When it’s not your turn to be the teacher: Managing my/their/everyone’s behaviour #3

I have written before about changing friendships and those moments where I forget to turn off the teacher voice, but the problem of teaching becoming who you are rather than what you do encroaches further into my life than that. Every time I interact with a person who is unreasonable, overly officious or obdurate, it is me who takes the role of pandering to their needs in order to calm them. When I meet a person whom I find disagreeable, I make myself more agreeable to accommodate them. I even do this when that other person is in a position of authority or if they have been employed to cater to my needs. I automatically try to avoid conflict where I might have sought it in the past. I notice in the staff room at school that we all do this for each other as well. When somebody comes in with their temper in fragments, they are not often blamed for it. Instead, everyone else tries to keep out of their way or make them feel better, or simply avoid loading any further responsibility onto them. I definitely appreciate this when it is my temper that has erupted and I think it’s one of the major strengths of our faculty.

The power of placating service people is a useful skill and can win me extra consideration and bargaining powers. It’s also nice to have someone else think that I am a lovely customer. However, there are situations where managing people is a drawback.

When the habit of dispersing tension leaks into your personal life, it costs you meaningful relationships. Managing another person’s behaviour categorises them into a new box in your head. Instead of being equal to you, that person is now lesser. They become equivalent to a student and they also take mental effort to deal with. They will never be a person whose company you seek for pleasure and you will never be able to turn to that person for advice or comfort when you are having a rough time. It also ties you to someone whom you would normally meet and then forget about or refuse to see again. The problem is that you’ve gone to effort to make them feel good at the expense of an opportunity for you to feel good. They leave the interaction liking you, and you leave the interaction pitying them. You end up with a superficial friendship that becomes an obligation. It’s never comfortable and it’s frequently awkward. You end up either making all of the plans  because part of your role in their life is to organise things, OR you get no say because your role is to accompany them when they’ve got nobody. When I began to find relationships like this creeping into my life, I began to question those relationships I had pre-teaching that were a little awkward. It turns out that some of my relationships were less than ideal and I’ve begun to make more efforts with people I actually like. It’s comforting that other people just past my age have said they went through the same thing in their twenties.

Additionally, being a behaviour manager makes it difficult to behave graciously when being taught by someone else.

I got a remote first aid certification recently. It was a two-day course with a mixture of practical and theory, with a very experienced first-aider as a teacher. He had a few tics that it was difficult to ignore though. He had a habit of saying only half of a sentence and ending it as a question, as though waiting for one of the adult pupils to finish the sentence on a subject we had not been taught about yet. He was also patronising and he threw us into practical situations that we could not solve because we did not have the knowledge. I was there with a colleague from school and although the teacher’s first-aid experience and knowledge could not be questioned, we harshly critiqued his teaching methods and laughed helplessly at his manner. Our behaviour was unbecoming and something we would never tolerate from students of our own.

Teachers, like all professionals, have a multi-faceted life with many priorities and responsibilities, but I am finding that I’m turning into a person who approaches all of my priorities with my single-faceted personality. If I continue to do this, I will continue to struggle with making meaning of the place in my life that each person I know holds. In my future, I would like to keep the behaviour management at school and relax when I go home and when I go out to socialise.

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