“But You’re Such A Strong Teacher”
“But you’re such a strong teacher. I hate this phrase.
As a new teacher, it took me a while to understand what this phrase meant. At first, I believed it to be a compliment. I thought it meant I was doing a good job in my classroom and with my students. As a new teacher, this is a phrase you hope to hear as you make your way through the ups and downs of teaching.
But after a while, I started to notice that being a “strong teacher” came along with harder tasks, difficult and complex situations, and opportunities that almost no one wanted within the school.
I realized this “accolade” was only used when someone in administration needed to give you something hard to do, not because you are a good teacher, but because you had proved to manage difficult situations better than others in their eyes. Somewhere along the way, my administration saw me dealing with a difficult student or managing a difficult task and said to themselves, “She can handle the hard things” which really meant “When something difficult arises, we can give it to her.”
What was once a phrase I wanted to hear quickly became a phrase that set me up for a more stressful situation than the one I was already had.
It seems that administrations use this phrase as an excuse for the dump truck of additional work and time that is being delivered to your front door. It’s the cherry on top of a molded cake. The beautiful envelope that delivers you notice to tell you that you’re being audited by the IRS. It’s used to try and help the teacher understand why he or she is chosen to be thrown into the fire.
“You’re a strong teacher.”That’s why you have to give your better classes to this teacher, and you take the worst classes in our school.
“You’re a strong teacher.” That’s why we’re putting the child that hits and bites teachers in your classroom.
“You’re a strong teacher.” That’s why we’re giving you all the hard tasks because we know you’ll do it, even if you hate it.
“You’re a strong teacher.” That’s why we’re giving you all the hard tasks because we know you’ll do it, even if you hate it. Click To Tweet
When I first moved abroad, I was co-teaching with another 5th-grade teacher. I was enjoying my experience. One day, I had to cover an absent teacher in grade 4. Those students were completely out of control. For 45 minutes, I was on my feet, trying to get students to stop fighting, to get off of tables, and to just sit down. After school, I told my co-teacher that I would HATE my job if I ever had to go and teach them.
Sure enough, one week later, my principal came to me, calling me a “strong teacher,” and told me I would be moving to grade 4 the following week because they needed someone with strong classroom management to assist that teacher. My stress level went to 10,000 because of my strength. Something seems wrong with that.
Someone’s strength shouldn’t mean they deserve difficult situations. It seems as if being a “strong teacher” is more of a burden than a gift.
Internally, we feel punished for being a “strong teacher,” not appreciated. It makes us want to cut back on how “strong” we are so the administration will look the other way. Unfortunately, for us, that’s not the teachers we are. But I don’t understand why we are punished for being consistent in our management and classroom culture. Why is the reward for our hard work extra hard work?
What I’ve had to realize is no matter how strong I am to others, I know my strength the best. I know that even if I can handle a lot, I shouldn’t. Even if I know students may do better in my classroom, what is it costing me? My patience? My peace? My joy?
I challenge you (and myself) to start using our strength to speak up and politely decline. Accept the compliment, and say “no.”
Save some strength for yourself.
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