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So I have to tell you – on Friday, I had "one of those days." I can’t remember why I was on Apple Podcasts, but when I landed on the page for my podcast, I noticed something really strange.
I noticed that my rating for this podcast had dropped from 5 stars to 4.5 stars.
Of course, when I first saw that, my heart skipped a beat and I was suddenly so, so sad because I’m not sure you know how much I really do love this show.
I started this podcast so you don’t have to struggle the way I did during my first years of teaching. It’s my way of giving back, of sharing what I know to be true, and it’s my passion project.
I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. I’m in this with you, and I’m dedicated to giving you the help and guidance that I wish I had when I first started teaching, and so you know that you are not alone. Being a new teacher is hard, especially during a global pandemic – that isn’t your fault, it’s just a steep learning curve. I wanted you to know that I’m here to support you and that you don’t have to figure all of this out all by yourself.
I really work hard at this show. It’s a big part of my life and I genuinely care about you. This might sound weird to you, but I kind of feel like you’re my daughters. I tell my husband that all the time – I’m really protective of you. 😊
I am constantly thinking about what I can do this week to support you. I think about what you might need right now, what I can share that would be most helpful, and I am constantly listening and paying attention to what you are struggling with as you give me feedback.
And, I’m really open to feedback. I genuinely do want to know if there’s something I’m doing – or conversely, something that I’m NOT doing, that I need to know about or improve on. So when I first saw that I had gotten a one-star review, I took a deep breath and thought, okay, this is something I need to know. This is an opportunity to learn and to grow.
But then, I realized that there was actually no review. There was just a one-star. And that didn’t seem fair.
I mean, it’s fine if I’m not your cup of tea, or if I’ve said something that offended you or something – then let me know that. But there was no review. Just a one-star.
So, I went inside my private Beginning Teacher Talk FB group and I asked for help. If you’re part of that amazing group – what happened next literally brought me to tears. I just posted and shared what had happened with the reviews for this podcast and oh my gosh. That was the moment, my dear, amazing human beings, that you rose up in my defense.
Honestly, my hope was that one or two of you might take the time to write a positive review to help balance things out and bring my rating back up. But no. Even among the busy-ness that is your life right now – even with everything you have going on with back to school and trying to figure out how the heck to start the school year (and not just a regular school year, which is daunting in itself) – but a school year that requires you to start entirely online for many of you, and in the midst of a global pandemic.
I’ve always known this, but you just confirmed again for me that I seriously have the very best audience and community in the entire online world. I’m convinced of it, because within 5 hours, you had given me more than a dozen heart-felt, supportive, thoughtful, 5-star reviews.
So, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you: If you’re reading this, Rylee, Abigail, Angel, Sarah, Rebekah, Annie, Vale, Fabiana, Taylor, Allison, Andrea, Darla, Claire, Kay, and Makala, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you came to my defense and stood by my side when I needed it.
It just warms my heart because the fact that the next generation is in your amazingly capable hands makes me so happy. Your generosity of spirit, your kindness, and your willingness to stand up for what’s right was displayed in that moment.
Here's the thing: The reality is that you’re probably going to have haters come into your life. I don’t know why people feel the need to do this – but you’re going to have this happen to you, if you haven’t already, in your teaching life.
There’s going to be a parent who, despite the hours and hours and hours you have poured into creating the most creative, perfect online lesson, who is going to send you an awful email telling you about something they didn’t like about that activity.
Or, there’s going to be a colleague who, despite the fact that you are a new teacher – that you are just learning – and despite the fact that you are genuinely doing the very best you can, there’s going to be a colleague who criticizes you, who lets you know that they don’t approve of you or what you’re doing, or who makes some kind of a snide, off-hand remark that leaves you feeling like you aren’t good enough. Like maybe you shouldn’t even be a teacher after all.
I don’t know when it became okay to try to make someone else feel less-than when in reality, we really are all doing the very best we can.
But, it’s probably going to happen to you – it’s just a matter of when.
Because I can tell you that when I first saw that one-star review – even though I knew, and anyone from the outside looking in will you tell you, it’s just their opinion. It’s just one person – it still feels really, really bad.
When you get that email from a parent who doesn’t like something you did.
When you’re criticized by a colleague, or when you get a really bad review of an observation lesson you did.
It took me hours to start to feel better because I started to say things to myself – I started to doubt myself.
I started to wonder if I was good enough. I started to think that maybe I shouldn’t be doing this podcast and writing this blog.
I started to think that maybe what I thought I had to offer wasn’t actually helping anyone after all. I mean, who am I to be giving advice? Who did I think I was to be hosting a podcast?
I wondered if I should just quit. And I cried. Because probably a lot like you, when you really care about something, it cuts deeply when someone criticizes your efforts.
So I didn’t come out of this easily. It still hurts (but there’s more to this story that I’ll tell you about in a bit).
But what I finally was able to do, and what finally gave me some relief, was I decided to check it out. I decided to investigate a little.
I had the privilege of learning from Jack Canfield, author of the Success Principles, at an amazing professional development workshop about 8 years ago, and he taught us something that I’m going to share with you now.
He said that when something happens like this – so whether it’s an angry parent, a bad review on your teaching, or a colleague that is critical, he taught us a phrase that is super helpful and super simple, and it’s this:
When in doubt, check it out.
And that was my saving grace. I decided to just ask you.
I decided to check it out.
The hardest thing to do when we have a hater on our hands is to shine more light on that very thing they are criticizing us for. We don’t want to give any more attention to something that is already negative, so we want to just bury it and not think about it any more.
But feelings, especially deep feelings, don’t bury easily.
Instead, they’re more like beach balls – and the harder you try to push that beach ball down, under water so you don’t have to look at it or deal with it, the stronger it pops back up, and often with even greater force and making an even bigger splash than we want it to – and often, it surprises us, because it pops up when least expect it to.
So, I decided that I needed to shine light on this. I decided to tell you all about this inside our private FB group and to ask for your help.
It was SO hard to do because I realized that this was your opportunity to tell me exactly what it was that you didn’t like about my podcast. I was literally asking for more information, and if you loved my podcast, to please help me.
And that, my friends, is why I was blessed with more than a dozen 5 star reviews for this podcast. That was when I got reviews that said things like this:
Here's the thing: I would never have had the honor and privilege to receive these amazing words if I hadn’t investigated.
I never would have known that my podcast was making the impact on this teacher’s life. Instead, I could have continued down that path of saying horrible things to myself and wondering if I should even continue to produce this podcast – which is not a small undertaking – every week. I never would have known the impact I am making on Valerie’s life.
(By the way, Valerie is the winner of a $25 Amazon gift card for writing this amazing review!)
So when you have a hater on your hands, I’ve learned that what will ultimately give you relief is to:
1) Check it out. If you have a parent, like I did when I first started teaching, who was constantly criticizing me behind my back about my teaching, meet it head on. Check it out. Investigate - ask them for a meeting to talk about it.
2) Ask for help. That’s the other thing that’s so hard to do, but ultimately, it’s the only way forward through the muck. It’s the only way to get relief from what we might be saying to ourselves inside our own heads that seems to amplify whatever it is that we are feeling – and when we feel like we’re under attack – those are often not very good feelings. So if it’s a parent, for example, who is criticizing you – or if it’s a colleague, or even if it’s a bad review from an observation lesson you did – ask for help.
This might sound weird, but I promise you that it works.
If a parent is criticizing you for something, it’s usually because they think they have a better way of doing things. They might be going about sharing their ideas in a very unhelpful way, but this actually has the potential to turn into an amazing positive. When a parent criticizes you for something, it’s helpful to say something like:
“Thank you for letting me know. As you know, I’m a new teacher and I’m still figuring some things out. I’m always open to learning and to improving my practice, because as we all know, teaching, like medicine, or any other profession, is a practice. Do you have an idea for a solution or a different way of doing things that might be helpful?”
Now you’ve shifted the playing field, so the parent is a partner with you – not in battle against you.
What I’ve learned is that sometimes the negative voices keep growing louder because they just want to be heard. You have to remember that for a parent, their child is the most important being in their life, and it’s their job to protect their child. Often, that parent is only thinking about what’s best for their child.
By letting your guard down and asking for help and suggestions from the very person who is criticizing you, you can not only shine light on whatever it is that’s causing the negativity, but sometimes, you find creative ways forward that you wouldn’t have come to on your own.
So it’s kind of cool… these one-star reviews that I’ve gotten out of the blue for this podcast – started with a horrible day on Friday. It started with me hosting my own private pity party for a good five hours as I questioned whether or not I should even be producing this podcast every week…
But because I was willing to shine light on it and because I was willing to ask for your help, I was able to gain a whole new understanding of how many of you are experiencing this podcast in an incredibly helpful way. I would never have received the awesome gift of your words if I hadn’t done that.
So I do hope that if and when this does happen to you, that you’ll come back to this episode and listen again so you can get the relief from haters that you need as well.
Now, the weird reality is that this saga continues. It’s so weird because even after more than a dozen 5-star, written reviews in the span of a couple of days, my rating is still at only 4.5, and it looks like there are more 1-star reviews. I’m not sure what’s happening, so I put in my request for an investigation with Apple. My fear is that this is going to continue and that this podcast is going to be buried in negative reviews.
So here is my heart-felt request. If you are listening to this podcast and it is making a positive difference in your life, please do take 5 minutes to leave a review in support of this podcast. I don't want to let the haters win. I want to continue to produce this podcast so it can help thousands of other new teachers around the world. Please help me to bury the negativity.
It really does make all the difference in the world. I read every single review, and it does matter. And also, you too could win a $25 Amazon gift card, which is always nice, too!
All right, I hope you have a fabulous week, and remember - just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.
P.S. I thought you might enjoy using this free little goodie with your kiddos. I used to love surprising my students by leaving one of these on their desks for them to find when they came in from recess... just because. 💕 Grab your free copy now! 👇
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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