fast answer Friday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Can a teacher be banned from showing her students a questionable TV show?

This question is about a public school, which I know has different rules than regular workplaces, but I’d love your advice. Can a public school teacher be restricted by the principal or others from showing her class materials that some parents find offensive? Can she be restricted from talking about it?

An elementary school teacher in my town is a pageant mom and was featured on an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. Last year, she showed the episode to her fifth grade class. This show is very controversial and many parents do not allow their children to watch. The show is rated TV-PG. Should she have been required to get permission from parents for their children to watch? Can she be stopped from showing this to her students in the coming school year?

Of course she can be stopped. Teachers aren’t a special category of profession where they don’t need to answer to anyone (to the contrary, they sometimes need to answer to far more people than other professions do). The school can absolutely prohibit her from showing the episode.

Whether or not she should have been required to get permission from parents first isn’t a question I can answer with any degree of authority; someone in the education field could answer that better than me. But my opinion as a taxpayer and a bad-TV-watcher is that getting permission from parents would miss the point — it’s whether the show should be shown to kids in a classroom at all.

2. When can I ask about benefits?

I am beginning a job search. I love my job, am good at it, and love the people I work with. It’s also a small business in a slow economy. Quite frankly, I’m afraid my boss is going to go under. He is a nice guy who makes very poor business decisions, and I would rather get out before the ship sinks. He also doesn’t offer any sort of benefits, and my husband’s plan is terrible. If I am offered a job, it would only be worth it for me to take it if they have a good benefits plan. When and how is it appropriate to ask about the health insurance and what it covers if I am offered a job? Also, I’m not sure what to say if asked why I am looking for a new position.

Your second question is the perfect answer to the first. When asked why you’re looking for a new job, explain that your current position doesn’t offer benefits. This is a perfectly normal reason to be looking, and it will trigger them to let you know if they don’t offer benefits either. But if that doesn’t come up, then wait until you get an offer, at which point you can ask as many questions about their benefits plan as you’d like.

3. Client tells racist and sexist jokes

One of my boss’s clients always tells me sexist and racist jokes. I don’t want to laugh, but I don’t want to make him angry or embarrass him. I do, though, want the jokes to stop. What can I do?

Nicely say, “I don’t like those sorts of jokes, Joe.” You can and should also talk to your boss if it continues, since you shouldn’t be subjected to that behavior.

4. Company won’t give raises and I’m getting bored

I have worked at the same company since I graduated college in 2005. I came in with lots of enthusiasm, worked hard, got great reviews on all my evaluations thus far, and have consequently acquired many new responsibilities over the years. However, I was told, pretty much from day one, not to ask for raises, as they are only given with promotions. In my current situation, the only way that I can be promoted is if one of the three people “above” me leaves, which none of them plan on doing (to my knowledge).

I am starting to find myself bored and unmotivated, with nothing to work “toward,” and I fear it is only a matter of time before my boss starts to notice (if she hasn’t already.) Is there any way to address this without seeming as though I am whining about some already-established policy? Or is this just an indication that it is time to move on?

It’s time to move on. There’s nowhere to go in your current role, and you’re bored, and you’ve been there seven years.

5. How should I answer this interview question?

I was recently asked “What’s your attitude toward supervision?” or words to that effect. I have to admit, it floored me a little. I’ve never NOT had a supervisor so I’ve never really prepared for this question, but I’m interviewing for jobs higher up the ladder now, and I suppose they want to know if I can be both independent and a “team player.”

My internal answer was “I like supervision just fine if my boss isn’t a jerk.” Like almost everyone, I’ve had great bosses that I’ve had rewarding relationships with, and jerk bosses I couldn’t wait to get away from. Instead, I stammered out something about valuing “mutual trust and communication.” Which is true, but I’m afraid it sounds a little primma-donna-ish. I guess I could have said something involving the word “team,” but I feel like when I venture into business-jargon I sound insincere and butt-kissy. Plus “team” implies a relationship of equals and I don’t want to seem like I’m not acknowledging my subordinate position in the food chain.

So how do you think candidates should answer this question without sounding either difficult or sycophantic?

That’s a horrible interview question (vague and silly), but you are way over-thinking it. Talk about what kind of a manager you work best with.

6. Telling an old employer I’d like to work for them again

I’ve spent the past year on an exchange abroad. A few months prior (I spent the summer working on an internship relevant to my field), I had been working in a gallery. I worked there for about 2 years, with one other summer off for another internship. Management was very supportive about both the internships and my exchange.

I’m now heading back to the same city and would like to work there again. That wasn’t part of the original plan, so I never enquired about returning when I left. I’m quite sure I’d be welcomed back though. Given my past experience, they’ll be asking summer staff to submit their availability for the fall, with the contract starting in October. I figured I’d send an email with an updated resume to my old manager, but I’m not really sure how to open the email since I’m neither a new candidate nor an expected reapplication. Any advice on how to apply for an old job you’re not expected to apply for?

Just be straightforward. (That’s going to need to be a new form letter here.) “I’m moving back to town in September, and I’d love to work with you again. Do you expect to have any openings that would be a good fit?”

7. Online application forms without enough room

I’m currently filling out an online application, and I’ve come into a bind of not having enough space to put relevant information. I’ve come to the part where I have to put in my employers’ names, address, phone number, etc. My first question is: I worked abroad (non-English speaking country), and they want the phone number of the school I worked at. Is it going to look bad if I don’t put it? They’re obviously not going to call the school unless someone at their company speaks French, and they wouldn’t get anywhere because the only people that worked with me were teachers, so speaking to the administration is a complete waste of both parties time. Also, I have my supervisor listed as one of my references (she speaks perfect English), so it’s not like I’m hiding something by not listing the phone number. I also thought I could just put her phone number as the school number, but because it’s her cell, I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.

My other question: I’ve just wasted 10 minutes trying to type in the address of one of my previous employers because it doesn’t fit in the space they’ve allotted me, and now have countless abbreviations in it just so I could fit the relevant information. It’s frustrating to me that I’ve wasted this time on something the employer most likely isn’t even going to look at. So, I’m wondering, is it okay to leave out relevant information (ie. university name) just so that entire address fits on there, or is it better if I make it fit with awkward abbreviations?

Put the school’s phone number. If there’s room to note they speak French, do. Otherwise, you can address this when you’re further in the process and they’re getting ready to check references.

For the address, put in as much info as will fit, but realize that they’re highly unlikely to mail anything to the employer anyway, so it’s not going to be an issue if it’s incomplete.

{ 139 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie*

    “education field could answer that better than me”

    Not in the education field, but I’m a parent and yes, if the kids were under 13 she should have had to get permission for showing them anything rated PG-13.

    In high school they would sometimes show R rated movies if they pertained to something they were studying and I always have to sign a slip giving permission for my kids.

    There is nothing touchier than a mob of parents of elementary aged kids who don’t like something the teacher took it upon themselves to show them which is even vaguely controversial.

    To this post though, what educational value can this possibly have? She’s supposed to be teaching, not showing off her 15 minutes of reality show “fame.”

    1. Anonymous*

      Sorry, just a note, I think she said the show is rated “PG” not “PG-13”.

      Still, I agree with your points. I don’t have kids myself but have many friends who do, and they all seem to use shows like Toddlers & Tiara’s as examples of how NOT to parent.

      As a side note, which matches with your final point, I have watched this show a few times (it’s kind of like a train wreck…you watch a little and just can’t stop!) and the way the parents and children act is awful! I can’t understand why she would want anyone to see her act over bearing and obnoxious (which is what all the parents on the episodes I’ve seen have been) especially in a professional environment!

      1. Anonymous*

        Completely unrelated note to Alison: I posted the above comment and received the message “You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.”

        That was the only comment I’ve posted today, so just a heads up your commenting section may be malfunctioning :)

          1. A Bug!*

            I’ve gotten that a couple times over the last few days, as well, seemingly for no reason. I always use the same handle.

            I’m also getting comments going into moderation on occasion as well (and, once, a disappearing comment), but maybe I need to look inward for an answer to that!

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Something odd is going on with commenting this week, and we’re working on fixing. Please be patient meanwhile!

              Moderation: There are two things that will send a comment into moderation — (1) including links, email addresses, or spammy-sounding words, or (2) if you’re set for all your comments to go through moderation because you’ve been personally hostile to people here in the past. (This second one is definitely not you.)

              1. ChristineH*

                Ahh…that explains my post going into moderation the other day; I’d posted a link. I thought that might be the reason. Glad it went through quickly though!

          2. Anon.*

            I just got a wierd message too.. posted on another thread (the husband stuck in the 70’s) and got a message saying I posted the same comment twice – and then when I checked, it hadn’t posted even once.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            This is a good point. People who are commenting as “Anonymous”: You can still be anonymous if you pick an actual handle to use, and that way you won’t be mixed up with all the many other people calling themselves the same thing.

            1. Jamie*

              And that would really make it easier to follow conversations – just saying.

              Although I know it can be tough to come up with a screen name. I went the oh so clever route of using my actual name only because I couldn’t think of anything else.

    2. Josh S*

      I wanted to say exactly your last paragraph on this topic. I don’t care how controversial the show m1

    3. Anonymous*

      Broadly speaking, teachers shouldn’t use the classroom to promote a personal hobby. I don’t care if she’s a pageant mom, a stamp collector, or a Ham radio enthusiast. Hobbies and self-glorification are improper topics of discussion with a captive audience at work. This is equivalent to holding a group meeting at work to show off the boss’s vacation photos.

      If, in very narrow circumstances, the hobby can be legitimately tied to classroom activity, then you can bring it in. But you still need to make it more about the work application than about your personal enjoyment of the hobby.

      1. Kelly*

        I don’t think having the kids watch her TV bit was appropriate, but I’m not sure I agree that teacher interests have no place in the classroom. Some of my best teachers shared their interests with my classes when I was a student – one of them was into magic, taught us tricks, and we had a class magic show (3rd grade), another had a part-time job as a drummer and brought in a bunch of buckets to teach us basic drumming rhythms as a reward (6th grade).

        Especially with young students, there is usually SOME relevancy; a teacher into stamp collecting might do a unit on the post office with stories and learning stations and then bring in his or her collection. Seeing a teacher’s enthusiasm can help create a community, and be very contagious. Sometimes it’s the personal asides that students find most motivating.

        1. Blinx*

          It also keeps things interesting. These “asides” can be used in a motivational way. I had an English teacher in HS who rewarded us by showing his personal copy of a Marx Bros. movie. Not a video, but reels of film! Had nothing to do with any lessons, but he was an interesting guy and shared his love of farce with us.

          1. Laura L*

            My ninth-grade English teacher spent a class session explaining the lyrics to Don McLean’s song American Pie to us. It was awesome and was still slightly relevant to English class.

            It was also the first time I’d heard the song and for several weeks afterwards, I spent lots of time listening to it on an old record my parents had.

  2. Anonymous*

    Toddlers and Tiaras is a great show if you want to teach kids that looking fake–fake tans, fake hair, fake nails, fake teeth–is important, that it’s okay to use sugar, soda, pixie sticks, etc., to get a sugar rush in order to compete, and that the most important thing in the world is to be the Ultimate Taco Supreme. But to show in a classroom? I guess I can’t be surprised; with all the horrible judgement and parenting I see on the show, yeah, I can totally see some mom living through her kid wanting everyone to see this trainwreck. Just check out Honey Boo Boo.

    1. Rin*

      I saw a commercial for her very own show and wanted to vomit. My boyfriend said someone should call child services for neglect.

  3. Matt*

    Re Interview Question: Thanks for answering my question! Yes, I think it’s a horrible question too, but in talking with friends I’m discovering it’s more common than I thought, often in the form of, “What kind of supervision style do you work best with?” A friend told me his stock answer was, “I work best when I’m given clear instructions so that I can most effectively meet my supervisor’s expectations.” Duh. I guess I’ll try variations on that in the future. As my friend said, “You gotta play the game.” And I guess in this economy, employers can play games with you as much as they want…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s actually a different question– much better wording.

      Your friend’s answer will raise red flags if it’s an environment where he’s expected to deal with ambiguity. But there’s no one right answer to this — the point is to tell the truth so that you don’t end up in a job that you’re a bad fit for (or with a manager who will drive you crazy). You just need to couch it in diplomatic language.

      1. Matt*

        True… I guess that’s why I answered with “mutual trust and communication.” I tend to work in environments that require me to deal with minimal supervision, so I try to get across the fact that I can be trusted to manage complex projects on my own while still being able to work as part of the team. Maybe the lesson here is to think of a good stock answer for my particular situation. Thanks for the insight!

      2. A Bug!*

        I can work under most supervisors; I’m pretty adaptable. My primary desire in that respect are that I be able to know what’s expected of me. Some supervisors have very consistent (read: reasonable) expectations and that makes things easy, and in circumstances where expectations might vary in ways I don’t understand (read: crap shoot), I prefer them to be clearly defined, even if it’s just “always run things past me before you do anything.”

    2. **

      I’ve been asked a similar question. I usually answer with “I don’t have a problem with authority, but I’m able to take a project and work on it with minimal supervision as well.” Much better wording than that, though. My interviewing is a little rusty.

      Sure, it might turn off micromanagers, but I don’t want to work for those types of personalities anyway.

  4. Sara*

    Why would it be appropriate under any circumstance for a teacher to show her kids something from TV just because she was featured in it when the show has no educational value? Even if the show weren’t offensive (which it is), that just seems self-centered and gross. It teaches children that being on television for any reason at all is in and of itself something of which to be proud.

    1. KayDay*

      Also, T&T shows really bad behavior. Even if you do not have a problem with pageants, the general behavior that makes the final cut of this, and most other, reality shows is not what the schools are trying to teach.

    2. Jennifer*

      Yes, the issue isn’t the rating level of the show, but her purpose in showing it. I cannot fathom an educational reason for showing 5th graders Toddlers and Tiaras no matter how hard I try. I am in a semi administrative position in an elementary school and I would be livid if one of my teachers did this, especially during class time.

      If it was at indoor recess, I would question the teacher’s judgment and request that it not happen again.

    3. EM*

      Yes, this. Apparently the kids in my 8 year old neighbor’s class all want to become “reality TV stars” when they grow up. It makes me sad for the future. Showing a TV program like this will only reinforce the cultural obsession with being famous for being famous’ sake. Not something I want taught in my child’s school.

  5. Anonymous*

    7# The address is partially to ensure that they can identify the correct employer. So you could shorten it to street name, city and Postal/Zip code.

    If they do need the full address they can always Google it or ask you.

    1. Blinx*

      If the info doesn’t fit into the provided fields, could you type the full address/phone number as the first line of the description of your position? That way, the employer would have the info, just not in the right field.

  6. Emily*

    I asked the question about benefits. Thanks for answering! My last two jobs didn’t have benefits and were working for people I already knew professionaly or personally so this whole process has been making me nervous.

    1. Jamie*

      I have always found benefits to come up early in the process – it is important to people when evaluating a job offer, but not as personal and potentially sticky as salary.

      And as you have the perfect opening for this because it’s why you’re looking, I can’t imagine a company who didn’t offer benefits not responding immediately so you can look elsewhere.

    2. Catherine*

      That was precisely my reason for leaving my first job out of college – it was part-time with no benefits, and I got married and my husband’s work insurance was awful. So I started applying for full-time jobs, and during the interviews when they asked why I was leaving my current job, I told them it was because I needed health insurance. It was always well received and the interviewers were completely understanding.

      Also, in every interview I have been in (whether being interviewed or conducting it), the candidate always asks about what kinds of benefits are offered. It’s normal to bring it up at the end during the “do you have any questions” section. I would ask about benefits after some work place questions – like about culture and day-to-day stuff – but definitely ask during the interview, it’s expected.

    3. Anonymous*

      Check online too. In my job search, many companies had statements about benefits on their web sites, usually under the employment area somewhere. It’s usually not a comprehensive explanation of all their benefits, but it sounds like for you just a confirmation that they offer health insurance would be enough.

      Also, the new health insurance legislation might make a difference to you in the coming years if you end up staying at your current job. You might want to look into whether that’s something you could benefit from soon.

      1. Emily*

        It’s not because it is such a small business. My husband’s employer does offer insurance but is it very expensive, very high deductible, and basically covers nothing. I am hoping that maybe some of the new health care laws could change that? (I haven’t done a ton of research into them). I would really like some decent insurance. I had great insurance at a previous job but my department was shut down and I was laid off. I don’t even mind paying more upfront for it if the actual coverage is decent.

  7. AnotherAlison*

    Oh, my. Nevermind watching the awful show, if my sons were assigned the teacher in question #1, I’d have them transferred. Pageants are so far out of line with my values that I couldn’t have them near that woman! I hope they have a female teacher who takes the 5th grade girls to Society of Women Engineers events to balance her out.

    1. Anonymous*

      Something I feel should be said, I think it is perfectly fine to have a teacher whose values differ from yours…as long as those values don’t make their way into the classroom. Someone could be involved in something you disagree with and still be a fantastic teacher, but if that activity is a part of their private lives, it should stay in their private lives.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I hope you recognize that your statement does not apply in this case, as the teacher is bringing her private life into the classroom. Even if she hadn’t, a teacher who participates in a lifestyle that values appearance over intellect would be hard-pressed to not express that attitdue in her classroom.

        Incidently, years ago my son had a principal who was arrested for something very bad (out of line with values of 99.999% of the population), and he was a GREAT teacher, so you’re right. . .but proceed with caution.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          Yes. I had a teacher like that. It was the worst school year of my life! It shredded my self esteem for years.

          Girls were supposed to be “pretty”. I was penalized for getting all As and skewing her bell curve. The boys were told it was OK to get all As. She actually tried to withold math training from me because I was a girl. And graded me down on math becuase my numbers weren’t written neatly enough. My father (also an engineer) went ballistic. It didn’t hurt that our principle went to our church and knew me personally. She was talked to – several times.

          Teachers like that in an elementary school should be drummed out.

          1. danr*

            And high schools. This was before the current testing craze.. , some would only look at the end of year testing scores and ignore classroom performance. My brother was a horrible test taker and an excellent math student. My parents had to fight to get him into top level classes in every year of high school due to his poor eighth grade test scores.

    2. Jamie*

      I get what Anonymous said about personal values being different if it’s kept out of the classroom, but I have to say my instinct is like that of AnotherAlison – I’d want to pull my kids and make sure they were being taught by someone who didn’t have a hobby that involved judging little girls for the most superficial of traits.

      I can think of many things on which I’d disagree with a teacher and having no problem, as long as it was left out of the classroom. But such an overt sexist hobby for me is dangerous to impressionable kids and I wouldn’t trust someone who would so actively embrace that in their personal life to be able to drop it and treat the kids as equals while she’s on the clock.

      Just as I wouldn’t care about the political affiliation of a teacher, unless I found it dangerous. Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent…sure. Some weird KKK ticket or membership in a racist group and I’m pulling my kid because I believe there are some ideologies which cannot be dropped at the classroom door.

    3. Anonymous*

      As a woman with an engineering degree that also enjoys pageants, I don’t understand your point. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Pageants recognize children for appearance. SWE encourages girls to develop their intellect. If you have one teacher essentially encouraging girls to trade on their (purchased from a beauty supply shop) appearances to get ahead in life, ya might wanna have another teacher that encourages them to use their brains to get ahead.

        1. Hilary*

          I would like a bit more context to go along with this from the OP. It’s possible the teacher showed the video just as a “Look everyone! I’m on TV!” and not as a teachable moment. While I agree that the subliminal messaging would still be there, and it was wrong to show the video in class, it may not have been the direct intention of the teacher to promote these values.

          As Anonymous above said, I think you can be intelligent and still consider appearances, in fact, appearance has been discussed many times on this site when it comes to interviewing etc.

          It should also be noted, if you are raising your children to think critically about what they are shown on TV, this could be a chance for the parent to bring in a teachable moment and have a discussion with their child (again, not saying the video should be shown, but its a way for parents to do damage control instead of just focusing on being angry at the teacher).

          My neice is 8, her mom was watching Toddlers and Tiara’s one day and asked her what she thought, her response: “Those girls look silly, why are they wearing so much make up?”

          1. Anonymous*

            Hello I am the OP.

            I think it was a hey, look at me on TV moment during free time. I don’t really care what she does in her personal life, and I don’t want to get in trouble. What I do want, however, is for her to not show this to next year’s class (which my daughter may be in – we haven’t yet received teacher assignments).

            I was afraid broaching it would be too controversial, because I know teachers teach things that psomemarents disapprove of all the time, like evolution. This is not educational, though.

            1. Ano*

              Sorry for bad smart phone typing. I don’t want to get her In trouble, and some parents disapprove ofthongs taught regularly in classrooms.

              1. Jamie*

                “psomemarents ”

                I thought this was some special kind of parent – glad you told us it was a typo before I googled it to see if I was one, or not. :)

                1. Op*

                  Unfortunately, my fifth grader does know about thongs. She doesn’t think they seem like a good idea :)

        2. Anonymous123*

          “Pageants recognize children for appearance” – I did not say I enjoy children’s pageants, I said “pageants.” You are making some assumptions here.

          “If you have one teacher essentially encouraging girls to trade on their (purchased from a beauty supply shop) appearances to get ahead in life…” – We do not know that the teacher was encouraging this.

          There are several pageants out there that require contestants to answer interview questions, demonstrate a talent, and present a certain appearance while doing it. The prize is a large sum of money contingent upon the winner performing certain tasks for a set period of time, usually a year. That sounds very similar to a job interview, and I believe it is good training for entering the work-world.

          Furthermore, I really dislike when we, as women, judge each other based on attributes and decree that some attributes are “better” than others. We are all human, we all have hopes and feelings and goals and strengths and weaknesses.

          Perhaps your strength is your job; you excel as an engineer. Another woman’s strength may be that she received a $50,000 scholarship from the Miss America pageant. I do not believe that means you are smarter than her or that she does not “use her intellect” or that she is not “using her brain to get ahead.”

          It certainly does NOT mean that one of you is better than the other. It simply means that you are different. You had different goals and achieved them. So what? Why must we judge other people’s goals? Why must one woman’s goal be considered more worthy than another?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            This question is about a very specific type of pageant though: children’s beauty pageants, with spray tans, fake teeth (!), etc. The show is pretty blatantly awful in that regard and probably not typical of every piece of the pageant world.

            1. Anonymous123*

              I admit: I have never seen the show. If we are focusing specifically on this show, I will bow out of the conversation. Thank you.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                You should totally check out the show. It’s a train wreck. I feel ashamed when I watch it, but it is seriously a sociological specimen of epic proportions.

              2. jmkenrick*

                I’ve only seen about 15 minutes of that show, but it included an interview with a mother who said that she had the children in order to participate in the pageants, and she was very disappointed when her first child was a boy, because boys weren’t as fun to dress up. She said this while her children were playing in the background. It was a bit upsetting to think that her son would watch it one day.

                I don’t participate in pageants of any kind, but I have to assume that’s not representative, and that the producers are intentially selecting the most sensational participants/pageants.

                1. jmkenrick*

                  Yeah, it was upsetting. Anyway, I mostly say that to convey that I think people’s strong reactions to hearing that this was shown in a classroom is not necassarily a reflection of that pageants you enjoy.

                  This show seems to be actively cultivated to be a trainwreck…

                2. lucy*

                  There’s one episode where the woman has twins and one of them is good at pageants and the other isn’t so much, and the mom is always talking about how ugly and untalented the non-pageant winning twin is. The poor girl cries through the whole episode.

          2. some1*

            Pageants are very similar to a job interview? I’ve been to at least a dozen job interviews in my life and never had to wear a bathing suit in front of strangers in one of them. Even when you would (to be a lifeguard or something), you (hopefully) are being judged on merit, not how you look in your swim suit.

            1. Hilary*

              I believe you took my comment out of context, I never said that pageants and interviews are similar, what I said was in response to another comment, and what I was saying was that appearance is still important, and is something that is discussed frequently on this site.

              No matter how intelligent you are, if you show up to an interview looking like a hot mess, you probably won’t get hired.

          3. Laura L*

            “Why must we judge other people’s goals?”

            Well, people always judge other people’s goals and lifestyles. Everyone values different things and people will always judge others for disagreeing with those values.

    4. Anonymous*

      Ha, parents would complain about that too. Mine certainly would’ve.

      It’s more a matter of doing activities that benefit the students somehow, rather than drawing political lines. Taking kids to places that expose them to different career paths – OK, even if not every parent approves of all the careers fully. Showing kids TV shows that you starred in – nope, not really seeing it as a value to the kids.

    5. TL*

      I dunno. I went to a small school in a small town and if a teacher had been on a reality school, all the kids would’ve known about it and begged the teacher to show them in class, whether or not she told them. Also, those shows are heavily biased when they’re cut – we had a WifeSwap episode filmed in the next town over; the wife came to do an animal show at our school and during it she was obviously unsure of herself but willing to try, and open to help from the family, who was very encouraging of her. The episode didn’t show that, but did show a lot of complaining/fighting. I would be careful of judging her solely from that.
      And it’s entirely possible she’s encouraging her daughter to be educated and beautiful. They’re not exclusive. (Especially since she’s a teacher and likely heavily invested in the education system.)

      1. Op*

        I don’t really care how the teacher is raising her kids, and i am NOT judging her teaching ability. Maybe she’s a wonderful teacher. Regarding how reality shows are cut – if she felt she was unfairly portrayed on the show, she probably shouldn’t telling the kids about and showing it…the news traveled pretty fast.

  8. HateYourJokes*

    For #3: As a female in a male-dominated field, I am often told jokes in poor taste and was never sure how to respond (for the same reason – not wanting to offend). A wonderful colleague gave me some great advice: just pretend you don’t get the joke. Nothing ruins an inappropriate joke like the teller feeling like they have to explain why it’s funny. It also communicates that you don’t subscribe to the same ‘world view’ as the joke teller, so it serves to prevent similar jokes in the future. Slightly passive aggressive, perhaps, but then so are the jokes.

    Worked well with colleagues, may even work on a client if you can be tactful in the way you ‘don’t get’ the joke.

    1. Bridgette*

      I like that idea. A blank stare and a good “huh?” usually leaves them stammering and embarrassed.

      1. HateYourJokes*

        I generally find that people share jokes with others that they expect will find those jokes funny. At least in my experience, with only a few exceptions, even jokes that were in bad taste were not malicious.

        Also if I confront them then the situation escalates – this became my way of calmly taking control of the uncomfortable situation (whether the joke teller realized it or not).

      2. danr*

        Because they’re ready for that response. It makes them feel good. Not giving offense back, and not getting the joke takes all the fun out of it.

    2. KayDay*

      ” just pretend you don’t get the joke. Nothing ruins an inappropriate joke like the teller feeling like they have to explain why it’s funny.”

      So this is life changing advice for me–I’ve mostly worked for women, and I get really uncomfortable when I have to work with men who tell inappropriate (at least, inappropriate for a work-setting) jokes. Half the time I legitimately do not get the joke, but force a laugh anyway to be polite/not look stupid for not getting the joke. I will happily have to unlearn this habit!

      1. khilde*

        Same here! I don’t understand some of that mean-spirited stuff sometimes and end up forcing a laugh just so the whole thing can be over. When it’s a harmless funny joke that I don’t get (that I want to!), it truly does lessen the impact of the joke when someone has to explain it to me. That’s why I love this suggestion because I bet it works nearly all the time.

    3. Anonymous*

      Wow. I don’t think it’s right to infantilize men like this. I’m especially surprised by the people who say, “But they don’t know it’s offensive!” Do you really believe that? They are telling the joke because it is offensive – that is the whole punchline of these jokes. Maybe we’re talking about different jokes here or something.

      When a guy tells a sexist joke in front of me, I tell him to knock it off. When a guy tells a racist joke in front of me, I tell him to knock it off. When a guy tells a religiously offensive joke in front of me, I tell him to knock it off. It cuts down on the jokes I don’t like dramatically. It works just as well on women, too. Children are more of a toss-up, but luckily I don’t interact with children.

      On the rare occasion when I feel like making these guys feel completely humiliated for their jokes, then I will take a more indirect approach. This is purely malicious of me, but it warms my black, shrived heart and it might amuse the people who like to play dumb. If the guy makes a joke about, for example, blonde women and it’s clearly directed at me then I say, with a fierce glare and as much outrage as I can manage, “My GRANDMOTHER was blonde, rest her soul!” This also works well with racial, ethnic, or religious minority jokes that you don’t want to hear. “My GRANDMOTHER was a Polish Mexican Jew, rest her soul!” You can, optionally, leave out the “rest her soul” or add on a “How could you?” at your option. Trade Grandma out for Mother, Dear Aunt, or Grandfather, as necessary.

      1. HateYourJokes*

        I don’t think it’s ‘infantilizing’ men (or women, whoever is telling the joke). It’s just a more subtle behavior modification tactic than outright confrontation. Either way I am communicating that the joke isn’t funny, and they stop.

        Each workplace is different, but if I went around telling colleagues and bosses to knock it off every time I disagreed with their joke, I would be well hated. Perhaps i just have a thick skin and like things to run smoothly. But since I’m in a workplace full of type A’s, subtlety sneaks under the radar and is quite effective.

        Each tactic had a place. Next time I think the joke is malicious I’m totally using your ‘My grandmother’ line. I love that.

      2. danr*

        If you use “My GRANDMOTHER was a Polish Mexican Jew”, end it with… “may her memory be a blessing.”

    4. Anon*

      An article I read recently – in Forbes if I remember right – said the right answer is “Dude, that’s not cool.” I liked it because it’s honest, straightforward, does not suggest one isn’t bright enough to grasp the concept, and doesn’t say, “Ooh, I’m offended! I’ve been victimized!” I like the sense of “Psst, Buddy! Your moral zipper is down!”

    5. EM*

      Usually, people who tell these jokes to me preface it with, “I’m not racist or anything…” My normal response after they’ve told the offensive joke is, “I’m not racist, I just say things that racist people say” . That normally stops the laughs and makes them shut up.

  9. Jamie*

    “A wonderful colleague gave me some great advice: just pretend you don’t get the joke. Nothing ruins an inappropriate joke like the teller feeling like they have to explain why it’s funny.”

    This x1000. It is the only time I play dumb. I get all wide eyed with a head tilt and almost smile as I tell them I don’t get it. And then they have to explain. And I don’t get that either – so they have to either explain the explanation or just forget it.

    I generally favor more direct communication, this is a little out of character for me, but it works better. If you are direct and tell them why it’s inappropriate you can end up in a stand off where the person with the most power wins – and often they will test this by doing it even more.

    I only play dumb if I’m outranked. A peer or subordinate I would just say “excuse me?” in the mom tone and that usually works.

    1. HateYourJokes*

      I couldn’t agree more. I actually resisted this idea at first because I didn’t like the idea of ‘playing dumb’. Ever.

      But it was so effective. In fact I don’t see it so much as ‘playing dumb’ now as intentionally ‘not getting the joke’. More like a cultural difference than stupidity. The truth is, I don’t find the joke funny so to tell them I don’t get it isn’t even a lie.

    2. Blinx*

      I don’t think I would have the patience for this. My DAD tells offensive jokes. He’s never going to change. So I finally learned to just leave the minute he starts off on the wrong track. Usually it’s at someone’s house, so I scoot out to the kitchen to help with things there, or excuse myself to the bathroom.

      In an office, if you’re not trapped by a desk or people, just say you are late for a meeting, have to make a call, etc.

    1. OP*

      The teacher showed her class the show during free class time – as a hey, look at me on TV thing. I’ve heard, but don’t know for sure, that he did this the year prior. I don’t care what she does for hobbies, but I don’t want that show coming up in front of my daughter, or being shown to her. I don’t yet know if my daughter will have her this coming year, but I doubt I could get her teacher switched. This is all over town and probably Everyone is going to want to have their child switched. So probably no one will be switched. So I’d like to try prevention.

      1. danr*

        She’s definitely violating licensing and copyright. The school district could be hit big time. if she does it again. And stuff like this always gets back to the copyright holders.

        The class assignments for this year are already set. You should be getting a letter soon that lets you know which teacher your child has. If it’s the problem teacher, let the principal know about your opinion. The principal (if she/he is good) will have a private word with the teacher, and make a general statement during the initial faculty meeting before school starts. Hopefully, the teacher will get the hint.

  10. Megan*

    For #2-
    As a recruiter, I agree that it’s perfectly acceptable to inquire about benefits fairly early, but please don’t let that be your only reason for being interested in the job or for leaving your current job. Make sure you have something you can identify of why the job has interested you or something about your current job that is unsatisfying that you’d like to change. If it comes down to 2 good candidates, yourself included, and the other candidate truly seems to want the job whereas you come off as just wanting benefits, you’re likely to lose out. I don’t want people who just want A job, I want people who want THIS job.

    1. Emily*

      That is why I wasn’t sure if I should bring it up at all. The jobs I have applied for are ones I truly thing I would enjoy for other reasons as well. Since I do have a job I don’t want to take another one that isn’t a good fit and regret it.

      1. KayDay*

        My general opinion on this is that if it’s a deal breaker go ahead and ask right away. But be rather general: e.g. “is health insurance offered with this position?” not “do you have a health insurance option that is accepted as full payment by Dr. Earno Senthroat?” or even “how much is my contribution to each of your health insurance plans?” You can discuss those details when you have an offer.

        If your the talkative type, you can go on to say how excited you are about the position, but you don’t want to get any more invested if you can’t received health insurance. Most people will understand.

        1. Rana*

          Hmm. I wonder how you handle the conversation when you have a specific condition that may (a) affect your work and (b) may not be covered under standard insurance. (Maternity, for example.)

  11. Jenn*

    Eh, it’s not like she was showing porn; it was an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. Not one of my trash-tv picks, but still – let’s keep it in perspective. Appropriate for school? Probably not. But the fact that my 10 year old kid saw it in class is not going to result in irreparable damage.

    Besides, if this teacher is proud to be featured on T&T, then her judgment is already way off. ;-)

    1. Jamie*

      Sure it’s not porn the same way slapping a kid isn’t murdering him – but I wouldn’t want someone slapping my kid either.

      It’s not about irreparable damage – that’s pretty hard to accomplish with any crappy TV show. It’s about boundaries and accountability.

      It isn’t appropriate and it isn’t her place to decide what other people’s children should be exposed to outside of educational parameters.

      You’re right to a captive audience for your own nonsense doesn’t apply when you take a job earning tax payer money teaching other people’s minor children. There are few jobs with more stringent boundaries and more accountability than that.

      1. lucy*

        “Sure it’s not porn the same way slapping a kid isn’t murdering him – but I wouldn’t want someone slapping my kid either.”

        I think it also can be compared to feeding kids candy for lunch. No nutritional (educational) value. Probably will cause minor issues. It’s not like they’re feeding them poison, but still not a good thing.

    2. jmkenrick*

      Yeah, but school is for teaching, not watching TV. I think it’s more than appropriate for a school to prevent the teacher from showing totally un-educational videos (that are ALSO controversial) during class time.

      Especially when there are plenty of legitmate educational topics that are controversial. No need to add to the list! :)

      1. Jamie*

        “Especially when there are plenty of legitmate educational topics that are controversial. No need to add to the list! :)”

        Excellent point!

      2. Op*

        In our school district, kids sometimes watch things (as a reward, before a school break, etc) with no seemingly educational value, but it’s age appropriate. I’m ok with that. I’m not ok with non-age appropriate content, especially when it’s something I do not (and do not need to) expose my kids to.

        1. Hilary*

          Have you spoken to the teacher and told her your feelings/thoughts? That would be my first step, then go to the Principal if you don’t get anywhere talking to the teacher.

          If you’re not ok with what your child is learning, speak up! You and the teacher are colleagues when it comes to your childs education, work together and your child will succeed!

          1. Op*

            If we my child is assigned to this teacher, I will. As the parent, this is a difficult conversation to have. However it’s worded, I’m afraid it comes across as “your hobby disgusts me, I’m judging you and don’t want my kid exposed to that. Even though in the past you seemed to think it was perfectly fine to expose 10 year olds to the show, I disagree.”. Does this effect how she treats my child? I worry that it does.

            1. Hilary*

              I would approach more as “I was just wondering how showing a reality TV show was connected to what they were learning that day?” Obviously, she wouldn’t be able to give you an answer beyond “I was in it” and then say something like “I would personally prefer that classroom time is used effectively to ensure that my child is getting the most s/he can from the curriculum” – of course, I’m assuming here that as a parent you would prefer your child not to watch any reality TV show in class, if your response is actually “NOT T&T, but I’d be fine with Big Brother” then a different response may be required :P

              Don’t attack her personally (or even mention that you know she was on the show) and talk to her rationally. If you have experience in a management position at work, treat it like you would treat talking to an employee who doesn’t use their work time effectively. You can communicate displeasure in what happens without offending her or her hobbies (since you don’t care what she does outside of work, just in the class room)

    3. Anonymous*

      I’d rather that my child not watch random reality TV shows in school, thanks. I think my boss probably feels the same about gathering everyone in the meeting room to watch Project Runway: not work appropriate.

  12. Kimberly*

    I’m a teacher. Yes, she can face a write up for deliberately showing inappropriate material with no education value.

    Sometimes things happen. In HS my grade level was watching a Shakespeare movie. The teacher with an off period was supposed to run up to the “broadcast room” and FF through a certain part. My class period a student fell down the concrete stairs. We got to see the love scene. No one got into trouble – We were seniors so most everyone was 17 – 18.

    A colleague used to show Magic School Bus on the discovery channel in a dead period of about 10 minutes between announcements and Specials. This was through a district system that gave us legal access to cable channels. One day she didn’t close the browser correctly, because she was trying to do three things at once. When her class and mine (5th Grade) walked back into our rooms (Old Open concept campus) – Birth Story was on – and the baby was emerging. No-one got into trouble. A note was sent home and I don’t think any parents even got upset.

    Honestly in some districts she would have gotten in trouble for appearing on a show that over sexualizes children.

    1. **

      The Shakespeare thing happened when I was a freshman in high school (I think). There was a love scene and the teacher normally put a posterboard in front of the TV during that part, but she got sidetracked and didn’t get there fast enough.

      We lived.

      If it were 5th grade though, there probably would have been some reprocussions. But T&T is different than a shakespearean love scene. At least the love scene had something to do with literature. T&T is just a waste of valuable class time.

    2. Rin*

      When my freshman class had to watch the Zefferelli “Romeo and Juliet,” my teacher said, on the day a certain scene would come on, something along the lines of, “You’re going to see breasts. I know you’re all mature men and women, but let’s get the giggling out of the way now.” And we did. I don’t think anyone made a sound during the movie.

        1. Anonymous*

          There are those who view Shakespeare as a useful way of smuggling sex and violence in under the guise of education. And as for all those paintings in the Louvre….

      1. Jamie*

        I just looked it up to see if it was the same one – and yep, starred Olivia Hussey.

        This is the one they showed when I was in school – and I’m at least 100. Wow. And yes, my mom had to sign a form to allow me to see the movie, although it was unedited.

        Although if this is the version of choice they should come out with an edited copy for schools that are censoring that part. So teachers don’t have to race to the fast forward or hold up the poster board since that’s what they’re doing.

        Later in high school I did a summer abroad and saw two plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theater. I am ashamed to say I fell asleep during both of them. Over the years I’ve actually spent a little time wondering what was wrong with me – I was a voracious reader and I know Shakespeare is something you’re supposed to like…at least that’s how it was presented…I just couldn’t figure out why slogging through one of his books made me fear actually dying of boredom.

        Fortunately for me I gave up any attempt at being cultured and have made peace with my common self.

      2. Your Mileage May Vary*

        We saw that as HS freshmen and the teacher put up a newspaper. When I saw it again in college, I thought it was going to be good, like practically porn in the classroom. I was so disappointed – just some side-boob and a butt cheek. Not worth making any sort of fuss about at all.

      3. danr*

        I’m going to date myself. All we got was the Marlon Brando “Julius Caesar”. Plenty of violence, no sex.

        1. Andrew*

          All we got was “Signal 30′” the ancient gory safe driving film that was featured in a Mad Men episode this year. It was at least 20 years old when we saw it, but it haunts me still.

  13. fposte*

    On #1: just to be clear–absent a contract or policy to the contrary, the school can ban you from doing something (or consider it a reason not to have you back) even if you *do* get parental consent. Educational practice isn’t simply a game of lawsuit defense–institutions often have very clear ideas of what they consider appropriate in a classroom, and they’re quite capable of taking action simply based on their own standards even if it’s not bothering parents.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yes! A much more extreme example of this: a teacher in Montreal showed a high school class the video that was posted online that was described as showing a very gruesome, high-profile murder. The teacher was suspended, however, he argued that he had taken a vote on whether or not the students wanted to watch it (all the students said they did) and offered to allow students to leave at any point, he also claimed it was relevant to a class discussion (I believe it was a law class, though I may be wrong).

      Most of us would agree that this was incredibly poor judgement, however, the teacher thought he was fine because all the students said they wanted to watch the video. Last I heard, his suspension was upheld based on a decision made by the Principal.

      1. Blinx*

        They used to show a film in HS in driver’s ed class. The title of it was Code __ (can’t remember), but it had to do with traffic fatalities. I’m SURE we had to get parental permission to see this. It was designed to scare us into driving safely. I still remember seeing a charred trucker’s body being removed from his cab. (Of course now days, you see stuff like this on CSI all the time, but this wasn’t faked.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I remember those too. The worst one didn’t show anything, but had a guy describing a fatal accident in very detailed, emotional terms. Our imaginations did all the work.

  14. KayDay*

    #1 – questionable TV in class: I’m not in education, but….I do remember in 8th or 9th grade that our teacher showed us a portion of an R-rated movie (I think it was the landing on Omaha Beach from Saving Private Ryan ). The teacher sent home a permission slip detailing the reasoning for showing the movie clip (it was a fairly accurate portrayal of a historical event) and indicating that there was a high level of realistic battlefield violence. That was the only time a teacher ever asked for parental permission first. We also watched Ma Vie en Rose in French class (which could be controversial to some people, I guess) without any permission, but no one complained. (Ma Vie en Rose is a film about a transgender boy, not the one about Edith Piaf)

    All those movies had a direct correlation to what we were discussing in class. If I had a child, I would be pretty annoyed if they were shown a popular TV show, no matter how tame, of the teacher’s outside activities that wasn’t relevant to the curriculum.

    Also, a friend of mine is a public school teacher, and she needs to get her lesson plan demonstrating that it a movie is relevant to the curriculum approved from the principle in order to show a movie in class.

  15. SB*

    Regarding #1 (showing movies in school), I’m a parent not a teacher or administrator, so take this for what it’s worth (which isn’t much). I think if the material is clearly related to the curriculum, and is either rated below the age range of the students, or the teacher edits it so that it would be, there shouldn’t be any need to clear it with either the parents or the administration. That would be a huge headache for any teacher wanting to supplement their curriculum with media that engages the students more than a textbook.

    My son’s fifth grade class was studying the Revolutionary War, and the teacher showed a long miniseries, but apparently edited out some of the more tawdry content. I only know this because my son recommended we also watch it at home, so I borrowed it from Netflix, and he commented during a couple scenes that they hadn’t seen that part in class. :-) The teacher hadn’t requested permission (from the parents anyway) to show it.

    However, I can’t think of a single educational rationale for showing Toddlers and Tiaras other than a sociology course, which I doubt is a subject in elementary school, so that particular teacher probably should not have shown that particular content, with or without permission.

    I do see the benefit of the occasional “free time” movie – we had the occasional afternoon of pizza and a movie instead of schoolwork when I was a kid, and I don’t begrudge today’s kids that experience. But again, Toddlers and Tiaras is hardly appropriate, even for recreational viewing. If the teacher was that keen for her students to see her on TV, she should have just sent home a note saying which episode she was in and when it airs, and let the kids try to talk their parents into making it family viewing. :-)

    1. khilde*

      However, I can’t think of a single educational rationale for showing Toddlers and Tiaras other than a sociology course,

      …or a psychology class (though you’re right, in elementary this is a moot point). But there could be a LOT of discussion about the psychology (or the future therapy of these children) based on the behaviors of the people on this show. I had to Google Honey Bear Boo or whatever the hell the name is and it was eye opening. This would be a goldmine for a psych class I bet.

  16. Ali*

    Oh, I relate to #4 kind of. I’ve been at my current job for two years and have asked for a promotion twice. The first time, I kept my title but was given a raise, along with feedback for things to work on. I’ve worked on those things and haven’t had an issue with them since.

    Almost a year later, I know of at least three people who have been promoted ahead of me even though I again stated a desire to be promoted six months ago. Unfortunately, with the area of the company I want to be promoted into, there are no openings, and the company in general has low turnover. I’m stuck and getting completely bored. I’m looking for a new job so I can keep moving up, but as is expected, no one really calls back.

    I wish OP #4 the best.

  17. Ali*

    Forgot to add one thing. I sent a friend of mine a birthday card at his office a few months back. I did it because he and I aren’t close enough to the point where I felt comfortable asking for his home address, and he didn’t say it was a problem.

    1. Anonymous*

      Personally I’d only send birthday cards to those who I feel close enough to share home addresses with, but I see your point.

  18. Elizabeth West*

    #2–Most places I’ve applied to lately have been telling me what the benefits are without my asking. I don’t know why; perhaps it’s because of the whole healthcare thing. Maybe they want interviewees to know they’ll be covered?

    I had an interview this morning and was told up front what they were, including vacation. Slightly off topic, but she also asked me what I got paid and then wouldn’t give me a salary range. Grr. And then she asked me point-blank if I had children! 0_0

    #7–Augh! I hate this. What’s worse is when you can’t leave something blank even though there is no way it will fit/ there is no info, etc. What Blinx said earlier about typing it into the position description might be a good idea.

  19. danr*

    #1… As a former teacher and school librarian… Yes, the principal can stop a teacher from doing anything, and talking about something casually is not usually stopped, but this is a different case. Showing a TV episode may violate copyright and licensing, even if the teacher was in the episode. She doesn’t own the episode. Teachers can use the “fair use” exception to copyright and licensing if what they are showing is directly tied to the curriculum. A “treat” does not meet the criteria for fair use.

    We don’t know how long the teacher has been teaching. If she is a new teacher, she should learn from this. If she’s been teaching awhile… What the heck was she thinking????

  20. S*

    All ethics of showing something in school aside, those moms on Toddlers and Tiaras are absolutely terrible people and add no value to society except as an example of what NOT to be; we can’t ban people from having children but it’s horrifying that one of them is actually a teacher and in charge of many children.

Comments are closed.