When Jealousy at Work Bites You...
AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT!
Guest Post Author: Michelle Ruhe
We educators go through some definite phases. The first year, we think we know far more than we do, and we just know we’re going to change the world. Years 2 and 3 we realize how much there is to learn, and we grow. A LOT. Years 4-7, we feel like we have a pretty good handle on things. We refine our practices, get better at things, and really start to feel comfortable. This is when many of us try our hand at different grade levels or entirely new practices. After year 10, we feel confident and ready to get creative, and because we’ve learned so much, we can begin to really think outside the box. We start to hone in on specifics, and begin to “own” some things. Getting to this stage takes years of deep reflection, untold amounts of time spent learning, and a tremendous amount of trial and error. Getting to this level is hard-won. Getting to this place took a fair amount of sweat and many tears. It’s at this later stage that we begin to take on more, to share our expertise, and often when find ourselves acting as support and mentor to many.
Unbeknownst to us, someone is watching all of this. Usually, that someone is in a position very close to yours. You notice that this person shuts you out. They keep you at arm’s length--sometimes through their actions, sometimes their words. Sometimes, you’re even outright snubbed.
I know how this feels, because there are three distinct times in my 20+ years in the field that I have found myself here, and it’s awful. It weighs you down and sucks the joy out of your day. It’s heavy on your mind and heart and leaves you feeling alone. And deflated. All. The. Time.
You feel lost, because you have absolutely no idea what you did to deserve it.
But I’m here to tell you: It’s not you. It’s them!
There’s even a term for it.
I first heard it this year, 21 years in, from Gerry Brooks, that hilarious YouTube principal with the overly-exaggerated southern drawl. He was a keynote speaker at this year’s National Reading Recovery conference. When he explained it, it hit me hard. I realized, in that moment, that it wasn’t ever me. Then, because the world works in very mysterious ways, I heard it again, a couple months later, when Steve Barkley alluded to it on his podcast (posted at the end of this blog post!). And I read about it some more, serendipitously at about the same time period, in Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead.
It’s called professional jealousy.
So as it turns out, it wasn’t me. Because, as I’ve learned from Angela Kelly Robeck, principal-turned-life coach, our feelings are created by our own thoughts. Our thoughts are completely controlled by ourselves. But the reverse, then, is also true--we cannot control those thoughts, and therefore those feelings, in others. It’s completely, 100% out of our control. The way other people feel, which is driven by their own thoughts, is completely on them.
So stand tall, friend. Know that your hard work, your growth, and your devotion to students is worthy. It’s BIG. So big, in fact, that at some point, someone who feels insecure will be jealous. Let them. It’s on them. And then shift your thoughts. Remind yourself that because of all that you’ve accomplished and learned and experienced, because you are in that hard-earned place, others will look to you. How they handle their own feelings is not your concern. They have some growing to do, and hopefully in time, they will. Forgive them for not being there yet, and gracefully move past it. Because you definitely will.
And that phase is the best phase of all.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Michelle spent 15 years as an elementary teacher in multiple grade levels across several states before becoming a reading specialist for an additional five years. She now happily serves as literacy coach in a K-5 building in South Carolina. As a literacy coach, she connected with Casey via the New to Coaching Facebook Group and The Breakthrough Circle, and enjoys frequently thinking and learning about all things literacy with her.
7 Ways to fuel the Embers
1. Continue your normal sleep patterns.
If you're anything like me, you get to the end of the year and something changes in my mindset about how much sleep I need. For some reason, I think I can get away with going to bed at 11:30 when I usually get to bed no later than 10:00 every night. When we interrupt our normal sleep patterns, our bodies respond negatively. Our brain is unable to respond as quickly as our jobs require. It is difficult to manage our emotions appropriately. We tend to become short-tempered. And we lack the enthusiasm students deserve because all we can think about is how tired we are and how comfortable a cozy bed sounds.... and yet, when we get home, we turn on Netflix for hours on end and the pattern continues. STOP the madness! Keep your regular sleeping routine in tact!
2. Write encouraging notes to students.
Writing encouraging notes to students (specifically those particularly challenging tikes) is two-fold. Not only does the child feel encouraged, you will find yourself feeling more connected with the child. The fact is that these kiddos are just as tired as the teacher, although perhaps in a different way. Their relationships with peers are likely becoming more challenging the longer they spend time together. Providing a brief, encouraging message will lift everyone's spirits and help you and the child close the year on a positive note.
3. Invite colleagues to an event completely unrelated to school.
Not only to students become tired of each other, the teachers and staff can sometimes become short with one another as well. Everyone is stressed at the end of the year. We are thinking about those end-of-year state mandated assessments, the mounds of paperwork to complete, a classroom that has to be cleaned, and SO much more! It's rather easy to see how easily the claws can come out in the most minor situations. When this begins to happen, perhaps it's time to get OUT of the school and hit the town with colleagues! Have a movie or game night (dare I say, with drinks!). Go walking after school; the weather is probably perfect this time of year! Enjoy dinner at a local joint. Host a team-building event like a scavenger hunt or go zip-lining. Whatever you do, be sure it is NOT school-related and try only to have conversations about life outside of teaching!
4. Eat well, exercise, and take healthy supplements.
This is kind of an obvious one... BUT, it's worth mentioning. As I get tired from end-of-year events and activities, I make really poor decisions about what I eat and when/how/if I exercise which, in turn, affects my level of energy and definitely hinders my mindset. If you are accustomed to eating well and working out, then KEEP DOING IT! If not, now is as good a time as any to begin working toward a healthy diet and physic. After all, summer is just around the bend and you'll wish you had gotten started sooner.
5. Read a professional book or attend PD.
Okay, I know... you want a break! Believe me, I get it. But before you curse me for mentioning PD at the end of the school year, hear me out. Sometimes reading just the right book, article, or PD session can create a spark, if ever so small. Choose a topic that interests you and seek out articles, short books or sections of books, or even webinars and podcasts concerning this topic. If you're unable to use the information gained for the time left in the current school year, you'll have something to look forward to in the near future. Maybe, just maybe, you'll learn something that you can't wait to immediately implement.
6. Create and teach lessons that YOU enjoy.
As the year winds down, our lesson plans often tend to show the lack of initiative and motivation we have for doing those creative, rigorous lessons that were once prevalent in our classrooms. Take the last weeks of school to plan lessons that YOU have loved in the past or create lessons that you know YOU will enjoy. Chances are, if you're planning something YOU enjoy, your students will enjoy them as well and remain engaged and on-task. As a result, you'll feel energized and proud of what you've produced.
7. Surround yourself with the RIGHT people.
Finally, the people around you make all the difference in the world. Everyone is ready for the last days of school. A LOT of those people could be the "Negative Nancy" that pollutes the "Positive Polyanna". And it just gets easier to dread going to school everyday when we succumb to the negative mindset that is thrown our way. Work diligently to navigate your way toward the colleagues that will fuel your fire instead of those that will smother your barely burning embers.
How Do you Fuel the embers? Let us know!!
Welcome! I am Casey Watts- teacher, mentor, leader, mother, and wife aspiring to be much more!