Wednesday, October 10, 2007

She SO Does Not Deserve Me

This is a long post, but please read, because I need some help from you, dear readers.

When I signed on to be a preschool teacher, I knew the job would have its frustrations. I expected the hand wiping, the nose wiping, the butt wiping. I expected to hear whining and crying and occasional screaming. I expected to deal with dirt stains and food stains and booger stains all over my clothes every single day.

What I did not expect was a shitty boss.

I've been very fortunate thus far in my life when it comes to jobs. I've really only hated one job I ever had, and I got out of there after only one day, as soon as I found out that I'd been purposefully misled about the duties of the job. This is not to say that my jobs were always perfect or that I never whined about them before, because of course I did. But none of the whine-worthy parts were ever bad enough to make me actually want to quit before. I just whined about them to my friends and went on enjoying other aspects of the jobs.

But working for Boss Lady not only makes me want to quit, it makes me want to tear my hair out by the roots and shove it down her throat until she begs for mercy. The beautiful floral pictures in this post are purely intended to calm me down (as if anything could). I can NOT stay at this job much longer.

"Why?" you may ask. Well, I'll tell you...

Major Gripe #1: For having been in this business 20 years, she's still awfully stupid about a lot of things.

We have two girls who speak Norwegian, and one who speaks Hebrew, as well as our three French-speaking boys. I know she's dealt with English language learners before in her career, yet somehow she still can't seem to remember that when she is repeatedly shouting at them as if they're idiots for not following directions, it's probably because they have no idea what she's saying! She speaks to them exactly the same way she speaks to all the other kids, and I don't understand why she thinks that would work.

In addition, she speaks to the other kids with absolutely no indication that she understands children's language development at all. When she gives them a plate of food at the table and says, "Pass it down," they look at her in confusion. Because the normal instructions are to "Take one and pass it down." When they hesitate (because they're confused, which I completely understand), she angrily takes the plate from them and gives it to the kids further down the table. "If they're not going to pay attention," she tells me snidely, "then they get skipped." I reply, "You told them to pass it down. You didn't tell them if they could take one for themselves. They were confused." She hmphs and says, "Well the instructions are always the same, so they ought to know by now." THEY'RE TWO YEARS OLD! They don't interpret, they take things literally. How does she not know that?

She's completely inconsistent in her expectations of the kids, too. Sometimes she'll harp on them for minor issues and sometimes she'll let them slide. Sometimes she'll expect the kids to know the exact order for doing their activities, only to change the order the next day and - shock! - STILL expect them to know it perfectly. She changes the schedule around based on her own needs (e.g. if she has an interview coming in, she'll adjust the timing of the day so the kids are outside during the interview, etc.), and then, when one of the kids asks, "What are we doing next?" she yells at them and says, "We do the same thing every day, you should know this by now!"

How has she spent twenty years in childcare and not learned such basic concepts as these? And how can I work with so little understanding of her work?

Major Gripe #2: She shows no respect for the children.

This one pisses me off so much. Yes, I understand, they are children and - in general - we know much more than they do. We are paid to teach them and guide them because they are still very new to the world. Sure, I'm not arguing they're our peers in the workplace or anything. But they are human beings and, as such, deserve a certain amount of respect for their time and attention. Or so I believe. Clearly, Boss Lady doesn't see it this way.

If the phone rings while she's reading a story to the kids at circle time, she'll stop, put the book down, and go answer the phone, leaving the kids at circle wondering what to do. I've heard her talk for up to 5 minutes before returning to the group, and I know for a fact that some of those phone calls were personal, not calls for the school.

Even worse, she's stopped mid-story to talk across the room to me about one of the kids. She'll see one of the boys get distracted by something on the floor, and she'll stop the story mid-sentence and say something like, "See, I think his real problem is that..." Not only is it rude to interrupt the story after she's specifically asked for the kids' attention, it's especially rude to then talk about one of the kids without any respect for his/her privacy or feelings. Do I think they don't notice? Yeah, sometimes they don't, I'll grant you that. But maybe they do, and at the very least maybe they notice that hey, Boss Lady asked me to sit quietly and listen to the story but now she's not even reading it anymore.

When she makes a mistake and one of the kids corrects her, she'll literally punish them for it. Today, I heard her say, "Maybe you need to go to time-out for correcting the teacher. You're never allowed to correct the teacher." What? No, I'm sorry, I'm not okay with that. When the kids asked me a question once - a simple, "Why are you doing that?" type question - she stopped me from answering and said, "You never justify yourself to them." I said, "I wasn't justifying, I was explaining." She also thinks they shouldn't ever be allowed to be mad or angry at Mom, Dad, or any other figure of authority. Um, hello? Respect their right to experience emotion. There are acceptable and unacceptable ways to express that emotion - which I agree that we should be helping teach them - but they should be allowed to feel whatever they feel.

They're children, yes, but they deserve respect, and I don't see her giving them that at all.

Major Gripe #3: She shows no respect for me.

And really? That's the clincher. Because I can't work for someone who doesn't respect me and my contributions to our work. She's inconsistent with her expectations of me from one day to the next and sometimes - like today - even within one day. In the span of one hour this morning, she
1) yelled at me for not giving one of the kids a lesson (when I was apparently supposed to know to give one)
2) yelled at me for giving a lesson (when I have apparently not been trained on how to give them correctly)
3) yelled at me for not giving a lesson (because I should have realized that the student needed one)


Taking this to a broader picture, she's just generally impatient with me, and constantly yelling at me for doing (or not doing) something - whether I'm doing it incorrectly, too slowly, etc. never seems to matter. But she doesn't take the time to explain anything to me, and that's a big problem. She just expects me to know, like I'm psychic or something. Well, I'm not.

She talks down to me, too. Once, when QueenR was in a particularly difficult mood, Boss Lady actually told me that QueenR's refusal to take a nap was due to my incompetence. "You just don't know how to put kids to sleep yet," she told me with a sneer. "I'm sure after a while you'll learn." I'm sorry, but I've put plenty of kids to sleep, so don't tell me that one iron-willed child's tantrum is because I don't know what I'm doing. I'm the one who spends naptime every afternoon watching over the kids. When Freedo wakes up every afternoon at 2:05 (or within about ten minutes either way) tossing and turning on his mat, I'm the one who gets him back to sleep without his even waking all the way up. When Dino starts kicking in his sleep and manages to fall completely off his mat, I'm the one who manages to ease him back on and cover him with the blanket again. And when DoeEyes has a nightmare, I'm the one who holds her through the whimpering until she gets back to sleep. So Boss Lady can shut her face when it comes to putting kids to sleep.

Seriously, I could go on and on, but I'm trying to respect your time and not write a novel-length post about the awfulness that is Boss Lady's attitude. What I need to know is this:

How do I give my notice?

Tempted as I am to shout in her face for hours about all the ways I think she was a terrible boss (and is a terrible preschool teacher/director), I don't think it's necessary. I think I should try to be civil and respectful in my leaving, and if she needs a reason, I'll tell her I need more money (which is completely true - she pays absolute trash and she knows it). But I don't like confrontation, and I know she's going to be angry that I'm leaving. I want to just email her, but that seems cowardly. And at work, we're really never without kids - I work 8:30-5:30, and the kids arrive as early as 7:30 and leave as late as 6:00.

How do I bring it up? How do I not burn this bridge in case I want a reference later? How do I end this post without sounding like an ungrateful bitch?

Hmmm, that probably wasn't the way, huh?


Anonymous said...

Hm. I think you have to email her and ask for a specific meeting and then politely but firmly give her your notice. She's probably not going to react well but I think you need to be prepared for that - she's immature.

Anonymous said...

Start looking for another job immediately. Your financial situation determines how important it is to secure a new position before leaving this one. Figure out how much notice is appropriate for BL. When the time comes to tell her, do so politely and without giving the real reasons. Try to leave on good terms. Then open your umbrella and fly off.

Though it would feel great to tell her what you really think of her, that's almost never a good idea. I think that's part of being mature. It's best if previous employers can't say anything bad about you.

Anonymous said...

Mmm, you already have excellent advice! Find another position and get the hell out of Dodge! We spend too many hours at work to be unhappy there...

Anonymous said...

Give it as politely as humanly possible, although I'm sure that would be a difficult thing to do being that she's the world's biggest bitch, and just take everything she says in stride.

I used to teach kindergarten. I hate that there are headmistresses like that.

Carol said...

Quit. Now. There are really good pre-schools in the Bay Area (I taught at Bing, on the Stanford campus... GREAT school, as well as others), and one of them deserves you.

Quit -- and say why. Then make sure your boss' boss knows why!


Anonymous said...

This post made me so angry! I worked in childcare for a while myself as an assistant teacher, and even I understand the things this woman does not seem to get. It sounds like she just doesn't like children. Maybe she's burned out? There's no excuse for that kind of behavior.

I definitely understand wanting to shove all of this in her face, but #1 it could come back to bite you in the ass, and #2 she doesn't sound like the type that would take it to heart anyway. I would give her the financial reason but think about what you'll say if she does miraculously offer you more money.

Good luck to you.

Still Jill B said...

I'm with Carol. While you should try to keep yourself from yelling AT her, or about her, it would be good to try and let her know your reservations - after all, she hired you because you are an educated educator. Don't let her bad attitude influence you into thinking you deserve maltreatment. You may walk away wondering if you got through to her (I'm sure she won't let you know even if you did), but that way you won't look back and wonder what more you could have done to help those kids. You can be polite and professional and honest at the same time (usually).

And, don't let her talk you into staying. Having another job would help with that, I'm sure.

And, to her face if at all possible. It's the most-effective form of communication, and you'll know she "heard" you, and it won't seem back-handed. She'll probably know it's coming if you ask to meet with her, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I agree that you must tell her to her face, whether you ask for an appointment or stay late one evening or catch her during nap. If you have another job lined up, you can say that you've found another gig that's more money, or more in line with your philosophy on child development -- a little hint that you don't like what she's doing, but not overly confrontational. I, personally, would avoid telling her the problems specifically, because after 20 years I doubt she will change her mind; and she sounds terribly volatile. Good luck. And good for you for sticking up for the kids and yourself.

Anonymous said...

Hi, lurker here. I would actually prepare a letter that gives your notice, just so that you have something in writing in case she wants to try and get you to stay longer by claiming you didn't give the requisite notice. I would make it short and sweet and just say that it's an official notification of your notice or something like that. Then talk to her in person about the grievances if she asks you why you want to leave.

Guilty Secret said...

Wow, this is really difficult. You should definitely do what you can to ensure you can get a good reference from this job. I think you should ask to arrange a time to talk then try to keep calm and explain it's just not working... for whatever reason it is easiest for you to give.

I really feel for you. I had similar experiences working in childcare. You will go on to bigger and better things and this will be a distant memory. Put yourself first now.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I had a similar (though not quite as bad) summer job experience as an assistant preschool teacher, so man, I feel for you. I agree with most of the above - I like the idea of asking her for a specific meeting, having something short and official written on paper, and keeping it polite. It sounds like she knows this job has not been ideal for you from a financial perspective, so that is an easy out. I also like the line about a job that "lines up better with your philosophy of childcare." Steel yourself, have some chocolate and good music to blast in the car when it's done, and go for it!

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about this. You deserve to be respected (and so do those kids - that makes me sad that she's so rotten).

As much as you dislike her and as awful as she is, I'd keep it as short and sweet as possible. Write her a nice, brief note thanking her for the opportunity and resign giving her the last day you'll work there. Let her know your are going to look for more money (and have a back up reason/plan in case she gives you a raise to keep you). You don't want to burn bridges. You may need her as a reference one day and she doesn't sound like the kind of person who would react well to "feedback".

But if you can, I'd wait until you have another job first ... you have so much talent that anyone would be lucky to have you work with them.

Thinking of you ...

Thomas said...

I am a former teacher. I kind of learned to not listen to cynical older teachers.

flutter said...

Having had to do this on several occassions, it is not worth your time to go into too much detail. She won't care, and really it ends badly for you with too much explanation. At the end of the day, take her aside and politely say " I am giving my two weeks (month whatever) notice. My last day will be (blank). Thank you."

Kennethwongsf said...

I fear she's doing permanent damage to the kids. Is there anyone you can report to about her behavior?

BetteJo said...

Everyone has already weighed in with the advice you asked for, so I hope you don't mind if I weigh in on another aspect of your experience.

I was very touched by what you wrote, your obvious respect and concern for the children in your care. You may have learned a lot in school - but you have to have the heart for it, and you do.

My opinion? You will make an AWESOME Mom someday. I sincerely hope that will be one of your life choices. :)

mks said...

She sounds like a very old fashioned teacher that believes kids should be seen and not heard (never correct a teacher phuleaze!)
And she sounds way behind the times in terms of current teaching strategies.

Tell her you need a meeting with her and you need it to be with no kids around. Although it would feel fantastic to walk in and tell her off - skip it - not worth the backlash - her being defensive and possible lashing out at you - besides you might want to go back there someday if someone else is in her spot and you don't want a nasty note in your personnel file.

Tell her you have another job and need to give 2 weeks notice (or whatever is standard). I like how someone mentioned that you could say you found something more in line with your teaching philosophy or a simple "the new position is just too good for me to pass up"

Good luck!

Lara said...

thanks, everyone, for your advice. to clear up one thing, boss lady is her own boss. she owns the school and runs it out of her house, so there's no "boss" above her for me to talk to about my concerns. there's also no possibility of my wanting to return to her school specifically if someone new is in charge.

in terms of references, there's actually a good chance i wouldn't ever need a reference from her, simply because i don't think i want to stay in a preschool environment. i'd rather return to a nanny position, or consider returning to teach high school at some point. either way, her reference wouldn't do any good, so no one would ask for it.

that all said, i still agree that other than satisfying me on some petty level, yelling at her about why she pisses me off wouldn't do any good. i'll keep it simple and polite, though that's going to be totally hard if she gets uber-bitchy on me in the conversation.

as for landing another job first, i'm definitely already working on it. i just don't know how long i'll be able to stay in such a disheartening position. i'll keep you posted, as usual.

Major Bedhead said...

Find another job first.

Then, speak to her boss, if she has one. If I found out my children were being treated that way, I'd be furious. And I would pull my children and not hesitate to let other parents know why.

I think you need to tell her why you're leaving. Don't just say it's for more money. It sounds so melodramatic to say, but do it for the kids. You can say all these things to her diplomatically - write them down. It will probably help. If you can document some of these occasions with times and actions, it would be good, too.

I just know how infuriated I would be if I knew a teacher left and then later found out why. I'd be pissed off not to be told what was going on in my child's classroom.

Anonymous said...

I, too, think that you should be honest (but diplomatic) about it. And I'm concerned for these kids - it's going to be even worse after you leave! Do their parents know? If I were a parent, I would want to know what's happening to my kid.

Is there a way that you can bring up the issue at a staff meeting - phrased as an inquiry about proper teaching methods rather than as an accusation? That way the issue can be brought to the table rather than hidden, and other teachers can back you up on what's appropriate and not appropriate. You could also bounce ideas off of BL at the meeting...if she feels included in the discussion, she may be more willing to change her ways (although it sounds kinda unlikely).

Sorry if that sounded didactic - all those classes I'm taking at the school of ed on administrative decision-making and such are rubbing off on everything else I say or do :)


Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with preparing a written resignation letter, as every time I have resigned they have asked for it.

Generally I think you have to give the same notice period that you are paid in. So if you are paid fortnightly, you give 2 weeks notice.

Find another job first.

You're right, she does not deserver you.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Lara, I wish you well in this time of frustration and transition. The little ones have obviously benefited from your presence. You will carry that "presence" with you to your next teaching position and help to change children's lives for the better. The world of education is fortunate to have you as a member of the teaching profession. Go with grace. But go!

Janet said...

Part of me wants to tell you to quit AND to tell all the parents to get their kids outta there!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm signing in as anonymous since the preschool that I work for really hates gossip. I have to tell you that I'm so amazed there are so many poorly qualified preschool teachers out there. They think that they're tenured scholarly professors just because they've been working in the preschool education field for many years. They say, "this is my teaching style and everyone has their own style" as an excuse for all the wrong things they do. Some preschool teachers consider the "spanking shoe" or the "spanking spoon" to be facets of a "strict" teaching style. I'm sorry, but violence has never solved any problems and it's never appropriate to lay your hands on someone in anger. Hitting little kids is soooooo wrong!!! I'm so sorry that you have to work for a moron. It must be so frustrating for you. I work for a federally funded preschool in a county that is teaming with idiot preschool teachers. Your federal tax dollars are going toward keeping these horrible people employed in jobs that they aren't qualifed for.

Anonymous said...

Some of these federally funded preschool programs would be a much more effective if they didn't hire Lead Teachers who only have a GED or a high school diploma to their name. Many of the women who teach at Head Start have no common sense, they write at a 5th grade level, they talk at a 7th grade level, and they are simply clueless idiots.