adriannaar asks: My friends are calling me a goody-goody and a teacher’s pet, just because I respect the teachers and help them and the office staff out. What should I do?
Hi adriannaar –
You know, we dogs get this all the time. Other animals, whether the nobly independent wolves we’re descended from, or the snooty cats we like to chase, love to get on our cases. “You do whatever your humans tell you! You have no self-respect at all! You hunt, pull sleds, find drugs, chase bad guys and foxes, protect homes, and then jump on your enslavers and give them kisses all the time! You make us sick!”
Now this really hurts our feelings. Why? Because we see it completely differently. We see our humans as great friends who take care of us and are so much smarter than we are, and we feel great when we’re doing jobs for our humans; in fact, and here’s what really matters here, we feel our best when we’re working with them.
Not that we don’t also love to get off the leash and run around being knuckleheads – oh we love that! But we feel as good doing a great trick that a human taught us as a wolf does by scaring a person, or a cat does by ignoring one. The big difference is that, after a haughty cat gets all cuddly and purry with their human, they’re a little embarrassed about it. Whereas we pooches, after that, just want more!
So, adriannaar, when you help out at the school office, it makes you feel good. You might even feel validated, which is a word that will only mean more to you as you get older (some humans spend their whole lives trying to feel validated; it’s very hard work!). And right when you’re feeling good about yourself, having done a good job for these people you look up to, some other kids walk in and shame you for doing it! What a drag!
This is especially tough at school. Someone pointed out to me recently that school is the only place where humans are expected to be good at everything. Think about it – is a professional athlete expected to know everything in a history book? Is a great mathematician expected to be a perfect speller? Does anyone care whether a great author can kick a goal from mid-field?
This means that you, like everyone else, go to school and feel judged all day, especially in areas you might not excel in. So it’s totally natural for you to then want to feel great about something. That teacher who might look sternly on you for getting an accent on the wrong syllable in French class might then really appreciate you helping him copy out homework papers. And the gym teacher who winces every time you run the slowest lap probably says you’re great when you put all the mats in a pile. And that feels good to you! Of course it does!
So does this mean the other kids are totally wrong? Maybe, but maybe not. Wouldn’t it be good for you to spend some of that time, that you’re giving to the office, out with other kids, being social and active? It’s great that you don’t see your teachers as ‘the enemy,’ but do you have to be their only helpful friend? Maybe you could help them out a little, and encourage someone else to help out too.
The kids who call you these names are being mean, and they know it. They might want to see teachers as authority figures to rebel against, which feels good to them, and are putting you down for not seeing them that same way (just like the wolves and the cats put us down for our excited loyalty to our people). So I’m not saying they’re right. But it is possible that they might be pointing out an area where you’re doing something too easy.
So you’ll need to judge for yourself, but think about it for a second: Are you only helping out because you really like to, or are you also avoiding other kinds of activities (maybe where you feel more judged by the other kids)? If so, I really do encourage you to get out there and take more chances, and make more friends, and do more silly stuff. That’s all such an important part of life!
But then, if you want to help out that nice math teacher clean their classroom, I’m the last one to tell you not to. Who knows, maybe they’ll be willing to help you out a bit more before that next test, or say something good about you to the principal if you get in any trouble, or even have great things to say about you in a recommendation letter to a university or employer, just because you were so mature, responsible, helpful, and kind!