What I Learned From Being Screamed At By a Parent

2 min


After 5 years of teaching, it finally happened. My Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah-ing, rose-gold glasses-wearing-self was yelled at by an irate, unhinged parent. Out in a courtyard. In front of both faculty members and parents alike.

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of WHY I was screamed at after school because (quite honestly) I still don’t really know. All I know is that it was such an out-of-body, bizarre experience that I am still trying to wrap my head around it. This mom pointed her finger mere inches from my face, told me I was completely unacceptable and went OFF on me (like, “Real Housewives” reunion OFF). Because my anxiety-ridden-self knew that this would one day happen to my inexperienced teacher ass, my response had been perfectly rehearsed in my mind. Thus, when this mom continued to hurl insults at my head, I said, in a completely reasonable voice, “I’m not doing this right now. If you have a problem, you can take it up with the principal.” And then I walked away.

What happened next was something I’ll never forget. I got in my car and proceeded to bawl my eyes out for the next hour. And I don’t mean a few tears, I mean guttural, wounded animal sounds violently escaped from my body. The next 24 hours were spent crying on and off, replaying the incident on repeat, and thinking about how awful of a teacher I had become. All of my darkest insecurities as a teacher were suddenly illuminated. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this profession. Perhaps I wasn’t strong enough to handle the pressures of the job.  Or maybe I was doing more harm than good. I spent the next 72 hours both trying to recover from the verbal assault I had just endured and navigating my way back to my goofy, happy self.

Throughout this awful process, there are a few things I have learned:

1. There is no reason to EVER speak to another human being as that mom spoke to me.

I don’t care if you are pissed. I don’t care if you feel like you have been royally screwed over. There are other, more effective ways to communicate your point without completely eviscerating your audience.

2. I’m not a weak human being just because this event rocked me to my core.

It’s okay to have absolutely awful days as a teacher. We’re only human. It’s normal to let experiences like this affect you in ways that you can’t imagine. I’m so glad I gave myself permission to feel crappy about the situation. There’s no timeline for processing something that happens to you. You do you, boo!  This isn’t a race to be won. You take your time recovering from whatever hurdle comes your way.

3. I’m a damn good teacher and I’d be a fool to let anyone make me think otherwise.

I’m not going to stop being me or stop doing what I’m passionate about just because someone disagrees with something I have done or said.

And so, I know there will come a time when this harrowing experience happens again. It’s, unfortunately, part of the reality of being a teacher. But when it does, I’ll be ready to fight and get right back up. For that’s what we do as teachers.  We are strong, we are invincible, we are world-changers.

Let’s never let anyone forget that.

 

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Abigail Courter is a fifth year music teacher at a K-8 private school in California.  She has taught general music, band, music technology, and performing arts.

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