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Education

My Friend and I Are Competing for the Same Jobs


Dear WeAreTeachers:
I resigned from my past district along with another teacher. Since we’re both in the job-hunting boat, we’ve gotten closer since school got out. It’s my nature to be a helper, so I’ve told her some of the places I was interviewing and helped her with the application process. Fast-forward to last week when we interviewed back-to-back with two schools. It was so awkward to be in the waiting area together knowing we were competing for the same jobs. I was given an offer that same afternoon, but so far she has heard nothing. She doesn’t know about the offer; it’s not official until tomorrow. How do I break the news to her? I know she’s going to be upset.  —Cringing and Excited

Dear C.A.E.,

Isn’t it amazing how humans can hold so many different emotions at once? You can feel awkward, heavy, and hopeful all at once. Congratulations on your job offer! I hope you have some time off before the big transition of setting up a new classroom. It’s totally understandable that you feel empathy and compassion for your colleague. You two went through some challenging experiences together. Anyone who completes job applications and goes through the interview process knows it can be tedious and nerve-racking. It sounds like you have given a lot of support to your friend, and I’m sure your help is tethering up your colleague.

The waiting and ruminating will eat you up. Dr. Gabriela Rodriguez, a contributor to the Psychology Group, explains that “rumination occurs when you have constant and repetitive thoughts about something; typically, a problem or situation.” It’s normal to have temporary ruminations in stressful and complex situations like you are experiencing. You may be having thoughts like “I can’t turn off my mind. The overthinking is paralyzing.” However, the more you wait, the more you ruminate. So, talk to your friend as soon as you can.

You both knew that you were competing for jobs at the school. Even though you feel bad, you did nothing wrong. She would have accepted the position too! It’s best to be honest and up front and continue to show that you care with your words and actions. All relationships are built on solid communication. When you share your good news, be clear, timely, and honest. You don’t have to gloat or invite her to your celebration dinner, but it’s best for her to learn about your new position from you rather than from someone else. Think about sincerely expressing how you want to stay connected and that your shared experiences were valuable to you.

If you have the time and the wherewithal, consider offering some ongoing support with her application process too. You can share what you have learned from the last interview and identify some tips if she is open to talking. You can’t control how she reacts to your job offer, but you can continue to live with a compassionate approach. Your social connections are golden, and even though there is some strain, stretch yourself and invest in your relationship.

Dear WeAreTeachers:
So many people keep saying that we educators need to prioritize self-care. That sounds nice, but I don’t even know where to start. I’m a single parent of two teenagers, and life feels especially hard during the summer. I hate to say this, but it was easier when they were in school and I was at work. Now we are getting on each other’s nerves, and it’s only been two weeks of summer. I want to fill my cup and take care of myself, but I’m riding the roller coaster of moods with my daughters. I’m contemplating subbing for summer school or doing some training to keep busy and out of the house. Any advice? —I Love My Kids But

Dear I.L.M.K.B.,

I’m also a single mom with grown young adults, and our lives can feel chaotic in the summer. Catch yourself when you feel you’re getting on that roller coaster ride with your kids. Instead, try to imagine a different scenario. Amusement parks have benches where you sit and watch. A little distance might help you maintain your sense of grounded equanimity. Your kids know you are there for them. If you tend to put others before yourself day in and day out, over time it’ll be harder to show up for others, and your quality of life will suffer.

The Center for Parent & Teen Communication offers some great resources and emphasizes that “parents often put their children’s needs before their own, but doing so continuously and without fail does children a disservice. In fact, parents who practice taking care of themselves demonstrate there are healthy ways to manage life’s bumps and bruises. Perhaps above all, we create powerful teachable moments when we expose our children to positive stress management techniques like self-care.”

We all have heard that self-care isn’t about being selfish. As parents and caregivers, taking time away from your everyday routines and a compressed schedule is a powerful approach to boosting your wherewithal and being better able to nurture others. Some perspective-taking can help. When you are in the thick of it with your kids, ask yourself, “How will I feel about this problem tomorrow? Next week? Next year?

Consider asking for support from family to jump-start some self-care routines. A solid UNBOUND day or two can help you gain some clarity on what inspires and calms you. Find some refuge to reenergize! I was recently at a cabin for a couple of nights and I spent hours looking out the window, journaling, and listening to old vinyl records. The pace was slow. The quiet was pure bliss for me. I hope you can soften the outer world to discover or rediscover what feels nurturing to you.

Dear WeAreTeachers:
My principal just invited us to do a book club this summer. I know she means well and wants to build community while also helping us to grow as teachers. But I’m fried and just want to do some light reading this summer. It’s hard to motivate myself to dig into a title about anti-racism right now. I also think a lot of staff members will participate out of obligation. Can you help me think through the pros and cons? —Got Any Beach Reads?

Dear G.A.B.R.,

Thanks for bringing up this sticky situation. Summer break is a great time for you to enjoy spacious days with books that spark joy for you! There is no need to feel guilty for investing in your self-care. Filling your cup enables you to pour into others and have a more wholehearted life experience. You said you are “fried,” so find the beach reads and devour them.

Feeling pressured and obligated to participate in the book club erodes motivation. If it’s just too much to participate, be sure to respond to your leadership and let them know that you are interested in being part of the learning and would like a copy of the text, but you aren’t able to join the regular book club. Or you can read your beach books AND sit in and listen to the book club discussion. If it’s on Zoom, there will be more access and safety to be a fly on the wall.

It sounds like you have leadership at your school that is working to create conditions to nurture more equitable spaces. If we are paying attention to our kids, families, and communities, there is devastating violence and marginalization for some people more than others. Our schools have the opportunity and responsibility to disrupt prejudice of any kind. Racism has been part of the fabric of our country for hundreds of years, and learning about our history and what we can do as educators is critical.

Definitions can help us anchor and provide some stability. Author Ibram Kendi writes, “Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing. Here’s an example of racial inequity: 71 percent of White families lived in owner-occupied homes in 2014, compared to 45 percent of Latinx families and 41 percent of Black families.”

Kendi goes on to say, “An antiracist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial equity between racial groups. By policy, I mean written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people. There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups.”

Taking care of yourself and also being open to learning is a tightrope for sure. I hope you can enjoy your fun books and also find space for the substantive ones too. There’s room for it all.

Do you have a burning question? Email us at [email protected].

Dear WeAreTeachers:
My teammate teacher doesn’t HAVE to work. Teaching is legit her hobby. She spends most, if not all, of the money she makes on her class. She buys all her students extravagant gifts and she even orders DoorDash/pizza almost weekly. Now I’m not saying she isn’t a great teacher. She does generally love her job, but it’s exhausting being her teammate. I’m a single parent having to tutor and work the aftercare program to be able to make ends meet. And yet her class has a pizza party every Friday. I can tell it bothers my students that they don’t get matching shirts to wear, special lunches, and expensive gifts. I feel like I’m not good enough sometimes.

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