People will test you, sometimes for no apparent reason. Often, I’ve learned that “no apparent reason” means “to show dominance”. At Mr. Apron’s work, he often comes across parents who have every intention of signing their children up for the programs, yet feel the need to tell him just how expensive, how inconvenient, or how otherwise not ideal they are for their child. And in these cases, when one is asked questions there is no answer for, I really want to ask back, “What do you really want to know?” or “What do you really want to say?”

The answer to that question is, “I just want to test you, to make you feel like shit, and let you know who is in charge here.”

When I started work last fall, I felt like I was being tested. If I showed the slightest hesitation in my approach to the classroom rules (seeing as every classroom has different rules, observing is a great first step unless you want to end up asking questions every 3 seconds), they’d jump on me, telling me what to do. Not as if I’d never been in their classroom before. Not as if I was new to the company, or even to my profession. But as if I had never worked with children before.

As I wondered aloud to a child, “Now, how do you transition from your walker to your chair?” an aide piped up, “Oh, he won’t be able to tell you that.” No kidding. That’s why I’m working with him. Maybe you could help me?

As I worked with a child during lunchtime to try to keep him seated during the meal, “You know, if you put your foot behind the leg of his chair, he won’t be able to push it out.” Thanks. Did you invent that one?

And on and on. It’s no so much the content of these comments, if they were only meant to be helpful, but the manner and tone in which they’re delivered cuts sharply. How about watching me and seeing how I approach the problem, much as you’re supposed to do with your students, to see if I can solve it on my own? Finally, toward the end of the school year, as one of the aides was preparing to go onto a new job, she admitted, out of the blue one day, that she and the lead teacher had tested me back in the fall. To put me in my place? To see if I had enough mettle to stick around and work with the kids? Oh, they admitted to being tough on me because they’d had some slack-ass speech pathologists in the past, some who had never worked with children. And that was exactly as I’d been treated, thought in some cases, I’d had as much experience with 3-5 year olds as they did. N

ow, I’ve started at a new center, and I feel the testing all over again. New teachers I’ve never worked with before. Blunt comments that seem meant to put me in my place. Letting me fail, it would seem. Today, I was pushing kids on a safe, up-to-date version of a see-saw. One little kid, who does not talk much and who will likely soon be on my caseload, seemed interested in helping me push the see-saw so the other kids could ride. So I took one side, he the other, and we pushed the other kids. He was engaged with other children, sustaining an activity, getting some exercise by coordinating his muscles, and, most importantly, enjoying himself. This went on for a full 10 minutes before a teacher started yelling at all the kids who had now joined to help us push, telling me (after the fact, of course) that they don’t let kids push because they could get hurt by bonking their chins when the apparatus comes back up. A teacher who was, the whole time, sitting 2 feet away. Did she want to scold the other kids, by letting them do “the wrong thing” first? Did she want to correct me by setting me up for failure? Or, as she showed last week when she failed to even get up when a child fell off a tricycle, was she just not watching the kids and not caring until it was convenient and she could get someone in trouble?

This woman will try my patience, that’s for certain. Her interactions with children are inappropriate, rude, and brash. Her interactions with adults are no better. If I stick it out, will she let me become her coworker, and learn to respect, if not me, then at least my actions and decisions in her classroom? Granted I’m on her turf, but she’s a new teacher in this room, so she has no seniority where that’s concerned. But I’ll be tougher. I’ll show her that she may be able to yell at the kids. She may try to undermine me, but I’ll keep doing my job, with her, or in spite of her.