my coworker keeps giving me “help” that I don’t want or need

A reader writes:

I am a teacher. This is going to be my 20th year.

Last year, I was transferred to a different school in our district due to budget cuts and things being shifted around. I now share a classroom with another teacher. She has been in this school/in this room for four years, and this is her first teaching job.

I think she’s great at her job. The students like her, the parents like her, the administration likes her.

However, I don’t especially like her all the time. She has a habit of “helping” me when I don’t want or need it. For example, in the beginning of the school year she tried to teach me how to document interaction with parents. Again, this is year 20 for me. Another time, we had a shared document we were working on, and we each had our own parts to do. I walked into the room one morning and was greeted with, “Hey, you forgot to do XYZ on your part of the document.” I said, “I’m not finished with it. It’s not due until next week.” She said, “Well, I just was looking at it and I saw that you forgot.” I repeated, “I’m not finished with it. It’s due next week.” She said, “Well, when I looked at it–” so I said, “Are you auditing my work or something?” She got a sheepish look on her face and said no.

The last straw for me was in May when we were both in a conference with other members of the team (school social worker, guidance, and a parent on speakerphone). When it was my turn to speak, she whispered at me across the table what she thought I should say next. It was a Friday and I couldn’t stop stewing about it so I texted her over the weekend and told her that it was very uncomfortable for me when she did that, and that I’m not new to the field and I don’t need to be prompted. She responded, “Sorry you feel that way. I was just trying to help.”

I admit that I could have made this worse by just ignoring it all year and not saying much about it, but now that we’re getting to the end of the summer I am dreading going back to work. I have been looking for a new job but there just isn’t much in my part of the state to apply for. The reality is that I may be stuck going back to this job 10 days from now and I’m dreading having to deal with her.

I need some kind of script for what to say when she starts “helping” me again. At first I thought she was trying to be nice, in an overbearing way, but now it just seems like she likes to be in charge and she enjoys giving me all this unsolicited advice. I finally mentioned it to another teacher who said, “She’s great, but I’ve had to tell her so many times to stay in her own lane.” So it’s not all in my head!

It’s certainly possible that she thinks she’s being helpful and you’ll appreciate the assistance and is just oblivious to social cues. But whether or not she sees it like that, it sounds incredibly annoying. And this would be annoying from any colleague, even if one more experienced than you — but considering that she’s relatively new to the profession and you’re not, I’m sure it’s particularly aggravating.

But it also sounds like you’ve given her way too much room in your head. You’re dreading returning to work and even job searching over this, but you haven’t really tried to fix it yet.

Try talking to her directly. When you get back to work, sit down with her and say something like this: “I wanted to talk about how to best work together this year. Last year there were times when you stepped in on work I was handling — like telling me how to document parent interaction when I’ve been doing that for a long time, or nudging me about the X document while I was still in the middle of it with plenty of time to finish. I think you’re great at your job and I’m happy to be working together, but if I ever want help or advice on something, I’ll let you know. If I don’t do that, I’d appreciate it if you’d assume I have it covered.” You could add, “Of course, if you ever have a real concern about something or if I’m doing something that impacts your work, please come talk to me. But if you’re just trying to help, I think we’ll work together better if we let each other manage our own realms.”

Alternately, you could wait and see what happens this year before you say anything. It’s possible that she learned from the incident in May and, who knows, maybe she’ll operate differently this year. You could wait and see how it goes, and then use the script above if you see that you still need to.

Or, a third option — you can just address things on a case-by-case basis as they come up and over time she might realize she’s overstepping and rein herself in.

That would mean that when she oversteps, you say things like “I’ve got this handled” or “I’m on this but I’ll let you know if I need any help with it” and so forth. (The way you handled her “reminder” about your shared document is a good example of this — it sounds like you were direct and assertive.)

When she tries to teach you something you already know, try responding with genuine curiosity about what she’s doing. For example: “I might be misunderstanding. I’ve been writing these reports for a couple of decades. Is there something I’m missing about what you’re trying to convey?” In fact, ask that in good faith! Because who knows, maybe you’re thinking she’s offering remedial training in something you’ve got tons of experience in, and she’s trying to say that the district changed their policy on X last year and you overlooked that.

Of course, when someone’s flooding you with unsolicited advice, it can be tough to keep an open mind — but there’s value in not blocking it all out, because she might have something useful at some point. (Plus, you want to seem collegial and open to input — to a point.) And if it turns out that she’s not offering anything you don’t already know, then this framing will highlight that.

But address it — either each time it happens or in a big-picture conversation. Doing that will help you take back to the control that she’s trying to claim for herself, and I think you’ll feel less trapped and aggravated once you do.

Also! If you’re worried that doing this will cause tension in the relationship — especially given that the administration likes her — you can counteract that by making a point of being warm and friendly the rest of the time. (In fact, you might even take a mentoring approach toward her if you can bear it. It’s not necessary, but it might reframe the way this all feels to you.) Being warm will put you on solid ground with anyone who observes your interactions, and it’ll likely ease any tension that otherwise could result from you pushing her back when she’s encroaching. And while being warm might be the last thing you feel like right now, it’s a lot easier to do it when you know internally that you’ve got everything you need to address, and ultimately thwart, her overstepping.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 328 comments… read them below }

  1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Oh man, OP, she sounds like a total pain in the rear!

    Personally, I’d go for Alison’s first script. Even if she’s done some soul-searching over the summer and realized she’s been overstepping, it’s good to lay it out clearly and make your stance explicit.

    1. Lance*

      Very much agreed on that point; whether or not she’s going to continue with this behavior, I think it would be better to cut it off at the start, and then just act as though the coworker will take that request so that you’re not consistently stressing over it.

    2. OhNo*

      I imagine it will also be easier to address on a case-by-case basis if it comes up later, if you’ve already laid out the overall trend at the beginning of the year. It’s easier to say, “You’re doing it again” than to explain it from scratch every time.

      1. ACDC*

        I like this idea. I did this with a mansplainer coworker. I had talked to him a few times about this habit of his, and then just went with the short hand “hey, you’re doing that thing again right now.”

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        I like this idea and the, “You’re doing it again” line. If she gets called out on this enough times, and particularly in front of other people, maybe then she’ll back up and let you do your job without interference.

      3. Nonny Maus*

        The benefit I’ve found to this strategy and “You’re doing it again” is that it gives them an example RIGHT THEN AND THERE of the behavior in question. Because sometimes you’ll explain, and have examples, but the other person somehow doesn’t connect THOSE to “THIS TIME RIGHT NOW”. So highlighting it right then can be extremely useful.

        Disclaimer: I’ve been guilty of that a few times myself, but I’ve been trying to learn.

        1. ToS*

          I’ve read An Abundance of Katherines by John Green and the main character does not pick up social cues, so when he leans into his treasure trove of details, his BFF will say “Not Interesting” as a friendship-blunt check on, hey, we want a sip, at best, do NOT drench us with too much. They also develop a code word if one or the other veer too close to a reactive topic. It would be interesting to hear how these strategies play out at work.

      4. Wherehouse Politics*

        Yes, and when she butts in with a non-apology apology like “I’m sorry you don’t want my help” “I’m sorry you feel that way” I’d respond with “Save apologies for your own actions, not how I feel about them.”

        1. Snuck*

          This feels really combative to me (possibly a different cultural norm – I’m in Australia, and we err on the more British polite way of doing things)…

          What about if she makes an excuse or says “but you didn’t understand what I am saying” you break into one of two … if it’s a private space where being overhead won’t matter, and not time sensitive moment “Hrm… ok, I’m all ears, is there something I’ve missed, I’d love to hear a little more” said warmly (not sarcastically!) … or if it’s the fifth time and you’ve heard her ‘explain’ “Hrm… I’m really busy, and this is that thing we talked about, I know… let’s just leave it.” And walk off.

          If it’s something where there’s an audience, or where it’s critical to be polite, then a less abrupt “Hrm, let’s take that up later hrm?” Or a “Thanks for your suggestion “name”, I’m going to go with what I originally had planned though” or a “Do we need to make more time to discuss this in depth because we’re quite focussed right now and this feels like it is taking us a little away from our conversation” etc.

          And then pull her up in private “in the meeting when you started whispering to me… I felt that was undermining my authority. I have a lot of experience, and I know you were trying to help. Please DO NOT whisper to me in meetings, it derails my train of thought, and the others in the room were very uncomortable”. If she says “but…” say… “Hrm… if you feel I’m missing the point of something maybe just hold onto it until it is your turn to talk, and then raise it in a way that allows you to contribute your own ideas under your own steam. You have a lot of good ideas, and we want to hear them, and if I’ve missed something critical by all means, when the floor is turned back to you, please drop them in. Please don’t interrupt or correct me in front of others.” And then… if she does again after that, teleconference or meeting or other say “Thanks Jane, right, as I was saying” and ignore her… politely.

        2. Zoe Washburne*

          I think this is incredibly combative and likely to escalate the situation. Also, you are calling her out on her actions (the ‘helpfulness’ that can be really patronizing) so what you are saying doesn’t make sense. There is a massive difference between being direct and hostile, and this is very much in the latter camp. When someone says “I’m sorry you don’t want my help” or another non-apology apology, it is better to turn it around and say something like: I appreciate your apology. It in’t that I don’t want your help. But rather when you offer it for very basic things that I have been doing for 20 years, it insinuates that I don’t know how to do it. I would be grateful if you could stop with the suggestions or monitoring my work as I am concerned this could cause tension between us, which I would like to avoid. “

    3. MsMaryMary*

      The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to have this conversation too. You’re both prepping for another year, you’ve both had the summer to think about how to best approach this school year. It’s a great time to set expectations and have a fresh start.

    4. Moray*

      I wonder if the LW could take a page from her coworker’s book and frame it as useful, wider-reaching “advice.”

      “Sometimes, experienced teachers take attempts to coach them on things they’ve already mastered badly, and find it frustrating when a coworker tries to direct them in simple tasks. It’s generally a good idea not to give people the impression that you don’t have faith in their work, even if you’re just trying to be helpful. I would err on the side of assuming someone will ask for help or advice if they need it.”

      Do everybody who is going to work with her in the future that favor.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I like this script, too – it’s a much nicer, professional version of what I would say, which is, “Who asked you?” Lol.

      2. Zombeyonce*

        Reminding the teacher of LW’s experience would be helpful here. I’ve met many a tenured professional that loved to remind me of how long they had been doing this and how much they knew. It was often annoying but LW is on the other end of the spectrum here; I think LW needs to channel some of that in these cases for good effect.

        Young teacher appears to be in the “teenager” phase of their career where they know just enough to think they know everything and that everyone else is just dense and needs advice. She’ll grow out of it (hopefully!) but it’ll take longer if she’s allowed to hound LW with no pushback.

      3. gbca*

        This is a great script. I like that it addresses how the behavior is coming off (giving the impression you don’t have faith in their work), because unless the other teacher is a real jerk I think this will make it clear to her WHY it’s a problem, other than just being bothersome.

        1. Blue*

          Yes, I would make sure to specifically articulate that when talking to her about that. This isn’t just that OP dislikes or is irritated by unrequested help – doing this in front of others could damage OP’s reputation. That needs to be very clear to her. (She needs to knock it off in general, but I’d be particularly concerned about her doing it so openly.)

          I might also flip it around and make her think about being in OP’s shoes. Like, “If I were to jump in and give you directions in front of our colleagues and a parent, they would get the impression that I didn’t think you can handle things on your own. Whether or not I believe that doesn’t matter; that’s what they would hear, and they might start to wonder if there’s a reason not to trust that you can do your job unaided.”

      4. Observer*

        I like the script, but I think I would only deploy it if she comes back with “I was just trying to help.”

      5. Parenthetically*

        I like this idea and I would even go further, because I wouldn’t want to make Younger Teacher think this is all about coddling prickly veteran teachers — it’s about not being presumptuous and patronizing.

    5. Jules the 3rd*


      I think you have to go with the first script, because you have already tried the ‘address it in the moment’ strategy (“Are you auditing my work?”) and it didn’t stop her (the whispering). Then when she does it again (because she will), you can pull out the old “Jane, this is what I meant – I don’t need help, I got it!” I might add ‘When you try to help me, especially in public (the whispering), it undermines my authority and makes it harder for me to do my job.’

      As Alison said, you can reduce the tension by being warm otherwise.

      I fear that’ll be the hard part, because this would irritate me to no end. Your response to the whispering was much more restrained than I would have managed.

      1. Snuck*

        I would have responded to the whispering with an eyebrow up in my hairline, and a rather curt “Thanks Jane, got it, RIGHT, where were we? Oh that’s right, as I was saying….” and effectively cut her out, and laid her lack of professionalism bare.

        I have had some doozies over the years, and this sort of stuff… yeah. A private chat would have happened after…

    6. TootsNYC*

      also, if you lay it out in the beginning, then you can point to that convo when you ALSO bring it up in the moment.

      I personally would do the “cut and paste” method–I wouldn’t try to rationally address each moment. I’d pick a phrase that felt comfortable, and then I’d repeat it over and over.

      So, maybe:
      “I really don’t need coaching on this.”
      she says “I’m just trying to help.”
      And you say either: “I really don’t need coaching” or “Nevertheless.”

      Your saying the same phrase over and over will draw her attention to the similarity of all the times she’s doing this.
      You can use quite a friendly tone, of course (especially if you do this in front of everyone the next time she whispers that it’s your turn to talk, at a meeting). And you can get gradually less friendly if you feel you need to be firmer.

      1. Orange You Glad*

        I like the repeated phrase response and have had good results with an *extra friendly tone* the 1st time and then more serious tone the 2nd time:

        Her: “But I’m just trying to help!”
        Me: “I don’t need help with this!”
        Her: “But I’m just trying to help!”
        Me: “I don’t need help with this.”

        Also, “I realize your intention is to be helpful but when I don’t need help with this, than it’s the opposite of “helpful” to continue offering.”

        Or, “I recognize that you are trying to help but it’s NOT helpful and I don’t feel helped; I feel intruded on and I know that’s not what you were going for AT ALL! So moving forward, I promise I will ask you for help if and when I need it and you don’t need to proactively offer. Thanks!”

        1. Meercat*

          I really like this addition of explaining how it has the opposite effect of being helpful or feeling helped.
          There was a discussion ages back about someone insisting to keep calling everyone ‘m’am’ and ‘sir’ and would then say ‘they were just being polite’ and that a good reply would be to point out how they were doing the opposite of being polite (calling someone a way they don’t prefer, ignoring specific requests, making someone feel uncomfortable and so on)

    7. Cat Meowmy Admin*

      So many great suggestions here, and I’m saving them for my own use! I can relate to the LW’s frustration too. (As an Admin of 40+ years, I’ve experienced the same unsolicited ‘helpful advice’ when it wasn’t necessary.) Keeping an open mind to new ideas is generally helpful, *at the right times and circumstances*, as we’re always learning something new in life and work. That said, absolutely stand your ground in a polite but firm and assertive manner. Lather, rinse, repeat!

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this—it sounds incredibly frustrating. Being told repeatedly that I “forgot” or being fed a line during a conference would really irritate me.

    Alison’s advice is excellent, but I want to chime in on her statement that this is occupying too much of your brainspace. That’s true, and I suspect it’s also feeding into a negative-feelings loop where it feels like she’s suggesting you’re incompetent by being over-intrusive and trying to micromanage a (much more experienced) peer. So my advice is to adopt a cheerful, confident demeanor where you think of her efforts to manage you as a person would look at a precocious child who doesn’t understand social hierarchies. That way, when you’re telling her to stay in her lane (which you absolutely should do!), you can do so firmly without letting her get into your emotional headspace.

    1. Sara without an H*

      This. She’s admittedly annoying, and possibly very insecure, but that doesn’t mean you have to let her life rent-free in your head.

      Allison, and some of the commentators, have supplied several good scripts. Put them on autopilot and administer as necessary — just don’t engage emotionally when she tries to coach you.

      If you really want to be evil, “bless your heart” was invented for just this kind of situation.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      I agree. Annoying colleagues are irritating enough to work with all day, but there’s no way you should be taking it home or stewing all summer. I bet she hasn’t thought about this interaction a fraction of the amount that you have. Even if she keeps being irritating, OP can practice how to keep her behavior in a mental box.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I agree–try to frame this as being all about her. Her quirk, her immaturity–and not about the reality or about you.

      And maybe not even about the way she views you, specifically.

      it’s just the way she is.

      Look, crummy people use that phrase all the time. the rest of us can seize it and use its power for ourselves, as well–this time in the “it doesn’t mean anything real; it’s just the way SHE is, not the way the world is. And i’m not responsible for fixing her.”

      The time to really push back is when it bleeds over into her interactions with people besides you.

    4. Cat Meowmy Admin*

      Agreed! Alison’s advice is excellent, and I’m glad she addressed this point as well- it really hit me that I too, do this *to myself* often – allowing the annoyance (or undermining) by the other person to invade my headspace. Sometimes even temporarily question my own self-confidence, even though I know better. This is something that I continually have to manage within myself too.

  3. Not Australian*

    Ugh, the ‘helpful’ colleague. I’m enduring this at the moment, with a side order of mansplaining, from a guy trying to give me advice about something I’ve been doing all my life and which my family has actually been involved in for (not kidding here) very nearly two hundred years. I’ve never asked him for help, nor shown any indication that I need it – because I don’t – and yet along come his little e-mails full of instructions for solving problems that aren’t problems and that I can deal with in my sleep. I only have to survive this for another six weeks, however, and after that I can ignore him forever; I wish you luck in dealing with your colleague, OP, and if all else fails would heartily recommend a fake laugh and “oh, how funny that you thought I needed … ” whatever it might have been.

      1. Not Australian*

        Gritting my teeth because the guy *has* actually done me a substantial favour which I appreciate, but obviously it’s not without its downside! (I think he’s just oblivious to the notion that female people come pre-installed with fully functioning brains, TBH!)

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Same, especially since they’re only going to be working together for another six weeks.

        1. 2 Cents*

          “You know, the way you talk to me about [X] sometimes makes me think you don’t think I know what I’m doing.” Said with a smile, as in “of course I’ve read this wrong!”

        2. VictorianCowgirl*

          Yes but him doing you a favor doesn’t need to mean that he can then treat you in ways you’re uncomfortable with, does it?

        3. Observer*

          That doesn’t mean you have to just swallow this nonsense.

          I like Alison’s script. It’s polite and gives him a way to save face while letting him know how out of line he is. Of course it’s always possible that he’ll totally miss the point and say something like “Sure!” or “Of course”, in which case a puzzle “but why?” is the way to go. Making sure that others see this exchange would have the side benefit of making the depths of his lunacy clear.

      2. Public Librarian*

        I so appreciate this. I have a colleague in my specialty. I have twenty years more experience as well as field work of which he has none. Yet, he needs to explain to me as if I couldn’t understand his work.

      3. Cat Meowmy Admin*

        Excellent! I’m saving this response for my own use as I’m encountering very similar.

    1. Snarkdom*

      Hey Mansplainer, wanted to let you know that I’ve been through most of your explanatory emails & overall, they’re reasonably accurate. When you’re ready to to put together explanations for advanced stuff let me know, & if I have time I’ll check them for accuracy & appropriate nuance for you. Wanted to give you a heads-up as we’ll only be working together for 6 more weeks.

      1. This Daydreamer*

        If you say this around other colleagues you’ll need to prepare for a round of applause. You can’t be the only woman suffering from his condescension.

  4. Jennifer*

    Wow! I guess Tracy Flick decided to leave politics and start teaching.

    I’d take a wait and see attitude. It seems she got the message in May and if you say something before anything happens it may come across as overkill.

    Keeping an open mind if she does come to you with a suggestion might be a good idea since just because someone has less experience doesn’t necessarily mean they may not have an idea that’s better than yours occasionally. It’s just the way she’s doing it that’s annoying. Best wishes!

    1. Alucius*

      Love the reference.

      A sequel in which Tracy Flick co-teaches Civics with the Matthew Broderick character would have amazing potential.

      1. LawBee*

        Oh, that MOVIE. Tracy Flick gets a total raw deal in pop culture. Matthew Broderick’s character was horrible. Who goes on a total vendetta against a child?!

        I am Team Tracy.

        1. boop the first*

          Whoa… I’m really hoping that that was the point of the movie! Were we SUPPOSED to be cheering for the teacher?

    2. MistOrMister*

      I think I would wait as well. Maybe she had enough time for reflection over the summer to realize it’s not necessary for her to do so much prompting. And I kind of feel like a big sit down convo about it right at the start of the year could start things off on a bad foot. I like the approach to wait for her to do it again and then address each instance. If doing that didn’t work then I think I’d have the big talk and say, I don’t know if you’ve noticed me pushing back buuuuutttt…… Whichever way OP chooses, hopefully it works out! I definitelty understand dreading work every day with someone like this. It would drive me batty!

    3. Cat Meowmy Admin*

      I agree about keeping an open mind, as we’re always learning no matter our age. (I commented this earlier.) *However*, that said, it’s important to offer another perspective under the right circumstances. Timing is everything. If done on a one-one privately and during a pleasant conversation (and not in front of others in a condescending way), the result can be a more receptive response IME. (Speaking as an experienced Admin of 40+ years who has learned from those younger than I am, and they too can benefit from my years of ‘wisdom’.)

  5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


    This makes me curious about the grade levels you’re teaching.
    I’d be concerned that your co-worker spent the last four years talking to 8-year-olds, and doesn’t know how to interact with adults anymore! Does she do anything like this with other staffers?

    1. RKMK*

      It’s at the end of the letter: “I finally mentioned it to another teacher who said, ‘She’s great, but I’ve had to tell her so many times to stay in her own lane.’ So it’s not all in my head!”

      1. pamela voorhees*

        Do you think it would be worth it to use the same language in your script? “Stay in your lane” can land pretty harshly, but it might help her to see that this isn’t just a pattern with one person, but with lots of people in the whole school system.

    2. banzo_bean*

      OP mentions this is something her other colleagues have noticed. I do think there is something to the idea that this teacher probably doesn’t have much experience working alongside others since teaching normally doesn’t require this level of space sharing/collaboration. So maybe she’s learning some lessons we all learned very early in our careers- don’t over step, mind your own beeswax, etc. Also, OP notes this is the other teacher’s first teaching position, so maybe she’s just learning how to be a good co-worker in general.
      Also I love the username!

    3. Mary*

      Yes, I’m wondering this!

      And if you teach older kids, you must be used to the teenager who is pretty sure they know everything? The bright but ridiculously over-confident kid who tries to correct you and is pretty sure they know more than you about how apostrophes work*? Would it help to reframe her as one of them?

      She may have completed her teacher training and be in her Real Job, but this constant “trying to help” sounds like a real newbie fail. It might really help manage your annoyance if you see this as “you are new and still figuring out how to do teamwork; I’m experienced and help you by setting clear boundaries.” The fact that you’re stressing about this over the summer and you’re looking for new jobs suggests you’ve let her move from “annoying” to “real threat to my job satisfaction”–and you know, whilst we can’t always reframe our emotional response to a situation, this does sound like one where you *can*. You have the power here.

      *ngl, this was me.

      1. Mary*

        *ngl, this was me.

        … and part of what I meant to say about this was GOD I am so embarrassed looking back, and I really appreciate the teachers who just treated me with a mixture of indulgence / necessary and appropriate squashing, and just accepted that this was an annoying but normal stage that some kids go through.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          It’s worse when you know you’re right tho. Being corrected into the *wrong* spelling or grammar is So Effing Frustrating – especially to an insecure teen who knows what’s right…!

          Sympathies to the teenage you!

          1. qvaken*

            Yep. I was once told by a trainer at a job that “‘gotten’ isn’t really a word”. I disagreed with the trainer about this and a few other things which earned me a second trainer to audit my work. The second trainer reinforced the possible non-existence of the word ‘gotten’. When I disagreed again, I earned myself a trip to a meeting room to get a stern talking-to from a team leader. I stayed just long enough to save up for some education I wanted to do to get into a new field of work, and I got out of there.

            1. Ev*

              Were they not from the US, by chance? I ask only because “gotten” is standard American English, but not used in British English, IIRC.

              (Not that that would excuse their behavior, obvs, just curious.)

      2. LuckyClover*

        I’m in a masters program that has a lot of teachers in it (I am not). And I find this personality trait is really common with many of them. It is SO annoying to be spoken to like I don’t know what I am doing when we are in the SAME program! This could at least to some extent be the case of the teacher doesn’t know how to turn the teacher off and interact with her peers as colleagues. No hate towards teachers – my roommate is one and we both agree that sometimes they can take teacher mode a little too far.

        1. Rebecca*

          Re: teacher mode. My partner often has to remind me to stop what he calls ‘teacher splaining’. It’s a real problem – I now automatically say everything in three different ways.

          1. Kimmybear*

            LOL! As a child of teachers I see my mother so much clearer now. Last week’s ‘splaining was all about planning logistics for getting to, childcare for, and gift registries for a wedding next summer that I have absolutely no desire to attend.

      3. ceiswyn*

        “The bright but ridiculously over-confident kid who tries to correct you and is pretty sure they know more than you about how apostrophes work*?”
        I was totally that kid.
        …buuuuuut when I tried to correct my teachers, it was because I actually DID know more than they did. By the time I was fifteen I’d been reading university-level textbooks in certain subjects for three years. So when my teacher informed me that OBVIOUSLY astronomers didn’t view stars in infrared, that was a problem.
        I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this, but I’m still annoyed about it :)

        1. Mary*

          A couple of times I was too! But even then, learning to shut up and fight my battles was a good lesson. ;-D

        2. not a teacher*

          “Does this need to be said?
          Does this need to be said by ME?
          Does this need to be said be me NOW?”

          1. Jadelyn*

            I mean, I’d argue that factual corrections in a science class are exactly the sort of thing that ought to be caught immediately and out loud so that other students don’t learn incorrect information.

          2. ceiswyn*

            Since it was a multiple-choice question where ALL the answers were incorrect, then yes, actually :)

        3. Jadelyn*

          Yeah, I took to keeping a dictionary at my desk for times when my high school creative writing teacher would try to mark me down for “making up words”. First of all, I write fantasy/scifi (and did even back then), that’s what spec fic writers DO, don’t try to lower my grade for working within the established conventions of my chosen genres. Second of all, I wasn’t making up words, I just had a ridiculous vocabulary for my age, borne of reading literal pounds of purple-prose’d fantasy and scifi novels a month for the past 5 years or so at that point.

          That teacher and I *hated* each other by the end of the school year. And yes. I am still annoyed. So I sympathize!

        4. Mellow*

          >By the time I was fifteen I’d been reading university-level textbooks in certain subjects for three years.

          So do a lot of people. I’m not sure what this proves, since the point of reading isn’t reading, but comprehension.

          1. ceiswyn*

            But since you insist, I was reading AND COMPREHENDING university-level astronomy and biology textbooks at age twelve. Which saved me a lot of time during my second undergrad degree :)

    4. Liane*

      I’d say she does this with other staffers, since the OP wrote that she brought this up to another colleague who said they often had to tell this teacher to stay in her own lane.

    5. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      The grade doesn’t matter. My brother taught high school history for twenty years, he stills treats a conversation as an instructional opportunity. It’s a teacher thing. Take control from the jump or lose control. It’s also a personality type. His college girlfriend pinned a button on his jean jacket back in the 80s “currently seeking a country to rule.” She was not off by too much. The kids loved him. They felt safe and structured. I on the other hand, feel annoyed when he tells me to lock the door after leaves or separate my mail into piles. I tell him to stop brother-splaining. Did I mention we are in our FORTIES?!?!?

      1. Zombie Unicorn*

        I have teacher friends who do this. Sometimes it involves them explaining my own profession to me.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          Yes! I’ve had this with him and other teacher friends.
          The field draws that type of person. It’s a compulsion.
          “You do understand this is my job? I get paid to do what you are lecturing me on.”
          “Oh, I understand. I’m not lecturing you. Did you know…”
          Yes, yes, I did.

      2. ToS*

        Thank you for this – it’s oddly affirming for some of us with man-splainy brothers, and yes, I’ve reminded my spouse that we’ve lived in the same house for 15 years, I do know to look out for deer. Tell me something else, as I translate that to either your anxiousness (which I don’t need while leaving, happy to discuss that over coffee) or your being a robot.

        Remember your audience. In the case of family, long-standing friends, and day-to-day co-workers, step away from auto-pilot and really grok who they are.

      3. Wherehouse Politics*

        I remember a transfer classmate when I was in college (studio art major) who was maybe a few years, older than the average student, not by much though. She interacted with us like a professor giving a studio visit and critique who was kindly trying to help us be our best—even though she was on our level, probably even a little behind herself on her drawing skills. She’d give us unsolicited “encouragement” if she spotted us working in our areas alone. It felt weirdly condescending and inappropriate. She was on a teaching track so maybe she was practicing her skills in that area on her peers. In any case, it didn’t seem to gain her much friendly interaction from her classmates or professors for that matter. I remember her coming along to an end of semester festive gathering, and she was relentlessly mocked and skewered by an inebrated professor whose sharp sarcastic toungue was not dulled by the drink. No one reigned him in and she just took it. I actually did feel bad for her (the professor was an ass) but she pull way back on the unsolicited critiques.

    6. CoveredInBees*

      I know middle and high school teachers who do this outside of school, in the company of adults. They switch into “teacher mode” and it isn’t fun. Only one of them will admit that she does it.

      1. Cat Meowmy Admin*

        This explains alot!! Now I see this trait in the teachers that I know… really not trying to generalize, but this is true with every one of them that I know.

  6. boo bot*

    This would drive me insane.

    At least for me, one of the most maddening things about people who do this is having them characterize my behavior, like in the “you forgot” example. Personally, I would make a point to directly contradict her when she does that – so, when she says, “you forgot,” to say something like, “I didn’t forget, I’m not finished yet,” rather than only “I’m not finished yet.”

    YMMV – I think some people might find that too defensive, and feel more comfortable ignoring the interpretive blanket statements, so I’m not saying it’s a necessity or anything. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of, “You were upset,” when the reality was, “I was thinking, and failed to smile for a moment,” or “I was neutral, and responded with neutrality,” so I have a strong inclination to push back on stuff like that.

    1. Camellia*

      OMG, I spent two years on a team with a colleague who would preface every remark to me in meetings with “I know you’re upset but…”. He never did this to anyone else. And I checked with the rest of the team to see if I was doing anything to trigger this and they all said no. Eventually he was moved to another role, thank goodness, but I NEVER figured out how to counter this or how to get him to stop. So pleeeeeeese tell me how you respond and what success you have with it!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ugh, I had a posse of coworkers who would ask, “Why are you so upset/emotional?” when I would press them, professionally and very calmly, about missed work deadlines. They only did this to women. It was infuriating.

      2. bleh*

        He was trying to undercut what you said ahead of your saying it, likely because you were smarter and better prepared in those meetings.

        “How strange you would say that, i’m having the best day. now about those tpc reports…”

      3. dealing with dragons*

        ya on thursday I was told I came over to someone “panicking” about something – no, I was “pre-mad” and coming over to verify whether I needed to actually be mad. I was told that something would be ready by September 7, then found out that someone usually had a quarter to complete a task that needed done by that date. I went to the architect to find out if that was a true statement (was not – everything is fine) so I didn’t get actual mad and start going up the chain.

        and I got asked if I needed a snickers. I’m a woman on an engineering team, so I felt like they might have well as asked if I was on my period.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Needed a snickers?!!


          Next they’ll be questioning yorkie bars because they’re only for men…

        2. ampersand*

          Wow. This is unacceptable behavior from male (or female, for that matter) colleagues.

          I’m curious, how did you respond to the snickers comment?

        3. AKchic*

          I am ruthless about that kind of thing.

          “What are you implying?” in a calm, even tone. Not quiet though. Never quiet. “And why would you think I’m panicking? Are you panicked about something? Why would I need a snickers? Please enlighten me.”

          Really make them spell it out for you and everyone else. Then, when they can’t, a disapproving “mmhmm” and a disappointed look and the “I expected better”. Document it all and let HR know.

          1. Zombeyonce*

            I work remotely and the only thing I miss about being in the office is giving responses like this to the mainsplainer coworker of mine. Unfortunately, he can’t see my raised eyebrow and pursed lips when he says things like this, and looks go so far!

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I absolutely love this approach, especially when done with a completely bland and unassuming air.

        4. Meercat*

          Given the ‘inner diva ads’ that snickers used to run (why oh why Aretha, Liza and Joan did you lend your awesomeness to this nonsense????) – yeah, totally the equivalent of asking if you’re PMSing…. The worst thing is I would have been so mad, that if I then tried to respond they’d only feel vindicated….

            1. MayLou*

              This is interesting because we have those adverts in the UK too, but I’ve only seen them featuring men (with bonus racism! Hurrah!).

        5. Jess*

          While I completely agree that it sounds like someone you work with suuuuucks, I have to admit I wouldn’t immediately associate ‘snickers’ with ‘PMSing’.

          Any OTHER chocolate, sure.

          But Snickers (here, at least) ran a series of ads along the lines of “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry”, with the idea that the people flying off the handle were ‘hangry’. The ads I remember all had men in them.

      4. boo bot*

        The main thing that works, for me, is to immediately cease interacting with anyone who does this and pretend they’ve vanished from the face of the Earth.

        Unfortunately, this is frequently impractical. I actually learned from watching my mother: remain completely calm (easy, right!?) and just steadfastly contradict them, every single time. It works better if you can say something like, “that’s not true” rather than “I’m not upset,” because it puts the focus back on the statement instead of you defending your actions or emotional state. So:

        Dick: I know you were upset about the decision…
        Jane: That’s not true.
        Dick: I just don’t want you to be upset if we talk about it.
        Jane: As I said, you’re not correct about that – I was happy with the decision; can we start the meeting?
        Dick: I just know you get upset.
        Jane: That’s not correct.
        Dick: Come on, you know how you get.
        Jane: I’m not sure what you’re referring to, and I don’t know why we’re spending time talking about my emotional state – is there something *you’re* upset about?
        Dick: See? Now you’re upset again!
        Jane: That’s not true.

        Okay, so I know that doesn’t look like a successful interaction, but the point isn’t to convince Dick of anything, because he’s chosen his path. The point is, everyone watching the interaction, like Jane’s boss (or Jane’s daughter) has seen one person being weirdly insistent about someone else’s feelings, and one person calmly refusing to engage with the weirdness. Plus, it feels better than getting flustered. And hopefully if Dick is less of a… persistent nuisance, it might go more like:

        Dick: I know you were upset about the decision…
        Jane: That’s not true.
        Dick: Oh.
        Jane: So, business talk?
        Dick: Business talk!

      5. Maria Lopez*

        Try to flip it back in the moment. Like, “Charlie, stop projecting your emotions onto me. It’s ok if you’re upset.”

      6. Camellia*

        These are all great! I’m going to make notes of these in case I encounter this in the future.

        1. Cat Meowmy Admin*

          Same!! I’m bookmarking this thread for the same reasons, and because I’m going through this myself!

      7. Jadelyn*

        I employ a slow head tilt and a vaguely puzzled expression paired with a faint smile, as if they’re being very silly but you’re finding it amusing more than anything else (like a very young child parroting the things they’ve heard their parents saying), and say mildly, “What an…odd…thing for you to think. Anyway…” and then continue on with what I was going to say.

        Tone is key – you have to say it so calmly that there’s no possible way you could sound upset, and the skeptical pause around “odd” should imply that you’ve got plenty of other words you’d use to describe his behavior, but you’re picking the most work-appropriate word to use at the moment.

        Because with that kind of jackass, any sort of defensiveness at all will be twisted into support for his initial claim. He’s trying to undermine you with that, so you undermine him right back with condescension and indulgence, as if he’s a child trying to get adult attention by saying swear words. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend actually physically patting him on the head and telling him to run along, but that’s the vibe you’re going for.

    2. Birch*

      Yes yes yes, please push back on this. It can so easily snowball into exactly those types of assertions that “you were upset” “you didn’t want to do this work” “you forgot x, y, z” and others who hear only Coworker’s end of that might start wondering.

      And OP, you also need to sit down with her and clear this up thoroughly before the school year starts. I’ve been in the situation where these false assertions are accompanied by someone resolutely refusing to understand my simple and clear sentence (quite similar to your “you forgot” “I am not finished” sequence, which gave me chills). If this is the case, you need to know right away both for your own mental health and so you can rope in your manager to help deal with it.

      1. boo bot*

        Yes – if she’s talking to others about you, that could end up being a bigger deal than it seems right now. I only addressed the “you forgot”-type statements, but I think it’s also important to push back against the rest of it: if she’s telling you how to do something you’ve been doing for 20 years, don’t just ignore it, or say, “I’ve got it, thanks,” because both of those could be construed as your taking her advice (and therefore needing her advice.) Say, “I know,” or “I know, I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” or something else that conveys that you’re not relying on her to tell you how to do your job.

    3. JSPA*

      I’d ask what’s going on with her. Not because I want to know the inner workings of her mind, but because it might make her take stock. Maybe she has anxieties, or gives herself a gold star for finishing things early, or–who knows–maybe she actually WAS tasked, unbeknownst to you, with showing you the ropes, and is searching for ways to do that. More likely, she needs to correct herself, when she’s correcting you, and you can redirect her there.

      “I’m planning to have it done on [date] because it’s not due until [date]. Is there a reason on your side that we need to move the date up?”

      “I am comfortable continuing to write up parental interactions as I’ve been doing for the past 20 years. Is there a specific reason you’re not comfortable with that? Have you been asked to correct me on it?”

      “I have no anxieties around public speaking, I am not generally at a loss for words, and I am comfortable saying the things I need to say.Was there a reason you were prompting me, when I was talking? If you forgot to say something that you had wanted to say, I would have been glad to yield the floor to you at the end, for 30 seconds. But I find it disconcerting and awkward to have someone try to put their words in my mouth, especially just as I’m rising to speak.”

      1. PollyQ*

        +1 for all of these, because, in fact, there clearly IS something going on with co-worker (even if it’s just a compulsive need to correct other people).

    4. Kiki*

      Maybe I’m especially reluctant to characterize anyone’s actions, emotions, and state of mind, but I was very surprised the teacher would say “you forgot” when the document wasn’t due yet. I always assume my peers have a reason for why they did what they did, even if I disagree and think they should change it. I would definitely be sure to push back and assert your competence. “No, I did not forget, I am planning on writing that section this week.” “Thank you, but I know what I need to say.”

      I always hate it when people tell me what my emotions are because besides my partner, family, and closest friends, they are usually wrong! My face is just always like this!

      1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        If someone pulled the “you forgot” thing on me when I was midway through something I don’t know if I could keep it together! WTF. And also, what quicker way to make me angry than telling me I’m angry?!

    5. Clay on my apron*

      I like your idea of directly contradicting her. In fact, I’d just say “no I didn’t”, and look at her expectantly. Not even follow up with “… I haven’t finished”. Make it uncomfortable for her to give you “advice”. Being patient is appropriate if this happened once or twice, but after multiple instances I don’t think you have to soften it.

      1. JSPA*

        Good point. For all the situations where “no is a complete sentence” is unnecessarily curt, this is the rare case where it would actually work perfectly, if delivered as you describe.

    6. Maria Lopez*

      A nice response to “you forgot” could be, “I know you don’t know how these things work, being new to the profession, but XYZ isn’t due until next week. Did you forget that?”

      1. CAS*

        I had a similar thought. Turn it around so the other teacher has to explain it: “If it’s not due until next week, then why are you assuming I forgot?”

      2. Jessica*

        Woah, that’s a super aggressive response! OP and the coworker are technically peers, and there’s no need to point out the difference in their levels of experience (unless maybe they’re debating how to approach a specific situation with a student).

        1. valentine*

          there’s no need to point out the difference in their levels of experience
          There is: The coworker is insufferably condescending and doubled down on volunteering she assigned herself the task of checking OP’s work.

    7. Jaydee*

      I think the idea to point out that you didn’t forget is a good one. It sounds like if the LW isn’t repeating the exact same wording back, they end up talking past each other. And in some circumstances that could be legit. “I’m still working on X and have plenty of time to finish” doesn’t necessarily preclude “I forgot to do section G subpart 17(a)(iii).” Being clear that you *didn’t* forget, you have consciously chosen to do that part later, cuts off the underlying concern that the co-teacher has. She might pivot to a new concern (Will you remember later? Will you have enough time?) but then you can return to the larger message of “this is not your responsibility to look out for me and how I do my work, and your efforts to ‘help’ are not actually helping.”

    8. boop the first*

      I don’t know if it makes a difference at all, but instead of saying “no I didn’t,” I will usually switch it to “wait, why do you think I forgot?” Just because, I could say anything about my own intentions and no one is required to believe me. But the accusers could go ahead and take a moment to think about their prejudice that their coworkers are just bumbling fools and where that prejudice came from. And then explain it to me. Usually, they feel embarrassed and go silent instead.

      1. Cat Meowmy Admin*

        I like that. Turn it back around on that person and make them think. Sometimes people need to experience a little discomfort to hopefully realize that they are or may be off base.
        (And on the inside I’d be thinking “and you forgot to stay in your lane”.)

  7. Kiki*

    I think you should definitely have the talk Alison suggests in her first approach. It would be great if that works and the teacher completely stops, but habits are hard to break. If it happens afterward sparingly throughout the year, keep being firm about your competence the way you already are. If it happens a few times in a row, I would have another chat with her and ask why she thinks you need that extra guidance. It sounds like it’s more a “her” thing than a “you” thing and making her realize that might be helpful to her. Why *is* she spending so much time auditing the work of other people unnecessarily?

    1. juliebulie*

      I’m wondering if maybe she doesn’t have enough to do. She wouldn’t have time to critique the other teachers’ work if she was given additional time-consuming responsibilities.

  8. NJ Anon*

    Had a similar issue with a colleague. I would smile and say, “I know, I’ve been doing this for 10 years.” I left that job shortly after so not sure if she still does it. But, yeah, super annoying.

    1. pcake*

      That’s exactly what I would say – in the case of the OP, it would be “I know – I’ve been doing this for 20 years” with a friendly smile.

    2. boop the first*

      Maybe it’s equally annoying, but I like to go the opposite way:
      “Ha ha, thanks! It’s my FIRST DAY!”

  9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Argh how frustrating, I wonder if this is only due to the fact that you “share” a room together. Is that a setup that you’ve had before or do you usually have your own? I’ve always been under the impression that classrooms with two teachers [I had one of those back in elementary school], they always seemed like a tag-team instead of two separate individuals. So I could imagine this is just kind o one of those things where she thinks she’s “watching out” for you and helping out, since she’s used to it? And if it’s a different set up for you, perhaps it’s just not your ideal setup? [Again this is a guess and giving her the benefit of the doubt.]

    I think it’s good that you have called her out on things and I hope this next school year she does better knowing you don’t like her mother-henning you! I know some folks have no ability to turn off their “Teacher” mode, which may also be in play here, even around other teachers. I have seen it and I’m like “OMG they talk to each other in that manner I thought was reserved for students!” [Since the way you tend to speak to students is patient and over-explanation and sounds absolutely condescending if you’re talking to a peer but makes sense when you’re you know, teaching someone something new.]

    1. Edianter*

      Re: shared classrooms, it really depends. I had a shared classroom with another teacher, but we had different areas of expertise and never shared classes/co-taught. If one of us was currently teaching in the classroom, it was the other’s planning time OR scheduled-elsewhere time. (We both had roles that had us occasionally teaching elsewhere in the building.)

      Especially considering budget constraints, etc., it’s really not unusual for two teachers to have to share a space without necessarily sharing a workload. (Less common in elementary education, but extremely common in middle/high school.)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Ah that makes sense too! My setup was that we had a morning teacher and then they left and we had an afternoon teacher. So they were often working on the same projects with us, lots of overlap for projects kind of stuff.

        But I do forget that some teachers don’t even have a permanent classroom…and they can just float around as well. Which I would assume also leads to meddlesome nonsense as well :(

        1. EmKay*

          It’s a giant PITA, let me tell you. I always had an extra large backpack, stuffed full of books and binders and papers, and that’s only for the next class or two. Some days I wish I had a trolley.

  10. Bunny*

    I’m afraid that I might be siding with the “helpful” one, she’s been doing this 20 years, yes, she has experience, has she fallen into bad habits and/or become stubborn with outdated practices. Things have changed in the last 20 years, just because she only has 4 years of experience doesn’t mean she is too green to understand what she is doing.

    As for “auditing her work”, absolutely, audit away, it’s a collaborative document that they have shared responsibility for , they should check each others work. As long as it is done in a constructive manner and they have subject matter expertise I am more than happy to have a colleague look over my work.

    The other teacher may not be doing the best job as far as approach but the letter writer comes off to me as opposed to having a collaborative work arrangement and that can often become toxic.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      It doesn’t sound like this other teacher is being constructive, though. “You forgot to do X” on a project that is explicitly not yet complete, and after being told that that’s still on the to-do list, isn’t helpful; it’s annoying.

      1. LCL*

        Yes. There is one person in my group who sometimes has to be told I’M. NOT. FINISHED. YET. His intentions are good and he does good work, he just lives and works at 3X the speed of the rest of us.

        1. valentine*

          has she fallen into bad habits and/or become stubborn with outdated practices.
          This isn’t the coworker’s to police.

          As for “auditing her work”, absolutely, audit away
          No; that’s not part of the task.

          Coworker needs to mind her own business. Who is she to diagnose OP with needing help? Why didn’t she ask OP to QA coworker’s portion of the document? Is she the only one who doesn’t need help?

      2. nonymous*

        While I agree that the “you forgot” comment is incredibly assumptive and unhelpful, I also wonder if this is her way of expressing anxiety regarding timelines. It could be that she wanted to take the last week to collaborate and edit their parts into a single voice, while OP is thinking that once she has filled in her bits the document is done, no editing required.

        What I’ve found to be really helpful when working with people who I haven’t developed a previous rapport with is being super clear about when I’m going to start working on my bit (and when they should get worried), as well as the hand-off process. I’m really struggling with a co-worker right now and what is helping me get through it is explaining when she declines to give feedback in early stages only to critique fundamental details at the end, it means re-doing steps XYZ. And we need to ask supervisor for more time if she is unable to give input regarding content before the rendering stage is complete. I’m not getting to the finish line faster, but at least I’m also not bearing the blame.

        1. Darcy Pennell*

          I don’t think it’s helpful to speculate on whether the annoying coworker has anxiety. That’s not the LW’s concern. The LW’s concern is how to stop the annoying behavior. They share the same space but they aren’t working on a collaborative project. All the examples in the letter are about the coworker inserting herself into the LW’s work. The LW doesn’t need to be a team player and accept overbearing “help” when there is no team.

          1. Darcy Pennell*

            I reread the letter and see that one of the examples was about a shared document. I was wrong about that part.

            1. valentine*

              It could be that she wanted to take the last week to collaborate and edit their parts into a single voice
              That’s her problem, then, and she shouldn’t get to make it OP’s. Also, she could have said that at any time. But I doubt it’s the case because she doesn’t play martyr. She has no problem with no one monitoring her.

              1. MaryAnne Spier*

                OP: just to clear up what the document was, it was a progress report on a student. It’s basically checking a box for each objective and putting a comment (a sentence or two). She was responsible for some objectives and I was responsible for others. It wasn’t a case where there needed to be a single voice or anything. She was looking at it and saw that I hadn’t finished some of the objectives for one of the kids, which again, was due the following week, and assumed I forgot them.

          2. Spencer Hastings*

            I didn’t see any speculation about the coworker having anxiety—“expressing anxiety” could just refer to the emotion, and it makes sense to read it that way (arguably more sense than bringing up a disorder out of nowhere).

            1. Observer*

              Sure, but it’s STILL super unhelpful. And, given the other examples of her behavior, if the coworker is anxious in the non-pathological sense, then she needs to get over herself. Because the only way for this to be non-pathological is if she believes that the OP is going to mess up. That’s rude and annoying, to put it mildly.

        2. Parenthetically*

          It could be that she wanted to take the last week to collaborate and edit their parts into a single voice, while OP is thinking that once she has filled in her bits the document is done, no editing required.

          Then she needs to use her words like a adult and explain that, not just repeat “You forgot to do this part!” even after OP told her that no, she didn’t forget.

        3. Observer*

          @Parenthetically is 100% correct. This is ESPECIALLY important for someone whose very job includes teaching students to use their words.

          In general this kind of speculation is not helpful. If there is anxiety that is based in fact, the the coworker needs to do what you have done and EXPLAIN what the problem is. It’s not on the OP to read her mind. On the other hand, if the coworker just has more generalized anxiety, then it’s on her to get that under control and stop being so rude. Again, it’s not on the OP to turn into a pretzel to accommodate it.

          The bottom line is that whether or not the coworker is anxious or not, it doesn’t really change the OP’s options. If the coworker were writing in, your advice would be on target. But that’s not who is writing in, and the OP doesn’t have the power nor the obligation to implement your suggestions.

    2. Degen From Upcountry*

      Checking each other’s work is different than telling your coworker they “forgot” to do something that they’re still in the process of completing.

    3. Birch*

      I think you missed the bit where the document wasn’t due for another week. Coworker kept saying that OP forgot to do some of the work, but there was no way for her to know that because OP wasn’t finished with it yet. You can’t check work that isn’t done. Collaboration also involves a lot of respecting boundaries and respecting each others’ expertise as well as offering your own opinions. In the situations OP describes, the coworker doesn’t even wait for OP to do the work (the document, or speak) before offering her way to do it, so there’s no way she could be offering anything useful.

      1. JSPA*

        If someone (say) does 95% of their share of a collaborative document by day 2, and the final 5% remains untouched on day 10, then even if it’s not due until day 15, I can see checking in with them. It’s the ASSERTION of forgetting, vs a simple inquiry, that makes this weirdly, “I mistakenly somehow believe I’m in your head, thinking your thoughts, and can tell you what they are.”

        Sounds like neither of them are being very direct in telling the other what they need from them, though. Whether that’s breathing room or moving up a deadline so they can both feel relaxed about the task being complete.

        1. Birch*

          Well, exactly, but coworker wasn’t checking in on OP, she directly asserted that OP didn’t do the work. If she was checking in on her, she would have phrased it differently and that would have been an entirely different situation.

          Although… I don’t really agree that checking in before the deadline is OK either unless there was a reason to move up the deadline. Just let it go and let other people manage their own work time unless it affects you.

          1. banzo_bean*

            I agree, I don’t think she was checking in OP, since she repeated “you forgot XYZ” after the OP replied “it’s not due for a week”.
            If this is case of the other teacher “checking in” on OP, she needs to learn to communicate more directly. “When will you have XYZ done, I’d like to review it before submitting the document.”

        2. Kiki*

          Exactly, I was thinking the same thing. If someone’s work were in a place where it could be considered done but they didn’t include something I thought should be included, I might also ask them about it. I wouldn’t say “you forgot,” though. I would say something along the lines of, ” I was reading through your work on X last night and noticed you didn’t include Z.” Then they have the freedom to say they’re still working, or decided not to include it, or say they forgot, if that’s the case.
          It sounds like LW’s coworker has other issues, but I’ve found that when working with someone who is overbearing on projects, giving sub-deadlines helps. Something like: “I’ll have the intro done by the 4th, the background done by the 8th, and we can have both are parts entirely done 3 days before the deadline so we can each read it through and critique.”

      2. Bunny*

        This might be some of my own, uh, OCD behavior but if something is due in a week that both mine and my colleagues name is going on and let looks like my colleague has been procrastinating on it, I would be concerned.

        I fully believe that the co-worker has approached this in not the best way but the OP seems very convinced that they inherently know what they are doing better just by virtue of their longer experience.

        1. MaryAnne Spier*

          OP here: No, I don’t assume that I am always doing a better job than she is. I resent the assumption on her part that I need reminders and directions on basic, easy things. As I said in my letter, she really is great at her job. I would just prefer her to be great at her job on her stuff and let me be great at my own stuff. Boundaries.

          1. valentine*

            looks like my colleague has been procrastinating on it, I would be concerned.
            You can avoid this by agreeing to a plan at the start and not assigning your colleague secret benchmark deadlines. They get to procrastinate; unless assigned to do so, you shouldn’t police their process. It doesn’t sound like these two are collaborating any further than doing different bits. If OP finishes five minutes before deadline, they’ll still have met the deadline.

          2. Lilly*

            I might casually advise her that most teachers do not hit their “peak” until about 10 years in. I know that I certainly stopped having “rookie” problems at the decade mark. Experience matters. She’s only four years in and condescends to give a 20 year veteran advice!? Unsolicited?!?

            Oh hell no.

            Tell her directly that you do not appreciate being monitored/micromanaged by a less experienced peer and that her presumption looks badly on her. Even if she were correct, she isn’t your administrator. Hard stop.

            I had a paraprofessional/aide try to tell me how to teach my class when I was a very young teacher. I went to my union and complained that I wouldn’t tolerate being evaluated by a peer, let alone an inferior. (In my state paraprofessionals/aides only need a high school diploma while teachers need a master’s degree.) They rectified the situation right away.

            Stand your ground. Some people are just button pushers and apparently you’ve found one!

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I was a para for only two years. I saw a young teacher do a couple of really stupid things; you better believe I corrected him.

              I was not his inferior.

          3. qvaken*

            OP, I’ve had a similar problem in my profession for a while and I don’t think it says anything negative about your opinions of your colleague’s work. There is something very demoralising about unsolicited advice and/or co-workers approaching you with the assumption that you probably don’t know how to do your own work. It feels particularly demoralising when the people making those assumptions and giving you advice or corrections actually have less experience than you do. You’re not alone.

        2. Pipe Organ Guy*

          If there’s concern that perhaps the colleague has been procrastinating, I think there are ways to have that conversation rather than saying bluntly, “You forgot to do X.” In this case, the OP has said more than once, “I’m not finished with it. It’s due next week.” I think the onus is on the “helpful” one to respect the difference in working styles. It never seems to go well when one person tries to change another person’s working style unless it is truly adversely affecting results, and then that pressure needs to come from above, not from a peer.

          I disagree with your last paragraph, particularly because OP had confirmation from another teacher who had had to tell the “helpful” one to stay in her own lane.

        3. Approval is optional*

          Totally agree with all the comments saying that the colleague isn’t being collaborative. And, as this isn’t the first time a teacher has felt the need to put the colleague back in her own lane, I think it is more likely the colleague is being unprofessional than the LW is refusing to collaborate.
          With regard to the report though, why would it have been reasonable for the LW’s colleague to assume the LW was procrastinating in the circumstances outlined in the letter?

        4. Observer*

          No. Firstly, the OP’s coworker has approached it in almost the WORST possible way. Because she made a bald assertion and refused to take on board the OP’s response. If that’s OCD speaking, it’s the sufferer’s issue to deal with.

          Also, keep in mind that the coworker is sticking her nose into places it DEFINITELY does not belong. Her name is not going on the documentation the OP is doing. Why SHOULD the OP accept that? Especially since it is clear that she in fact did NOT have anything new to tell the OP.

    4. Purt's Peas*

      Hmm, I disagree. An absolute fundamental foundation to a collaborative work environment needs to be: I trust you to do your work, and you trust me to do my work. If that foundation isn’t there, then you get resentment from everyone and you cannot collaborate.

      It’s certainly possible that OP’s practices aren’t quite aligned with the school’s practices, but it still behooves the coworker to help the OP in a helpful, contextual, and collaborative way. For instance, instead of, “Here’s how to document a parent encounter,” it would be, “Heads up that at Grassy Hill High, the principal prefers we document this stuff on yellow postits specifically.”

    5. Zephy*

      I think the issue LW had with the shared doc was less that her co-teacher was looking it over, and more that said co-teacher brought it up as “you forgot to do a thing,” when in fact LW was still working on it, was aware that the thing was not done, and was further aware that the deadline to do it was still a week out. Without knowing what the report was they were working on, it’s also possible LW was waiting on information from someone else before she could proceed with her part. “It’s not done because I haven’t done it yet” and “it’s not done because I forgot to do it” are two different situations.

    6. Moray*

      If she’s only ever making corrections and not asking for advice, that’s collaborating–it’s being a mistrusting busybody.

      All of the examples of “help” that the coworker has offered have been on very simple things that are not really meant to be collaborated on. I sort of doubt that how to speak on a conference call or fill out a form or double-check a list have changed much in 20 years.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Yeah, and the conference call thing sounds really infuriating: there’s nothing you can do about it in the moment, since everyone else on the call would hear you if you said something to her!

        1. valentine*

          there’s nothing you can do about it in the moment, since everyone else on the call would hear you if you said something to her!
          Perfect time for “This isn’t my first rodeo, Patience.”

    7. Shan*

      None of what this other teacher is doing sounds constructive, though. Telling someone “they forgot” when there’s still a week in which to work on something is silly, unless they were having a conversation on what they’ve done to that point, and whispering talking points to someone during a meeting is honestly quite obnoxious. And sure, people can get stuck in their ways, and there’s always room to improve, but documenting parent interactions doesn’t strike me as something that could become particularly “outdated.”

    8. Blarg*

      I also wonder if it is a turf/intimidation thing that may not be conscious. She’s been in the classroom for 4 years and maybe felt like she had a good thing going, building a system and confidence, and then a very experienced teacher from a different generation crash lands into your room, not by the choice of either of you … I can see it being disruptive and stressful for the younger teacher. That doesn’t make it a) OP’s “fault” or b) ok that the teacher is offering unsolicited advice. But maybe helpful framing. It doesn’t sound like OP is thrilled with her new school in general, and would have been happy to leave, so all in all, everyone might be unhappy and walking on eggshells … and stuck next to each other A LOT.

      1. Moray*

        This is a good point. The fact that she wasn’t the one relocated is probably very relevant–“oh, you’ve joined my classroom, you’re new, I need to explain how everything is done and establish my competence because otherwise it feels like I’ve been given a babysitter.”

        1. valentine*

          I can see it being disruptive and stressful for the younger teacher.
          She’s also condescended to a different coworker, though.

      2. Jamey*

        I think it’s valuable to put yourself in the other person’s shoes in this way, but I also think the fact that other faculty members have experienced this same thing from this teacher makes it more likely that it’s just an annoying habit that she has (and should work on).

      3. Observer*

        The thing is that she’s done this to other teachers. So, while I do agree that trying to see where someone else is coming from is always good, in this case it really does look like the OP is dealing with someone who doesn’t seem to know the difference between her students and her colleagues and who is a bit too judgemental.

    9. NotAnotherManager!*

      She’s not being collaborative, she’s telling OP what to do and treating her like one of her student unsure of how to do her job at all. Her “collaboration” on the document is repeatedly dunning OP for not being done with something not due for another week. Maybe she’s young and enthusiastic and thinks OP is working on outdated methods, but she’s going about their interactions in a very uncollaborative manner, assuming she knows best an OP doesn’t have a clue. This isn’t about who’s right or wrong but how adults should treat each other in a productive team.

    10. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, I was thinking the same. There’s also the fact that the OP, while certainly not new to teaching, is new to *that school* – are the processes all definitely the same? the colleague doesn’t know her or her work and may have been going over basic stuff to make sure they’re all on the same page. Certainly it sounds as though she’s doing this a lot, but getting mad and stewing over being questioned because you’ve been doing something a long time is not my favourite mindset.

      1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

        But even if they aren’t the same, unless the Younger Teacher was assigned to go over that stuff with LW, it’s not her lane to cover it *unless LW asks*.

      2. Observer*

        Not my favorite mindset either. But not because she’s objectively wrong. Rather because it’s taking too much of her time and energy. Keep in mind that some of what she’s saying is definitely not about “we do things THIS way in this school, unlike other schools.” And some of that she is saying is simply rude and inappropriate even when it IS your job to oversee the other person.

        Also, the OP is clearly open to feedback – they did ask another teacher about this. And, importantly, it turns out that this is a pattern with the coworker.

    11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP doesn’t strike me as oppositional to collaboration. And the coworker’s behavior is not at all in the spirit of cooperation or collaboration. Repeatedly telling someone “they forget” something when it’s pre-deadline, in addition to suggesting scripts while on a phone call, is not inept collaboration—it’s an attempt to “project manage” a peer who has no indication of requiring that oversight.

      1. Jamey*

        And in front of other faculty members and parents!!!

        It completely undermines OP’s authority and competence. She’s totally right to be upset.

        1. Maria Lopez*

          Yes, another one of those moments where you can say something like, “Teacher X, can you please stop whispering? It’s interfering with that I am saying to Parent Y.”
          A person like this has to always be put on the defensive, because currently that is what she is doing to you, like her response to the text of , “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

    12. smoke tree*

      I think this person just sounds like a garden variety know-it-all. Who steps in to give someone prompts in the middle of a meeting? If she had some relevant information to make the LW aware of, she could frame it in an actually helpful way, such as giving the LW some needed context before the meeting.

    13. Lance*

      The trouble here lies in your last sentence: it’s hard not to oppose something when the approach is as bad as it sounds to be here.

      Sure, maybe there are issues, maybe there are things that OP could do better, maybe even with this coworker’s aid. But the fact that the coworker is being completely obnoxious about this, insisting that OP forgot to do their share of the work (even in spite of being told by the OP that it’s not finished yet, which would tell me that they’re not forgetting; they just haven’t done it yet) and offering advice completely unsolicited, without any input from the OP, are the real issues here, and should be shut down. If the coworker wants to help, they can work with the OP, not just fire off advice whenever they feel like it.

    14. Delphine*

      OP has been working continually for 20 years, she didn’t work in education 20 years ago, so there’s no reason to imagine she hasn’t kept up with newer practices or that she has fallen into bad habits that need to be corrected by a colleague (vs. a supervisor). A teacher with 4 years of experience has 4 years of experience–she knows what she’s doing, but her experience can’t compare to someone who has been doing the same work for 5 times as long.

      1. MaryAnne Spier*

        OP here: thank you! Right, 20 continuous years, not a few years with a long gap. That’s not to say that I’m perfect (no teacher is perfect!) but I’ve got the hang of it by now.

        My coworker does a great job. I don’t see her as a novice or as floundering. It’s not that she’s giving me bad advice; it’s that she’s completely overstepping boundaries.

        1. StephThePM*

          If this is your real name, consider asking Allison to edit it, just so you remain anonymous.

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            It’s a character from the Baby Sitters Club books in the 80s and 90s.

          2. MaryAnne Spier*

            Thanks, but it’s not. Mary Anne is a character in the Babysitters Club books that I loved as a kid. ;)

          3. Jennifer Thneed*

            Names are pretty easy to google. I do it all the time.

            I didn’t realize for the longest time that Det. Amy Santiago and Princess Consuela Banana Hammock were from tv shows, and I’ve even seen Friends a few times! I just don’t watch much tv… And I knew of Game of Thrones but I had no idea that Cersei and Sansa etc were from there.

        2. Wandering*

          Maybe you can find a polite way to point out that rather than being helpful, she’s actually being disrespectful. It would be helpful to you for her to understand that, & helpful to her for her to understand that.

          It is wildly disrespectful for someone to (try to) feed a colleague lines & strategy in public, as she did on your conference call. If you’re feeling patient you might walk her thru that incident & ask what she’d understand from someone doing that to her, what other participants would understand about her, & what the parent(s) would understand about her. But it might be easier to ask your principal to chat with her about professional norms with colleagues. And the principal might be more interested in doing so if a parade of teachers request it – all in the context of her being great at so many things but this piece needs attention from leadership.

          It’s easy to speculate on why, but more useful I think to point out the implications & impact that she is clearly not seeing. And better for *her* to learn this early in her career. Also, this isn’t at all about you & I hope you can reframe it as her issues you’re on the receiving end of rather than her issues with you/your work. We all have our blind spots, hers sounds miserable. Good luck.

        3. Cat Meowmy Admin*

          @MaryAnne (LW) – I wish you all the best in dealing with this situation. And huge Thank You for your 20+ years in the teaching profession! Alison’s advice is excellent as well as the majority of like-minded commenters. And although your colleague may “mean well, just trying to help”, she’s definitely NOT approaching it in a respectful or collaborative way. Quite the opposite, imo.
          I can totally relate, as I have been, and currently am, going through similar myself (Admin of 40 years); as well as having the situation taking up valuable “headspace”. It’s sooo difficult to manage that, I know.
          You have been kind in describing your colleague and that shows your professionalism and integrity. You are a “role model” for her, not the other way around.

    15. AnonyMouse*

      I’m not sure I 100% agree with you on the way the LW came off in terms of tone, but I do suspect that there may be more than just the coworker contributing to the LW’s feelings on the situation. Did they have their own classroom for 20 years, and now they’re sharing and frustrated by that? Plus the “helpful one” has been in the classroom/district for 4 years while the LW was in their first year in that district… it kind of sounds like there might be some implicit turf wars happening between the two of them that’s contributing to this conflict.

      In my opinion, the first two examples were annoying but relatively innocuous. The “helpful one” could have thought that there may have been a difference between districts in how reporting was done and that’s why she jumped in to help. She also maybe didn’t realize that your work styles were different on the collaborative project. Could her approach have been different on both of these? Absolutely, but I don’t see malicious intent there. The one that I feel like the LW should readdress, because I’m not sure she handled it properly with the weekend text, is the conference interjecting. To me, that would be frustrating regardless of who is more senior.

      I think I’m leaning toward the beginning of the year meeting being a good idea, even coming at it from a “now that we’ve worked together for a year, I’d like for us to establish some clearer boundaries for working together” and then be as specific as possible (i.e. “I prefer to use the full amount of time allotted to work on projects. If you see I’ve started something, but haven’t completed it and the deadline hasn’t passed, that means I’m still working on it and don’t need a reminder. If I need your assistance, I will ask you for it”). The LW may also discover that they are doing things that frustrate the “helpful one.”

    16. Observer*

      Wow, “shared document” does NOT mean “audit someone else’s work”, or even necessarily collaborative work. And starting by accusing someone of forgetting to do something hardly a “collaborative” approach. Repeating that when you’ve been informed what ACTUALLY is going in goes from “not collaborative” to verging on hostile and definitely rude.

      The assumption that “she’s been in the field for 20 years, so I need to check her work that I have no involvement in, because she probably has gotten into bad habits” is a TERRIBLE way to deal with people. It’s also possibly illegal – The OP could easily be of age to be covered by ADEA.

      The OP comes off as being annoyed that this relatively new teacher is assuming – as you are – that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. If that assumption is based on her age, that’s not just annoying and inappropriate, it gross and ageist.

      1. MaryAnne Spier*

        OP here: We’re not really that far apart in age. I’m 40 and she’s like 34? Something like that. So I don’t think it’s ageism. I think it’s part of her personality. She’s said things in the past like, “I’m just so OCD.” I don’t think she actually has OCD. I think she’s using in the “I’m just very Type A and particular” way that really you shouldn’t use an actual medical term to describe… but I don’t think she’s being ageist.

    17. Massmatt*

      You could be right, but the coworker didn’t write in, she isn’t the one seeking advice here. We have the LW’s take on this, the instances in which the coworker has tried to “help” have not been at all helpful. LW also provides corroborating testimony that yes the coworker has trouble staying in her lane.

      Commenter upthread put it well that perhaps the coworker is in an “adolescent” phase where she thinks she knows everything and no one else knows anything.

      I am actually surprised the coworker is good at her job, in my experience people who do this tend to be mediocre at best.

    18. Mellow*

      Oh, brother, how does one have this impression, i.e. “…the letter writer comes off to me as opposed to having a collaborative work arrangement and that can often become toxic.”

      It’s nothing to do with collaboration and everything to do with boundaries! BOUNDARIES! Adults who micro-manage other adults are *craving* those adults to be in need, and in need of said micromanagers particularly. It’s called co-dependence, and talk about toxic. OMG.

      “…opposed to having a collaborative work arrangement…” LAUGHABLE!

      1. Paulina*

        Yeah, the coworker isn’t offering a collaborative work arrangement — she’s trying to have everything done her way. Whispering answers to someone who’s trying to talk isn’t collaboration. My read on this is that the younger teacher, already established in the school but now sharing her classroom, is trying to have everything as if she herself was doing them. She needs to learn to let go, and accept that other people do their things in their own way. But she’s not the one writing in.

  11. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I would wait and see if it improves, and if not use one of Alison’s scripts. I’d also add something about how she’s making you feel so that maybe she can relate. People who offer unsolicited advice often think they’re being super helpful when in reality they’re being judgmental. They’re telling you that you don’t know what you’re doing and they’re going to guide you to do it the “right” way.

  12. Bagpuss*

    Oof. That sounds incredibly frustrating.

    I would go with Alison’s first script, and explicitly say that you will ask her if you need any help, or a second opinion, and *then* if it continues you can refer back to that conversation and remind her that this is the jkind of thing youwere talking about.

    I t sounds as though you’ve already tried addressing it in the moment, and while that’s good, it doesn’t seem that she has realised / noticed that there is a pattern.

  13. S*

    Call her out on it every single time she does it, *maybe* she’ll finally get a clue. I had a coworker like this, most of the people on my team had more experience than him (I had ten years on him), yet for some reason he felt the need to constantly tell us what to do, call out errors publicly to our boss, just asinine crap. He left for a senior position at another company and gloated the entire departure-he would have X amount of people reporting to him, he would be influencing and writing the SOP, etc. He ended up leaving after seven months and came right back to our company for the same position but thankfully on another team because either the job was horrible or they couldn’t stand him. He immediately came back to our area his first day back and no one wanted to talk to him. Sometimes people are just total idiots.

  14. smoke tree*

    It sounds like what’s particularly annoying you is the assumed challenge to your competence and professionalism–I’ve had coworkers try to undermine me in similar ways, and it’s very aggravating. But the fact that you have twenty years of experience and she’s relatively new makes her behaviour actually quite ridiculous. In addition to talking to her about it, it might bother you less if you try to concentrate on the fact that she’s being very silly and any challenge to you is just within her own head. I’m wondering if she may be a little intimidated to share a classroom with you and this is her (very annoying) way of dealing with it.

  15. MissDisplaced*

    This us so annoying. I once experienced this with an intern at a company. She didn’t get that being put in charge of a project did not make her the boss or manager of people helping her do the project. Or that being in charge of a project means you don’t also do the work yourself. Sigh! She drove me nuts for months.

    Part of it (I think) is this younger generation is taught to be more aggressive at putting forth their ideas, and often that comes across as being overconfident, bossy and annoying to experienced colleagues, even if their ideas are good ones.

    If she continues to act this way towards you, you need to have a talk with her to stop what she’s doing and how that’s annoying to people. If she won’t stop, you go to her supervisor, because then it’s a behavioral issue. But they can come out of it!

      1. smoke tree*

        I don’t think it’s generational either, I think it’s more likely to be related to lack of experience. Interns don’t always know how to calibrate their gumption settings, and “taking initiative” is often talked up by career advisors.

      2. Moray*

        I don’t think it’s necessarily generational, but I think it can have a lot to do with what someone’s early education was like.

        In classroom discussions my freshman year of college, I was pretty good at spotting the classmates who went to hand-hold-y private schools versus huge, impersonal public schools, because the former were much more likely to think that every idea they had was genius and every thought they had needed to be heard immediately, and the latter knew that their peers didn’t want them to completely dominate a conversation.

        Some people get the “don’t overestimate yourself and underestimate everyone else” knocked into them when they’re young, and some people don’t.

        1. Cranky Neighbot*

          Ha, I was plenty obnoxious and I went to public school.

          Anyway, if this is generational, or education-related, do you have any advice for OP in that context?

      3. Vicky Austin*

        It’s not generational. I’m Gen X and I definitely went through a phase my first year out of college where I thought I knew everything, and so did many people who are the same age as me.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Oh, god, yes. I also oversee a job where people tend to stay a few years and then move up or out, so I see A LOT of first-year employees, about 75% of whom are in this phase. It’s not a Kids These Days, it’s a Not Enough Experience to Know What You Don’t Know. (And, yes, I’d like to go kick first-year-employee me in the shins. God, my manager was a saint. I got better!)

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Can we please not blame it on The Kids These Days ™? The kids are all right.

      I’ve gotten this from people in multiple generations, with lots of different reasons – from mansplaining to total cluelessness to manipulative jerk. I’ve gotten it most from boomer women who think they’re my mom, and there’s lots of examples here of non-kids (eg, the brother in his 40s) who do it.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        Attributed to Socrates by Plato, but ultimately author unknown:
        Socrates (469–399 B.C.)
        QUOTATION: The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

        1. boo bot*

          Kids these days! Always on their phones and social media, instead of interacting with each other, like we used to do!

          Kids these days! Rotting their brains with television, instead of reading books, like we used to do!

          Kids these days! Wasting their minds on French novels, instead of reading the classics, like we used to do!

          Kids these days! Reading from books, instead of memorizing epic poems and reciting them, like we used to do!

          Kids these days! Rotating their crops in three fields! Domesticating sheep! Painting on the walls of their caves! Burning their food with fire!

          It’s a scandal, I tell you.

          1. Mellow*

            Just because entire generations do stuff in a certain way doesn’t make it right.

            “Kids these days! Texting on their phones instead of actually driving like we used to do!” is a legitimate complaint.

        2. Seespotbitejane*

          I’m fascinated by “cross their legs.” All of this is either still standard etiquette stuff or I can at least tie it to a tradition I’m familiar with but I want to know why leg crossing was bad manners in ancient Greece.

          1. Allonge*

            I have seen crossing legs indicated as a sign of disrespect – so, etiquette stuff – in contemporary (ok, 20 years ago) West Africa (I want to say Ivory Coast, but again, 20 years ago, so I am not sure). We were in a student exchange programme and talking about cross-cultural communication issues.

            It was an excellent example of “no, baby Allonge, you don’t know everything yet”, as I had the same reaction as you – never heard of this. If anything, I was taught, as a girl, to do cross my legs sitting down.

      2. AnonyMouse*

        Agreed. We’re also making a huge assumption that the coworker is young. All we know is that they have 4 years of experience in teaching. They could have changed careers at some point and maybe are closer in age to the LW than we’re assuming. (I’m aware it’s probably unlikely, but just trying to provide more support for this not becoming a “Kids these days” argument that’s not on topic)

      3. Cat Meowmy Admin*

        @Jules- Ummm… Proud ‘Boomer Woman’ here! ;) And I certainly don’t think/act like I’m anyone’s mom lol! Just sayin’ :)
        Although I agree that many people across different generations do this – annoying AF, right?!

    2. JSPA*

      I’m an older generation by now, and was never explicitly taught what “being in charge of a project” does and does not entail. In fact, I’d say that it entails entirely different things, in different workplaces and for different projects–and that a manager is falling down in the job if they don’t tell a new person what “project manager” does and does not mean, in their workplace.

    3. I coulda been a lawyer*

      And maybe part of it was that they were an intern, ie someone there to learn this kind of thing that your company didn’t bother teaching.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        That is exactly what it was! The person overseeing her didn’t want to be bothered and gave her a project. I happened to be in charge of one area contained within in her project.

        It could be anyone of any age, this was just my example where it was super annoying. I mean, you’re an INTERN and you’re being demanding and bossy to a manager of a department? Not ok.
        It was somewhat her upbringing (being told to take charge to get ahead) and no one really overseeing what she was doing and/or ignoring her requests.

        In the end she turned out fine though, and was hired by the company.

    4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I don’t think it’s generational or a product of going to a private school. I have acted in just this kind of obnoxious way (and I’m still mortified about it 20 years later). I’m Gen X from a modest public school and a Midwest farming background. It’s just that I interpreted being put in charge of a project as being promoted and I was too naïve and full of my own smarts to realize that wasn’t the case.

  16. hello*

    I think going from your own classroom to sharing would be an adjustment no matter what. Alison’s advice all sounds solid, best of luck!

  17. JSPA*

    There’s this thing people do.

    Person A wants person B to be more [whatever]

    where [whatever] = talkative, quiet, louder, quieter, calmer, more ebullient, proactive, reactive, pushy, laid back, easygoing, by the book, methodical, free-form.

    Instead of coming out and asking for it, they decide that if they just model it more intensely, person B will understand how much better that approach is, and take the hint. So person A ramps up [whatever].

    Person B, whose style is [much less whatever], needless to say, does not “get the hint”–they double down on their pattern to balance out person A’s ever-more-extreme [whatever-ing]. They both get on each others nerves even before one or both of them starts to drop hints. They start to think that the other person is pretty dense, kind of a jerk, not great at the job, and perhaps not even that great a human being.

    I would not be at all surprised if this dynamic is going on here. Naming the dynamic, and naming the [whatever(s)] is a really powerful way to short circuit it–and also to appreciate that the other person is doing the job well, in their way, while you’re doing it well, in yours.

    Applies to non-work relationships, too.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Guess culture all the way, yeah. I still say Ask works better in diverse professional settings.

    2. ArtK*

      Ask or Guess culture is irrelevant here. The younger teacher doesn’t have the position or authority to get the OP to change how she handles her *own* tasks. She could straight up try to *order* the OP to finish that not-yet-due task, but she’d still be wrong.

      1. JSPA*

        It’s not ask vs guess culture, but it’s orthogonal to it.

        Let’s say something is eating the coworker. If she had asked for what she needed, e.g. the following:

        “I hate to impose, but I don’t sleep well if a project isn’t finished well before the formal deadline. Especially when I’m working with someone I haven’t worked with much before. Is there anyway we could pretend that the deadline is actually on Tuesday, rather than Thursday? I’ll understand if you can’t, but it would be lovely if you could.”


        “I’m really busy Wednesday through Thursday. I wanted to check in with you that you’re fine with everything in your section, including section V on the last page, so there’s no last-minute rush on my end. Also, which one of us is going to sign off and submit?”

        Or even,

        “I love being able to turn stuff in early, and I think it’s one of the things that makes the principal treat me as practically a rock star, because she’s so used to sending reminders. Would you be OK with doing that on our joint projects, too, whenever possible, starting with this one?”

        then, OP would not be anywhere near so irked.

        “I’m asking a favor that I admit is a favor for reasons I’m happy to justify” is so much better than, “I will shame you for not meeting the secret advance deadline that I set for us inside my head, for reasons known only to me.”

        1. Cat Meowmy Admin*

          Very well put, and exactly my thoughts too. The delivery of the right words, and timing, is everything.

  18. Samwise*

    AAM’s advice is spot on regarding most of these incidents. I would just say, you need to shut down the “helping” during meetings with parents because that is really unprofessional, out of place, and counter-productive. Immediately after any parent encounter where this happens, your colleague needs a come to Jesus meeting. If you have a pre-emptive big picture meeting, bring that up *specifically* as something that cannot ever happen again.

    — it can take the meeting off track
    — it irritates the parent
    — it undermines you
    — it makes her (the colleague) look unprofessional

  19. Flash Bristow*

    er what? I often offer to review or proofread reports / articles / whatever for friends (and when I worked in an office, colleagues) because I’m known to have a good standard of English, and people appreciate the extra eye to catch things they may have seen so many times that they haven’t noticed. (Not the same as checking *content* I realise, although sometimes that does occur.) But it’s an *offer* I make, which they can take up at any time – be it an initial rough draft with bullets to show the flow of paragraphs / thoughts, through to “if there’s nothing you spot, this is the final version I’ll turn in tomorrow”.

    But there’s such a difference between offering, and then IF they want to take you up on it, asking what stage they’re at and what type of feedback would help.

    OP really needs to be clear that she appreciates the offer to review (er, if that’s possible to say at all) but that she’ll ask as and when she’d appreciate the help, thanks.

    I’d also be ensuring teacher 2 can’t access a work in progress in order to comment – suppose she went further and one day ” helpfully” made a few tweaks? It shouldn’t be a possibility. OP please lock your work down, then say “thanks for the offer, if I reach the stage where a second eye would be helpful I’ll be sure to let you know! Now, back to…”

    1. Flash Bristow*

      Soz, the threading got broken.

      This was meant to to be a response to LCL, following and agreeing with Countess Bouchie, started by Bunny.

      (Argh, auto correct wanted to say countess douche. Not winning today! Anyone wanna proofread my… er, no, just joking. Wish it was Friday already…)

  20. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    I’ve seen this before in young teachers. They have a hard time getting out of teacher mode, even when talking to peers.

    Can you talk to your higher-ups about cutting out the shared work? This will never stop being an issue if she always gets stuff in two weeks before the deadline when everyone else sticks to the actual deadline.

    1. Middle School Teacher*

      Shared work is A Thing in teaching. OP can ask, but I doubt very much it will disappear.

  21. MMB*

    I have someone like this in my life. This person will never change. It’s who they are and what they do. However, I’ve found that I can politely, cheerfully say one of two things that will work.
    “I’ve got it. Thanks” or “Please stay in your lane.” Either works without causing drama. It’s still annoying and frustrating but it usually stops the conversation from going further.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah, I’m not super optimistic that this person is going to radically alter their way of thinking – adult bossy know-it-alls have been operating this way for a loooong time – but I’m hopeful that OP can learn to a) shut it down in the moment when it happens and b) make it a lot less personal and irritating.

  22. Scarlett*

    One way to tackle it when you return to school this fall is to have a start-of-year reflection conversation with the two of you. What if you both took time to discuss what worked and what didn’t last year so that this year’s collaboration could be better for both? Then, in the course of that conversation, you could bring up this issue as something that didn’t work and explain how you’d prefer for her to handle these types of examples. This would also allow her to share anything that’s on her mind with the way you interact with her. You could set up some sort of system of letting each other know when you’re “doing that thing again” in a way that feels safe and respectful for both.

    1. Properlike*

      This. Reflect, but make clear that you were too lax in enforcing your boundaries with her last year, and you’re going to commit to doing it this year. You think she’s great, she does her work well, you need the same from her. She is obviously not used to collaborating or sharing space, and probably does have a lot of insecurity about her own skills and reacting to feeling judged (not that you’re doing that), or is really one of those people who thinks she does it better than everyone else. I’ve worked with that second kind before and had to say, outright, “I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you, I have experience,” and, when she didn’t listen, a more direct, “This is not your job. You must stop doing this.” The target was huffy, but the message sunk in. It’s on the younger teacher to determine how this relationship is going to go.

  23. Clorinda*

    Teachers tend to be helpy by nature. (Source: am teacher.) Young teacher needs to dial that way back with her colleagues and maybe with her students too. You might bring that up, OP, purely in a spirit of helpfulness, of course!

  24. Delphine*

    I think there’s an easy explanation for why this is happening. OP is new to the school, so the helpful coworker who has been there for four years thinks of her as new to the job and in need of guidance–vs. new to the school with 20 years of experience under her belt and a clear understanding of how to do her job. Maybe just saying, “While I’m new to this school, I’ve been working as a teacher for twenty years and I know how to do this work. If I ever need help navigating something I’m unfamiliar with, I’ll ask.”

  25. Jaybeetee*

    As a teacher, is it possible to give her your finest Withering Glare For Naughty Children and drily say, “I got it, thanks”?

  26. eeh*

    To play devil’s advocate-the OP specifically pointed out that this was her colleague’s first job even though she’s taught for four years. In some high needs districts staying four years in quite rare; close to 50% of teachers new to the profession quit within 5 years. The other person might not be feeling especially respected either if she’s being treated as new

    1. MaryAnne Spier*

      OP here: just making sure I clarify that I don’t treat her as new or inexperienced. I never check over her work or give her unsolicited advice. I certainly would offer opinions if she asked for my input but I don’t look over her stuff. It’s not my place.

      1. JSPA*

        Part of me wonders if she wishes you did (?).

        Any sense if she comes from a family, friend group or subculture where getting all up in each other’s business is the way people show that they care?

        That doesn’t make it OK. It’s still irritating as all get-out.

        But if it turns out that it’s not a sign of her being judge-y or belittling, but of a really bad script for how to be pals (and in fact, she’d be delighted to get same back from you, NOT that it would be your job!) you might find in yourself a bit of “poor dear, she can’t help it” to tamp down the burning flood of “who the hell does she think she is.”

  27. LQ*

    I have and do work with some folks like this. The most important thing is to remember “you’re not the boss of me” and a shrug. It helps if you know that you’re on the right side of history/present/your actual boss.

    You are giving this coworker way to much pull with you, you are letting her be the boss of you (not actually, but more than she should be in your head). And a lot of it is shifting your attitude to not caring as much about her wanting something done or her way of doing it. You can push back, but don’t push back defensively. Push back from a place of “it’s a little weird that you’re trying to be my boss and I’m sure you mean well, but I’m going to do my job and you should do yours.”

    I’ve only directly addressed this once or twice. “You need to let me manage Person.” “You’re welcome to take that suggestion up with Boss.” (Who would have lit it on fire.) Mostly a lot of shrugging and smiling pleasantly and going about my day. (Most of these folks have said they really liked working with me too, so it didn’t create antagonism to just ignore their stuff.)

  28. Heidi*

    Class is in session, and the words of the day are “unsolicited” and “controlling.” Especially the part about doing the OP’s part of the project even though it wasn’t due yet. That speaks to something deeper than a desire to share the bounty of her wisdom in a good natured way. More like an anxiety about things not getting done if she doesn’t do it herself. It’s obnoxious, to be sure, but there is a chance that it will mellow with time and experience.

  29. RUKiddingMe*

    OP: “You do realize that I’ve been doing this job for almost the entirety if your existence so far, right?”

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yeah, I think RUKiddingMe was being sarcastic and wasn’t really suggesting you say this.

  30. Batgirl*

    I’d go with:
    *amused look* “Really?” *say whatever you want in the meeting*
    Or “Ironically this is unsolicited advice, but it can be seen as really overstepping in teaching when you tell a peer how to do our job, given how subjective it is”.
    Or *amused face* “You’re doing that thing again, guru Jen!”
    If she gets offended, throw up your hands, apologise and agree you shouldn’t be telling her how to do her job. Modelling! But dont get mad; it’s naive and I would treat it as such.

  31. Shay*

    The “I’m sorry you feel that way …” comment is very concerning. She didn’t take responsibility for her actions; rather, she shifted blame to you. This non-apology is empty and is an attempt to make you the problem. I suggest that you call her out in each instance and use the same words each time so she starts hearing them repeatedly. “I don’t need help with this – I’ve done it before.” Repeat-repeat-repeat.

    1. we're basically gods*

      Yeah, I’m surprised that people aren’t talking about that line! This woman, when called out, went straight to emotional manipulation. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’ll try to turn any other discussions into LW being the horrible villain who can’t accept any help.
      “I was just trying to help” is one of the worst sentences people can say.

    2. nuttysaladtree*

      This bothered the heck out of me when I saw it! Overbearing Coworker, that’s not how you apologize. Even if you don’t get how in the world you ended up on top of someone’s toes, you say, “I’m sorry I stepped on your toes. Clearly, what I did was hurtful, and I won’t do it again.” Intentions don’t absolve you of wrongdoing.

    3. Cat Meowmy Admin*

      Agreed! That speaks volumes imo. Talk about deflecting much?! A true apology is more like “I sincerely apologize, I honestly didn’t realize, and I take responsibility for that.”

  32. Quadra*

    Classic new teacher issue that I’ve noticed even with friends who are new teachers (I’m on a professional track). It’s like they can’t stop over explaining even in non-teaching contexts, as they continue to find and hone their voices. It might be helpful to frame similarly in your feedback.

  33. Rebecca*

    OP, is your colleague unique in this trait? don’t know where you are located, but I went to teacher’s college in Canada, and we were explicitly taught that the older teachers were using terrible old methods and that we, as fresh new teachers, would save everything. To the point that after we did our first placement with an experienced teacher in her classroom, we were encouraged to discuss all the things she did wrong instead of all the things we had learned from her! We were also encouraged to remember our own schooling and talk about how we would do so much better – as if our memories were academically reliable and our teachers had explained their evaluation methods to self aware 8 year olds. The result was a classroom full of 21 year olds who had some summer camp experience smugly ripping 20 year veterans apart. I had been teaching for 6 years when I went back to get my qualification and it made me deeply uncomfortable. Could your colleague have come through something similar?

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        It could definitely explain it though. Or as I say to kids all the time, it’s an explanation, but not an excuse.

    1. Batgirl*

      As a teacher, I was thinking exactly the same thing! I dunno if the OP teaches teenagers, especially the know-it-all variety, but she should put her co-worker in the exact same basket. You wouldn’t tell your classroom that you have 20 years of experience, because they can’t even grasp the relevance of that. You cut straight to ‘haha no’ and ‘excuse me, I’m talking now’ or ‘no one likes a show off’.

    2. Batgirl*

      Oh and same deal with teacher training here in Britain. Yes pedagogy has progressed but they were very willing to chuck older teachers under the bus to make that point.

    3. Kimmybear*

      My background is in adult education with a family of teachers so I’ve seen the evolution of pedagogy over the last 30 years. Yes, there are things we have learned to do things differently and better but there are also major things we’ve lost to some of these new teaching styles. Even if this was the message this new teacher got, some maturity and wisdom will probably help her see that not everything has to go out the window. Being able to make correct change comes to mind. (I don’t need you to explain how you make change, just give me the correct amount of money :) )

  34. Arctic*

    I had a lot of comments about what could be going on in the other teacher’s mind. But, honestly, it’s all irrelevant. She is being condescending, rude, and, imo, unprofessional. And it is impacting OP’s work satisfaction.

    If there were some specific issue with the OP’s work (I doubt it but if) then it should be addressed head on ideally by a superior. Not this constant nudging and looking over the shoulder.

    It’s possible that you are new to the school so she finally feels she has someone to be superior over. It’s possible that she’s infected with the (thankfully) going out of fashion attitude toward more experienced teachers that used to dominate TeachforAmerica and some charter schools. It’s possible she’s insecure and this how she deals with it. Whatever. None of it matters. It’s unacceptable and you don’t have to take that from her

  35. Vicky Austin*

    It’s like mansplaining, only from a woman! Maybe “youngsplaining” would be the accurate way to describe it. People who are just fresh out of college are notorious for thinking that they know it all. I know I was that way myself when I was fresh out of college. After a year or so of being in the “real world,” people eventually become more mature and humble.

  36. pleaset*

    The word “forgot” in this sentence “I just was looking at it and I saw that you forgot” jumps out at me. She is factually wrong here – telling the OP she forgot when she didn’t. Which is really bad. She’s either not smart enough to understand the meaning of what the OP told her, or is accusing the OP of lying/covering up, or is doing some kind of power play. All bad.

    1. MicroManagered*

      It popped out at me too. That whole exchange set my teeth on edge and I kept thinking (the way you yell at the TV “Don’t go in the basement what are you doing?!” during a horror movie), “OP TELL HER YOU DID NOT FORGET! SAY YOU DIDN’T FORGET!!”

    2. BonnieVoyage*

      I find the reaction to the “forgot” thing really interesting, because I know so many people who would say “I think you forgot to do X” or “I saw that X wasn’t completed, did you forget?” as a politer way of saying “you didn’t do this thing and it’s a problem”. It sort of gives them an out, as in, the person will then respond with something vague about how sorry they are that they “forgot” and then it mysteriously gets done within the next day or so. I come from a culture that I think Americans find very indirect, though, so this is very illustrative for me.

      1. MicroManagered*

        No we do that too. The coworker probably was trying to push OP to go get the work done because she wanted it done now, even though it wasn’t due yet.

  37. QoB*

    I have to chime in on the question of whether to have the sit-down chat with her at the start of the year, or wait.

    And I can’t see any real advantage in waiting. Yes, you perhaps get to avoid a potentially awkward conversation (which is obviously something you’re interested in because you’re considering changing jobs rather than do it!).
    But since you, and other colleagues, have already pushed back on this behaviour multiple times, I doubt your colleague has had a miraculous epiphany over the break for no reason.

    Bite the bullet and have the conversation first (if you’ve been a teacher before, I bet you’ve had way more uncomfortable conversations!). That way, you can start the year knowing you’ve done your best to clear the air and it gives you a much better platform to correct any subsequent instances.

    Otherwise I think you risk her becoming your BEC and you later over-react to something that to someone else would seem minor, which makes you look bad.

    1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      I completely agree. I do think this needs to be presented to her as a pattern. Then, when she does it, either a ‘You’re doing it again” or even a very pointed eye roll might shut it down.

  38. MaryAnne Spier*

    Hey. So I’m the OP. I really appreciate all the feedback here… I’m going to write a bit to clarify some things but then I have to leave the house for a while so if anyone responds it will be a couple hours before I can respond to that!

    The only reason I mentioned how much more experience I have is to show that I’m really not brand-new here. New to the particular school but not new to the field. I don’t see her as a novice or needing guidance and I don’t treat her that way. I just feel like she’s doing this weird micromanaging thing with me that I really dislike.

    I know that someone who has been in the field (any field) for a long time can be thought to be stubborn or stuck in old ways but I’m really not. I stay up to date on technology, and they send us to professional development all the time. The laws and best practices change a lot and we’re required to evolve with that.

    Our district doesn’t have a standardized way of documenting parent interaction. You’re just expected to do it so if a parent ever says, “You never told me about this” or something, you can point to a phone conversation in your notes.

    About the job search, there is a back story. I am dual certified so I am legally able to teach in two different subject areas (think math and art). For 15 years I taught in my first field, then for three years I switched. Those three years were the happiest of my career. The happiest. I’d been so burnt out on the one field after 15 years and then after making the switch things were fresh and new. I actually liked going to work! My principal loved me. The other staff loved me. The kids loved me. It was amazing. The week before school started last year I remember thinking, “Ugh, summer’s almost over,” and then “but no, it’s cool. I had a great summer and I have so many ideas for this coming year! It’s going to be really fun! I don’t mind going back to work!” Then I got a call from central office asking if my certification for Field A was still valid. I said yes, but why? She said, Um, because of the recent changes in your life. I said that I wasn’t aware my life was changing. Then I came home to an email from a reporter from the city’s local paper asking how I felt that my position was cut and that I would have to return to Field A next week instead of Field B. That’s really how I found out. I was devastated. Could not stop crying. But of course I needed a job so I took the job. I was really counting on finding a new job in Field B again this summer but there really hasn’t been much to apply for. Trust me, I reload the job website pretty much hourly. I did find an opportunity to apply for another school position in a related but non-classroom role and I interviewed for it 3 weeks ago. I’m still waiting. I crushed that interview (thank you, Alison!) but the HR in this district is excruciatingly slow. I called today to see if there were any updates. They told me they would call me and let me know either way as soon as they could but things are “still with human resources and we can’t say who was chosen yet.” Yes, it’s frustrating. So this coworker isn’t the entire reason I’m job-hunting; I really wanted to move on from Field A.

    Side note that is probably not relevant here: A thing I’ve encountered my whole life is that I give off this “please help me” vibe even though I really don’t need help. I even brought it up with my principal last year who said that as a young principal, she gets the same kind of feedback from people. I’m 40 but look 25; I was mistaken for a student twice last year by coworkers who hadn’t met me before. Example: I go into the teachers’ lounge to print some things. A part-time speech person I’ve encountered before but don’t really know asks what I’m doing. I say I’m going to print some articles on global interdependence that are appropriate for my students’ reading levels. She says, “Well, you can find some things on trade agreements.” I say, “I know what I need. I just need to print this.” “How about looking at something like Scholastic News?” “I know what I need. I just need to print it.” “I wonder if CNN would have anything that’s not too high.” “I’m hitting print on this article now. Thanks.” I know it sounds weird but this kind of crappy interaction happens weekly in some form. I’m a magnet for unsolicited advice even when I try to just shut it down.

    1. Commercial Property Manager*

      I think your last paragraph is totally relevant. Good grief, what a terrible superpower to possess!

      I wish you all the luck in finding a position in Field B. <3

      1. valentine*

        asks what I’m doing.
        I guess you can’t say, “Leading by example: Minding my business,” but a “Nothing exciting” might do or lead the person to challenge you properly, if that was their objective.

        this kind of crappy interaction happens weekly
        So you’re surrounded by busybodies. Funny how people make time to be unpleasant.

    2. mrs krabappel*

      Can I ask, wrt that example, if that’s actually what you said? Because if I asked “hey, whatcha doing?” and someone responded “I’m planning to print out some articles on global interdependence that are appropriate for my students’ reading levels,” I would definitely take all that information as a sign they were looking for some help– otherwise, why wouldn’t they just have said “printing some articles, thanks!”? So maybe the key is to be a little less generous with how much information you’re giving?

      1. fposte*

        Wow, that’s a read on that comment that really surprises me. Is the assumption that the person wouldn’t ask for help if they needed it?

        1. Alice*

          The opening is that “some articles that are appropriate for my students’ reading levels” leave it open whether OP has already picked the articles. Especially with the “I’m planning to” part.
          I wouldn’t want to work in an environment where colleagues always refrained from sharing useful info/background/resources unless they had explicitly been invited to. The key is for everyone to feel comfortable both sharing “are you aware of resource X” and responding “yup, I know all about it”/”nope, but it’s not on my radar for now; I’ve got it under control.”

          1. Observer*

            Well, the OP actually DID more or less respond that way. She SAID she knows what she needs and just needs to print them

          2. MaryAnne Spier*

            OP: Actually, an environment where people stay out of each other’s business unless they’re asked to weigh in sounds lovely.

      2. JSPA*

        “hoping to”–sure. “Planning to find and print”–ditto. But “Planning to print”? All I get from that is, “I have what I need and hope the printer is free, has paper, and is not being cantankerous.”

      3. kitryan*

        I think that even if she said exactly that, considering that she’s in the teacher’s lounge, at the copier, presumably holding ‘some articles’ and putting them in the copier as this so helpful person is offering suggestions…
        Contextually, it’s pretty clear that she’s got the articles she needs – after all, if she didn’t have them, what on earth is she printing right now?

        I ran into this sort of thing today as well – I went over to check w/an assistant to see if their person was responding to email on vacation and, because it’s kind of rude to just ask people questions with no context and then walk away, I said that I wanted to know because there was a question I’d sent that person a few days ago and if they weren’t being responsive, I’d ask person X (who’s in charge of this area) if I should redirect it to someone else.
        Assistant says ‘yes, if he’s not answering, you should take it to person X’ – I’m like ?? yes, that’s what I planned to do…
        This guy’s been here less than a year, this question’s is my area not his, and I’ve been here 6 years. I know what I’m doing and I wasn’t asking for approval, I’m just trying to be convivial and not do a drive by.
        I’ve only got a light dose of this superpower, but my *real* superpower is that everyone asks me for directions (and I hate giving directions because I take the responsibility too seriously).

        1. JSPA*

          Eh, the response might have been similarly their attempt to be conversational back at you. Reflecting a statement back at someone is the autopilot version of “i hear you, makes sense, I have nothing to add, but my lips are moving because we need one more quantum of conversation here before we can disengage gracefully.” Sounds like that’s what you got.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      And it makes a lot more sense why someone would rub you wrong when you’re raw from having to go back to teaching the subject you’re burned out on! I hope you get back into your preferred subject quickly, how awful that you had to learn about the cut from a frigging reporter =(

    4. Batgirl*

      It’s…totally not you. The coworker you mention in the letter is just smug and clueless. She is going to carry on showing her arse until she gets a slap down from karma instead of the gold star she’s jockeying for. The printer room person is harder to read from here. As another 40 year old, I too sometimes come over a little young while also having the temerity to be female. It can be hard to know whether people are powerplaying, subconsciously exercising some hierarcy crap or it’s just a helpful person. I frikkin love giving advice and I can defintely be too keen. Let people show you more than one flag and then internally thank them for being so obvious and ridiculous.

    5. Oilpress*

      If someone can’t pick you out from the students less than half your age then I would expect them to be equally clueless about picking up on social/conversational signals.

      I suggest being more obvious and blunt: “I’m good, thanks.” It isn’t rude, but it does translate in the nicest way possible as: “Go away.”

    6. RUKiddingMe*

      Fir a minute I thought you were going to say they told you that you couldn’t be in the teacher’s lounge!

    7. Principal*

      As a principal/supervisor, I would really want someone with these concerns to come do a reality check with me. I’m not trying to push back at all on the OP at all. I’ve encountered this type of problematic relationship between colleagues several times and even when one is clearly causing most of the issues, both tend to have at least some blinders to their own behavior. I would suggest asking your principal or more immediate supervisor if you can just talk through what you are seeing and ask if there is anything you are missing in the situation. I’ve been amazed how tiny bits of external feedback can help a great deal.

  39. Iain C*

    Would it be too unprofessional to carry a plant waterer and squirt her each time? If it works on cats…

  40. mrs krabappel*

    I may be a little late to this, but I wanted to comment as a fellow teacher, and one who has switched schools several times, that this is pretty common. Your seniority in the field doesn’t mean anything; what does is your seniority AT THAT SCHOOL, so a person with 4 years at that school is usually seen as more experienced/senior to someone with 20 years at a different school(s). That doesn’t make it less annoying, it just means that you kind of have to go with it, sometimes, in order not to be seen as a bad sport who is trying too hard to prove themselves. I like Alison’s scripts because they don’t require you to kowtow to this person, but also give you enough respectful distance that you can appear to be deferring to her wealth of knowledge about how things are done HERE at THIS school.

    1. Batgirl*

      I dont know if this is exactly what you mean, but I’ve worked at a school where people were promoted simply for longevity even when their work was dire while accomplished newcomers were downright steam rollered. It was batshit and cliquey as hell.

    2. Observer*

      Seniority has nothing to do with the issues. Having seniority doesn’t excuse being rude and undermining of other staff. Having seniority also does not mean having supervisory authority, and lack of seniority does not mean lack of competence and knowledge.

      The coworker is being rude and undermining the OP. She’s also acting as though she gets to micro-manage the OP – and even make accusations while ignoring what she’s being told – even in front of other people, and act as though the OP has no clue as to what she’s doing. None of the is OK, no matter how much seniority she has.

  41. Anononon doo doo doo doo doo*

    She sounds like the kind of teacher who went into education to HELP PEOPLE and gosh darnit she is GOING TO BE HELPFUL! Look and see how HELPFUL I AM. I’ve been teaching for 18 years, and I see this kind of teacher crop up occasionally. Usually they are new-ish, less than 5 years teaching, but not a neophyte. So it’s a little along the lines of “I now know stuff! I CAN HELP!” When confronted with Helpful Teacher, I gently remind them that I know how to do XYZ, but thank you anyway. Every time. Usually it works. Good luck with the new school year.

  42. Anonymous Today*

    As someone who has recently found out I was driving a coworker crazy with this behavior, please just have a conversation. I had no idea I was doing it, yet apparently it was annoying to the point that they were looking for another job. It ended up only being addressed because I heard rumors about the complaints from other people, plus our formerly friendly interactions had soured tremendously. One conversation could have alleviated several weeks of stress between us. Our situation was acerbated by other extenuating issues that were going on, but it could have been much better if we just talked about it from the beginning.

    1. JSPA*

      You’re a champ for posting this. “Crow” is a meal that’s even less enjoyable in retrospect than in the eating. Good on you, friend.

        1. MonteCristo85*

          I really didn’t know at all. I thought we were acting the same way we always had. We are a team of two, she does half the work, I do the other. It is very common for our boss to say something to the one, and then they pass it on to the other. I had given her some advice on stuff she was complaining about, and that could have been an overstep, but I assumed if you complain about something you want to fix it.

          The extenuating circumstance was that I was promoted over her, and it was being kept secret by some weird HR nonsense. I didn’t think I had changed my interactions with her, but I must have. Plus, our (now my) boss was talking to me more, so most of the passing along was coming from me to her, and not the other way around (ie she got sort of pushed out of the loop). I tried to get my boss to talk to her for several weeks, but they kept putting it off. Eventually our interactions were so stressful that I just sat her down and told her. I don’t think the tension has eased completed, and I kind of blame my boss for that, but hopefully it all settles.

  43. lasslisa*

    As a mentor, you may want to have a chat with her about respecting her colleagues’ professionalism, especially with hearing others give her the same feedback. I’m not sure how to open it, but even just saying, “Hey. I’ve got this. I’m a trained professional, please don’t treat me like one of our students.” might help the next time she’s trying to teach you how to tie your own shoes…

  44. Grand Mouse*

    Oh no! Whenever I see letters like this I’m afraid I’m that person. I’m aware of it at least. From my side, it isn’t intended to be condescending, more that I was raised to basically predict and serve other people’s needs constantly. It really is my own anxiety talking. At least for me! Not saying it isn’t different for other people of course.

    What would be helpful (heh) would be bringing it up in the moment so she knows what she’s doing abd what isn’t going over well. If she is doing it with good intentions, then she would be happy to stop once she knows it’s not wanted.

  45. Wherehouse Politics*

    I remember a transfer classmate when I was in college (studio art major) who was maybe a few years, older than the average student, not by much though. She interacted with us like a professor giving a studio visit and critique who was kindly trying to help us be our best—even though she was on our level, probably even a little behind herself on her drawing skills. She’d give us unsolicited “encouragement” if she spotted us working in our areas alone. It felt weirdly condescending and inappropriate. She was on a teaching track so maybe she was practicing her skills in that area on her peers. In any case, it didn’t seem to gain her much friendly interaction from her classmates or professors for that matter. I remember her coming along to an end of semester festive gathering, and she was relentlessly mocked and skewered by an inebrated professor whose sharp sarcastic toungue was not dulled by the drink. No one reigned him in and she just took it. I actually did feel bad for her (the professor was an ass) but she pull way back on the unsolicited critiques.

  46. The Bot*

    I had something like this happen with a new person, X, who was just starting to get involved with my hobby of almost 30 years.

    What finally worked was: “X–I promise you, I know! This ain’t my first rodeo!”

  47. Jack V*

    Can you follow the other teacher around when she’s walking and remind her to keeping alternating which feet she steps with? “OK, well done, that’s right! Now right foot. Yes, that one. OK, now left, that’s the other one. Oh, remember to keep breathing at the same time!”

    Please don’t actually do that.

    What I always find difficult when someone gets a “unsolicited advice plus why are you defensive” bee in their bonnet is that I’m not perfect, there’s always the chance that I will forget something occasionally, so I always find it really hard to ask them to desist any particular instance of “help” because, well, maybe it made sense on THAT occasion, it’s just that they do it WAY TOO MUCH.

  48. Cat Beloe*

    oh boy! I just had to deal with this very same issue today. My co-worker does the very same thing with me and the team I manage. The problem is she thinks she is being helpful to my team by giving them “advice” that is contrary to how I’ve told them to do things. Today in a staff meeting that both of our teams attend she did it again. She recommended my team take a different approach from one I’ve directed them on and for a task they have been doing well for a very long time. My response was to thank her for the advice and tell her what a great idea this is! I then recommended she set up intensive training on this new approach for each of my team members. Knowing how she hates adding meetings to her calendar she immediately walked back the advice and said it’s was only a suggestion and she didn’t mean for them to change any of their current processes. Problem solved!

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