3 updates from letter-writers (the candidate who lied, the pumping teacher, and more)

Here are updates from three people who had their letters answered here recently.

1. Interviewing a candidate who lied to my company five years ago

My boss was really eager to meet this candidate based on her cover letter, and when I let her know what I had discovered about the candidate’s involvement on our panel, she still wasn’t ready to rule her out entirely. We agreed together to at least give the candidate a phone screen and a chance to explain her actions.

Following your advice, I let the candidate know that our intention with the panel is to avoid anyone with a background in the industry and asked her if she could shed light on how she got involved. To my surprise, she came clean right away! She said she had doubted that anyone with our organization would make the connection, but yes, she had participated in the studies with full knowledge of the requirements. She said that she had a great deal of respect for our organization and thought the benefits of her participating (extra cash and greater knowledge of the industry for her, “thoughtful answers” to our questions for us) outweighed the fact that our data was “technically” (her words) being corrupted. Hearing this explanation out loud, it was hard for me to see where her “respect” for us comes in when she knowingly lied for her own gain, so this is where my perspective shifted from being more lenient to realizing she could never work for us. I was tempted to end the conversation there, but I asked her one more question, which was about how important the role of ethics is to her in the workplace. I think she got the hint at that point that she wouldn’t be moving forward with us, because she sort of fumbled over her words apologizing at that point.

We have removed this person from our participant panel and will not be considering any future applications from her. Thanks for the help, Alison, and thanks to all your commenters for making it clear how significant an ethical violation this was!

2. I let someone push my employee around and now it’s a mess (the letter about the parent who wanted a teacher to tutor her child at recess and breaks, even if it meant not pumping milk for her own baby)

I gave a small update for the time in the comments. To review, I called the parent, explained I had spoken far too quickly, and the recess tutoring was impossible.

I apologized profusely to Miss Honey. She accepted and suggested we make a school policy for this sort of thing — any recess tutoring would be at the teacher’s discretion. She confessed she had been trying to point out the ridiculousness of the scenario.

To update on Miss Honey, she did not miss a pumping session.

But back to the parent… she went to tbe district over the matter; I received a notice she was wanting to change teacher contract language or, I guess more reasonably, hire aides to tutor during recess. The former won’t be happening.

Apparently we have an anti-recess subculture.

3. My staff collaborates so much that I can’t evaluate their work individually

Fergus’ performance issues continued, and I ultimately decided to terminate his employment after he blatantly ignored my direction resulting in a huge failure for us. After the fact, he offered no explanation, no understanding, no remorse, and I knew the current situation couldn’t continue without risking additional major failures. I knew Jane would be upset losing her best friend at work, and I made my best effort to communicate that she did a great job for us and was very valued, but ultimately she felt Fergus was treated unfairly and resigned a few months later saying as much. After Fergus’ departure, I was provided his Outlook file, and it was filled with snarky and inappropriate remarks about me, other team members, and customers. He clearly wasn’t happy, and I sincerely hope he’s found satisfaction elsewhere.

I have since hired two new team members and couldn’t be happier.

{ 277 comments… read them below }

  1. JokeyJules*

    I wonder what the parent in #2 is thinking with removing all of her childs arts and creative play time.
    I wonder what research she has done thinking that this is the healthiest for her child.

    1. Observer*

      This person clearly DOESN’T think. I mean anyone who thinks they can force the school district to change the contract with the teachers to suit her child is clearly not using any sense.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Seriously. I used to see a hairdresser who was a single mom with 4 kids, one of whom was autistic. During an appointment one day, she was telling me that she had another client who also had an autistic child, and they would commiserate about having kids with those specific special needs. The client had recently complained to her about a conversation with the principal at her kid’s school, which, according to my stylist, was her demanding that the entire school change how they did things to suit the needs of her kid. The principal refused, and the client asked, “Isn’t that awful?’ My stylist replied that no, it wasn’t. She said that one day, her autistic son would be an autistic adult who would need to know how to function out in the world on his own. It was her job as his mom to help him learn how to do that, because the world would not stop to cater to his every need, and demanding that everyone do that while he was a kid wasn’t doing him any favors. So for her, that meant talking to him after a bad day at school, and helping him learn how to recognize the signs that he was getting too over-stimulated, and how to remove himself from those situations and find a quiet spot where he could calm himself down. It meant helping him with relaxation or other techniques to use in those situations too soothe himself. She had a bunch of other examples, but that’s what stuck with me.

        I really admired her pragmatic, but still loving, approach to raising her son, and I thought he was really lucky to have a mom like her in his corner. She had kind of a dingy, hippy-dippy vibe, and I was surprised that she had such a practical outlook. I had completely misjudged her.

    2. Sassy AE*

      “Why does my future STEM prodigy need art?” Which is of course removing an entire skill set that is absolutely necessary to become a well-rounded person, let alone scientist. it’s funny. I’m in PR and my sister is in grad school for Geology. We’re on different ends of the spectrum career-wise, but she has a leg up on a lot of her peers because she’s a really strong (and creative!) writer. Theses and research papers don’t appear from a vacuum.

        1. GG Two shoes*

          I just finished a book I really liked and was intrigued to see the writer had graduated from MIT.

        2. DillWeed*

          I work near the MIT campus and there’s so much mathematics in art! They even have an entire course dedicated to the mathematics of origami. People that pooh pooh art are gross.

          1. JessaB*

            Oh goodness yes. I remember doing an art course that was all about fibonacci curves in nature and fractals and maths and it was glorious and that was in high school (I did go to the Bronx High School of Science before we called all this stuff STEM and had more schools for it.) But art and movement and everything is important. It’s been shown that movement is VITAL for children and how they grow and their bodies mature.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Where theses come from:

        When my husband was in graduate school, a chain email went around where you were to write one paragraph about the thesis topic at the top of the paper, send it to that person, and delete their line. Then add your thesis topic to the bottom of the list, and send it to 7 graduate students. After a few months, a complete thesis would be delivered to you.

        This was especially hilarious because my brother-in-law, a sociologist, embodies the rule that a sociologist can add 10 pages to the paper without knowing what the topic is. BIL could have easily shot off a paragraph on fermions, one on wool processing in the industrial revolution, and one on Latin American breakdancers.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          I’m reminded of Alan Sokal’s paper, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.”

        2. Candi*

          Get money chain mail methods applied to writing a thesis. That’s divine bovine levels of wow.

          I could write a good five pages or more paper on just about anything. Give me a week, access to the net/library, and supplies. It wouldn’t have the same feel as someone who’d been immersed in that topic, though, which I think is kinda the point of a thesis. (Based on what I’ve read.) And it definitely wouldn’t be up to the same level of someone thoroughly educated and experienced in that topic.

      2. Justme*

        I think that’s part of why there’s a push for STEAM now instead of just STEM, because people are realizing that Arts are also important to those fields.

        1. BPT*

          I kind of hate the term “STEAM” though because it should really just be a term that is simply to categorize disciplines in a certain space (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). It shouldn’t be something that says “these disciplines are the most important,” which is what adding Arts in there is about. Because if we add in art, why are we leaving out English, History, Literature, etc? Should the term be STEEAHLM? Literature and History are no less important than the arts are to these disciplines. (And I say this as a big arts buff.)

          1. Snark*

            Yeah. STEM is, basically, a catchall category for the more empirical/deductive disciplines, and those disciplines differ from the arts and humanities (the other catchall) in how they’re learned, taught, and practiced. Arts ad Humanities and STEM are coequal, mutually reinforcing, and both incredibly vital to an educated person, but they’re not the same thing and they’re not rightly placed in the same category.

          2. Hrovitnir*

            Yes! I get a bit twitchy about this tendency I’ve seen to completely change or eradicate concepts when the issue is the morality or hierarchy that has been attached to it.

            I mean, STEM as an acronym isn’t even really a thing in NZ, though it’s probably becoming more common (I’ve never had anyone recognise it when I’ve used it), but should be a value-neutral descriptor.

      3. CityMouse*

        One of the top PhD students in the chemistry lab I worked in during undergrad was an accomplished cellist. In actually knew someone who started off as an oboe major and graduated with top honors in mechanical engineering.

          1. KG, Ph.D.*

            I took AP Music Theory in high school, and my teacher told us on the first day that music theory is just “math in another language”. And it totally is. I was probably the least naturally gifted musician in the group (I get by, but I have to work at it), but I ended up with the highest grade in the class, as well as 5’s on both sections of the AP exam, largely because I was the strongest math student in the group, and it was easy for me to remember and apply the various rules of music theory.

          2. Tiny Soprano*

            One of my best friends lectures in pure maths. Guess where I met him? At the conservatorium where we both did undergrad.

            1. Tau*

              When I started my maths degree, one of my lecturers mentioned the “three Ms” – maths, music and mountains.

              As a maths student who was also an avid amateur musician and had grown up hiking, I felt I couldn’t really argue against that.

        1. Lizard*

          In my medical school and residency program all the really outstanding people were also outstanding at something other than medicine and science. I knew a published novelist, a theatrical costume designer, a professional cabaret singer, and a poet, just off the top of my head, and one of my favorite cardiologists makes incredibly complicated balloon art. It was a little humbling to be around but gifted people gonna use their gifts, I guess.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Pretty much–I’m on an email fan list for SF writer Bujold, and I mentioned the new medication my husband is on for lymphoma, and one of the listees blithely chirped, “I just lectured on that last week!” Then there’s the retired electrical engineer who’s having a showing of his art in South Africa. And the member who likes to go into Chinese restaurants and chat with the staff in Cantonese. They’re fun people.

      4. Miles*

        I work for a science organization where pretty much everyone has a handful of science degrees. One of my coworkers took a bit of a non-traditional path and got her BA in English before switching to science for her graduate degrees. She’s pretty valuable to the organization in part because she’s an excellent writer and does a great job editing our mediocre writing. At my previous organization, everyone wanted their GIS work to be done by one of the GIS techs that had an arts background because he knew how to make piles of spatial data clear and understandable because he understood how people interpret things visually.

        1. CityMouse*

          I almost wonder of your colleague might have been my quantum mechanics professor. She told us about how she started off as an English major.

        2. Anon for This*

          One of my very good friends has a double major in chemistry and Romance languages. She went on to get her MS in Chemistry and that’s the field she’s in now.

      5. Artemesia*

        One of the sad things in education today. There is tons of research that suggests hands on play like that at recess and in art help with brain development in young kids and music and art are both correlated with math and science success. And I have seen evidence that kids who struggle with school are often motivated by music, art, sports etc such that they attend more regularly and thus benefit academically.

        The idea that you could commandeer someone’s break time for your personal tutoring is bizzare.

        1. Erin*

          I would’ve dropped out of high school if it wasn’t for my art classes. I was a terrible student who just put in enough effort to get a C. Because I knew I was going to go to community college no matter what I wouldn’t qualify for student loans or need based scholarships and I wasn’t gifted academically to get a scholarship otherwise. It was the only motivation I had to show up. Because I didn’t have accesses to a pottery wheel or oil paints anywhere else.

      6. Snark*

        As a scientist who is a strong writer who can lay down good, clear technical writing quick and clean, I can tell you that made my life a hella lot easier.

      7. Kendra*

        There’s also plenty of room for technical people in art, too! I’m getting a degree in computer animation and the entire program is very much both worlds – you’re wrangling computer software and using math and physics and programming, but the end goal is to make something that looks good.

        1. SaraV*

          My best friend from JH/HS had a B.S. in Art. She’s now a professor, and works with 3D printing prosthetic hands.

      8. blackcat*

        When I had my first job in a scientific lab, far and away my most useful experience was that in my mixed media arts classes. Turns out, making art out of pipes and making an experiment out of pipes is basically the same thing.

      9. Candi*

        My daughter did one of those career testing things at school last week, the kind that are supposed to help you figure out what career you want. She tested through the roof on STEM fields, particularly bio-sciences and some engineering specialties. Last summer she attended a class at the local community college aimed at getting low-income students into STEM fields. (She had a bit of culture shock; she was the only white kid there. We had a discussion on how other races might feel being in a predominantly white environment. Empathy! Tolerance! They’re important.)

        She ADORES music. Love it. Her grandpa and stepgrandmum (my parents) have bought her her own violin and guitar, and Mum lets her practice on her piano. Her guitar tutor, piano tutor, and school orchestra teacher have all said she picks up the instruments very quickly and plays very well for her level of experience education. (Guitar tutor is a family friend; the grandparents paid for the piano tutor. Dad says they don’t spoil her. Right.)

        My daughter even bought herself a simple metal flute, labeled Irish Flute: Foedag, and taught herself to play it. Recognizable, nice tunes. In a few days.

        The only thing she had trouble with was relating ABCDEFGH to the musical notation (with the black dots and lines) so she could read the notes. I remembered enough from my days in school choir that, with a trip to Google for help, she figured out how those relate to each other. Do Re Mi was a big help, since it’s simple and clear.

        One of the hardest conversations I had was most people can not make a living at music. It’s so competitive. Another conversation I had was that “for exposure” is essentially a dirty word in the arts, and to always weigh carefully if she wanted to donate her time and talent.

        But, yeah, STEM and Art are not exclusive to excellent ability/performance in both.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          I’m in a choir at Stanford University. I’ve sung alongside people with voices good enough to go pro, but they’d make more in their first job for their major than they would after years singing.

    3. Backroads*

      I teach. You wouldn’t believe how many parents hate recess, the arts, but love worksheets. My experience suggests it’s something they’re familiar with. A worksheet is easy to understand.

      1. LadyL*

        I’m in grad school for teaching, in a progressive program. It’s fascinating to talk to my mom about what I’m learning because it goes completely against her school experience. My mom is open minded and supportive, but we still have lots of conversations where she’s somewhat blown away by the concept that kids sitting at desks silently memorizing things, then repeating them back perfectly, isn’t considered an ideal education anymore. That letter made me so mad, but if I’m trying to be fair, a lot of people don’t realize that just because you survived in the system doesn’t make it a good system. Lots and lots of research suggests that the traditional way we approach education is flawed, and not based on how children really learn best.

      2. paul*

        Dang. My only fond memories of elementary school are recess. The reality that a lot of parents dislike it makes me sad.

            1. JessaB*

              I was a touch typist in elementary school (I could run a keypunch machine before I could write legibly,) I was the kid who got to take home the teacher’s notes and type up the stencils and THEN got to actually run them on the machine. Purple ink, stencil platten cleaner, oh yes. I had fun. So much fun.

        1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

          I was OK with recess in elementary school, but a lot of the time I just read books or hung out with people. I would have been a lot less happy if my school had taken the “recess is for moving your body” stuff seriously — we got enough “SPORTS! SPORTS! SPORTS!” in gym class.

          (The best recess was if it was raining, or too cold to go outside — breaking out the board games or playing Carmen Sandiego was where it was at!)

            1. Cassie*

              I’m pretty sure that at least half of the doctors my age were motivated to go into medicine just to figure out how to stop constantly dying of dysentery.

              1. DillWeed*

                My first foray into my current job of data science was making a list of all OT professions and correlating them to how much money they got at the start of the game.

            2. Bibliovore*

              I had a meeting with one of the guys who created Oregon Trail. Took me awhile to engage in the conversation.

          1. Robin Sparkles*

            Me too! I disliked gym and recess so much – I preferred reading and I probably would have been happier in gym if they catered to those of us who are not athletic -it sucks to be made fun of for not being sporty. I like running and walking – in fact I like exercising – love pilates and yoga – but when I was a kid I hated sports so much.

            1. GG Two shoes*

              I think we are twins. This is exactly me and my experience. I don’t think anyone that I went to school with would have expected me to work out 5 days a week, but when you find stuff you love (walking, cardio, yoga) it’s so easy! I just HATED any kind of sports ball.

              1. Tiny Soprano*

                Yeah in primary I wasn’t into anything involving a ball besides handball, but if my clique were pretending to be horses we could happily run like the wind all over the oval for an hour straight.

              2. VintageLydia*

                I hate the PE sports stuff so much that I swore for years I just wasn’t athletic. But at the ripe old age of 30 I discovered HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts–I specifically study two handed longsword) and suddenly I’m working out 5 or 6 times a week to keep up and spar with huge muscle bound dudes (I’m a 5’3 woman who was borderline obese when I started.)

                Apparently I’m not much of a fan of balls or even yoga and the like, but give me a sword and I go all out.

                1. Jenna*

                  My first A in PE was a high school archery class, and my second was my college fencing class. I didn’t like sportsball much, but, apparently I was good at individual combat.

                2. sin nombre*

                  I thought I just hated exercise till I discovered martial arts in my late 20s and turned into an athlete. I wish like hell I’d found it much earlier in life but grade school sportsball gave me a too narrow idea of what being athletic is, and convinced me I wasn’t and didn’t care to be.

                3. Anion*

                  OMG! I’m trying desperately to find a HEMA class in my area for my daughter. She’s going to be thirteen next week and has wanted to learn swordfighting for ages (as have I, and we thought we could maybe do it together). But all I can find are more like random groups of adults who meet in various parks; there don’t seem to be any actual *classes* taught anywhere (especially not anywhere indoors!), and none for younger people.

                  Is that actually the way it works? Even the HEMA websites for groups in my area are really low on actual information about how and where to learn. Are people under twenty-one or so too young to be able to study?

                  Any answers or advice you’re willing/able to offer would be *greatly* appreciated!

                  (Sorry for the OT, I’ve just been spending time lately trying to find this information and never thought I’d have the chance to ask someone who’s actually doing it.)

              3. Pomona Sprout*

                Makevthat triplets! P.E. was the stuff of my nightmares. I’ve never understoon why my gym teachers all seemed to see absolutely no need to respond the verbal abuse that was regularly dished out to those of us who weren’t good at team sports by our fellow students. Abdolutely no effort was ever made to stop the torture, much less show any concern for the fact that I was obviously struggling and maybe offer to *gasp* help me improve in some of the areas where I was lacking.

                The worst thing about p.e.. was not my lack of ability but rather the teachers’ complete lack of concern and interest in helping those of us who were not star sthletes.

                1. Ten*

                  I’m simultaneously very happy and very sad that I’m not the only person who had that experience, Pomona! I feel your pain. Middle school gym traumatized me so much that to this day I refuse to play volleyball ever.

            2. Alienor*

              I didn’t like recess because of the stress of finding a group that would let me play/hang around with them. In sixth grade I started volunteering in the library during lunch (they hadn’t asked for volunteers, I just showed up and asked the librarian if I could help her – I learned the Dewey Decimal system that way) and I was so much happier without that pressure.

            3. Candi*

              I was a recess reader as well (when it was allowed, but that’s a rant in itself).


              I think my problems with recess stemmed far more from being a major introvert and dealing with then-undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome, which affected my social and physical capabilities and meant I had trouble with both overstimulation and filters. Add into this the infamous cliques at so many schools, and recess was when I felt the loneliest.

              My trouble with Phys Ed in any form also went back to this, since I now know there is no way I could have succeeded by “trying harder”. It would never have happened, since my personal bar I could never get past was lower then my more “normal” classmates, and I had minor coordination problems to boot. But that doesn’t erase all the nastiness of two specific PE teachers I had, one in the (private) elementary school* I attended, and one in public middle school. (But it was the public schools that figured out more then normal growing up issues, even though my diagnosis wouldn’t come for more than another decade.)

              Although that ties into another thing: Kids in general need running around/sitting quietly decompressing time, but ADHD and other disorders NEED need it, for the activity and change of pace. Requesting recess as an accomodation… just… argh.

              *I attended multiple elementary schools, thanks to dad being in the military. All private, mostly decent classroom teachers, administration and other teachers were bad, as far as I was concerned.

      3. Candi*

        I’m of the firm opinion that too much of the educational system is still set up to turn out factory workers and secretaries. That’s not what we need today. (But CHANGE!!! CHANGE IS BAD! Garrrrr….)

      4. Gadget Hackwrench*

        WORKSHEETS. Those things make me shudder. My mom used to make me do everything on a separate sheet of paper, then copy it to the worksheet only when it was perfect so there wouldn’t be anything scribbled out or wrong on the final copy. I hate worksheets with a passion. Worksheets and forms. Misswrite one thing on a job app and it’s a bust, start over. You hand me an official form and I get the shakes because it’s drilled into me (even though I KNOW it’s not true) that you can’t hand something in without perfection.

    4. SallytooShort*

      Extreme STEM proponents tend toward this line of thinking.

      I am 1000% in support of increased STEM learning and at earlier ages. And most proponents of that read the research and know that kids needs breaks and exercise. And that art and music at young ages help brain development are are useful tools in conjunction with STEM (the STEAM movement.)

      But there are just these extremists who think math and science should be drilled all day long.

      1. LadyL*

        I think a huge problem is that we divide the subjects in the first place. Isn’t a painting of a bird better informed by scientific knowledge about the body of the bird? And doesn’t sketching a bird’s body help you understand it better? Isn’t the golden ratio an example of both math and art? And music, which is math made into audio form? Isn’t architecture blending math, engineering, and art?

        It’s unnatural to separate out those parts of our world so much, and then act as though understanding some parts is better than the others. We need all of it to understand any of it.

        1. SallytooShort*

          I completely agree. Math is everywhere! It can actually be beautiful to see it that way. And a lot of early advances in science were done by well rounded individuals with diverse interests just like that.

          Specialization should come later on.

        2. JulieBulie*

          My favorite elementary school memories are of my third grade teacher’s multi-disciplinary approach. We’d have a “theme” for a couple of months (example: dinosaurs), and all of our math/reading/spelling/art/etc lessons revolved around dinosaurs. It’s so much easier to learn a bunch of things when they are clearly interconnected. Math, in particular, is easier to learn when it’s tied to something concrete (or fossilized).

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Ha, I like this. I would have been more apt to try harder (even with an LD) in math if my teachers had done this. And maybe the issue would have been noticed earlier.

          2. kitryan*

            We did this too, in third grade – Shakespeare section included reading simplified versions of the plays with some dips into the actual text, building a little model of a Elizabethan house, drawing pictures of the plays, learning about the Globe theater… The unit on eggs involved drawing diagrams of the egg and the incubator and actually hatching geese (which ended up living with the family of one of the students). It was a phenomenal school.

          3. Hrovitnir*

            I do love this concept! I liked most subjects and enjoy both practical and theoretical work, though I’m that weirdo that found physics experiments deeply irritating and preferred the theory.

            As someone who does well under a fairly traditional teaching model (I enjoy lectures and learn well from listening to someone talk, for example – I know I’m lucky!), always enjoyed maths and sciences, and actually found art subjects extremely stressful and unpleasant I kind of feel like an alien in many of these conversations.

            To circle back (ha) to the point, multi-disciplinary stuff works the other way too! The only times I’ve enjoyed drawing past 6 or 7 years of age is in the context of biology; I resented learning to sew with the fire of a thousand suns (I now wish I could, but I did not enjoy the gendering of subjects) but really enjoyed learning to suture.

            1. LadyL*

              Have you ever played with “soft circuits”? It’s sewing with conductive thread to make fabric items that can be electrical. We had a program where we taught kids how to make light up cloth bracelets, they sewed the circuits in, added a battery, LED lights, and a switch mechanism, and man those were cool.

        3. twig*

          YES! I always found math and science to be pretty boring — I could do the work — and pretty well, if I do say so, but I had no interest and no draw to either one.

          IF they had been applied and integrated with other topics, i would have gotten quite a bit more out of them

          1. H*

            I really agree with you here. I majored in math in college, and would fairly regularly have people say “oh, I think math is so boring.” The more I thought about it, I think math is just generally taught in a really dull way. I mean, I know vocab is a thing in a lot of elementary schools, but at least by high school, most English classes are actually reading books, not just memorizing ever-more-difficult parts of the dictionary. Math not so! Elementary school: memorize times tables. Junior high: Pythagorean theorem. High school: derivations. And sure, I guess you get word problems, but they are usually really shallow translations of the equations into paragraphs, they don’t generally introduce new themes or concepts. There is no sense of how mathematics is woven into the fabric of the universe and how it shapes our world through music and engineering. I mean, the Golden Ratio? So f’ing cool, but a lot of people I know learned about it from Dan Brown, instead of a math teacher. Which is so sad for so many reasons.
            Whew, sorry, math nerd freak out. I’ll try to keep it together going forward.

            1. DillWeed*

              I hated math, but then I got into origami and here I am as an adult calculating angles needed for certain shapes.

              Now I’m considering going back to school for advanced math.

        4. PlainJane*

          True story: I was talking with a sales rep for a 3D printer manufacturer a couple of years ago. He told me they are now hiring more sculptors than engineers. Another true story: one of the most gifted people I know is a biomedical engineer who has an undergraduate degree in art. Yet another true story: I’ve known plenty of PIs in academic sciences who had to have help writing grants and journal articles. They knew the science, but they couldn’t get funded or disseminate their work on their own, because their written communication skills weren’t sufficient. Many disciplines are interdependent, and some of the most innovative, valuable work gets done by cross-disciplinary teams.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            So much of what is commercially viable and in demand these days depends on aesthetically pleasing and creative design, and the practical skills needed to translate ideas into things. It makes no sense to treat subjects like art and design as if they were pointless fripperies (or other creative fields such as music and photography).

        5. Candi*

          My son is the type that learns best through doing, hands on, working with a figure if the real stuff isn’t available/is impractical. Legos were his best math assist years ago.

          When they started fractions, he just couldn’t get the concepts, even when the teacher explained and explained, then wrote a note home.

          My reaction: To the kitchen! Time to look up the recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and DOUBLE it!

          The look on his face when he GOT IT -somewhere between the flour and the sugar- was amazing. Plus, cookies.

          (He and his sister had both helped me bake before, so he knew how to behave.)

          1. CMF*

            I went to a Catholic school. When we started learning adding and subtracting fractions, a chunk of our class just couldn’t get it. Our teacher, a nun who lived on the convent next door to our school, held an after-school tutoring session for any of the kids who had trouble. We were all shocked when she took us on a field trip to the convent to bake cookies for our class tomorrow. We all passed our fractions test.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Clutching my hair at “I value STEM, which is why I’m going to ignore all the science on how young children learn best.”

        1. PhDinSTEMEducation*

          There is science on how children best learn science. And some of the strongest “science” proponents completely disregard the work that people like me do. They want worksheets. Memorizing stuff. Or cute projects that are only surface-level science.

          Children are natural born scientists. Watch toddlers interact with the world. They observe. They ask questions. They try out new things. School beats that out of them :(

      3. Else*

        The funny thing is that most of those extremists don’t actually understand either subject at all – most of the actual scientists or mathematicians that I know are also into some variation of the arts, or can at least appreciate it.

      4. Artemesia*

        Kids don’t become mathematicians or scientists from ‘drilling’. I watched my 7 year old grandchild problem solve a Christmas string light failure last night. It is creative experimental problem solving that makes a scientist, not memorizing crap on worksheets.

    5. Granny K*

      I predict this kid may get an ivy league education and then dump it all to join one of the art teams that participate in ‘Burning Man’ and other events, while living in a communal living situation near Sparks, NV. At least, I hope that for them. :-)

    6. rosiebyanyothername*

      I completely agree–I do wonder where letter-writer lives and if this anti-recess attitude is common in the area. That whole letter sounded like a Big Little Lies plotline.

      1. OhNo*

        I’ve heard that there are some “tiger mom” types who push this kind of anti-recess attitude, where there should be no play, just work, work, work all day every day, at school and after.

        1. PlainJane*

          I hate hate hate this attitude. What is the point of working (or life, really), if you don’t have any fun? I’ve never understood the idea that success=work/money. Those are means to ends, at least in my world.

      2. LawBee*

        Lots of schools in Chicago we’re going the no-recess route when I lived there. It’s not just the parents.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah, but the schools are doing this to save money – no need for playground monitoring, and a shorter work day.

          I’m not kidding.

          And, it’s such a disaster that one school actually got bicycle desks desks for the kids. It was the only way to get the kids to behave and scores have started going back up…

          1. LawBee*

            That wasn’t the case for most of these schools, iirc. (I was working for the school system at the time.) It was a combination of dangerous neighborhoods and a perceived need for more class time and less play.

            The school day wasn’t any shorter. The kids just didn’t go out side for 30-45 minutes to play. They had more lessons.

    7. Muriel Heslop*

      When I encounter parents like this (every year I get at least one or two of these) it’s usually less about thinking and more often an emotional reaction to a perceived need (or perceived injustice.) Their emotions blind them to the realities of public education and what their child may actually need to be successful.

    8. Traceytootoo*

      I have one son who is 10. The other kids have all graduated, grown-up and moved away. When the older kids were in elementary school, recess had been taken away and their only activity time was during P.E. Of course, then childhood obesity became a problem and everyone medicated their kids because they couldn’t sit still. I am so happy that recess has been brought back and is seen as a necessary component of a child’s school day. It’s not just about a break in the teaching/learning process, children need to socialize and use their imaginations. How sad for that child.

    9. MsMaryMary*

      My mom taught elementary school for 40 years, and parents like this make her furious. Teachers go to college to learn how to teach children. These days, most teachers have advanced degrees. They learn about child development and classroom management and educational theory. Young brains and bodies need time spent playing at recess as much as they need classroom time. If you’re not going to second guess how your accountant does your taxes or tell your lawyer that her legal strategy is flawed,* then why would you insist your child’s teacher needs to assign more worksheets or teach through recess?

      *I mean, some people are just assholes and think they know better than everyone else. My mom also says that teaching is the only profession where laymen second guess professionals. Unfortunately, no, some jerks like to feel superior and insist other people don’t know what they’re doing.

      1. LadyL*

        “If you’re not going to second guess how your accountant does your taxes or tell your lawyer that her legal strategy is flawed,* then why would you insist your child’s teacher needs to assign more worksheets or teach through recess? ”

        I think a lot of people truly believe the whole, “those who can, do; those who cannot, teach”. If you were a smart or capable person, you’d be in a better job, with better pay and benefits. All you need to know to teach is to have a basic grasp of a subject, and we all graduated elementary school, right? So any idiot can explain addition to kids, you’re not special. Also, in the case of some parents, my school didn’t do it that way and I turned out just fine, so obviously there’s no need to change anything.

        Additionally, teachers are often seen as a “work day parent”. There’s a great educational theorist, Paulo Freire, who talks about how this idea limits teachers. Parents aren’t allowed to protest their jobs, to “strike” from the hard work of raising their kids just because they don’t like their life circumstances, it’s immoral. Thus, teachers who strike and protest their treatment and school conditions are immoral work shirkers. Parenting is not a profession, there’s no tests or assessment in order to become a parent, and unless you are doing such a bad job that CPS steps in, there’s not really any quality control. Thus, teachers aren’t seen as professionals, and many assume that there’s no quality control involved in assessing teachers and their methods.

        (The above is not meant as a critique of parents vs. teachers, the whole point is that they’re completely different things with completely different objectives, and comparing parents and teachers isn’t helpful. Parenting should never be examined in the same way a profession is, and teaching shouldn’t be considered a kind of parenting. In case I didn’t make that clear enough)

        1. Cleopatra Jones*

          I think a lot of people truly believe the whole, “those who can, do; those who cannot, teach”. If you were a smart or capable person, you’d be in a better job, with better pay and benefits. All you need to know to teach is to have a basic grasp of a subject, and we all graduated elementary school, right? So any idiot can explain addition to kids, you’re not special. Also, in the case of some parents, my school didn’t do it that way and I turned out just fine, so obviously there’s no need to change anything.

          This whole comment make me think of Taylor Mali’s ‘What Teachers Make’.

          1. Bryce*

            First time I heard that I sent it to my mother, a subsitute teacher, and it traveled my hometown’s whole school system within a week.

        2. Student*

          I think a lot of us have first-hand experience with crappy teachers. I think there’s a lot of demographics tied up in that, too – I’m sure there are people who went to wonderful schools chock-full of teachers who think deeply about child development.

          I didn’t. My teachers were mostly focused on how to keep us from running around the classroom, hurting each other, or hurting them. They read stuff verbatim out of textbooks to us, came to class hung over, used the TV shamelessly to fill in for them on days they weren’t prepared for, and/or were easily side-tracked onto pointless, meandering discussions of their favorite hobbyhorse by children who were transparently baiting them. They asked me to grade my peer’s (and my own…) homework. Maybe, once, they were child-development experts, but they had by and large given up on that by the time I met them. They were just trying to get through a day without getting into too much trouble or filling out too much paperwork. They didn’t care about us, about what we learned or didn’t learn, beyond staying out of trouble. They didn’t carefully, expertly balance our STEM class time with recess, art, history, language, etc. by some knowledgeable formula learned through research and experience – they used a state-mandated directive for it, or school-structured periods, or at the ripe age of ~10 and up, left it up to us to figure out ourselves.

          They were state-funded group babysitters, by and large. There were a couple stand-out ones who went above and beyond. There were a couple monsters. Overall, though, no, they were not something any of us aspired to be or looked up to. They were cautionary tales, and a reliable fallback option for the case of a failure at a better career.

          1. Robin Sparkles*

            I am sorry you had that experience. I had some terrible teachers too. I had teachers scream and belittle me for being “weak” in gym. I had teachers yell at me to sing louder during mandatory plays rehearsals that I couldnt achieve due to my soft-spoken voice. I had a teacher purposefully mark off things I had correct because she didn’t like me – I went from being top student in that class to somehow towards the bottom – luckily she was called out and eventually fired years later for similar crap but that’s another story. All of these while growing up in an immigrant household where my parents didn’t understand how to advocate for me because they didn’t know the system and were often treated like less than themselves.

            But I also had incredible ones that I still remember to this day. These teachers have absolutely changed my life – I developed a love for Shakespeare, appreciated calculus, got the highest grade in logic in computer science, and learned to truly appreciate listening to the opera because of those teachers. I hope you had some of these teachers in your life too – they are the ones that I remember the most.

        3. sstabeler*

          It’s ironic that “those who can, do, those who can’t, teach” is not strictly speaking inaccurate- however, it’s SUPPOSED to be more that a career goers learn how to do something- do it- teach others how to do it. NOT “if you aren’t good enough to do something professionally, teach it”

      2. Candi*

        I think part of the problem is waaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy too many people’s knowledge of the Progress of the Teaching Profession stops and starts when we learn about Clara Barton or Laura Ingalls Wilder in the 19th century. Take an exam, pass, bam, here’s your certificate to teach K-8. It’s progressed far, far, FAR beyond what those stellar women had to know and do.

        On a side note, I realized how many many of the women who were held up as heroes in my childhood history classes were nurses and teachers, and that work was the focus of the units. Wonderful brave women, but no mention of Helen Keller’s activism for workplace safety and health care for injured workers, or Jane Addams efforts to change factory working conditions for children, and eventually to get them to STOP employing children as young as eight, or Mary Seacole’s (yes, she was a nurse, but) business efforts that only got derailed because the male partner she needed because of legal necessity massively screwed up her funds. (That’s when she wrote her book.) Stuff like that.

    10. Ladycrim*

      Insisting on her daughter having no breaks or fun all day is only going to give her a child who loathes school with a fiery passion.

    11. GreenDoor*

      The trouble is, this mom is only thinking of HER child. This teacher probably has about 25-30 other students’ needs to tend to. And recess is prime teacher prep time or catch up time. All those grades parents want immediately posted? The emails to the teacher you want an answer to? The worksheets that need to be copied? The letters of recommendation for your college applications? The afternoon snack you expect your grade school child to have? Teachers are using recess time to tend to all that stuff!

      The school districts response to this particular OP’s concerns is lackluster. And, OP, you don’t have an anti-recess subculture. You have a parent that doesn’t want to have to arrange for private tutors, have the child evaluated for special ed needs, or just, you know, actually work with her own child at home.

  2. Haley*

    #3 – I’m a little confused, as it’s not really an update to the main issue about why they were collaborating i.e. they were working together because they found it works for them or if Jane was carrying Fergus. Unless I missed an update from OP in the original thread? It seems weird that they would be so inseparable so maybe they just got along really well (something romantic?) and did want to work together. Or that Jane was helping Fergus because she didn’t want him to get fired? I want more info!

    1. Chandler Bing*

      Same. I wonder if she had a one-on-one conversation with Jane about how their collaboration was working.

      1. Jesca*

        I wonder too, but I can speculate! Judging by what she found on Fergus’s computer upon departure, I bet we can guess who he was sending all his hateful opinions to.

        I have seen similar scenarios before. Where the massive victim complainer ropes in a “best friend” to, in reality, have them do their job for them. They do this by yelling and screaming about how dumb every one is, how much work they have to do, how long it takes, blah blah blah. The best friend believes all the nonsense, but is all the while doing the work of the “victim” without ever realizing it. It is a great ruse, and usually not discovered until they both leave. And of course, this is always one of the biggest issues with the “office complainer” – they manufacture so much drama and convince others of their nonsense. Then firing them becomes difficult. But, I am of course just speculating LOL!

    2. CM*

      The original letter sounded like the OP suspected Fergus was not pulling his weight, and said that Fergus had other issues too. So the OP wanted to understand what was going on before taking action. But then in this letter, it turns out that Fergus ignored the OP’s direction, royally messed up a project as a result, and was terminated. And I agree with Jesca, this sounds like a toxic work BFF situation where Jane believed all Fergus’ negativity and was outraged that he was fired.

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        The same situation played out over the course of a year at an old workplace. Two besties; one was a stellar employee and the other was the office PITA. Finally, after much counselling, notices,warning etc, the PITA quit without any notice and convinced her bestie to quit with her as a gesture of solidarity. The PITA managed to find another job almost immediately and the stellar employee struggled for a few months until she found something. She realized that quitting your job in support of a friend is not always a good idea.

    3. Product person*

      It’s disappointing that the OP doesn’t seem to have followed AAM’s advice (to speak to them individually). At least I didn’t see that in the update. Things could have gone better with Jane if the talk had happened as advised…

  3. Falling Diphthong*

    #3 is a nice flip on “Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.” Sometimes the only way to change the way someone does their job is to put a different human in that slot.

    1. Michael*

      We don’t actually know if it’s a flip, but ultimately the manager gets to stay and the employee doesn’t.

  4. Observer*

    #2 The parent actually expected to change the contract language?! I hope that was all the board needed to know that this woman is beyond nuts.

    I’m glad you apologized to Miss Honey.

    1. kittymommy*

      I would love to have been a fly on the wall for that one. I can get that after the meeting ended the school officials started cracking up.

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          I’d like to think so too but you wouldn’t believe how many boards bend over backwards to accommodate whackadoo parents. It’s one of many reasons why teaching in lots of places has a 50% recidivism rate in the first five years.

          1. jd*

            Lots of places have a 50% rate with which their teachers, convicted criminals, commit new offenses within the first five years?

            (recividism has a suuuuper specific meaning and I wouldn’t point it out except I’m curious about what you were actually referring to! Do you mean 50% turnover?)

            1. LawLady*

              I actually thought this was a funny tongue-in-cheek usage. Recidivism means returning to previous bad behavior after some sort of intervention. It’s usually used to refer to whether someone commits a crime after being released from prison. But it’s funny to think of it as someone who can’t kick a teaching habit despite years of punishment from crazy parents and terrible school boards.

            2. Middle School Teacher*

              In teaching we often use it to mean the teachers who try to keep making it in the profession, and eventually leave. I know it’s not the usual meaning but it’s how it’s often used by boards and profs. As an English teacher it does but me a bit but it’s quite commonly used here.

              1. jd*

                Ah, it would be closer to say a desistance rate (rate of people eventually leaving the profession/giving up “reoffending”), not a recividism rate (which would be rate of people returning to the profession after trying to leave, which from the context of your comment and others’ interpretations of it doesn’t sound like what you were after). Unlikely to change anyone’s habits given this is an industry-specific bit of jargon, which is interesting to know (and as is desistance/recidivism to the criminologists/justice people to be honest), but I’m not surprised you got some confused reactions from the rest of us!

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I wish the recidivism rate were so high, maybe then we’d be thinning out the ranks of these awful parents!


            1. Middle School Teacher*

              Some teachers aren’t part of a union. Those boards can and do change the contract. I was part of the team that negotiated the first ever collective agreement for my school. Before we had a CBA our board regularly got away with all sorts of nonsense. Not necessarily illegal but definitely bad behaviour. I absolutely know what I’m talking about when I saw boards can and I accommodate nutjob parents at the expense of the teaching staff.

          3. Kelly*

            Yeah, this was honestly what I was expecting if there was an update. Kids pick up a lot from their parents, including how to bully others when they have to do something they don’t want to do.

            My personal favorite parents trying to bully the school board story was during my junior year of high school in Illinois. Multiple football players and cheerleaders, plus a few band members got busted for underage drinking at party a week before school started. The kid who hosted the party had a parent who was a former school board member. Everyone was suspended for the first football game of the season as it was a violation of the honor code. The parents of the suspended kids showed up to a school board meeting wearing black armbands in protest of the suspension.

            1. Candi*

              So they’d rather their kids learn about consequences when they’re facing repeated unemployment/five-to-ten?

    2. Haley*

      I really feel for her child. She’s thinking she’s doing whatever she can to help but it’s beyond that and delusional/harmful to her child’s development.

    3. selina kyle*

      (Some) parents have ridiculous expectations for how much schools can bend to their will. It’s frustrating.

    4. beanie beans*

      I don’t have kids, but in both the original letter and this one I can’t help but scratch my head on why parents expect teachers to tutor their kids on top of their regular teaching duties. Isn’t that why students go to tutors outside of school?

      1. Else*

        It’s in part a) my special-special-perfect kid needs this, so he must have it, no matter the cost! and in part b) teaching is a calling, and all teachers must therefore want to teach with very little break and very little pay or they aren’t morally “good”

      2. Athena*

        The “my perfect little child” thing is ridiculous. Most of my family members are teachers, and after hearing far too many stories about parents whining about their special little Fergus or special little Cersei being picked on by teachers because they received a low mark (when, in reality, special little Fergus never completed work, and special little Cersei skipped class constantly), I decided to avoid that path.

        My mother had a group of kids learning to make coffee. One girl insisted she was qualified, then proceeded to make a mistake that seriously endangered the other students and damaged the machine. My mother asked her when she got the qualification as she probably needed a refresher. Girl stormed off in tears. The next day Mum was hauled up to the principal’s office to meet with the girl and her mother for “abusing” the girl… thankfully mum’s students had her back on that one.

      3. Kelly*

        One of the highlights of some family gatherings is listening to my cousins gripe about how their kids’ teachers don’t treat them like the super special snowflakes she thinks they are. One of them would blame the black kids for all the disciplinary problems, not her white kids. It’s rather funny because some of them aren’t as perfect as mommy and grandma think they are.

    5. Kimberly*

      Depending on where they are that may be impossible. I’m in Texas, and most of the contract is dictated by state law (no unions/no union contracts because we are government employees)

      1. Teachers must have 30 min duty-free lunch
      2. The teacher must have 45 mind prep period a day. They might be able to have more time one day and less another in some situations like A/B block planning but it must work out to 225 min a week and there is a min number of consecutive min for a period to count.
      3. Students must have 135 min of physical activity a week in elementary school. It can be met by PE or a combination of PE and Recess. If a school includes art and music in specials – then Recess is generally required to meet the requirement.
      4. It is illegal to remove kids from specials to test prep or give other types of interventions. For example, a Speech therapist in my school got in trouble because she scheduled all Speech Therapy during Music, Art, or Computers. SO kids were missing those completely. The kids rebelled, she was told to stop, she was removed from our campus (worked for outside contractor). She also got in trouble for walking into my class and screaming at me because I wouldn’t hack the District Nanny software to give her access to her Yahoo mail. 1. It would be a violation of the district AUP. 2. I don’t know how to do that. (This was about 2007 so iPhone was brand new not common. )

      Many schools use 1 and 3 to meet both requirements. Say there are 4 teachers in a grade. A&B take the kids to a 30 min recess while C&D eat lunch. Then A&B eat lunch while C&D monitor the kids at lunch. We did lunch then recess because the other way tended to result in kids throwing up in the heat.

      1. Bea*

        OMG I’m horrified by that Speech Therapist story. My ST in elementary school was a wonderful woman and just ran into my mom awhile back, so I’m sad someone would make her profession look so bad! I’m glad they got rid of her messy ass.

      2. Candi*

        I was horrified when I learned several of the southeastern states had laws preventing the formation of unions. (Learned on this very site in a comment!) It got worse when it turned out that when those laws were passed it was almost entirely women and minorities that took that hit. >:( :(

        (I need an angry-sad face emoticon.)

  5. Anon Accountant*

    Speaking of email I ask when will people learn work email isn’t personal? A coworker left and we were reviewing her email for important tax stuff. What we found was several conversations between she and another employee calling another coworker a “lazy a$$ b!tch” and it went from there.

    Hopefully LW3 Fergus learned but doubtful. Maybe he found happiness at his new job.

    1. Malibu Stacey*

      Ditto your workspace. As an admin I clean out desks/offices/cubicles of departed employees before new hires start and have found a bunch of things I never wanted to know about any of my coworkers.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Nah, that’s what talking in person to friends *who don’t work with you* is for. Sometimes you need to vent, but in my experience, it’s seldom helpful to complain to coworker A about coworker B. It’s just making it awkward for A (or fostering a spiral of negativity) and won’t fix anything about B.

      2. LKW*

        That’s what phone calls are for. I don’t write anything that I don’t want discovered. You’ll see IMs and texts that say “Hey – need to chat. Voice not text.”

        1. Harriet*

          Which is actually quite a flag in itself, in certain circumstances. Not in your circumstances, and not just talking about co-workers…but I have seen a few people eviscerated on the stand when an incriminating conversation abruptly ends in ‘I’ll call you’.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Maybe he found happiness at his new job.

      One of the happier swerve updates was from someone whose bosses weren’t going to promote him, no matter how great he thought he was, because of his attitude. He was working somewhere else, which was delighted to promote him. In hindsight, he realized that he’d burned too many management bridges at the old spot to ever get promoted, regardless of performance. Sometimes you need a new environment. (This went for the boyfriend’s evil ex letter, too–sometimes people who were horrible in one context are just fine once you put them in a different context.)

      1. Jesca*

        Yeah, people are pretty malleable like that. Hell, I can honestly say that I have not behaved the same consistently across all jobs I have held. I can say the same for romantic relationships as well.

    3. JustaTech*

      One of the first things my lab manager told me when I started at a StateU job was “never email anything you don’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper”.

      At CurrentJob we found out years ago that when you leave your email goes to your boss, so clean it out and maybe don’t sign up for a whole bunch of non-work mailing lists? (Motorcycles and hiking, nothing bad, but still not work.)

  6. ruthcarr*

    I really am still aghast at the behavior of the parent from #2. The level of entitlement…that poor child.

      1. LavaLamp*

        This is why I’m that person who generally gifts kids with the messy toys like Playdough and such. Because I remember how fun it is and I hate the “but my carpets!” attitude I see from so many people. And no I don’t have kids; I just remember what it was like to be one.

        Small humans need creative outlets and times to be messy and learn through doing not just stuffing things into their brains.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Well, yes, but there are all kinds of ways for kids to be messy and creative. Deliberately giving kids messy toys (when you aren’t the one cleaning up the messes, or paying for security deposits) seems less about insuring creativity than taking a swipe at their parents.

          And this lady in #2 has issues WAY beyond worrying about carpet stains.

          1. Jesca*

            As a parent and a renter, I will politely ask you where you got it from and return it, or disappoint my children. I hate when people buy my kids presents that they then cannot use. There are plenty of non-messy, and creative toys out there. I do crafts with my kids. I have them draw and paint (supervised). We make paper mache and play with different mediums. But, we do this all together as craft time. I cannot give my kids playdough. It is against my rules.

            1. moosetracks*

              Plastic placemats at a table or kitchen counter (obviously the room can’t have carpet, or if it does should have something over it). Little pieces of it do still get on the floor, but it’s not to hard to clean up. You can wait a few minutes for the little pieces to dry and sweep it up (or have your kids sweep it up, depending on how old they are).

            2. Linguist Curmudgeon*

              Clearly the proper response is to gift them back a glitter bomb. Hey, fair is fair, right?

            3. Kyrielle*

              Playdough is an unwelcome (but allowed) gift in my house, because I guarantee you my kids will leave it open and dry it out to a rock inside 10 play sessions, and then they will be sad, and then they will forget about it and play happily with other things.

              It might as well never have come in the door.

          1. LavaLamp*

            Of course they do, but I just remember playdough being one of my favorite things which is why generally if I know the parent would be down with it I’ll gift that. Should have mentioned that in my original comment. I’m not out to destroy security deposits.

            If I didn’t think a parent would be okay with something like playdough, I’ll gift some of my favorite childhood books. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs anyone?

        2. paul*

          As a parent: no playdough please please please. Or that funky new sand stuff. I’m still getting out of the couch.

          Yes, I let my gets get messy and play around. But that crap just gets everywhere and never comes out, and is awful.

          1. Veronica*

            I don’t have kids, and I bought play-doh for a toy drive a year ago because I loved it so much when I was a child. I mentioned this to my sister (who does have kids) and she gently suggested that play-doh might be a messy disaster for some family out there. Truly, it hadn’t even occurred to me! I won’t buy it again, just like I wouldn’t intentionally buy noisy toys. I’ll go for Legos or blocks or Connect Four or something this year.

            1. No, please*

              As a parent, I want to say thank you for taking your sister’s advice! My father in law sends extremely inappropriate toys for my three year old. Toys with sharp, metal corners for his first birthday and wooden pick-up-sticks for his third. I’ve tried explaining that most toys have an age rating on the packaging but he always acts like this is new information. Rant over.

          2. Anon non non*

            When my kids were in pre-school my sister thought it would be great fun to buy Aqua Sand for them. For those not in the know, it’s a sand that can make sculptures under water but when it it’s scooped from the water it’s dry. So it was a toy that required a big bowl of water to play with and a bunch of sand. I would only let the kids play with it sitting on kitchen floor – one of two rooms in my apartment that didn’t have carpet. I hated that toy. My son dropped the container with the blue sand on the rug that bordered the kitchen and no matter how many times I vacuumed I would still find blue sand clinging to things.

  7. Laura*

    LW1, I LOVE that you asked her a follow-up question about ethics – that’s an absolutely perfect response.

    1. HumbleOnion*

      Oh hell yeah. That was the perfect come back at the perfect moment. Truly something to be admired!

    2. LKW*

      Me too. I love that she was like “Well the rules are important but I figured this time I could break the rules for reasons” and you were like “And your thoughts on ethics?” and she had just admitted to knowingly skewing your data for, y’know, reasons.

      1. Anion*

        My favorite bit is “I really respect your company so much, which is why I thought you wouldn’t even notice that I’d lied to you in the past.”

        Really disappointed in this one; I was one of the people hoping that it had been an innocent/honest mistake on the applicant’s part.

  8. MonkeyPants*

    I really want to know how long #2 has worked in a school, with parents and teachers. It can’t have been very long, or they certainly would have come across unreasonable parents, and know what teachers need to do their jobs (breaks, administrative support…). How did this person get a job as a school principal if they’ve apparently never met a totally unhinged-from-reality parent before, and seems confused by the whole “union rules” thing?

    1. Cassie*

      She may be used to working in severly underprivileged schools. My experience is that there can be minimal parental involvement in some of those environments, so swinging to the opposite extreme can leave a teacher or administrator floundering until she finds her footing.

      1. Manager Mary*

        I worked in a 100% free/reduced lunch school. We absolutely were aware of the huge body of research showing the positive effect that recess, art, music, etc. had on student success. Minimal parental involvement (and a parent population with minimal resources at their disposal) meant we had to be more, not less, knowledgeable about what a student needs outside of the traditional classroom instruction!

        1. Natalie*

          I think you may have misread Cassie’s post – she’s saying teachers/principals in underprivileged schools would be less accustomed to pushy parental involvement, not that they wouldn’t know things about recess or what have you.

          1. Indoor Cat*

            Yeah, I think Cassie’s post is more about practicing standing up to pushy parents, which is a skill of it’s own, rather than knowledge of how important extracurriculars are.

    2. Manager Mary*

      I thought the same thing. I was a school librarian, not an admin or even a teacher, and I knew darn well that it was a breach of contract for my breaks or plan time to taken away, what rules existed about pumping at work, and that there is a HUGE chunk of research and data stressing how unequivocally important recess is to student success. And so did my principal, vice principal, teachers, speech therapists, school secretaries…?? I can’t imagine anyone in that role not knowing what their teachers’ contracts require or the fundamentals of child development.

      I hope OP seeks out some continuing education to strengthen their management skills, deepen their understanding of best practices in education, and broaden their knowledge of the policies and procedures that their school and employees must follow. Taking away a child’s recess and specials is abhorrent–any administrator should immediately dismiss such a request, and I’m concerned that OP would even allow such a thing, much less ask a teacher to do it. Second, teacher unions can be serious business. OP, you are very lucky Ms. Honey didn’t file a complaint! Next time, you may not be so lucky. Better to recognize your weaknesses now before you are out of a job, push a teacher out of their job, or do irreparable harm to a child!

    3. Yorick*

      It sounded to me like OP2 asked Ms Honey whether she would do it so that Ms Honey could be the one who said no to the parent. While that’s a poor management strategy, it doesn’t mean that OP2 has never dealt with parents before or doesn’t know what teachers need or are entitled to.

      1. Rainy*

        We have an admin who plays that game–she doesn’t want to be the one who tells people no, so she’ll call staff, who just…come out and tell people no? Except now 3 people’s time has been wasted! So efficient.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I’m a front line person and I will tell people no and they demand to speak to someone else. It’s possible admin has been through that enough times that she recognizes when it will be an issue and circumvents it that way.

          1. Rainy*

            In the situations where this has happened, that has not been the case. These people have not even been told no or offered an appointment with the team they need to see–instead, she just buzzes a Teapot Professional to come up and collect them for a 15 minute drop in consultation and doesn’t warn the Professional that these people want to see the Coffee Mug Advisory Team, who don’t do drop-ins.

            The last time this happened I said to her “Please don’t authorize people for these drop ins if we can’t help them” and she said the equivalent of “You know a lot about teacups so I figured coffee mug questions are basically the same thing.” (N.B.: they are not.)

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          Yeah my manager likes me to do the bad cop routine for him… except I’m very junior so I don’t have the authority to be bad cop! It takes three or four goes to convince him it would have been better for him to just do it in the first place, and by that point a 30 second job has taken 45 minutes. *eye roll*

          1. Rainy*

            Like, obviously anyone will support her if she tells the person no and they don’t take it well, but it would be nice if she’d just tell them no at all to start with. Most of them will understand that “the Coffee Mug team doesn’t work these drop ins” and the ones that don’t are even more of a problem once they’re in someone’s office and are then immediately told we can’t help them.

  9. Cait*

    LW #2, I’m so glad to read that you apologized to your teacher. She sounds like a really awesome employee. I commented on the original letter…as a working mom who pumps during the day, I don’t think I could have kept my cool in front of someone telling me to use formula in order to do what they wanted.

    All the being said, I hope the student in question is OK. If the parent is that ridiculous in “public”, I can’t imagine life at home is much fun.

    1. Observer*

      True. And before anyone comments about how this is “unrealistic, therefore untrue”, let me remind you of Amy Chu and “Tiger Moms”.

      1. ArtK*

        My ex (still a good friend) teaches in private schools. She was in one on the West side of LA for many years. The stories she can tell about entitled parents would fill a book.

        1. PattS*

          Right?! I work in the North Shore area (north of Chicago) and some of the entitlement behavior I’ve seen would melt your brain. All I can do is shake my head and plan for a future book.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I, a parent, stood in line for school pickup listening to a mom rant about getting a parking ticket while attending the second grade Hallowe’en party, and how she was going to give that ticket to the principal to pay because the school wanted parents helping at these events and so they needed to cover any incurred parking tickets. I’m sure she believed all the people standing silent or saying “Mmmm” agreed with her.

      There is nothing unrealistic about the parent depicted in the letter.

    3. bridget*

      I’d also encourage the OP to step back the “discretion of the teacher” thing. That still puts the teacher on the front line to defend time boundaries, or feel guilty for not giving kids what they “need.” And honestly, it’s not good for the employers, either. Teachers have prep periods because they need to prep. If they don’t do it during prep period, it either won’t get done or it will get done late in the evening or early in the morning, which is a good way to lead to teacher burn out. Help them enforce boundaries by not making them be the one to say no every time.

      My mom is one of those teachers who is an “everything for the students” type teacher, and will not create or enforce boundaries if left to her own devices. Her discretion will *always* be to do the extra thing (or ten things). She works 60-70 hour weeks on an extremely low salary, arrives at school by 5:00 a.m. most days, organizes all sorts of extra tutoring programs and field trips and on and on and on. She is often stressed and feels horribly guilty for not doing even more for her students. This puts the other teachers in her school in a terrible position, because she feels as if they are not pulling their weight, even though she was the one to add so much to the load.

  10. kittymommy*

    I remember #1 originally and the comments were debating whether or not she made a deliberate mistake or possibly didn’t consider the education as relevant. Interesting to do d out she knew exactly what she was doing it and didn’t seem to care.
    Nice follow up with the ethics questiin.

      1. Kathleen*

        Perhaps that there are such things as professional ethics?

        It’s just so weird to me. I guess I could understand lying in the first place – I mean, people have done worse things for money, though surely this couldn’t have been very much money (perhaps that’s why she thought it wasn’t a big deal?). But to do so and not realize that it would be a big deal to the organization? That’s a pretty significant sector of ignorance, if you ask me.

        1. Observer*

          Well, I’m leaning to lacking ethics rather than knowledge.

          Perhaps she’ll learn that violating professional ethics might actually backfire on her.

          1. Kathleen*

            Oh, definitely – but I’d say it’s both. Clearly she didn’t see it as a problem, which is where ethics comes in, but she also didn’t seem to get why the OP’s organization would consider it a problem, and that, I’d say, indicates a lack of ethics as well as ignorance.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        She probably didn’t learn anything (except that she can’t always get away with being dishonest). I’m kind of shocked that she expected them not to realize. OP’s ethics question was brill, and I’m glad they asked it. #OPforthewin.

  11. Murphy*

    Wow at #1!

    I got in trouble for something somewhat similar when I was an intern (but I didn’t lie!) There was a consulting firm in a different industry that did recruited consumers. Their participant pool was large, so I had been signed up for a while, but hadn’t participated in any studies. They had no screening question about being in the industry. I applied for an internship there and sometime after I had a phone interview (but before I’d heard anything back) I was chosen for a study and provided feedback for Company X. Fast forward to several months later and I got the internship (my first office experience). While I was there, I helped run a study session for a project for Company X, and a rep from Company X came out to oversee it. We were chatting and somehow, the participant pool and other studies came up in conversation, and I mentioned that I’d participated in that other study. Company X rep didn’t appear to have any issue. I asked my internship supervisor for feedback on how that day’s session had gone and she was furious that I’d mentioned I’d participated in a study and that it was a “personal embarrassment” to her that I’d been allowed to do that after interviewing with the company.

    1. Murphy*

      Upon reflection, I think they did have screening questions about being in the industry for whatever they were studying at that moment, but not for the industry the company itself was in. For example, if the client was Dell, they might ask if you or anyone in your family was in the PC industry.

  12. Observer*

    #1 Having that phone screen was a good idea. This gave you and your boss the clear information you needed to make a solid decision. Because she was a strong candidate on paper, had you passed on her without it, you would have been open to a lot of “what ifs”. This way, no one is going to do that to you.

  13. Erin*

    #2 – Re: anti-recess subculture – An elementary school near me recently reduced recess time to 10 minutes. People are in an uproar, understandably.

    1. Backroads*

      As they should. Meanwhile, at my school, we have a new policy we will be putting in. Our team has decided that the most efficient way to manage this policy (it involves… doors and locks) is to extend recess.

      Having met crazy parents (which is why I believe the letter) I am wondering if anyone will feel five extra minutes will harm their child’s college application.

      1. ArtK*

        Oh, I believe you. Besides the stories my friend tells about teaching in an exclusive private school, I’m also a referee for youth soccer. Parents get far too invested in their child’s success, especially around 8-12yo. All too often I want to stop and tell of a parent who is verbally bullying their child, the coach and me. “Dude, nobody is going to lose an Ivy League scholarship because of this game. Shut up and sit down and let your child have some fun.”

          1. Yvaine*

            No way, I was a youth soccer referee for 6 years and saying something like that is a great way to get screamed at by parents and probably fired. Some leagues will let you card parents for things like that but most won’t.

          2. Indoor Cat*

            Dude, I had a friend who, in high school, volunteered to referee and coach Youth Soccer during seasons she herself didn’t play (she was first string in a team that made the championships). She did it because she loved the sport. She eventually, a few years later, qualified for the US Olympic women’s soccer team. In short, she was possibly the best Youth Soccer coach you’d ever get, and she did it for free.

            She refused to teach any kids older than 7 unless she was at a sleep-away athletic camp, because the one summer she tried, she quit in two weeks over the screaming, bullying parents.

    2. Augusta Sugarbean*

      What is “normal” recess length? My last recess was so long ago, I’ve no idea. And I’m sure the schools of thought (ha) have changed many times since then.

      1. Dolorous Bread*

        I think my recesses as a kid were 15 minutes, with a lunch hour in the middle (30min lunch + 30min recess)

    3. Goya*

      Actually I’m glad to hear that there is uproar about this. There’s talk about reducing our district’s recess amount and people aren’t even flinching! Utterly ridiculous in my eyes.

    4. JKP*

      A recent study of 20 schools found that *increasing* recess time also *increased* test scores. The research project increased the amount of recess a day, 4 recess periods of 15 minutes each, double what they previously had.

      – 2 to 3 percent increase in students’ math and reading scores.
      -28 and 30 percent decrease in off-task behaviors, which defines as fidgeting, moving around the room, or staring off into space
      -disruptive and aggressive behaviors are almost not seen at all anymore

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Yup, kids are just like dogs in this way: tire them out and they don’t misbehave.

        (In the case of kids, “tire them out” means “let them use up some physical energy outside because they’re GOING to use it somewhere, regardless”.)

        Has anyone tracked correlation between schools districts with sub-par recesses and areas with high rates of ADHD diagnoses? Because there are definitely children (maybe mostly boys?) getting ADHD diagnoses for having normal-child amounts of energy to use up.

        (I’ve got a good friend who’s always been sedentary, and I’m alla time reminding him to take his twin 9-yr-olds to a park to let them run around. He was the kid who’s mom told him to put down the book and go play outside, but they are not. Thank goodness for soccer season.)

  14. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #1 – I hate it when the commentariat tries so hard to offer the benefit of the doubt, only to discover that there’s no genuine benefit there and the person was being exactly as awful as the most pessimistic commenters expected. Very disappointed in that applicant, OP, and I’m glad you took the time to call her out on this and make it clear that that was a major ethical breach. In a way, I think it worked out much better than if you’d just trashed the resume without the phone interview — both for her, because she knows exactly what a massive error in judgment she made, and for your boss, to get a demonstration of why she shouldn’t be quite so starry-eyed.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      I thought the same. I was really hoping it would work out differently on this one. Surprised and disappointed.

    2. Observer*

      I agree. I’m not surprised, but it is disappointing. On the other hand, I’m glad the OP’s boss got some clear evidence that this applicant was a total non-starter.

    3. Anion*

      Yep. I was one of the ones really hoping it was an innocent mistake and not intentional duplicitousness. I’m sad to see my faith was unfounded.

      I agree that the OP handled it perfectly, though–good for you, OP!

  15. hbc*

    For #1, I’m sure she believes her thoughtful answers would be well worth a one-time rule-bend for her special case. Her intention to provide a good result means there can’t possibly be negative consequences!

    Yeah, no one needs that attitude on their team.

      1. Candi*

        It’s wide and broad and lots of people can fit on it. Even though sometimes it’s wisest to not follow the crowd.

  16. Lynca*

    #2- I knew parents like this one when I was still in school. They have this mantra of all that matters in school is their standard of academic success- highest grades, test scores, etc. No room for average and all your time outside school needs to be devoted into getting into the best college.

    I could see one of them pushing to have no recess or arts for their kids so they could spend more time on ‘the important subjects.’ I always felt super bad for their kids.

    1. DArcy*

      I was one of those kids, and my parents ultimately moved me to home schooling so they could tailor my education to their ideological (fundie) and subject (STEM uber alles, no arts) preferences.

  17. bluephone*

    [sarcasm voice on] I can’t wait for the day, several years from now, when the kid whose recess is being sidelined is old enough to join internet message boards, sign up for Tumblr, join Friends of Captain Awkward, etc. And will finally have an outlet for all their angst about being labeled a gift child back in the day, who had to give up recess so they could learn more STEM crap, and how parental pressure has now resulted in them being a neurotic, introverted, “under-achieving” mess at the ripe old age of 19.

  18. Kms1025*

    #3 we had a similar thing happen in our small office. Underperforming and argumentative employee #1 was let go. Completely over the top emotional reaction from employees #2 and #3 resulted in #2 giving notice and leaving and #3 being let go after a short period of unacceptable behavior. Such a toxic sh-t show! Now are blessed with capable, cooperative, friendly new coworkers. But it was
    Pretty stressful for a long while :(

  19. Mazzy*

    #1 – I still don’t get the letter. You’re looking for someone to manage panels who has no marketing experience, and any experience with or on panels is frowned upon? I don’t understand the original letter, I think….

    1. Murphy*

      They don’t want people with experience in marketing/communication (including education) as participants on the marketing panels. The person participated in panels but lied and said they had no marketing background.

    2. BPT*

      This marketing company runs panels to get feedback. The people who make up these panels must have no marketing or communications experience (which the original letter said was for reasons including to guard against sabotage from competitors). All potential panelists are asked prior to joining the panels whether they have any experience in this. The person in question has been on their panels for five years, which means that she would have had to say that she had absolutely no experience with marketing or communications.

      Then she ends up applying for a position as an analyst at the company running the panels. Through her application, they see that she has experience in communications starting at least 7 years ago, which means she had two years of experience at the time of starting on the panels.

      Therefore, they know she had to have lied to get the spot on the panels, and they questioned her ethics while hiring for the analyst job.

  20. Phoenix Programmer*

    Alison I am curious how you handle updates.

    Do you publish as they come in, group into similar results or something totally different?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No particular system and they don’t go in order submitted. It’s often fairly random! I have a big backlog of them right now and am planning on publishing a ton in December, per tradition.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            And a really big desk? I have only a tiny little desk and I want one approximately the size of this room.

  21. Zuppa da Clams*

    Yes #3, I’ve seen it before. One employee makes such a good friends with another and complains so much and is miserable, they end up making their friend resent management too and it becomes disruptive at work. Fergus may have been a bad employee, but as talented as Jane may have been, she probably wasn’t fantastic either because she was enabling Fergus. We’re having this issue now at my work, where I’m an assistant manager. My Big Boss, the owner, and my general manager are pretty good as bosses go-they do have some flaws like every boss does but are usually generous, friendly, and very professional.We’ve gone through 5 toxic employees here in the last two years and the second they leave, the office is totally breathable again-but while each of the 5 was here, they made friends with the SAME employee, who has been with us a very long time now.

    They would immediately glom onto this person and dump their complaints on them. She’s a talent but has behavioral issues. The employee would hear the hear the friend’s constant complaints and would go to bat for them and when we weren’t super responsive, the employee would become very emotional and disruptive at work. Being that she’s the common factor, we would be like “okay, well, maybe *she’s* the toxic work personality.” But she really is just the kind of person toxic people love to be around-naive, takes everything literally, believes everything she hears, very emotional. She gets hyper-emotional about *other people’s* raises, sick leave, treatment, etc. The second her “friend” is no longer at work, she becomes normal again and realizes her behavior has been out of line. Clearly, the “friend” knows that if they tell her, it will get back to us. They use her like a tool but she never realizes it. Most recently she “quit” in solidarity with a “friend” after said “friend” was recently let go for theft. She immediately regretted it and wants to come back but we’re relieved and we’re making it permanent. Big Boss said she admittedly let this go on too long because her work itself was excellent and she’s got a good following but her talent isn’t worth the trouble.

    1. Weekday Warrior*

      Honestly, this is a kind of toxicity in itself. I’ve seen this dynamic at play often, with one employee seeing themselves as “champion” for others, whether they’ve asked for championing or not! I can see that bad employees would learn to exploit this self-identified white knight but the white knight is a disruptive problem herself too. In this case, sad for her that she’s finally white knighted herself out of a job, but good for your workplace.

      1. Indoor Cat*

        Yeah. I have a few friends like that. They’re very big on standing up for the bullied / oppressed / downtrodden, which is an excellent quality! But, uh, sometimes they don’t really check to see is this person *really* being bullied, or did they themselves instigate a conflict? Is that person *genuinely* oppressed, or are they refusing to own anything as being in their control?

        And, in the same vein, these friends tend to burn out because, since “champion of the oppressed” becomes part of their identity, they tend to gravitate toward people who need a lot of help– more help than they can give– and they people they help don’t have much they can give in return beyond, perhaps, gratitude.

        It’s not a great dynamic. And in some ways, it’s weird, because we’re friends but they don’t seem to know what to do in a friendship where nobody wants them to help them or fix anything. I just want to enjoy each others’ company. I can definitely see how at work that’d get old pretty fast.

      2. sstabeler*

        Which is presumably why the company’s not inclined to let said employee come back.

        I’m not sure it’s “white knight” specifically- the way I always interpreted it, “white knighting” is someone who actively looks for something to get up in arms over, where this person is just repetitively naive.

  22. Misc*

    In NZ and uk its usually 30min morning break and 1hr lunch (half an hour to eat, half to run around, basically).

  23. AthenaC*

    Re: #2 –

    “She confessed she had been trying to point the ridiculousness of the scenario.”

    Wait … so the teacher agreed to the parents’ outlandish suggestion in the moment in hopes that the already-clearly-unreasonable parent would suddenly see reason?

    It may be worth it for that teacher to think about whether that’s the best technique for dealing with unreasonable parents, and how that error in judgment contributed to the mess.

  24. MrsFillmore*

    Popping in to say that it made my Friday to know that Ms Honey got some relief and backing from her boss! Kudos to the original questions writer/principal for being reflective and taking actions based on the comments here.

Comments are closed.