Let's keep it professional....

Discussion in 'General Education' started by catsos2, Oct 24, 2008.

  1. catsos2

    catsos2 Companion

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    Oct 24, 2008

    Hi fellow teachers :)

    I hope this doesn't sound awful, but I have a situation that I'm sure some of you have experienced before, and I need a little advice.

    Last year I did a long term sub in my district. During that time I had a mentor teacher that helped me out soooo much. In the process I got to know her pretty well. I saw her outside of school briefly once, and I would consider her a professional acquaintance.

    This year I am at a new school and have made new "school friends" with the faculty. My new school has an overall more positive buzz than the last one because of a super supportive administration and awesome teachers.

    Here's the problem: The teacher I knew from last year does not have any one to talk to at her school. The faculty is not very social and I think she feels isolated. So she has been calling me at least two to three times per week to vent about school and life frustrations.

    There are many reasons why I do not want to move to a friendship with this person. The biggest one being the negativity. She is very negative about both her school and personal life and I do my best to surround myself with positive people.

    I have tried to just be a listening ear and sounding board for her, but it's hard to listen to someone complain for 30 minutes 1-3x per week. In fact, it's awful. The worst part is that I can get sucked in and complain about my job too, which is something that I am trying so hard not to do.

    This person was a great help to me last year, and I certainly wouldn't want to burn any bridges. But how to I let this teacher down easy? I think that she thinks we are friends, but I don't want a friendship with this negative Nelly.

    So far I have been making excuses about why I can't "hang out" with her. She's invited me out several times and I have always made an excuse. Is there a way to tell her that I don't want to be friends socially?
     
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  3. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    Oct 24, 2008

    That's a difficult situation. I'm sorry I dont' really know what is best to do in the situation, but I think it's good that you are not wanting to get sucked up in the negativity. Maybe if you politely "have other plans" when she wants to something, she will maybe get the hint eventually.:dunno:
     
  4. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Oct 24, 2008

    I think it's time to employ caller ID and just answer on occasion and beg off like you have been doing.
     
  5. Doug_HSTeach_07

    Doug_HSTeach_07 Comrade

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    Oct 24, 2008

    I would tell her exactly what you wrote, that you focus on the positive and don't want to dwell on the negative. Instead of listening to all her complaints, tell her you'd really appreciate all the positive stories from the week. This will surely brighten her up and save the friendship!
     
  6. xmasqueen

    xmasqueen Rookie

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    Oct 24, 2008

    I doubt seriously she would get the message with a subtle hint, but it sounds like she needs someone desperately to talk to. How about you suggest she join a teacher forum. lol Anyway, maybe you could just talk to her every now and then and sooner or later she'll quit calling when you don't socialize with her outside of school. Negative people can bring us down, but sometimes they are just plain lonely.
     
  7. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Oct 24, 2008

    I have a friend at work I do the negative thing with but at the same time I love that she has so much to share with me as well. She's a lot like the forums.
     
  8. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    Oct 24, 2008

    Teaching is a very isolating job, and the problem is compounded when a school staff is not cohesive. I am willing to bet that Nelly is just lonely and in need of a friend. Being a teacher yourself, she is probably trying to relate with you be sharing experiences she knows you will likely understand. Negativity is a real drain, but before you write her off completely, why not try a more straight forward attempt at thwarting it. When she calls and starts venting, tell her gently but firmly that you have also had a rough week and need a good pick-me-up story. Did anything funny or silly happen at school? Did any of the kids have even minor breakthroughs? If she still doesn't get it, just tell her in plain English that you are trying to remain positive despite all of the challenges and that you really want to be around people who are also positive/encouraging/etc. Tell her she has 5 minutes to vent about her week and then you are going to change the topic to something more neutral (movies or TV shows or whatever.) Another spin on the the same idea is to respond with completely unrelated statements. This would be like a previously set clue that she needs to stop griping. I got this one from an advice column about relationships (he wanted to always talk sports, so she would respond with comments about Desperate Housewives or fashion comments.) Nelly may just not realize how much of a downer she can be; she maybe very thankful when you help open her eyes so she can be more upbeat and fun to be around.
     
  9. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    This lady needs a therapist, not you to vent to! This kind of thing has never happened to me before, but I'm sure it's hard for you. Let's say she wasn't negative & venting all the time. Would you want to have her as a friend then? If not, then gradually distance yourself & hopefully, she'll get the hint & leave you alone. But if so, when she asks you to hang out, say it like you mean it, but in a kind of joking way, "Ok, but not if you're going to vent all night long, otherwise, I'm outta there!"

    She may be a bit of a drag, but she may be a good person to stay in contact with because since she was your mentor & she works at another school, who knows. She may help you out somehow when you least suspect it since you've been a good friend to her in the past.
     
  10. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Oct 24, 2008

    I think I would simply explain that I had no time for a social life because my new school keeps me very busy. Don't take her calls more than once every week or so.
     
  11. catsos2

    catsos2 Companion

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    Oct 25, 2008

    Thanks for all the advice, everyone!

    Right now I'm just not going to call her back at all and just take her calls once a week, like some of you suggested.

    To answer some questions - no, this is not a person that I would want to be friends with outside of work. It's not only the work venting that is a drag, but the constant complaining about everything else, too. I don't share her humor, which is dripping with sarcasm. So, even when she tells a funny story it is full of backhanded remarks and negativity. Sometimes sarcasm is funny, but "Nelly" doesn't know how to use it or when to stop :(

    Someone else asked if I could try to spin her toward a more positive conversation -- even when I do try to put a positive spin on something she says, she ignores me. In fact, there have been several times when I'm telling her about something and realize mid-story that she is talking to someone else, trying to order food at a drive-through, or just not listening at all. Nothing that I say to her has an impact. She is the worst wait-to-talk-er I've ever met.

    Runsw/scissors - I would LOVE to talk to her about movies and stuff, but it's less of a conversation and more of listening to her complain about everything for a really long time.

    It hurts my heart to be mean to anyone. I guess I'm just being too nice?? But it's starting to feel like I have to break up with her. "It's not you, it's me," -or- "I'm really not that into you."
     
  12. trayums

    trayums Enthusiast

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    Oct 25, 2008

    That's what I was thinking. Only answer the phone once a week.
     
  13. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    You know the situation best and need to do what is right for you. If you don't think you'd want to associate with her even without the negativity, that is fine. I have known some Nellys and couldn't get away, so I used the suggestions I made and it has usually worked out. Just wanted to offer a different perspective to the situation, I wasn't trying to guilt or preassure you into anything.
     
  14. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    Oct 25, 2008

    An idea for one of your phone conversations...

    Tell her that you're worried about her--- how negative she seems to be about her job at that school. Ask her to just stop for a moment and think about any positive things at the school. If there aren't any, maybe you could suggest that she start looking for a better place to teach.

    It's totally your choice if you want to be friends or not, I'm not judging that--- perhaps she just needs someone to remind her to look at the good things... the small blessings... of life.

    I made one really good friend at school this year. And we can chit chat about anything--- good and bad. But one of the most important reasons we enjoy each other's company is that we know we can vent our hearts out to each other, the other one will at the very least listen, and then we can move on. We talk about good and bad--- she reminds me what an awesome teacher I am for being a first year teacher and I remind her how much I adore her sense of humor (which confuses most other teachers in the school). Even with the age difference, she's 40 and I'm 23, right now we're helping each other out.

    She just may need you to remind her to look on the bright side of life. And if she does see you as a friend, she'll be thankful you told her this life lesson. :)
     
  15. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    Oct 25, 2008

    Good friends can vent, be positive, etc. w/ ea other & can turn it on/off because life isn't all one thing & not the other. People hv to keep that balance, otherwise, they won't be liked by people. Too much of any one thing isn't good.

    It seems like she not only wants someone to just listen to her problems, but to have her thinking in a different mindset, which is why she NEEDS a therapist desperately!
     
  16. catsos2

    catsos2 Companion

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    Oct 25, 2008

    LOL, Ms I! She needs to get one so I won't have to!!!
    OMG I'm so bad today!
     
  17. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    :) Right, who wants to hear all of someone ele's baggage!
     

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