5 Things I Learned From Bratty Kids and B*tchy Coworkers
March 10, 2016
For my work study, I tutor fourth graders at a local elementary school. One thing I'll say about this job is that it definitely thrust me out of my comfort zone.
At times, my job gets very frustrating - from students' attitudes to cliquey coworkers. And to be honest, there were many times where I thought of quitting. But, I must say, working this job taught me a couple of important things:
1) Don't take other people's behavior personally.
Back when I first started my job, the teacher's aide for the class I work with would flat-out ignore me whenever I tried to start a conversation with him. To this day, he does not acknowledge my presence unless he's asking me to escort a kid to the bathroom.
I wasn't exactly losing sleep over this, but it did make me feel a bit uncomfortable at first. And, after awhile, that discomfort turned into resentment. Then, one day, I realized that stressing myself out over him wasn't going to make him go away, wasn't making my experience any better, and wasn't doing me any favors. So, now I just don't pay him any attention.
2) You are never the only one dealing with something, even if it feels that way.
A major reason why I used to take things personally at work was because I believed that I was the only one on the receiving end of poor treatment. I used to think the teacher's aide was ignoring only me, while being friendly to everyone else. I used to think the kids only felt comfortable giving me attitude because they respected every other staff member but me.
I started wondering what the hell I was doing wrong, until the teacher for the class I work with told me that she, also, received her share of disrespect from the students. I was genuinely surprised, because she's someone who even I, at twice their age, wouldn't wanna be in trouble with. Oh, and that teacher's aide? He's rude to her, too. He didn't even greet her or ask how she was doing when she came back to school after having major surgery. It just goes to show that, if you think something, someone else probably thinks it too.
3) Choose your battles.
In no way am I excusing my students for giving attitude, because that's unacceptable. But, there is a difference between a kid being blatantly disrespectful, and a kid just wanting to do what they want. If you can avoid a petty power struggle, do it. Not everything is worth getting worked up about. Case in point: One day, I noticed that one of my students' had the insides of her pockets were hanging out, so I pointed it out to her and told her to fix them. She looked at me and shook her head, "No," and I yelled at her for not listening to me.
In retrospect, I realize that I may have been doing a little too much in that situation. Her shaking her head "no" was unnecessary, but hey, they were her pockets. And, in the grand scheme of things,there are worse things a child could do. Also, when you're that person that gets worked up over every little thing, no one takes you seriously when you have a legit concern.
4) You don't have to be "in" with everybody.
I'm used to being on friendly terms with mostly everyone, so I remember feeling a way when I found that many of my coworkers were standoffish toward me. I also remember being worried that the kids wouldn't like me; I'm nice, but I'm not exactly the cooing type. But, the first time a kid gave me major attitude, I got over that fear so fast. Because the students liking me means nothing if they don't respect me as their tutor, and (more importantly) as an adult.
As for my coworkers, what can I say? I can't be friends with everybody. And I don't have to. But, I do have to work with the people at my job, no matter how unfriendly they are. So having hurt feelings because they didn't welcome me into their little circle only made my job harder. But guess, what? As the song by Sia goes, I'm still breathing.
5) Be confident. Even when you aren't.
Before starting my job, I had to attend a mandatory training session. But, that training session didn't scratch the surface of what I was in for. I thought I'd be assigned to one student and just, you know, tutor them. No one told me my job would involve mediating student conflicts or helping to keep a class of 20 kids under control. No one held my hand through any of it, either, or even showed me around the damn building.
So, needless to say, I spent the first couple of weeks feeling confused and unsure of myself. I was afraid to exercise any authority over my students, or make any decisions at all, because I feared overstepping my boundaries and looking stupid. But, the thing is, sitting on the sidelines, looking lost, and constantly waiting to be told what do made me feel useless. I didn't want to start being perceived that way. So, I started taking more initiative.
Now, I'm not perfect. Working with kids requires you to think on your feet, and there have been times where I have made mistakes when handling certain situations with my students. But, overall, just being willing to take charge has made me much more effective at my job. Because the only thing worse than being the one that's always wrong is being the one that is always sitting there and doing nothing.