It’s time to get real about office politics and coworker relationships. Whew, it’s a touchy subject and certainly one I’ve dealt with a lot.
My first real world job was as a juvenile home detention officer in an affluent suburb of Indianapolis. I got along with everyone for the most part. I was 23 years old and working second shift with two other grown men who had their own case load. Some of my offenders were 17 and 18 year old boys and I had to conduct school, work, and home visits. Every once in a while, especially during a home detention installation gone wrong, I’d request one of the other guys to go with me. This was mainly for help with the equipment, not actually feeling like I was in any real danger. I was a neophyte and didn’t know all the tips and tricks to troubleshoot the Internet connection, especially in houses that had WiFi or crazy advanced systems.
So, once I asked the younger of the two, Doug, to ride along and help me with an intricate system. The house was a mansion, literally, with a guest house and the whole works. I kept trying to get a signal for the monitoring box, but the phone and Internet wouldn’t cooperate. I was frustrated and drove all the way back to the office to grab a third box, thinking it was the equipment. I asked Doug to come with and to please help with the setup, but he refused. He always refused. So much for helping out your coworker. That guy was so lazy it was a crime! It wasn’t the first time I’d asked for help, so I don’t know why I expected a different response than before.
As I moved into teaching I truly enjoyed the coworkers at my first school. I met my best friend, Amanda, who I am still friends with to this day (seven years later). She’d do anything for anyone. Jessica, Amberly, Spencer, Mary-Catherine, Alisa, Harden, Frances, Rouse… They were all amazing people who I utterly trusted and would do anything for me, as I would for them. We made each other laugh, but could also vent and know that it’d be locked down. Sure, we got on each other’s nerves but we were a family and that’s what we remembered at the end of the day.
One by one we eventually all moved on. First Amanda to Michigan for her husband’s residency. Then Spencer and Mary-Catherine as their time with Teach for America expired. I chose to leave next as a new opportunity presented itself at an A-rated school. I knew it was the right choice, but I miss our group.
My new school is great. The culture is better. The rigor and expectations for both teachers and students are high. Parents provide transportation so I frequently have face-to-face contact. It’s a much better school. But I still haven’t replaced my old school’s family in my heart.
I’m older now, and mainly want to spend my free time with my kid. The school day is much longer so we are all ready to go right at 4:15. Other times, when I just need to sit and talk about life and not be consumed with work, I long for my old school and coworkers. I long for a lunch room that is so tiny we all have to cram together at the table and have a “no work talk” policy for the 25 minutes we are allotted. We talked about our lives and really knew each other. We had inside jokes and weren’t afraid of offending anyone because no one got offended. We all rolled with it, laughed and teased, and realized that listening in on conversations and then ratting on the person was simply not done. We were professionals. Not high schoolers.
We laughed and joked. We sent each other silly emails. Once Amanda sent a first grader over with a note that read, “Tigers don’t like pepper. They like cinnamon,” all because she knew it would make me laugh. When I found out I was pregnant, I sent Amberly a drawing of a chicken sitting on a nest because my husband didn’t want me to tell people yet and I was hoping she’d decipher it on her own. Those little things I still remember after seven years…
I sure miss those guys!