Elizabeth Pappas

Dear WeAreTeachers:
There are a couple of teachers at my school who are obviously into each other, and they recently became romantically involved. The dating scene hasn’t exactly been working out for me, and I may be a little jealous. The thing is, I notice them touching when they think no one is looking in the teacher workroom, hallways, and the parking lot. It makes me really uncomfortable. Is this a me issue or a them issue? —Left Out Lovebird

Dear L.O.L.,

Witnessing love and connection is a beautiful thing. But context is everything!

Many people meet romantic partners in workspaces, and I gather that you are just fine with that. It sounds like you might welcome this type of relationship into your life. When you think about it, it makes sense to connect with colleagues because of the time spent together and the common interests that form because of shared work focus and skills.

But what are some factors that make work romances tricky? Having multiple relationships with someone can cause conflicts because of competing interests and juggling acts of various roles. Additionally, other colleagues may question your professionalism and assume favoritism because of the romantic relationship. People usually react strongly when co-workers date bosses or people who report to them. These reactions surface in part because of compromised objectivity with work reviews and decisions. And if things don’t work out well, professional relationships will most likely be strained. If you happen to connect with a co-worker in the future, it’s a good idea to talk to each other about risks and ways to proceed in a conscious and cautious manner.

So, what might you do about the public displays of affection you’ve witnessed? Consider leaving a note or talking to one or both teachers saying something like, “I think you both are great teachers and people, and I know you are more than friends. It’s hard to let you know this, but recently, I’ve seen you touching each other and kissing in many public spaces around campus, and I don’t want you to have any problems. If it’s making me feel uncomfortable, others will most likely feel the same. I wanted to say something so you could be more conscious and aware, especially for our students.”

Most school policies have zero tolerance for student public displays of affection, and educators need to respect this, too. There’s a time and place for everything, and fondling and kissing on campus is just not OK.

Dear WeAreTeachers:
I love getting the newsletter from WeAreTeachers every week, and periodically I share articles with my fellow teachers. There are times when I would like to send articles such as “How Principals Can REALLY Help Teachers Right Now” to the school administration, but I don’t want to come off as rude and ungrateful. More and more, it’s feeling like our principal is just out of touch. How can I share these great ideas with my administration without offending them?—Sharing Is Caring

Dear S.I.C.,

Experience alone does not make an exemplary teacher. The REFLECTION on experience does. Your drive to engage in a continuous cycle of improvement keeps your practice inspired and effective. Your colleagues and students also benefit in big-time ways, too. It’s great to hear that the WeAreTeachers community is providing you with some food for thought.

It will take some courage to shape a conversation with your administrator, and I think you should go for it and step into a leadership role! Brené Brown defines a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” I encourage you to harness the power of self-efficacy and build a stronger identity as a leader at your site. By sharing resources with your principal, you are helping to cultivate a school culture where brave work is valued. We need more discourse and sharing of resources that are not based on positional authority but rather on sharpening pedagogy.

Dare to Lead, Brené Brown’s highly respected and book on leadership, outlines four pillars to help hone leadership skills. First, allow yourself to rumble with vulnerability. Vulnerability is that state we experience when we take risks in the context of uncertainty while allowing for emotional exposure. Yes, you might feel sweaty palms, but getting out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens. Another big idea includes living your values and not just talking about them. Additionally, establishing trust is a critical characteristic of a brave leader. Send the message that others can count on you and also learn to trust yourself. Learning to rise after setbacks is another skill to develop for your leadership approach. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself when mistakes happen. Do you extend compassion to yourself and others?

Now it’s time to imagine a conversation with your principal. Consider HOW you will communicate in addition to what you might say. What energy will you bring to the conversation? Try saying something like, “I found an article about teacher well-being, and I’d love to hear your perspective. Are you interested?”

Dear WeAreTeachers:
Before the holiday break, our principal told our 5th-grade team that our students’ academic levels (especially reading) are at an all-time low. He explicitly said we have to put our art projects on hold because we have a reading emergency. After that meeting, I felt just awful. I do feel a sense of urgency, but cutting out art feels wrong for so many reasons. No art? What? How would you respond to this? —Can’t Choose Won’t Choose

Dear C.C.W.C.,

I wholeheartedly encourage a “both/and” approach of focusing on basic reading skills while also nurturing the arts. Before the pandemic, many educators had plans in place to meet the varied needs of their older students struggling with reading basic skills. Then the COVID-19 disruption hit hard, and teachers celebrated when students showed up to Zoom and were ecstatic if their cameras were turned on. Teachers’ expectations changed dramatically overnight.

The modified school schedules severely impacted instructional time, and reading gaps widened. It seems that heroic efforts are necessary in order to address the variability of reading needs in each classroom. As a former reading teacher, I recommend you begin by assessing your students’ foundational skills, fluency, and comprehension. Older students often struggle with multisyllabic words. Therefore, infusing consistent instruction and practice with morphology or the study of the form of words during whole group and small group learning experiences will have a powerful impact on reading proficiency. There is no doubt that decoding and comprehension go hand in hand. So, yes, I agree that we need to focus on reading. We all agree on that!

Ask yourself. Why does art matter? Take a moment to think about the impact art has had in your personal and professional life. There seriously are a million reasons to keep art alive and well in the classroom. Art promotes self-expression and meaning-making while wildly sparking student motivation and engagement.

By weaving in fine arts, drama, music, and movement in the classroom, educators ignite interest and creativity in all the content areas. Open-ended art experiences build motor skills, language, relationships, decision making, risk-taking, and cultivate a keen sense of observation as well as an appreciation for diverse perspectives. Art also helps to build student identities where they see themselves as problem-solvers and push through their creative challenges.

I want my own daughters to have opportunities to build their proficiency as readers AND value creative expression as a result of art. Don’t you? I bet your principal feels the same deep down, too. It’s time to set up a meeting to talk about the “both/and” or “win/win” approach to addressing basic reading skills and making learning expansive and engaging with ART.

“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook

Dear WeAreTeachers:
I’m in my fourth year of teaching, and I really don’t think I can do it anymore. I still live with my mom, and as a single woman who still has a lot to pay for, I feel like I will never be able to move out and live on my own. I just got hit with an $800 bill in December to get new tires and now $600 for new brakes. It’s like everything I put away to save is for nothing. I tried working an extra job after school, but it was only good when we were virtual. I feel like I can’t do anything for myself. What can I do? —It’s Always Something

Dear I.A.S.,

We all have seasons in life that feel more challenging than others, and you are in the thick of it right now. Thanks for reaching out and sharing your very real and honest circumstances and feelings. It’s understanding that you feel discouraged. I feel your pain too. I was just hit with a $1,000 dentist bill today and $800 car repairs. Not the “happy new year” we were hoping for. Big sigh.

Here are a couple of practical and doable steps to consider taking. Ask co-workers for recommendations for a financial planner they recommend. Your retirement services offer support. Time with a professional will help you gain a more strategic approach to managing your finances and setting some incremental targets. Also, you can put yourself out there for private tutoring. There has been an explosion of need, and there are families that are willing to pay to provide their children’s point-of-need support. You can meet at coffee shops or even outside parks just a few hours a week, and the extra income may give you that breathing space you need.

Your internal narrative is fraught with negativity bias yelling, “You can’t do it anymore!” You can listen and explore some options. There is nothing wrong with shifting to other types of work. Mostly, I want to focus on the statement, “I feel like I can’t do anything for myself.” I’m here to remind you that YOU CAN do small things for yourself. Those small things add up to big things. I know you would say this to a friend, so let’s try saying it to yourself.

Danielle LaPorte innovated an approach called The Desire Map, where we shift from goal-setting to identifying core desired feelings we wish to have in our lives. The Desire Map exercises prompted daily routines that turned sacred and transformative for me. Maybe they will inspire you, too.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Brainstorm how you want to feel in the following areas of your life:

  • livelihood/lifestyle
  • body/wellness
  • creativity/learning
  • relationships/society
  • essence/spirituality

For example, instead of setting a goal to lose 20 pounds, you might shift to wanting to feel radiant and energetic. Next, look at your brainstorm list and highlight three to five words that resonate the most with you lately. Choose words that make you light up. Keep these core desired feelings alive and well each day.

Lately, my core desired feelings include wonder, self-compassion, trust, gratitude, and connection. What are yours?

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

Dear WeAreTeachers:
I am being harassed by students who took the time to Google my personal information and brag about how they found my home address. One joked about  breaking into my home and harming my cat. I have to admit I am really shaken by this. After hearing chatter, I was able to figure  out who the main culprit was. Unfortunately, the parents of this high school student have a lot of power in our school community. When I filled in my principal, I was blamed for letting things get out of control.  I don’t even know what to say.

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Illustration: Jennifer Jamieson



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