Help! I Don’t Want To Hang Out After Work

Dear WeAreTeachers:
I’ve been feeling obligated to socialize with the elementary staff I work with. Every week a group goes to happy hour, and they meet up on weekends hikes about once a month. I’ve gone before, but honestly, by Friday night, I’m wiped out and just want to go home and eat and watch a good show. Now, one of the administrators is having a big birthday party at her home on Saturday night. It’s super nice of her to open up her home. She even stopped me in the hallway and said, “I’ll see you Saturday night, right?” Ugh! I feel obligated to go and that if I don’t show up, I may fall out of favor. Any ideas of how I can have a better work and life balance? —Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Dear SISOSIG,

You are bringing up a tension that so many educators feel in their work contexts. There is a push and pull about wanting to connect with coworkers while also desperately needing to recharge and take a break. Friday night teacher tired is a real thing! Think about the thousands of decisions you have made in the week. Remember the massive amount of time you dedicate to planning and prepping for the wide range of student needs. Consider all the family communication and concerns that come up week to week. It’s totally understandable that you are exhausted and just want to rest.

Some weeks you will be up for socializing. Choose what feels right for you! When the invitations come, notice your thoughts and feelings. Listen to your body. Trust your intuition to know what’s best for you. Maybe you prefer smaller gatherings or outdoor activities or would be more excited to go with another colleague. It’s especially hard when your administrator’s positional authority is at play. I think it’s wise to attend a couple of events as a way to invest in relationships. We can’t please everyone, but we can be unapologetic about establishing decent boundaries. Pause a bit before you commit. And when you are unsure or just too tired, have some diplomatic language in your mind.

Here are some things you might consider saying to your admin: “Your birthday celebration sounds so fun! I’m so grateful for the invitation. I’ll be able to stop by for a bit in the beginning.” That way, you can leave a card, connect with a few people, and still be home to snuggle up and rest. Or, if you decide to decline, you can say, “I’m sorry to miss your birthday celebration because of another commitment. I hope you have a wonderful celebration! Thanks again for the invitation!”

I think you know what’s best, and it sounds like what you really desire is rest. So, start a new series, get cozy, and rest. Just rest.

Dear WeAreTeachers:
One of my students has been through hell and back and is one of the most positive human beings I have ever met at age 13. This student is a refugee from Myanmar and was separated from some of her family. She lived in a refugee camp and has been in the US for three years. It’s amazing how much she has learned. We were talking about how tough she had it and how she chooses to stay positive. Listening to her talk made me so honored to be able to say I have met such an extraordinary person. I know we have heard a lot of crap about kids these days, but I feel that I needed to spotlight this student. She has not had an easy life but passes the message onto others to keep shining. What else can I do? —Shine The Light On What Is Right

Dear STLOWIR,

Yes, many of us have been experiencing struggle and weariness with student behavior challenges. The school interruptions and stress of a multi-year global pandemic, crises in our communities, violence across the world, and more have bombarded our spirits. It’s so common for us to focus on the negatives. Our negativity bias is hard-wired, and it takes a lot of attention and effort to shift to seeing the positives.

Alison Ledgerwood is a psychologist with a famous TED Talk that describes how we lean into the negatives circumstances in life. She goes on to describe how attention towards reframing our language can help to unlock a more positive outlook on life. Your desire to spotlight what’s going well and inspire others by sharing your student’s resilience is super impactful. Thank you!

With the reality of the Russian invasion of Ukraine , we are learning thousands of people fleeing into the current countries. Their raw drive for survival is on display to the world. This sobering context in history is important for us educators as we seek to create compassionate and welcoming spaces for ALL students in our schools. Students who are refugees have often experienced separation from friends, family, cultural customs, familiar food, school, and ways of life. Being uprooted because of war, economic issues, and political unrest can create stress and trauma in our students. Then when refugee students enter our US school systems, the transition can be bumpy, confusing, and overwhelming.

Once newcomer students arrive at our schools, they bring linguistic and cultural funds of knowledge and varied perspectives that add value to classroom communities. By highlighting your student’s journey, she will experience firsthand how unique and strong she is. And this resilient student will see how her life story can have a positive ripple effect on others. You are positioning your students to raise their voices and learn from each other. What an empowering classroom culture!

You asked what else you can do to support your student? Be aware that it might be hard for her to talk about some aspects of her tough experiences. Consider letting her know that she should only share what she feels comfortable with. This way, you are acknowledging the multiplicities of life and showing her that you care. You can also remind her that you are available to listen and hold space for her range of emotions that may be triggered because of the hard life experiences she has encountered. Teachers like you who recognize the unique challenges that refugee students experience make a world of difference. Your compassion, patience, guidance, safety, and sense of belonging can help the student find some moments of ease during their resettlement.

Dear We Are Teachers:
I am a new teacher with only six months of experience in the classroom, and I had my first “foot in mouth” experience. I misgendered one of my high school students, and I feel awful because it wasn’t my first time. The class made comments and laughed, and this student has been recently bullied because of the way they identify. I am already an anxiety-ridden person and constantly feel like I’m not a good enough teacher or that I’m going to be fired, but now even more so. I want to crawl under a rock and die from embarrassment and self-disappointment. How can I begin to repair this relationship?—Know Better And Do Better

Dear KBADB,

You may be feeling major ugh I feel right now. And you know you aren’t the only one who has stuck their foot in their mouth. We all have! It’s part of being human. The thing that separates us is how we respond. Your self-awareness and desire to do better are something to focus on. Without self-awareness, we have slim chances for learning and growing. I can imagine that your anxiety has flared up and insecurities have been triggered. Many of us can relate to the feeling of wanting to hide and avoid and wishing this mistake would just go away.

The thing is, you CAN do something. You can work to repair your relationship. Also, you can use this context as a learning opportunity for the class. It all starts with owning it. Taking responsibility for mistakes is the beginning of promoting healing conversations. I think it’s important to meet one-on-one with your student. Share that you care about them and realize that your repeated mistakes are a problem. Tell your student that you regret the marginalization you may have caused and perpetuated. Ask your student what advice they have for you. And then start doing some of your own research.

A great resource to explore is the Trevor Project. This organization has resources to help build your confidence to support the LGBTQ+ students you serve. “The first step to becoming an ally to transgender and nonbinary people is to learn more… It can be tough for transgender and nonbinary people to bear the burden of educating others about their lived experiences… You’ll be able to better support the trans and nonbinary folks in your lives and help to create a safer, kinder, and more accepting world.” Being an ally to students who identify as LGBTQ+ will take effort, self-awareness, and patience.

In the Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth, we learn about the concept of misgendering. “To misgender someone means to use the wrong name, pronouns, or form of address for a person’s gender. Whether misgendering happens as an innocent mistake or a malicious attempt to invalidate a person, it is deeply hurtful and can even put a person’s safety at risk if they are outed as transgender in an environment that is not tolerant.”

Here are a few practical ways to do better. First, focus on being an exquisite listener and try to empathize with your students’ lived experiences. Also, be ready to address rude, dehumanizing comments that may be made in your class and school. Next, be accountable and own the misgendering by apologizing for the harm that you may have caused. Finally, commit to doing better. We all are in the process of learning. Even though a sincere apology is important, it’s also meaningless if there is no behavior change.

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

Dear WeAreTeachers:
I’ve been working at a high school for five years, and it has been rough. My students don’t do their homework. They are mostly passive in class, with the occasional disruption of side conversations. I was given a curriculum to use. It’s just OK, but not really engaging. I teach Spanish, and I really want them to see the value of being multilingual, but it just seems like they don’t care. I have a team partner who is a new teacher, and he feels the same way as I do. How can I turn this around to be more positive?

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Illustration: Jennifer Jamieson

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