same student who ran from my class, she is subtly telling me that I am not the only one who is having thsee problems - not the only one feeling like their mind is slowly being lost. And when the two of us complain about how difficult it is to motivate the unmotivated students, we are subtly letting each other know that we are not the only ones who feel like we are banging our heads against the wall with no results.

So, I know that many outsiders view with contempt the vision of teachers griping to eachother about their kids. But these people don't realize how lonely a profession teaching is, and how frustrating it can be both for that reason and for many others. to a teacher like myself, being able to vent to other teachers who understand what it is I am going through is simply better help than talking to a therapist who doesn't.


  1. Thank you for saying that. I feel badly for non-teacher spouses/friends at a teacher party but they don't get unless they live it.

  2. I'm sorry the above happened to you, but other schools are not like that. Teacher venting influences (newly hired young and questionably mature) teachers which negatively impacts teh student's relationship with other teachers in their future years. Teachers walk all over the students in other schools in the effort to uphold their standards and discipline. My daughter's teacher wrote her up for "looking at another student" as well as when my daughter tried to get back her newly purchased pen from another student who took it. The write-ups are stupid. Then, they want my initials. I don't want to initial these things, but I'm afraid that, signature or none, the teachers will then force my daughter to Friday night detention (without the courtesy of my approval) I've approved of detention once, so it's not like I'm stubborn. I simply think the teachers don't care for my daughter. My point: they will talk to and influence the attitudes of other teachers, placing a hardship upon my daughter. These teachers of hers has made me change my mind about Senate Bill 5. Now, I'm all for it.

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  4. We special education teachers need to vent, and doing so with other special education teachers is safe. We have no one else to vent with. How often do school Principals even come over to our wing of the school? And do these administrators know anything about the characteristics of our kiddo's disabilities? Do they read their IEP's? For the most part, the answer is a big fat "NO." How often do we get to see our Sped Director if we work for a huge district? Uhm, one a semester for in-service training.
    I have NEVER seen teachers walk all over students. I wonder if this parent is hearing this information from her child? Or is she actually in the day-to-day trenches (at the school) observing this horrific behavior from teachers?
    Feel free to answer, "yetanother."
    Parents of these kiddos should be grateful they have us! Our job is not easy. Our pay is low. We don't have support.