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Happy Valentine’s Day. You Suck.

After many happy years as an elementary school teacher, I accepted a transfer to the junior high, against my better judgment. I quickly realized that I do not get along well with older children and found myself butting heads with most of my students. That’s why I was so surprised on Valentine’s day, when dozens of students stopped by to deliver me beautiful, hand-made cards.

That is, until I read them. Almost every one said ‘Dear Mr. K, you are our least favorite teacher. Mrs. Smith made us make these.’

As it turned out, the school counselor had all the students make cards for their favorite teacher…and their least favorite teacher. I guess she was trying to mend fences, but all this did was make me realize how generally disliked I was. Not a happy Valentine’s Day. When I asked the counselor about this activity, she blamed the kids for being rude, not stopping to think that maybe teachers don’t want to be reminded of their unpopularity.

I’m now happily back teaching elementary school. 0808-11


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • livvy August 16, 2011, 9:43 am

    For those who are saying the students bear the fault, I beg to differ. They were FORCED to make the cards. While I can understand what the Counselor was trying to do, the execution of the plan was horribly done. The person who makes an Assignment is responsible for the outcome – the counselor should have stipulated that the cards should acknowledge some positive aspect of the teacher, and that they should be handed in to the Counselor to a)make sure they were done and b) be checked for content. If negative content were found, it would have been an excellent opportunity for the counselor to speak with those students individually about why they were angry, why the card was hurtful, how they could improve the relationship with the teacher, etc.
    Even if the counselor planned badly, and the result was as listed above, the counselor should have apologized profusely to the teacher, taken responsibility for the poorly planned/executed exercise, and then had sessions with the offenders (at least some of the rudest/most hurtful ones.) Idiot.
    Middle school kids are just trying to survive, in my opinion – they’re overwhelmed with hormones, new school, new classmates, and monstrous pressures to conform, be cool, etc. That doesn’t mean that it’s ok for them to be little brats, but it is understandable. As stated above, this is where the adults are expected to intervene and teach.
    On a side note, I was usually the kid who liked the unpopular teachers – at least the ones who were unpopular because they actually attemped to really teach us something, and weren’t shy about expecting us to put in the work. I think it’s easy to be popular if you don’t care if the kids actually learn anything.

  • Enna August 16, 2011, 10:36 am

    @ Ann. The counsellor was misguided but it was by no means an excuse for the children to be nasty. Children of all ages don’t need an excuse to be mean, if they want to they will be. I think the counsellor will think twice before she does something like this again.

  • maggieprincess August 16, 2011, 12:25 pm

    This is just an example of how kids in public schools become trained lab rats.

    You tell them to write valentines, making sure they write them to their teachers–whether they are their favorite one or their least favorite one.

    Because public school kids are taught to do exactly what the teacher says without one iota of original or creative thought (think: all those identical pumpkin pictures we color in grade school) the kids did exactly as the counselor said, without once thinking of the ramifications.

  • Kitty Lizard August 16, 2011, 1:17 pm

    Our (EVERYONE’S)favorite teacher in high school (chemistry) got ragged on mercilessly. We never let up on him. He was our senior year prank. (And yeah, he knew it was coming. There was no getting around it.) The only thing he asked was that when we were through with his VW bug was that we re-assembled it, washed it, waxed it and left it where we found it. Actually, we went one better than that. A couple of the guys from auto shop gave it a tune up. We loved Mr. Davis.

  • --E August 16, 2011, 4:08 pm

    maggieprincess: Perhaps you ought to tone down your “public schools are horrible” tirade. Many of us went to both public school and private school and recognize that propaganda for what it is.

    On topic:
    LOL! I realize this wasn’t any fun for the teacher, and I’m very glad he was able to go back to teaching elementary school.

    Adolescents flat-out don’t think like grownups (as neuroscience is demonstrating). Junior high is a holding pen to keep them from being horrible to younger children. My eighth-grade classmates were angels for our awesome Algebra teacher. We loved her. She made math interesting, and is directly responsible for me studying more math and science in high school and college.

    But these exact same students, in the exact same year, were horrible, vicious animals for our French teacher. I could tell you stories that would stop your heart. We had French four days a week immediately after lunch, and we would get together to plot what we were going to do to Mr. L that day.

    Please note: We were a G&T/honors class, and generally what people would call “good kids,” i.e., we did homework and chores, and didn’t hang out and get high behind the gym. It was the exact same kids in all our classes. The only variable was the teacher, and how he or she behaved.

    I can totally imagine my thirty-years-ago classmates doing something like this. “If you’re going to FORCE us to write these cards, then we’re going to say WHAT WE REALLY FEEL.” They took out their anger at the counselor on the teacher they didn’t like, using truth as a weapon.

    Are they horrible children? No. They’re NORMAL adolescents. You show me a thirteen-year-old who doesn’t have the capacity to be rotten under the right circumstances, and I’ll ask for a brain scan to make sure they’re really human.

  • Jennifer August 16, 2011, 6:08 pm

    I have to note that I don’t think the OP was totally innocent. Some of the teachers who “butted heads” with the students in my Middle School resorted to attempts to control a classroom that bordered on cruel. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t belong in those classrooms.

  • Baku-chan August 16, 2011, 6:10 pm

    I would just like to point out that the STUDENTS gave her the cards. Sure, the counselor’s idea was not exactly well thought out, but she didn’t force them to actually give them to the teacher they wrote it for. They did that on their own and THAT is why they are more at fault.

  • Sarah Jane August 16, 2011, 8:45 pm

    I’ve been both an elementary school counselor and a middle school teacher. I hope the OP will dispense with the idea of taking the students’ negative comments too personally. Those kids change their likes and dislikes daily. If a few of them don’t like you, you’re probably doing something right.

    The counselor was most likely teaching them about kindness. She had a responsibility to look them over before giving them to the OP. Those children didn’t learn anything from that project.

  • Elizabeth Bunting August 17, 2011, 12:10 am

    I would have been too afraid of my mother to do any such thing. My mother was psychic and knew exactly when I had done something wrong. I did NOT want to die young.

  • maggieprincess August 17, 2011, 2:02 pm

    Well, dear Miss —E, I am so sorry you seemed to be upset that I have a right to my opinion that public schools do indeed teach children to duplicate everything we tell them to do. I do not have to tone down my tirade for you or anyone else when we consistently are dealing with inappropriate activities in school, ill behaved children, and kids who are not socially adept at dealing with either their peers or the adults in their schools. These types of activities are exactly what makes the system broke, and since I pay dearly for the system, I have every right to my opinion.

  • fauxpasfor all August 17, 2011, 2:04 pm

    The kids in the scenario did what the teacher told them to do, but the teacher should have certainly apologized profusely for it and used it as a lesson in responsibility and social graces.

  • maggieprincess August 17, 2011, 2:09 pm

    To –E

    Adolescents flat-out don’t think like grownups (as neuroscience is demonstrating). Junior high is a holding pen to keep them from being horrible to younger children. My eighth-grade classmates were angels for our awesome Algebra teacher. We loved her. She made math interesting, and is directly responsible for me studying more math and science in high school and college.

    But these exact same students, in the exact same year, were horrible, vicious animals for our French teacher. I could tell you stories that would stop your heart.

    You tell ME to stop the “public school schools are terrible” tirade, and yet YOU write the above? I think you actually made my point better than I did myself.

  • Cat August 17, 2011, 11:21 pm

    I taught high school for years and found that there was always at least one child who thought I was Satan’s sister and another who thought I was the best thing since sliced bread. I wondered why there was such a difference of opinion. Tastes differ. Not everyone will hate you; not everyone will love you. That’s just human nature. We don’t all like cabbage or lobster.

    Teachers are best with certain age groups. I am not good at middle school students and would not enter an elementary school even at gun point. High school juniors and seniors are my age group.

    Try not to take their current behavior personally. They may come to see you as adults and apologize for the way they acted in school. It has happened to me.

    I used to threaten miscreants with my family curse: if I put it on you, you fall madly in love very young, have fifteen children-all of whom act exactly as you are acting now- and you will spend your adult life in principals’ offices trying to explain why your children act as they do. All you’ll be able to say is, “I don’t know. I was in high school and a teacher put this curse on me and now all my kids are like this!” That’ll learn ’em!

  • Athena Carson August 18, 2011, 9:34 am

    @ maggieprincess – As a Lake County, IL property taxpayer, I understand your frustration. If I had my property taxes back, I could send both my kids to an excellent private school and have over $3k left over at the end of the year. Tell me, how would you redesign the public schools to make them a better value for the money?

  • Brian Katcher August 18, 2011, 12:05 pm

    Athena: If you got your property taxes back, would you forfeit roads, police protection, fire protection, the libraries, etc, w hich your property taxes also fund? Public schools are doing the best with what they have, which isn’t always a lot.

  • Athena Carson August 18, 2011, 3:21 pm

    Oops – meant “median.” But you probably knew that.

    Also, I went looking for some sort of breakdown of what, exactly, property taxes pay for, but I only found this:


    which is specific to Illinois and notes on p. 6 that “the largest share of the property tax dollar goes to school districts.” So in my situation, I could take back the portion of my property taxes that go to the school district, put my kids in a private school, and come out about even, assuming that 60% of my taxes go to the school.

    I was interested to see how different localities use their property taxes (some sort of comparative table), but I haven’t found anything yet. If you had a source handy, I would appreciate it. If not, no worries; am just curious.

  • MidoriBird August 18, 2011, 9:52 pm

    Maybe I’m horrible to say it, but there was a time I’d have dearly loved to make such a card for the teachers who abused me the most.

    The one I’d gladly rail at for her abuse of me (yes, I’m talking literal abuse, emotional and physical) is well beyond my reach by now, I’m certain. The other teacher who inflicted great emotional pain on me gets treated like gold by me every day because he comes in to eat at the store where I work. He’ll never, ever know the pain I endured at his hands. I mask how I feel about it completely. I feel I have no urge to open up about the past to him.

    My fourth grade teacher on the other hand was the sort who verbally abused students, slapped them in the face, stood them in front of the class and ridiculed them and telling them that they were no good and would be a burden on everyone for the rest of their lives and would never amount to anything.

    I was her top student and I am the one she humiliated the most. It included most of the above, including the public humiliation when I dared to beg help from her because I was being mercliessly bullied by other students.

    When my furious parents complained she was brash enough to stand by her actions and told them I was just no good. By the end of the school year I was suicidal. I started fifth grade at that school as well before we moved and had it not been for a very kind, eagle-eyed teacher at my new school I’d probably not be here now.

    So….it would seem, even given opprotunity to do so, I’m not able to go back on old wounds. Maybe, in my mind, I realize I’d lower myself to their level by doing so. I had many nice, wonderful, and in a few cases, very loving teachers who did their jobs and will always be five-star in my book.

    The counselor who made students do this should have been punished. Even the best teachers have students with whom they would not get along and who wants to find out this way. This was just an in-the-back action.

  • Lorraine August 30, 2011, 10:16 pm

    I had a situation in 11th grade where I was in an all girls high school. Our English teacher was maybe at the time 22 or 23, a recent college grad. Whoever in their right mind assigned that poor man to be an English teacher to 15 year old girls should have been shot.

    He was an unattractive man. Pasty with frizzy hair who used to watch us play field hockey in tshirts and short gym shorts. So of course, we hated him. The big girls in class set out to make his life a living hell. One time, we had a girl run by and tell him to go to the Principals office, and then decamped en masse to the ladies room. When he returned to an empty room, he looked everywhere for his class. After we heard him leave the building, we went back to class and when he returned with the Principal, we were all sitting there, nice and quiet. I think he probably left teaching at the end of the year and became either a monk or the guy who was on the freeway with a sign, will work for food!

    I laugh now, but also realize, he was young and we were mean. But really… how could it have been different?

  • Heather March 24, 2013, 2:37 pm

    I promise I’ll stop commenting on old posts soon. But I’m so powerfully reminded of letters I was forced to write as a child!

    My parents were missionaries. There’s a very particular subculture between missionaries and churches that support missionaries, and here’s one of my least favorite traditions from it: Sunday School teachers who force their Sunday School classes to write letters to missionary kids. What a nice, supportive thing to do for these missionary kids while teaching our children about world missions! Uh, no.

    So I got these letters. They were all the same: My name is Joe. I am 9 years old. I have two sisters and a dog. I like to play baseball. What is [country you live in] like?… That sort of thing. No, they did not make me feel popular and loved, they were stiff, meaningless letters from strangers which were undisguisedly written under duress. And my parents forced me to answer. Them. All. They felt this was an important part of etiquette, I guess. I personally feel it would have been a great opportunity to teach me how to compose a form letter. I’ve always been afflicted with a distaste for writing meaningless things and a feeling that it’s my duty to make every letter different and interesting. But what do you write to an uninterested stranger? I used to sit there and agonize over a blank page.

    One day I was being forced to answer letters while on a vacation, at a moment when I was feeling very angry over a family incident. I finally let myself go, and wrote a stiff, very short letter and followed with a postscript saying “Sorry this is a lousy letter, but see…” and then relating in detail how my brother and I had both been denied a valued treat because of my brother’s behavior and I felt this was unfair! I don’t know if they sent it–I hope not! (They may have forced me to do it over, I forget. It was a long time ago.) Then again, if they did send it, someone got a surprise revelation that missionary kids are human too.

    Brian the OP certainly has a handle on the situation: although the kids did wrong, the counselor started it and was at fault. I believe children shouldn’t be forced to write letters, or to lie, and especially not to do both at the same time, even under the guise of etiquette–except minimally in cases of real necessity: thank-yous and apologies. The old “force ’em to say something positive about someone they don’t like” never ends well–even the forced apology looks pretty poor to the receiver. And I think that if any of us thinks back to the last time we were forced to lie, we’ll understand that kids WILL rebel and why, and that they know exactly where retribution is coming from and so they’ll get passive-aggressive and attack the innocent party. And yes, it’s wrong; I was rude and those kids were thoughtless and cruel–part of the problem is that they haven’t learned etiquette, but the other part is that they haven’t yet developed a polite spine. For one of those kids to say “I’m sorry Mrs. Smith, it feels dishonest to me to write a card about how I like someone specifically because I don’t like him” would, though impossible, have been far better than what they did.

  • Angel August 7, 2013, 10:08 am

    The counselor was clearly at fault here for giving such an assignment. I know from experience that there are some counselors who really should not be working with kids. When I was teaching high school I remember one counselor who had the gall to tell me that one of my students, whose notebook I had collected for a grade, had written horrible things about me in the margins and doodled me, (she wrote my name under the doodles so there was no doubt they were about me) felt really bad about it and could I see my way clear to not punishing her? I laughed in her face, I had made copies of the offending pages and forwarded them to the principal. I then told her that if she was misguided enough to believe the student was sorry for ANYTHING other than the fact she got caught, then she really needed to get a refresher course in adolescent psychology. The principal gave her a week’s detention and the student “apologized” to me, but in the end I was much more angry with the counselor for asking me to look the other way, than the student herself. Students can be mean little boogers but really don’t know any better. If the counselor is telling them this is ok, they really believe it’s ok. I’m just glad the student was punished. If she hadn’t been I’m not sure I would have stayed at that school as long as I did 🙁

  • NostalgicGal November 12, 2013, 2:08 am

    Late but.

    @ Brian Katcher
    Majority of my property tax money goes to the school district here. We moved here to retire, we will not ever get direct use of the school system but as residents of here, we pay the taxes. About eight percent goes to the fire, police, ambulance… we pay a two percent sales tax to support our hospital.
    The big urban I used to live in, was similar; the majority of my property taxes was for the school district and the boneheadedness on the way the flat out wasted the money was legendary.

    I was in a different small town when I went through the school system and I can tell you, same thing happened; a few teachers were given an awesomely rough and bad time and some of them never got ANY trouble. There were three grades, I was in the middle of this grouping, that managed to get five teachers to quit in two years, two retired straight off into some other profession. 7th, 8th, 9th grades; that can be rough all the way around…. I was the one that actually wanted to learn math and was just working problems from the book and handing them in, literally on the sly. Forget lectures, it was just survive. Kids haven’t changed. A lot of parents HAVE to work so homeschool isn’t the answer either, and many places you still have to pay the taxes for the system you aren’t using.

    Counsellor was the one at fault, compounded by the kids. There are a lot of good ones out there and there are ones that shouldn’t be allowed to be near kids.