What is it About Being Mean?

In the past three days I’ve heard two different stories from teachers who are already in high-stress because of encounters with co-workers. What?!

School started just this past Monday. Four days and we’re already mean?

What is is about some people who think they can speak their minds at the expense of being polite, kind, civil even? Isn’t teaching hard enough without having to deal with negative ninnies and downright mean people?

My mother always told me:  “It is the people who are the hardest to love who need it the most.” I believe this is true. Hurt, anger, and fear often manifest as aggressive, catty, spiteful behavior. “A root’s always poking holes in the cellar door.” I get that.

Many teachers who embrace the workshop model do so alone. They are the only teachers on their campuses who’ve “swallowed the Kool aid” and become “too idealistic for [their] own good.”

“You’re not going to have any better success with those kids that anyone else.”

I’ve heard my fair share, and I am fairly certain I’ve heard only a drop of a giant bucket of behind-my-back critiques. So it goes.

“You’re nasty and you’re loud,
you’re mean enough for two,
If I could be a cloud,
I’d rain all day on you.”
Jack Prelutsky

Today I am wondering:  How do we deal with colleagues who are mean, or bossy, or just plain rude? How do we smile with sincerity and stand steadfast in the face of criticism and disdain?

Please join the conversation. What do you do?


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22 thoughts on “What is it About Being Mean?

  1. […] into the world of research-based best practices and creates a safe space for trying new things.  Teachers can be mean.  We need to stop.  Cover a colleague’s classes.  Nurture them when they need to grow as […]


  2. Jhuman September 6, 2015 at 4:01 pm Reply

    Fantastic post and many great ideas. I learned early on that there are some people that I just need to steer clear of.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. katieswrite August 28, 2015 at 5:05 pm Reply

    Besides wishing I could work in a school with all you amazing teachers, this article has been on my mind this year: http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/marigolds/

    I have made the decision, a decade into this career, to be a marigold. When my colleagues start to lean negative and tease my idealism, I lift my chin and say, “Marigold!” (I’ve explained its significance so they don’t think I’m too crazy). I love where I work, but there are days when the frustrations weigh heavy. And I have learned who are my marigolds and who are my walnut trees. Makes all the difference.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pat Delzell August 27, 2015 at 9:35 pm Reply

    And feel sorry for whatever happened to them in the past.


    • Amy August 27, 2015 at 11:06 pm Reply

      Me, too, Pat. I feel sorry for mean people, too. I often wonder what happened to make them be that way.

      Thanks for the comment.


  5. Pat Delzell August 27, 2015 at 9:30 pm Reply

    Get results.


  6. Karen Clancy-Cribby August 27, 2015 at 7:52 pm Reply

    This post is so timely! I also smile…a lot and try to be a positive role model. I feel like you, though, Amy, that I need to step things up and advocate for what is right. Thanks for yet again, a wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy August 27, 2015 at 11:08 pm Reply

      Thank you for the comment, Karen. Like you, I’ll keep on smiling!


  7. shanakarnes August 27, 2015 at 5:02 pm Reply

    We hold on to the fact that we do what’s best for students, or try to, in the face of disdain. That’s what keeps me steadfast…that, and my memories of my own passionate, unwavering teachers. Despite the probable meanness I’m sure they faced too, as I student, I never saw them flag. I keep that in mind each day I walk into my classroom. I know you do too, Amy. 😍

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy August 27, 2015 at 11:05 pm Reply

      I want to be that “passionate, unwavering teacher” who future teachers remember and admire. Positivity matters.


  8. suess August 27, 2015 at 4:25 pm Reply

    It really depends upon whether it is influencing your professional duties. Some people just think that they are above others. If it borderlines harassment and impacts your ability to perform professionally, you need to seek advice from a supervisor that you can confide in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy August 27, 2015 at 11:03 pm Reply

      Right. We have to become advocates of ourselves when the negative borders on harassment.

      Thanks for the comment.


  9. Mindy De La Rosa August 27, 2015 at 4:01 pm Reply

    We had this discussion in our PLC today. Our English department has been labeled the “B” bunch for far too many years now. No one listens to each other, and if someone is successful, there is nothing but envy or “she doesn’t have the same kids we do”. It isn’t everyone, but it creates a hostile environment very often. One lady in particular slammed a strategy in front of everyone. I might not have had the right answer, but it did make her stop….I asked, “Did that make you feel better? I hope by knocking me down your day has been made a little brighter. Have a super day!” She came back and actually apologized.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy August 27, 2015 at 11:02 pm Reply

      See, that’s what I mean about speaking up. Well done. Maybe some people really don’t know how they come off, and they will not know unless we tell them. Thanks for the comment, Mindy — and thanks for reading TTT.


  10. Ruth August 27, 2015 at 1:12 pm Reply

    For 25 years I said hello everyday to a colleague who told me in my first week that I should not have been hired!! That behavioe lasted nearly my entire tenure there.
    Not allowing other people’s negativity into your own life is a choice; albeit a hard one to live with. Still, I found that I gained many close and dear friends because I didn’t allow that attitude and behavior to corrupt my sense of friendship and self-worth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy August 27, 2015 at 2:12 pm Reply

      Oh, my, Ruth! I cannot even imagine anyone being so rude. Your positivity and energy and love for your student must have threatened this individual in some way. There’s no other explanation for it. So many students would have missed out on all you gave them if you had let one bad attitude rot your sweet self-worth. Glad you embraced the positive, my friend!!


  11. Rin August 27, 2015 at 9:17 am Reply

    I’m very very lucky that I’ve only had to deal with one negative coworker. I kept my exchanges with her concise. Get to the point and then move on. I was polite and civil but not overly friendly. I think she may have gotten the hint because after a couple months she left me alone for the most part.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy August 27, 2015 at 2:09 pm Reply

      Concise is my favorite word here — that and “polite” and “civil.” If we can remember those three things, we can probably put up with about anything long enough to move away from it. I guess it’s the idealist in me that hopes for change.


  12. Kayleigh August 27, 2015 at 7:50 am Reply

    I start school next week, and this is the only thing that bothers me about going back to school. I love school, that’s why I became a teacher. I’ve been doing it a long time. It appears in my school, the teachers who are mean have the loudest voice, and are the ‘passive bullies.’ No one wants to be on their bad side, so everyone goes along with it, and let’s it go. Even the principals are their so called BFFs at work, so I just sit idly by and watch–bystander, I guess at it’s best. But their are so many negative teachers these days, the quiet ones that love their job just go about business–for the kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy August 27, 2015 at 2:08 pm Reply

      I think you are right in that so many of us quiet types “go about business for the kids.” We know where our hearts beat best, and we lay low and away from the trouble-makers. I’ve done this for most of my career; however, I am learning to step it up, especially when the actions of other adults hurt the learning environments of children. I think we have to take a stand and advocate for researched-practices that best benefit our students. If we never challenge the status quo, who will? The loudest voices are not always the best voices. We see this in our society every day.


  13. Robin August 27, 2015 at 7:41 am Reply

    You could genuinely smile around the negative Nancy’s if you are thinking, “I’m glad I’m not you!” when you encounter them. Don’t let them rain on your parade. Carry your anti-mean umbrella and let their comments bounce off. If you let them in, they will eat away at your own positive attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy August 27, 2015 at 2:03 pm Reply

      I love this kind of thinking: “I am glad I’m not you!” Great advice. Thanks for reminding us to carry our “anti-mean umbrellas.” All teachers need one.


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